The View From 1776

Liberal-Progressive Knee-Jerk Blind Spots

Reader Robert Stapler examines some of liberal-progressives’ off-the-shelf, canned responses and preconceptions which have little, if any, congruence with reality.

Obama’s Middle-Eastern Strategy – A Response to Our In-House Liberal
By Robert Stapler

I began this essay as a rebuttal to comments made by our friendly ‘house liberal’, J. Jay, in another posting by our gracious and sagacious host, Thomas (see ).  The subject of that essay was ‘Does or does not our president have a strategy for dealing with ISIS and, if so, has it or will it blow up in his face (and, perhaps, ours with him).  Mr. Jay reacted by implying the President’s critics are ‘making a tempest out of a tea-pot’ (i.e., ISIS not much of a threat), and that there are positives to ISIS gaining in power and influence we can somehow exploit (though, of course, he doesn’t say how to go about that).

Mr. Jay’s comments are invariably of the reactive or ‘knee-jerk’ variety, and, as such, represent the views, biases and conduct of a great many liberal-socialists.  Though he has some faculty for dressing up talking points in seemingly sensible style, any close examination of his arguments reveals they are (without exception) inaccurate, careless, unmethodical, unrealistic, irresponsible, uninformed (or, more accurately, mal-informed), partisan and, at times, more than a little bizarre or naïve.  His views mirror those of his ideology and those of the mainstream (leftist) informational sources from which he draws most (if not all) his talking points.  Regardless the absurdity of his remarks, he continues in a condescending manner suggesting his/theirs are the more rational arguments made within these halls, despite his errors having been shown false each and every time he is rebutted (which is often).  I use Mr. Jay here as a proxy for all such liberal-socialist in addressing my remarks, and do not, therefore, mean to pick on him especially.

Mr. Jay is forever telling us, his is the party of ideas; that it is we conservatives who lack vision.  Yet, in his own opening remark he admits “/There appear to be no good answers to this situation”.  Both history and a variety of think tanks (see my links at end of this essay) indicate otherwise, including some on his own side of the political divide (aka, liberal-socialist).  The problem then is not a lack of ideas on the matter.  The problem is an obvious lack of will at the top compounded by a glut of opposing views (i.e., lack of consensus) regarding matters which, in the past, were more straightforward or quickly solved.  Nor is this confusion only as between parties, as the arguments are both inter- and intra-factional.  There is one further problem impeding progress here, and that is the lack of agreed upon objectives.  In fact, it is the main impediment.  Agree on objectives, and the solutions will quickly follow even should the factional distemper continue.

Jay sneeringly demands of us “ So pray tell … what is the “strategy” that all these arm chair critics suggest the US should employ to “address” the situation? Who should we bomb? I have yet to hear of a single coherent idea that would be in the national interest of the US”.  This dismissive remark crystalizes the highly-biased rhetorical implication we (Americans) shouldn’t resort to bombing under any circumstances.  Implied also within this seemingly innocent yet prejudicial remark is the suggestion (gratuitously universal among liberal-socialists) that we conservatives are all ‘bomb crazy’ as needs restraining by our more ‘reasonable’ brethren.  We are, of course, no more ‘bomb crazy’ than others, yet so successfully poisonous has been this libel that even the politically neutral regard it a ‘truism’.  As such, liberal-socialist of the Jay variety stoop to using at every turn in the conversation simply to render anything we say in rebuttal as ‘barbaric’.  That it is a patently false and unfair smear tactic should go without saying, yet so accepted has this libel become (as a meme) it needs constant debunking. 

That said, bombing clearly IS an option, else our professedly ‘liberal’ President would not now be bombing ISIS (and others).  Moreover, he would not be bombing without consulting others (who are more expert regarding its advisability and legality), or threatening to do so.  The left (Jay included) does not regard Obama’s use of drones as ‘bombing’ simply because neither the administration nor media have been calling it that.  Nor does he regard the more direct recent bombing of Libya in support of radical insurgents as ‘bombing’ for the same reason.  Thus, in his world, bombing is not bombing until his party calls it such.

