Bill Knight column for Thurs., Fri., or Sat., March 10, 11 or 12
Since Republicans Rand Paul and Ben Carson dropped out of the race, only Donald Trump remains as a GOP candidate who says he opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Since the United States has been at war uninterrupted since invading Afghanistan in 2001, with too much lost in blood and treasure and too little difference for the sacrifices, the wisdom of continuing these never-ending “adventures” seems to be a valid question.
However, debates and town-hall meetings and campaigning have generalized foreign-policy positions, reduced the topic to puffed-up bragging behind U.S. flag lapel pins, or stayed eerily silent to focus instead on “hand size,” perspiration or accusations of lying (which one suspects are mostly true from all sides.)
War has been mostly ignored as to substance, or reduced to bombast when mentioned at all.
Ted Cruz pledged to “carpet bomb” the Mideast.
John Kasich said he’d send more troops to fight ISIS in Syria or Iraq.
Marco Rubio was vague, or cagey, saying, “Our troop strength in that effort will be determined by what’s necessary to achieve victory.”
And Trump – while criticizing the Bush administration for lying to justify the invasion and occupation of Iraq – now says he’d send more troops to Iraq and bomb the area to hurt ISIS.
(For Democrats’ part, Hillary Clinton also hasn’t ruled out expanding a U.S. military presence in the Mideast, and has mentioned using Special Operations in new engagements with ISIS.)
Without the restraint expressed by Paul – and hinted at by Carson in his claim of advising Bush against of the Iraq War, only Democrat Bernie Sanders has rejected more war, saying the fight against ISIS must be “led and sustained by nations in that region that have the means to protect themselves.”
Barack Obama in his successful 2008 campaign for the White House was helped by his no vote on invading Iraq, and although it was President George W. Bush who set the timetable for withdrawing troops by 2012, Obama mostly complied – yet later stepped up the War in Afghanistan, where 10,000 U.S. troops remain in harm’s way (about 3,000 of our servicemen and women are still stationed in Iraq).
Shouldn’t this be center stage in debates and rallies, commercials and interviews?
Instead, Trump – who, again, claims he was against the Iraq invasion 13 years ago – is pretending to be the tough “strongman,” describing himself as “the most militaristic person you will ever meet.”
Now, the billionaire demands we “bomb the hell” out of ISIS – plus Iraq and its oil fields and even Iran – and resort to torturing captured suspects. Respected U.S. military leaders have explained that they will not follow illegal orders and that such simplistic approaches are doomed.
Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, Army Chief of Staff from September 2011 to August 2015, said, “There are limits to military power.
“It's about sustainable outcome,” he continued. “And the problem we've had is we've had outcomes, but they've been only short-term outcomes because we haven't looked at – we haven't properly looked at – the political and economic sides of this. It's got to be all three that come together. And if you don't do that, it's not going to solve the problem.
“We have to stop a long-term group that's potentially attempting to be a long-term influence in the Middle East, that is clearly promoting extremism and frankly suppressing the populations in the Middle East,” Odierno added. “You need the countries in the Middle East, and those surrounding the Middle East, to be involved in this solution.”
Voters seem left with lousy choices amid saber-rattling nonsense, or the cowardly silence.
Must we vote to send more of our sons and daughters into battle, or unleash the aerial dogs of war to see “if sand can glow in the dark,” as Cruz said, or target non-combatant families of fighters as recommended by Trump (who’s also called for a preemptive strike on North Korea) – or worse?
[PICTURED: Huck/Konopacki cartoon from APWU Iowa.]