Wednesday, September 17, 2014
History, repeat and shuffle
Let's go way back to the Vietnam conflict -so far back that it wasn't a US conflict. . . yet! At one time it was a French conflict -the First Indochina War, for you history buffs.
Well the government they left behind wasn't all to stable and then had insurgent problems of their own. The US sends in a few advisors. Those few became many and then it was a full blow commitment to war.
This time it's the US that left behind a not too stable government when they pulled out of the country. Insurgents made big gains. Now at this point some other country is supposed to send a few advisors, but no. The US decides to play the “just a few advisors” role again. Even France was smarter than that.
Maybe it's election year chatter, but I keep hearing the call for more US ground troops from politicians that should know better.
Yes, ISIS or whatever name you want to call them by, are a bad bunch of dudes. Yes, they've killed some Westerners in a nasty and public manner. However, US options are not very good here. Air strikes have military value, but these are people who can blend back into major population centers. Do we really need to bomb more wedding parties and schools? That's what happens when you want to do “surgical” strikes. Sometimes bombs go astray or intel is bad. That's war from on high for you.
The surrogates on the ground that the US wants to support are a mixed bag. Some are pretty ineffective. The ones with combat hardened members are not much better than ISIS. It's entirely possible that we'd be arming the next ISIS.
Who else is fighting ISIS? Well we have Assad of Syria -who've we've said must go. Then there's Iran, a country that we aren't exactly on friendly terms either. Of course, there are the Kurds. Why do they even deal with the US anymore? There is a long history of the US abandoning them in the crunch.
The little Iraq problem isn't happening in isolation. There are some nasty things going on in the Ukraine and other places. In many ways this reminds me of the lead up to WWI: lots of small conflicts, independence movements, ethnic hatreds, and a whole slew of nations with interlocking treaties. The details are different, but it has many of the same dynamics.
When we see the horrors that ISIS members are committing we feel an emotional response. Unfortunately, emotions aren't a good basis for International policy.