Avoiding an Obama‘s “Splendid Little War” Analogy

(Of course this is mostly an opinion piece sprinkled with elements of keen observation, ha-ha…enjoy!)

(### the quote/phrase “a splendid little war” is attributed to United States ambassador to England, John Hay, in regards to the Spain-American War of 1898.)

Since 2002, President Bush has been hammered over the years for Iraq being his “splendid little war” or SLW. Let us hope that Senator Obama, if successful in seeking the POTUS (President of the United States), doesn’t allow the continuance of the war in Afghanistan merely and simply to bolster a weak military and foreign policy background for both he and his potential cabinet. Since Senator Obama migrates quickly away from anything that even appears politically negative or damaging, I’m taking a “wait and see” approach towards his expected foreign policy. Let us hope that his current rhetoric or “tough talk” regarding his and his cabinet’s expected stance on Afghanistan and our national and military commitments there aren’t for two shallow reasons: a) he’s standing firm because the American public isn’t as perturbed with Afghanistan as with Iraq (I could wax on about media bias here but I’ll hold off for now) and, b) having some form of military conflict is always perceived as a bonus to a perceived or otherwise inexperienced military or foreign policy POTUS (see the Balkan Wars, Somalia, the Sudan, and strangely enough Afghanistan with President Clinton). Along with all of this “talking” the good senator purports wishing to inculcate among our foreign policy plate of resources, I hope a healthy dose of under dealings using backwater channels to cripple our enemies is on par too. It’s nice to talk, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for it. But while talking and waiting and watching while nations vacillate in the mire of inaction until diplomacy is hashed out, a whole lot of judicious under-the-table pressures need pushed also. It isn’t a savory thing to contemplate but it is however a very reality-based issue to come to terms with. (In our assistance to the Afghans in their fight against the Soviets during the 1980s we entwined Israeli anti-aircraft weapons designs, to be manufactured in Egypt, paid for by Saudi Arabia, transported to dictatorial Pakistan by democratic American CIA handlers, for eventual distribution to God believing radical Islamo-fascist Muslim jihadist to shoot down/kill atheistic communist Soviet military aircraft pilots. To be sure, a longer trail of duplicity may be hard to fine! Basically, it is simply meant to illustrate the strange paths taken sometimes in the pursuit of, many time Machiavellian to an extreme, an “end state.”) I don’t like the outcome our subtle workings have sometimes wrought because many times, especially during this century, we have only engineered our future enemies (Iran coup of 1953, encouragement for Iran to attack Iraq in the mid 1970s, support of Iraq against Iran during Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, etc, etc. etc. Long stories all, another time and forum to do the subjects justice.)

An addendum to the above:

Before you lambaste me for not pointing out any of Presidents Reagan or Bushes senior and junior’s military forays falling into this same category, lets at least establish their non-need to start conflicts so as to establish their foreign policy “cred” (credentials) so to speak (this being said it doesn’t mean I don’t think they had these “splendid little wars” for the record I am so there in thinking that they did, don’t get me wrong). All I want to establish is that they inherited positions that already conferred it on them. President Reagan if you’ll recall inherited the Iran Hostage Crisis and went forth from there with strong public support that he was a strong foreign policy/military engagement fella. President Bush the senior was all about the foreign policy deal as he traveled the planet for eight years with President Reagan’s State Department and when he took office he had the best repertoire with almost all world leaders on a first name basis. President Bush junior had the enemy hand him a ready made conflict to our doorsteps and could have allowed Afghanistan to remain his only “teeth cutting” episode of major national military war making, but of course we have the “rest of the story” as Paul Harvey would say, so that isn’t the case. Many, many folks jumped all over President George W. Bush prior to and soon after hostilities with Iraq for having his “splendid little war” moment recalling similarities to the Spain-American war of 1898 and the current Iraq war provocations, build up, and eventual attack. To some extent I tend to agree, factoring in hindsight and all that comes with received wisdom.

As an aside:

I honestly feel our Global War On Terrorism or GWOT is very much endanger of becoming re-monikered under the old Word War I description/quote “the War to End All Wars”. Only where as the foolish hopes of those who thought this description could apply to WWI and that it would have an eventual terminus (falsely believed to be quick and short), its application to GWOT is likely to become true in that it will encompass all other wars from its inception forward under its banner and be for all practical terms…endless.

Back to the topic:

For as much as Senator Obama speaks of “change” or more specifically “change we can believe in”, I am not buying it. I will extend him the “benefit of the doubt” with great reservations until I see real, hard examples appear. His rhetoric to date seems to be only applicable to “changing” the areas deemed important enough to get elected but not to fundamentally change any real substantive way our country does business. The only point consistently hammered for change is the lobbyist arena of which most Americans know little to nothing about. The domestic agenda aside, I need to hear more concrete, substantive dialog on the “change” implied with the conduct of our nation’s wars, current and potential future ones. I must say now, and will likely repeat often, “how we conduct our wars will determine our benefits in peace”. This is why an extremely relevant question to pose any presidential candidate from any party seeking the office, is “what exactly constitutes your position(s) regarding the conduct of foreign wars by our country?”. If Afghanistan suddenly became untenable to support (e.g. Iraq pre-surge) and politically “hot”, will he back away and leave it hanging? I hope not. Many men and women that I have had the privilege and honor of serving with over the years are still fighting this war. I would not take it lightly if their lives were somehow “cheapened” to political fodder, especially under a “change” banner waving potential Democratic Presidential candidate.

