Saturday, October 13, 2012

I want Romney to win, but...

Pat Buchanan on Romney's promise to help the Syrian rebels:

“In Syria, I will work … to identify and organize those members of the opposition who share our values and ensure they obtain the arms they need to defeat Assad’s tanks, helicopters and fighter jets.”

This commitment by Mitt Romney in his VMI address has thrilled the neocons as much as it has unsettled the realists in his camp...
The Syrian civil war could end suddenly with the fall of Assad. But it could also widen with Turkey and Hezbollah becoming directly involved, and Russia, Iran and Iraq sending military aid to prop up their ally. The whole region could go up in flames.

Yet what vital American interest is there in who rules in Damascus to justify yet another U.S. war in the Middle East?While the Assads are despotic, George H.W. Bush made the father an ally in Desert Storm and Ehud Barak offered to return to Hafez Assad the Golan Heights in exchange for a peace deal. 
If America has a vital interest in this multisided war, that interest is served by staying out, as we have done for its duration. 
And how exactly have we suffered by not plunging in?

We have been involved in far too many wars. Afghanistan was a necessary war-- but even that we have been in far too long-- and every military incursion since has been counterproductive. Iraq was intended to bring democracy, but the result (besides thousands of American and Iraqi deaths) has been to strengthen Iran and violent Shia and may have served as a template for the horrendous 'Arab Spring'. Our aid to the anti-Gadaffi forces in Libya netted us one dead ambassador, three other dead brave Americans, and a new Al Qaeda playground.

We have no business in taking sides in Muslim violence. These are not our wars. Neo-conservatives, in the conduct of foreign policy, are not conservatives. They are radicals, and their incessant demand for war is madness. I point out that neo-conservatism is the conservatism of converts from liberalism. They bring a fair dose of liberal stupidity and belligerence with them.

I support Romney, but I hope that as president he will have the wisdom to see through the neo-con delusion. We need to fight terrorists, and we should continue our unconventional warfare against them, but we are foolish to intercede militarily between Muslim crazies who are killing each other.

14 comments:

  1. Welcome to the 21st century: "liberals" bragging about extrajudicial assassinations, and "conservatives" talking sense and moderation about war and violence.

    Do we need any further proof that the political tropes of the 60s no longer apply?

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    1. There are certainly problems with the terms, but I don't agree with your characterization of drone attacks on terrorists as "extrajudicial assassinations".

      We are a nation fighting a just war, and drone attacks are targeted military operations against combatants.

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    2. A war is a conflict between nations. Terrorists are criminals, not soldiers. They should be extradited, tried, convicted, and punished in a court of law. If a nation is reluctant to extradite them, then we can cut off aid or trade to that nation.

      Al Qaeda is a criminal organization, not a sovereign nation. A "war on terror" that allows us to commit acts of war in sovereign nations is a disaster from the start. (If North Korea launched a drone strike on a wedding in Oklahoma - even if it was certain that one or more guests at that wedding has committed an act of mass murder in Pyongyang - America would rightly consider that an act of war; why should it be any different when American drones kill people in Yemen and Pakistan?)

      Work through the appropriate channels, I say - and while we're at it, the president should not be committing acts of war without a Congressional declaration of war authorizibg those acts.

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    3. John,

      Military operations against Al Qaeda and allies were authorized by Congress on Sept 14, 2001 (SJ Res 23, passed 98-0 and 420-1).

      Terrorists acting on behalf of foreign organizations are not civilian criminals. They are unlawful combatants in war-- war criminals. As such they are not protected by Geneva Conventions. Nor are they protected by civilian criminal procedure in the US.

      We are authorized legally and morally to kill Al Qaeda and allies on sight, anywhere, anytime. Do you actually believe that the hit on Bin Laden was illegal or immoral?

      You make a serious mistake to conflate foreign terrorists with civilian criminals. The result will not be protection of terrorists (nobody is stupid enough any more to try these guys in a federal court in Manhattan). Your equation of ordinary criminals with terrorists risks a degradation of the rights of ordinary criminals, by setting necessarily harsh precedents with terrorists that can be applied to ordinary criminals.

      We need to treat Islamic terrorists like we treated Hitler and his inner circle-- a war of annihilation.

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    4. Regarding a congressional authorization, I strongly agree that it is necessary. I point out that we already have it.

      Drone strikes are far-and-away the most effective and humane weapons we can use in the war on Islamic terrorists. It offers excellent specificity to the attacks, as compared with traditional military strikes.

      Imagine if we had used a drone hit against Hitler, instead of bombing Dresden, Berlin, etc. Tens of millions of lives could have been saved.

