Today president Obama will speak to the nation and likely once again drag the country into another military conflict. There have been calls for president Obama to ‘take strong action’ against ISIS/ISIL, arm ‘moderate’ Syrian rebels (whoever they are), get back into Iraq, deploy NATO against Russia, in addition to the drone attacks that keep going on in other parts of the world. He will choose the by now standard option of bombing from the air, supplying weapons to our ‘allies’ and ‘moderates’ (who may tomorrow be ‘enemies’ and ‘extremists’) so that no US military personnel will be at immediate risk.
There seems little likelihood that he will be able to resist Congress and the media who are clamoring for war. Have you noticed how at the merest possibility of a possible war, the US media reacts like military horses hearing a bugle and starts impatiently stamping its feet and braying for action? This is because people pay most attention to the news when there is war or the possibility of war. It increases viewership and rescues the pundits and bloviators from the boring process of analyzing policy and can instead marvel at poor people half a world away getting blown to bits by sophisticated US weaponry while they sit safely in their air-conditioned studios.
Dan Froomkin examines this bloodthirsty tendency despite the clear history that this leads to an even greater mess.
It’s not just that the lessons of the abject failure of the press corps in the run-up to war in Iraq seem to have been forgotten. Watching post-invasion reality in the region should have made it clear to anyone paying any attention at all that America is not omnipotent, and that military action kills not just enemies but innocent civilians, creates refugee crises, can spawn more enemies than it destroys, further destabilizes entire regions, and alters the future in unanticipated and sometimes disastrous ways.
(Indeed, as noted author Robert W. Merry wrote in the National Interest recently, the “ominous turn of events in the Middle East flows directly from the regional destabilization wrought by President George W. Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq.”)
In a nation that considers itself peaceful and civilized, the case for military action should be overwhelmingly stronger than the case against. It must face, and survive, aggressive questioning.
As Froomkin says, “The press corps shouldn’t be asking: Why isn’t Obama sounding tougher? It should be asking: What is he considering, and why the hell does he think it has any chance of working?”
But such questioning will not come from the media or congress nor do we hear much from those voices that Froomkin quotes extensively who say that ISIS is being treated as a much bigger threat than it actually is, as part of the effort to push for war. As reporter James Risen says, “The fact that U.S. intelligence assesses that ISIS poses no current threat to the US is repeatedly ignored by politicians and the media.”
The problem is that while there is some evidence that Obama is not keen on starting fresh wars, his own bellicose rhetoric is pushing him more and more into shadow wars that could well end up in real ones. The NATO Secretary General, Anders Rasmussen is another warmonger who is goading the US and its allies into military action.
The beheading of two Americans seems to have tilted US public opinion in favor of some unspecified military action, to ‘do something’ even if no one is clear about what it should be. It strikes me that that barbaric action was carefully designed by ISIS/ISIL to provoke precisely this reaction, to drag the US in even more deeply and to start bombing even more heavily. Then more people will be blown to bits by the US creating even more anger and more reprisals.