When FDR delivered his historic “day that will live in infamy” speech about the Japanese Pearl Harbor attack in 1941, there was no great cajoling effort needed to get the American public on board with the idea that the most muscular of responses was the only way to go. Likewise was the population galvanized into a resolve that whoever was responsible, 60 years later, for the 9/11 atrocities should have hell to pay, regardless of whatever it would demand of U.S. resources. The point being that whenever there’s cause, unassailably, to roll out the heavy artillery in defense of what this country stands for, broad-based public support is never in doubt. It’s altogether different when misfits in positions of power try to force-feed war to the people.
We’re in the throes right now of some of the usual suspects trying to impress upon the masses that a state of war is where America needs to be. The unseemly brutishness we’ve seen from the ISIS crowd cannot but assault our senses to the point of wishing swift evisceration of those claiming to subscribe to the consummate evil that is evidently the ISIS way. Where the super-hawks part company with the rest of us in our measured anger is in their ready resort to committing thousands of young people to combat in the effort to eliminate ISIS. And hardly is it only the ISIS threat that gets these guys’ blood-and-guts mojo going.
Senator Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who, with Arizona’s John McCain, seems very protective of the “war-hungry” label he wears, wondered earlier this year why was President Obama not mounting a military response to Russia’s antagonizing maneuvers in Ukraine. Evidence, he said, of the president being “weak and indecisive.” As for the ISIS problem, Graham believes the international-coalition approach that the president has opted for, with the U.S. emphasis on air strikes, is good for zip. If putting hefty numbers of American boots on the ground in the ISIS fight is the unspoken last resort of the Obama strategy, Graham predictably begs to differ. Put those thousands of men and women in harm’s way now!
Kindred spirit McCain is pretty much on the same page. There’s ample reason the president should be committing U.S. troops to full-blown combat in Iraq and Syria, seeing as how, in McCain’s analysis, it was this administration’s Iraq policy of scaling down troop levels that gave rise to ISIS. “We had it won,” McCain asserts of the quagmire created in Iraq after the invasion.
For starters, as we’ve noted before, any claims McCain had of offering judgments worthy of serious consideration were shattered in 2008, when he declared himself proud to be heading a Republican presidential ticket on which Sarah Palin was running mate. The very idea that there could be any show of interest in what McCain has to say is of itself perplexing. But that being said, the McCain pronouncement about the Bush administration having “won” anything in Iraq, except a place in the record books as orchestrating one of the biggest foreign policy blunders ever, should be taken with the proverbial pinch of salt.
It’s irritating when the likes of McCain and Graham insist on parroting this gung-ho, militaristic fix for any hint of a headache on the foreign policy front – a go-to solution that thankfully doesn’t find resonance today with the great majority of the American people. One has difficulty understanding how McCain, Graham and others of hawkish bent continue to be tone-deaf about Americans being none too thrilled when talk surfaces of deploying troops someplace. Given the U.S. experience in armed conflict in the latter half of the 20th century and opening years of the 21st, why shouldn’t Americans be wary of any move toward active combat situations unless satisfied that this was absolutely necessary?
In the 1950s America found itself in a communist-thwarting action in Korea that resulted in more than 36,000 U.S. deaths. As for Vietnam, the Memorial in Washington bears testimony to more than 58,000 U.S. deaths in that conflict, which was also all about stopping communist expansionism. The North Vietnamese marched into Saigon in 1975, anyway. And in the period of occupation of Iraq, starting in 2003, there were almost 4500 American deaths, in yet another war whose benefits elude all but the sickos who agitated for the ill-conceived madness in the first place. Why indeed wouldn’t Americans think it’s high time the war games fanatics be relegated to a place well removed from front and center?
The ISIS problem needs to be robustly confronted, no doubt about that. President Obama, in choosing to have a broad coalition join the U.S. to take aim on this particular incarnation of evil, is going for a sober, calibrated approach and correctly ignoring the mouths that roar who now clamor for the kind of hair-trigger response that has led to some of our celebrated past missteps. But Obama should by now be used to the cacophony of voices blowing hot air and stay the course. None of these rabble rousers, for sure, would have wagered that this president would have been the one calling the play that nabbed bin Laden.