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    5. Those tropes never did reflect reality.

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    6. "A war is a conflict between nations."

      Your asserting that doesn't make it true. Sometimes wars are fought between tribes, between ethnic groups, between religious groups. Civil wars are wars within one nation.

      Paulbot, I take it?

      The Torch

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    7. Military operations against Al Qaeda and allies were authorized by Congress on Sept 14, 2001 (SJ Res 23, passed 98-0 and 420-1).

      I'm aware of this. I disagree that it was a legitimate declaration of war. Al Qaeda is too loose an "organization" to be treated as a party to a war, and treating it thus has opened the doors to all kinds of problems.



      Do you actually believe that the hit on Bin Laden was illegal or immoral?

      To put it bluntly, yes. I believe it was contrary to the rule of law, and contrary to American interests. If he had been killed resisting arrest, with the cooperation of Pakistani authorities, that might be a different story.


      You make a serious mistake to conflate foreign terrorists with civilian criminals.

      To be honest, I am less afraid of al Qaeda than I am of my own government getting out of control. By declaring war against a shadowy terrorist organization, our government has declared the world a battlefield, in which everyone is a potential "enemy combatant" with (as you pointed out) no rights under civil or international law. Under this declaration, we are able to commit acts of war on foreign soil without declaring war against those nations, and to detain and assassinate American citizens without any public oversight or judicial review. If you ask me, we are treading on very thin ice.

      This is creeping totalitarianism under the guise of keeping us safe. The only safeguard against it is insisting our government operate within the bounds of the law, even if this is strategically inconvenient.

      Drone strikes are far-and-away the most effective and humane weapons we can use in the war on Islamic terrorists. It offers excellent specificity to the attacks, as compared with traditional military strikes.

      Agreed, but they highlight the need for war to be just and lawful.

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  2. John Henry,

    You're officially a moron.

    "Terrorists are criminals, not soldiers."

    They're unlawful combatants in asymetric warfare.

    Extrajudicial assassinations? Is there such thing as a judicial one? I don't shed tears for dead terrorists.

    The Torch

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    1. John:

      [(If North Korea launched a drone strike on a wedding in Oklahoma - even if it was certain that one or more guests at that wedding has committed an act of mass murder in Pyongyang - America would rightly consider that an act of war; why should it be any different when American drones kill people in Yemen and Pakistan?)

      Work through the appropriate channels, I say]

      I agree that we should work through appropriate channels, if and only if the host country cooperates fully.

      Your North Korea-Oklahoma analogy is imprecise. This is the more accurate analogy: imagine that a terrorist organization in the US was carrying out killings in North Korea, and it was protected, nurtured, and even funded by the American government or by wealthy Americans who had the implicit consent of the government.

      After NK unsuccessfully protested, they would be perfectly entitled to kill the terrorists on American territory who attacked their country. It would not be an act of war; our support and harbor of the terrorists would be the act of war. NK would merely be legitimately defending itself.

      Furthermore, a drone strike would be the most modest act. NK could invade the US, or launch a commando attack, etc. A drone strike at the terrorists would be prudent and respectful of American civilians, compared with larger scale military operations.

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    2. John,

      And I disagree with our friend Torch.

      You're not a moron by any means. You think deeply about these things, and you are right about a lot. We disagree on a few points, but I have great respect for your thoughtful approach.

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    3. LOL. Egnor deserves acolytes like the torch. Highly intolerant and ill-informed. You reap what you sow.

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    4. Your North Korea-Oklahoma analogy is imprecise. This is the more accurate analogy: imagine that a terrorist organization in the US was carrying out killings in North Korea, and it was protected, nurtured, and even funded by the American government or by wealthy Americans who had the implicit consent of the government.

      After NK unsuccessfully protested, they would be perfectly entitled to kill the terrorists on American territory who attacked their country. It would not be an act of war; our support and harbor of the terrorists would be the act of war. NK would merely be legitimately defending itself.


      You're telling me we've been legitimately defending ourselves against acts of war by Pakistan and Yemen? In that case, we should have a Congressional review, and a declaration of war against those nations before we commit acts of war within their borders. A "declaration of war" against al Qaeda should not be a blanket authorization to kill people wherever we decide the al Qaeda operatives are hiding. You can see the absurdity of this by imagining what kind of hell would break loose if we were to launch a drone strike on a wedding in China or the UK.

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  3. Romney foreign policy advisors: John Bolton, Paula Dobriansky, Eliot Cohen, Eliot Cohen, Robert Joseph, Dan Senor, Eric Edelman...
    Notice a pattern?

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