There are a lot of things nations can and should do in their own defense.  However and for the past 60 years, liberal-socialists have created a false moral paradigm that places an unfair and impractical burden on civilized nations to remain ‘civilized’ in the face of savagery, before they can act extra-territorially in their own defense.  This is true whether the question posed is saturation-bombing or surgically-clandestine warfare.  This same paradigm absurdly sets a different (lower) standard of conduct on undeveloped, often savage, nations; as though morality and justice were somehow different under different economic, social or political conditions.  By that standard, the Khmer Rouge was justified in its butchery.  This narrative has been instilled into our culture for generations purely for political and ideological objectives at odds with reason.  Generally, this extreme pacifist standard has served to neuter our military while sowing discord politically to little purpose other than to divide us politically (to their advantage).  The effect of this policy and its inflexible mindset has been to limit our options to only those that result (paradoxically) in more, rather than less, killing.  In the current context, that means Obama (following the standard liberal-socialist/pacifist narrative) has been willing to bomb but not to send in troops.  He does this despite he must by now realize that bombing is ineffective without troops on the ground, that it takes far longer to get any kind of acceptable results (if ever), is typically abandoned after some time as futile (without having accomplished much of anything), and that the total body count is roughly the same or greater.  If it is true that bombing alone accomplishes little while bombing combined with ground forces (properly managed) accomplishes much, and the casualty rate is about the same, then the burning moral question should not be whether or not it is okay to bomb but whether it is okay to inflict casualties at all and regardless the means or the threat short of an immediate and collectively existential threat.  Regardless, that kind of hamstringing ensures only the civilized get killed.

Jay’s suggestion “I have yet to hear a single coherent notion as would be in the national interest”, is simply and obviously playing the partisan.  Clearly, it is not what hasn’t been ‘heard’, but what he refuses to hear that is in question.  This is a demeaning throwaway line having no real meaning other than to censure and to tell us ‘your ideas on the matter are a waste of my time’, meaning he will reject them out of hand regardless of merit.  This has been the left’s approach to debate from first to last, and there is no getting around such obtuse obstinacy.  He/they reject our ideas this way solely and spitefully for no other reason than they come from those standing in the way of their agenda.  Let some unmistakably liberal-socialist icon (like John Kerry) put forth those same ideas, and Jay defends them unexamined.  We know this to be true because he has done exactly that many times before.

From his remarks, Jay seems to believe hatred of the West is a secondary (or even a tertiary) consideration among radical-Muslims; and, that what really gets them fired up is hatred of each other.  I realize this is a popular myth among those who imagine themselves well-informed without the bother of checking and given to exaggerating their own ‘wonderfulness’, but all it tells me is he has spent very little energy figuring this out and gets his misinformation from people easily as ignorant whose inflexible ideas of how the world works stand in the way of clear thinking.  It is also wishful thinking among those who just want the terror to go away.  I am not here claiming a vast knowledge of the middle-east or of its denizens (though I have studied the situation in some detail), only that the points Jay makes quite clearly do not fit even such facts as are plainly in view (regardless the source).  I don’t think even peaceful Muslims have all that clear an idea what excites their brethren to such barbarism (though some do, and give it their full support).  Radical-Muslims, themselves and many times, have told us that we (and not each other) are the primary targets of their enmity, and that the cause of that enmity is our refusal to yield to their religion and their tyranny.  They have also told us their schism (which is about whether a [no longer identifiable] descendant of Muhammad or the most capable leader among them should lead) is a secondary consideration.  They, themselves, have repeatedly told us their main objective is to spread Islam throughout the world, to spread it by the sword where persuasion fails, that they are commanded to do this by Allah (as proclaimed by Mohammed), and that nothing else takes precedence over this.  Just because, right now, ISIS is focusing on making its faction dominant does not mean they have forgotten the ultimate, common, and obligatory goal of subjugating us.  ISIS is merely, as a practical matter, exploiting possibilities handed them rather than wasting energy and openings on the elusive (yet still primary) objective of subjugating everyone else.

Another misconception Jay labors under is the notion that keeping the Sunnis and Shiites at each other’s throats somehow works in our favor, that this somehow keeps them from attacking us (i.e., his counterbalance idea).  No doubt there may be some slight ‘countervailing effect, but, if so, it apparently isn’t much, and has never been much.  What works in some contexts does not work in all, and, if regional stability was ever the objective, the Iraq v Iran countering falls into the latter category. 