Again, before you lambaste me a good one on picking on Senator Obama and calling me a Republican tool or a two-bit conservative hatchet man, I am and have been a very independently minded registered Democrat since day one of my voting eligible adulthood (going on 23+ years now). To answer the other burning question I know is likely eating at your brain “am I a Hillary person” and just exhibiting ‘sour grapes’, to that I answer no and no. If you must know I was in favor of Senator Joe Biden for the Democratic ticket, but that was a ‘lost cause’ before it began because he was not one of the “media darlings” and so was doomed from the outset. Oh well, you play the cards you’re dealt right? Anyway…

(I realize that now after having shared this personal revelation of my political background I will likely have alienated many GOP, conservatives, or Libertarians from my blog. I hope this isn’t the case. To both liberals, conservatives, or any persuasions in between, I hope to re-emphasize the words from above of “independently minded” Democrat. A good idea, plan, or solution from any source is still a good idea, plan, or solution especially when it comes to the betterment of the United States.)

Besides, if any of us were to be truly honest with ourselves in answering the question “who’s really for change” in the previous candidate field this election year, there were only two choices–Representative Dennis Kucinich and Representative Ron Paul. Representative Kucinich advocates near complete socialism and Representative Paul advocates near complete Libertarianism. I would have to say overall Rep. Ron Paul is the most change-from-the-norm candidate for either party and the most anti-war, so, that would make him the truest “change” candidate. I digress…the last comments are good fodder for a future discussion, perhaps in another forum…

If Iraq is a “wrongful conflict” and an imperialistic act of hubris then why not Afghanistan too? UN mandate or not it is still stands as a unilateral choice made by the United States. And if it was truly our intent to smash the bad guys, their facilitators and supporters, and to pummel the nation states that harbor them, then we have woefully failed. At present according to that mantra we would have to be at war and deployed in at least a dozen or more countries MOST of which are our supposed “allies”. Since our international military conflicts and global economic activities are inextricably linked and both affect greatly our domestic “tranquility” and life, I do want to hear a great deal more from Senator Obama regarding this matter (and Senator McCain too for that matter). What I don’t wish to hear is the same Washington platitudes and by lines for how we are to conduct our affairs in this great matter of national and international importance. Despite the nuclear issues with Iran, how do we handle them in regards to their meddling in terrorist actions in both Iraq and Afghanistan and the harboring of known or suspected terrorism perpetrators? How do we overcome Pakistani resistance to our operating in their country to destroy Al-Qaeda? How do we bring to account the other Central Asian states (Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, etc) and their populations that foster, foment, fund, and fill in the ranks of jihadist and other criminal groups aggravating the Afghanistan war zone? I would venture a guess that to most Americans the complexities, vagaries, subtleties, and many nuances that pepper the entire Afghanistan issue are a complete mystery. I would also assume many can’t correctly spell it if asked much less be able to place it on the map or globe or relate a small shred of our historical connection to the country. Perhaps a strong positive that may evolve from Senator Obama’s stance regarding Afghanistan is that while a large portion of America is riveted to him during this presidential contest, many will hear and become better acquainted with the “splendid little (sometimes forgotten) war” in Afghanistan.

Bottom line: If we (the U.S.) choose to fight perpetrators of violence against our sovereignty then I am all for doing it up right! Begin with the formal declaration of war by the Congress (not done for any conflict or war since World War II). Then, complete military mobilization for war. Next, total commitment to overwhelming military supremacy (land, sea , air, and space) to eliminate all enemy forces and means to make and conduct war. Finally, an absolute clear “exit strategy” for rapid disengagement and redeployment back home. Nothing less than this should be the norm for committing the nation to war so that war doesn’t become “acceptable” as an ordinary daily thing.

Also, avoidance of all pretense entering any nation from the outset with specific “nation building” aspirations. Post major conflict management functions is where the whole shebang comes crashing down on nearly all modern deployments (and the centering of our largest casualty counts!). All of our strategies are based the fanciful belief that post conflict management will fall in line with the same model for success of post WW II Europe or Japan. Invariably, since the age of ever smaller defined “self-determination” populations (place some blame on President Woodrow Wilson’s League of Nations and Fourteen Points and the distortions by others since) post conflict nation building IS the new war zone, so to speak. Toppling a sitting nation’s government and military are the cake walk part of modern warfare’s equation. Managing the multitude of divisions and sub-divisions of minority people groups of whatever determining size and factor is the real messy part.

And as for committing our nation to war in the first place, we often forget the “price“ and price tag for war. Over the intervening years since WW II, our nation has been too fortunate really in not having to feel the “sacrifices” of war on the broad, general public citizenry level. Basically, war has become an “affordable luxury” like many other consumer items. It’s extremely overwhelming to actually contemplate the awesome capability of the U.S. and its military forces to actually pull off this most incredible feat exemplifying an example of “single nation imperial power” not seen before or since in the annuls of human history. I simply never want the American public to become comfortable, casual, and complacent with an “affordable war” concept. To enter war so lightly or slightly is the first undermining of the very fabric our great republic stands for in the world, that of peace, freedom and prosperity.

Should Senator Obama become POTUS my biggest encouragement for him is to not allow his campaign rhetoric regarding the increased attention to the war in Afghanistan be merely election antics devoid of substance. If we as a country indeed wish to accelerate the demise of Al-Qaeda, et al, then we had better commit to resource this campaign properly. Toying around and playing global police man is not what we should be doing. It ultimately leads to strained international relations and massive economic loss. Declare America’s enemies, fight America’s enemies, and finish off America’s enemies, do not dilly-dally.

While Mr. Obama is working to “channel” the spirits of great Democratic Presidents of the past (namely FDR, Truman, and JFK, but hopefully not to Woodrow Wilson or Jimmy Carter!) into his campaign, let’s hope that the lessons of history these men gave us is not forgotten. Please take a page from the ones that successfully fought and won the conflicts America was faced with and that also put us on a greater, more prosperous plane of existence after the fact. Let this be an encouragement to right action rather than a pure indictment of yet unfulfilled promises.

What say you?

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