Obama’s Next Crisis?

War President

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.

Politics Gets in the Way of Obama’s Perceptiveness

Yemen Somalia Duel

Ivan Eland: The governments of Yemen and Somalia are no stronger, less corrupt, more competent, or in control of more of their own territory than the Afghan government. Yet more U.S. troops are seen as beneficial in Afghanistan but as counterproductive in Yemen and Somalia.

Is Dick Cheney Unpatriotic?

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.

Learning the Wrong Lessons From the Attempted Bombing

Underwear Bomber

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.

Reducing Our Only Existential Threat

Nuclear-nightmare

Ivan Eland: Despite its recession from the headlines, the Soviet Union and now Russia has been and still is the only country to have enough nuclear warheads to pose such a cataclysmic threat to the U.S. homeland.

Obama’s Peace Prize Continues Tradition of Dubious Choices

Nobel-Prize

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.

More ‘Corruption’ Is Needed in Afghanistan

British soldiers in Malaysia

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.

Pay for the War, or Just Call It Off?

Obama-exit

Finally, the worst option is for the government to run the presses and print money. Wars tend to cause inflation, and printing money makes things worse.

Government Terrorism Lists Are a Holiday Turkey

Airport Security

The FBI’s terrorism watch list, from which the smaller no fly-list is derived, has 1,000,000 people listed, but according to officials, only a mere 400,000 of them are real people—the rest are aliases. Whew! I was getting worried there for an instant.

John Cornyn, Are the 9/11 Suspects Holy Warriors

trials

Thus, the main benefit of Obama’s move is partially restoring a constitutional justice system after years of Bush administration abuse. Yet at least five other Guantanamo prisoners, and likely many more, will be denied a civilian trial.

Why Most Counterinsurgency Wars Fail

Filipino casulaties in the Philippine-American War.

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.

Obama Still Doesn’t Quite Get It

Lion

U.S. meddling in the Muslim world and elsewhere continues because politically powerful interest groups benefit from the policy at the expense of the general public.

Is Adulation of the Military Really Patriotic?

Soldier-color

And the American public, still feeling guilty over the admittedly terrible treatment of returning draftees from the Vietnam War, has retained its awe of the now voluntary military as an institution, even as it has soured on the Iraq and Afghan Wars.

Five Facts About Afghanistan

Barack Obama Cartoon Afghan dilemma

Fourth, ultimately, in a republic, escalating an unpopular war is political suicide. If the public and Congress are balking at sending a measly 40,000 additional troops, they will not ever be willing to send the number of troops needed to win.

Fire McChrystal and Get Out of Afghanistan

War

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.

Empathy for ‘Adversaries’

Warfare

There are notorious dictatorships and terrorists in the world, but their threat to the United States has been exaggerated as an excuse to fulfill the foreign policy agendas of certain politicians, bureaucracies, or interest groups.

Obama Needs to Expand on His Good Instincts in Foreign Policy

Barack Obama in Military gear

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.

To Escalate the Escalation?

Obama-middle-east

The debate rages among experts on whether to escalate the escalation of Barack Obama’s “war of necessity” in Afghanistan—seemingly oblivious to American public opinion at home that has turned against waging the conflict at all.

Fallacies in U.S. Oil Policy

oil-prices

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.

Canada Copies US Customs

customs

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 [...]

Iraq: Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

iraq-war-games

Trying to recreate Iraq’s multicultural ethno-sectarian mosaic after intense civil strife is an appealing idea, but the history of ethno-sectarian conflict shows it to be dangerous.

Treat North Korea as a Child Psychologist Would

ClintonKim

Any child psychologist will tell you that rewarding a child’s tantrum will only cause more tantrums. For some time under previous administrations, including that of George W. Bush and Clinton himself, the U.S. has been reinforcing bad behavior on the part of Kim

Was Rummy Really Wrong?

Donald Rumsfeld & George Bush

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.

Lessons from Sudan for Iraq

Children pass the time next to a muddy field at a military checkpoint in Agok, just 25 kilometers (10 miles) from the destroyed town of Abyei. (U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum)

As U.S. forces pull back and before Iraq explodes into a civil war that will make the prior ethno-sectarian conflict look like a day at the beach, the United States should take some lessons from the successful resolution in Sudan.

To Mitigate Economic Armageddon

F-22 Raptor

To really put a dent in the $1.2 trillion dollar deficit, the U.S. must end the counterproductive wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and, instead of bringing the forces home, simply dismantle them.

Iraq: The Coming Train Wreck

iraq-war

The only way to avoid this train wreck is to withdraw U.S. forces as soon as possible, so that they don’t get caught in the melee, and hold a national conclave as the draw down.

Is Barack Obama’s Realism Better than George W. Bush’s Idealism?

repression

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 [...]

Obama: Walking the Tightrope on Iran

iran-protests

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 [...]

Better Relations with Iran Require Change in U.S. Thinking and Policy

katherine_harris

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 [...]

Obama Versus Osama

osama

Fearing a new, more formidable opponent than the often buffoonish and macho cowboy George W. Bush, the two leaders of al Qaeda have tag teamed Barack Obama with twin audiotapes condemning him. Unlike Bush—who made little effort to understand the Islamic world and whom al Qaeda could easily bait into reckless acts that raised its [...]

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