More broadly, ISIS’s success (plus all the ‘Arab Spring’ uprisings) has only emboldened a great many radical-Muslims to join the fight (on both sides).  Think of this as a ‘recruitment bonanza’.  Not all of these radicals bother to travel all the way to Iraq to fight, but find opportunities to assist the ‘cause’ closer to home.  I read only yesterday that more than 2/3 of all British citizens who traveled to Syria-Iraq expressly to fight along side ISIS have returned home, and that violence since their return has increased measurably.  What our experts and threat-watchers report is that threat levels have risen even as ISIS gained in power and influence.  There may be some disagreement within and without government by how much, but I can find no expert sources who are saying the threat to us is lessened by ISIS or by ISIS versus its rivals.  Even assuming we break ISIS up, that still leaves an awful lot of trained (or half-trained) jihadists running about looking for new targets of opportunity. 

Quite a few of those who flocked to ISIS’s banner are American citizens with every intention of returning home once (or even before) the dust settles over there.  When they do, we can be certain the number of attacks here will only multiply and intensify.  The same is true of Britain, France, Australia and every other Western nation (plus Russia, Africa, India, Indonesia, Philippines &c), as they can expect nothing but trouble from their own returning malcontents with a mission from Allah.  Our border security is about as nonexistent as it has been in the last 140 years, and that is almost entirely the result of the current (stealth) policy to abet illegal immigration.  Only this week, four non-American jihadists were captured crossing our southern border intent on attacking us.  9/11 was not carried out by an army, but by a handful of highly dedicated though minimally-trained ideologues who exploited just such openings.  The left appears confused whether or how much of a threat this poses, and that is solely the function of a political narrative that will not or cannot admit of miscalculation and errors.  Here again, Jay failed to research this aspect which would have told him his counter-balancing theme had very little merit prior to putting it forward where any half-wit might debunk it.

Jay then argued “… it makes little sense from a geopolitical point of view to enable one group over the other if you can achieve a counterbalance in the interest of stability.”  Of course, Jay knows little of geo-politics beyond what he hears from liberal-socialist news sources, sources known to be uninformative and biased.  Ergo, he’s at a substantial disadvantage discussing matters he knows only tangentially and through the leftist filter. 

What evidence does he provide for this his assertion allowing (or encouraging) small adversaries to slug it out keeps others safe from their violence?  Absolutely none, only the vacuous talking points he gleans from MSNBC, PBS and CNN suggest this.  Conservatives have also sometimes applied this same concept out of context, but more often and generally we take some greater pains to get our facts straight before committing to such an unlikely assertion.  Anyone who has ever been caught in someone else’s fire-fight can tell you this is not a healthy situation for bystanders, not even bystanders better armed, stronger or more numerous than those in blazing away.  Even for bystanders with a stake in the outcome and some means to control its overflow, there are serious risks involved as should not be undertaken lightly or sloppily. 

History is replete with examples of war occurring often and precisely when rivals are equally (or very nearly) matched; and of long periods of peace precisely when some single power dominates its rivals.  Did not Rome maintain its Pax Romana by virtue of its relative might?  And, did not Rome’s several enemies attack precisely when Rome was weakest, when over-extended or had allowed its ranks to thin (i.e., when the forces were more equal)?  Did not Nazi Germany attack Russia just as it had subjugated France yet still fully engaged against Britain?  Did we not elect to fight our own multi-front war against Germany and Japan (which, at the time, was less than a certain proposition)?  Aggression is often a question of opportunity and constraints on the strong more than greed or hatreds.  Also, just about every war spills onto neighbors and additional rivals such that this notion of ‘counterbalance’ is, at best, a means not to be over-relied on.  Mr. Jay needs to consider these are mad-men flush with power and overconfidence, men to whom a little ‘side-action’ involving low-risk pokes at us while fully engaged against local rivals is perfectly reasonable; especially given the temper and prejudices of our current administration.

History also shows that aggressors who succeed initially and spectacularly tend to quickly morph from ‘non-threats’ to ‘threats’ against successively larger enemies.  Success excites potential allies to swell its ranks, as well as emboldens its own troops to do more.  A quick succession of early victories enables a victor to catapult weapons and resources captured into expanded possibilities.  That was how Alexander did it starting from small resources, weapons and objectives, expanding a tiny army of Greeks into a vast army of subject states.

