Ivan Eland: President Obama’s rationale for not including these security expenditures in his discretionary spending freeze is that he is prosecuting two wars. Aside from the obvious solution of ending the two conflicts—which are part of the “war on terror” but have had the counterproductive effect of increasing retaliatory terrorism—and cutting back the defense budget, defense spending could be reduced even if the two war efforts are sustained.
Ivan Eland: So far, Iraq has been quiet enough that many in the media and public have redirected their attention to the wars du jour of Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia. The relative peace (punctuated by an occasional violent attack) in Iraq may be about to evaporate and cause yet another crisis for the president.
Ivan Eland: If anything is unpatriotic, it’s the macho rattling of the saber from the conservative chairborne brigades—for which five-deferment Cheney is the chief spokesman—because it paints a bull’s eye on America’s back.
Ivan Eland: Although Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano’s stance that “the system” worked buckled under withering ridicule, she was right—but only if the non-governmental aspects of that system are included. The government’s performance and after-incident measures are ridiculous and even ill-advised.
Only a few commentators, including the president, seemed to sheepishly realize the irony of his receiving the prize shortly after escalating one war and while continuing to fight another. You would have thought that the escalation alone would have been enough to satisfy all of the warheads at home; but to stanch the domestic fallout from being associated with too much peace, Obama, when accepting the peace award, gave a speech defending war.
In the 20th century, the few successful counterinsurgency campaigns run by an outside power—the Americans in the Philippines after the Spanish-American War at the turn of the last century, the British in Malaya in the 1950s, and the Americans in Iraq—have one thing in common: the insurgency became divided.
But isn’t there hope for Iraq and Afghanistan because opposition forces are divided and often unpopular? Not really. The problem in Iraq is that as U.S. forces draw down, the now reduced guerrilla war could turn into a civil war among the Sunni, Shi’ite, and Kurdish ethno-sectarian groups. In Afghanistan, Afghans regard the United States as a foreign occupier, are suspicious of the U.S. long-term military presence, do not support a surge in U.S. forces, do not think it will defeat the Taliban, and thus support negotiating with the insurgents.
McChrystal, much like Gen. Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War, has publicly spoken out about decisions that are the exclusive purview of the elected civilian leadership. At great cost to his popularity, President Harry Truman cast a great blow for the critical republican principle of civilian control over the military by firing the insubordinate MacArthur. President Obama could do the same with far less cost; McChrystal just took his job and is not a popular war hero, as was MacArthur.
Because he wanted to get out of Iraq and because Republicans always score points by calling the Democrats soft on national security, Obama evidently felt he had to be in favor of some war and thus reluctantly succumbed to pressure to augment U.S. forces in Afghanistan. If he had been smart, on his second day in office, he would have instead announced the rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces.
Instead of coddling oil-producing tyrants like Moammar Gadhafi and the Saud family, the United States and other industrial countries should let the market work. We should not pay a premium for oil by sacrificing our principles or pursuing unnecessary, costly and counterproductive military activities.
Ironically, Bollywood star was traveling to the United States to promote his latest film about post-9/11 racial profiling when he was detained upon entry into the country at Newark’s Liberty (another irony) International Airport. U.S. officials denied that Khan was formally detained, but his interrogation lasted more than an hour. The outraged Khan pledged to [...]
If the U.S. gives up fighting such ill-advised wars of choice and concomitant occupations, Rumsfeld’s concept of fewer ground forces and a heavier reliance on airpower can be viable. The concept is not the problem, but it’s not going to work if the United States continues such drawn-out imperial quagmires.
Barack Obama’s reaction to the mass protests and violence in Iran shows he is following through on his pledge to be more like George H.W. Bush rather than his son, George W. Bush. Obama has admired the father’s realism and has criticized the idealistic neo-conservatism of the son. But is realism a better foreign policy [...]
When massive turmoil occurs in an important country, U.S. policymakers struggle to make heads or tails of it and arrive at an appropriate reaction. Kibitzers and pundits, however, have no trouble reaching immediate and sweeping conclusions and egging on the policymakers to further their own agendas. So far, President Obama has done a reasonably good [...]
One election in Iran will not significantly change U.S.-Iran relations—only a change in U.S. thinking and policy will do so. Historically, the U.S. government, under both Republican and Democratic presidents, has painted relatively poor third world regimes that don’t toe the empire’s line as “evil”—Moammar El-Gadhafi’s Libya in the 1980s, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in the [...]