Jay tries the usual and gratuitous gambit of blame shifting (onto Bush) to distract us from the obvious failure by Obama to lead; probably the real and only objective in his entire rant.  He did that by claiming Bush (in his rush to avenge) destroyed a critical feature necessary to middle-eastern stability, the much ballyhooed ‘counterbalance’ that Jay, himself, previously inserted into the debate.  Yes, Saddam did, at one time, serve as a counterweight to Iran, but that counterweight was short lived and consisted mainly of U.S. backing.  That counter-balance and stability, however, only existed until Saddam began attacking first Iran, then Kuwait.  In other words, only so long as Saddam participated in the shared objective of peacekeeping.  In that context, having Iraq as our frontline proxy against Iran (with the implication we’d throw in our weight on Saddam’s side) did serve to contain Iranian aggression for a time.  However, Iran soon figured out it could attack its own enemies via proxies (i.e., Hezbollah & other terrorists) and began a clandestine program to acquire nuclear weapons.  That was hardly what we’d call a ‘stable situation’.  Our initial reason for allying with Iraq, however, wasn’t Iran; and our continued support of Iraq beyond our initial reasons had far more to do with countering the (then) Soviet-Iranian alliance with one of our own as kept both those countries out of the Soviet crosshairs.  Iraq had been part of the U.S. encirclement of Soviet Russia, and its role in that was fairly minor.  Using Iraq as a counterweight to Iran, therefore, was never more than an after-thought; and not an especially promising one.  Between the Soviet collapse (1989) and the invasion of Kuwait 1990, continued support for Saddam was merely a question of as yet un-reformulated policy.

By the time Bush toppled Saddam, Iraq had long ceased to provide any kind of counterweight to Iran (or the Soviets).  That, in fact, ended with Saddam’s failed invasion of Iran (1982-1988).  Up to 1989, Soviet influence with Iran also helped to damp Iranian aggressions.  In fact, in the preceding decade, that had probably mattered more than the U.S./Iraq alliance in maintaining the status quo.  What constrained Iran after 1989 was direct U.S. presence in the Persian Gulf enabled by Iran’s loss of its powerful (Soviet) ally.  It still had Chinese backing, but China was, at that time, still unable to project its power globally.  The Iraq-Iran region has, in fact, been inherently unstable since the inter-war period (WWI to WWII), and post-war policy has been struggling to stabilize the region ever since to little effect.  Therefore, Jay’s claim Bush-43 ‘destabilized the region’ is at least 13 years out of date, bogus, and more than a little absurd. 

Jay claimed ‘it is silly [to say] Obama wants to be “friends” with mullahs’, yet here too the evidence (both circumstantial and absolute) to a distinctly pro-Muslim Obama.  He steadfastly and fawningly refuses to link terrorism with Islam.  He prostrates himself before sheiks, Muslim heads of state, and even a few mullahs with some regularity in what is regarded highly irregular (diplomatically speaking), unseemly and un-American fashion.  His insults to and unfair condemnations of Israel, even as he courted the PLA make abundantly clear this fawning preference.  He has (inappropriately) brought radical-mullahs into the White House, to state functions, and accompanying him into the halls of Congress.  He continues to favor high-ranking Muslims on his staff with known links to the Muslim-Brotherhood (a Muslim umbrella organization with a charitable façade and known, direct ties to radical and terrorist organizations worldwide) even after their presence and undue influence was paraded in the press.  He speaks only praise for Islam, and defends Muslim groups known to have more directly supported global terrorism (e.g., ISNA and CAIR).  Earlier this year, he increased funding to Hamas; right after Hamas began attacking Israel with scores of rockets.  Also, this year, he deliberately (and wrongly) released 5 senior Taliban terrorist commanders in exchange for one deserter for no better reason than he still thinks locking them up was unfair, and had found an excuse to set them free (some of whom immediately rejoined the fight against us).  What is silly (beyond belief) is that Jay would even pretend Obama doesn’t want to ‘make nice’ with our sworn enemies.  Even now, as he brays about defeating ISIS, Obama is excessively careful about getting Muslim approval before developing real and more suitable allies, and likely excluded some longtime allies from his coalition precisely because his Muslim pals would be offended.

What is painfully clear from Mr. Jay’s remarks is that even now, after all that has happened and after all that has been proclaimed by the jihadists and mullahs that their main target is us, he (and the left) still just don’t get it they want us converted, subjugated or dead (in that order) – and that there are no compromises with radical-Islam short of these three.  This inability to concede the obvious on the left is driven by a pathologically partisan need to dominate the political narrative.

Readings: - points out Iraqi politics are far more complex than the simple Sunni v Shiite division upon which Mr. Jay stakes his position – Synopsis of the Sunni-Shiite schism - how American v Russian interests combined by our subsequent withdrawal compound what has happened in Syria-Iraq

Think tanks on instability issue - Daniel Pipes’ organization - Australian Broadcasting Corp. (i.e., public media similar to PBS), not the American commercial network - a book review