Sunday, September 14, 2014


OBAMA: "So ISIL poses a threat to the people of Iraq and Syria, and the broader Middle East — including American citizens, personnel and facilities. If left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond that region — including to the United States. While we have not yet detected specific plotting against our homeland, ISIL leaders have threatened America and our allies. Our intelligence community believes that thousands of foreigners — including Europeans and some Americans — have joined them in Syria and Iraq. Trained and battle-hardened, these fighters could try to return to their home countries and carry out deadly attacks."

As with Saddam Hussein, the Islamic State are DEFINITELY bad guys. But I don't see a damned thing here suggesting that the US has any vital interest that would necessitate any sort of combat activity at all on our part. ISIL is a regional military force geared toward taking territory, not an Al Qaeda style global terrorism operation; the whole notion that they're going to send Americans and Europeans back to blow us all up is absurd. That is, Obama is making a really flimsy and, by his own admission, unsubstantiated argument, just about as bad as any of the crap offered by the Bush administration to get us into Iraq.

I mean, you know, unless dominating the Middle East, economically and politically, because of the oil, is a US vital interest. Personally, I don't think it is. We've gotten our oil from elsewhere since the oil shocks of the 1970s, so in any worst case scenarios we're still going to have access to the fossil fuels we use to power our economy. Yeah, yeah, global oil market, yadda, yadda. Is it really our responsibility to make the world safe for oil? And is killing more Muslims the best way to do that?
No, and no.

OBAMA: "That's why I've insisted that additional U.S. action depended upon Iraqis forming an inclusive government, which they have now done in recent days. So tonight, with a new Iraqi government in place, and following consultations with allies abroad and Congress at home, I can announce that America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat."

Sigh. There is no inclusive Iraqi government. Iraq is now dominated by Shiites, and the Sunnis continue to be squeezed out. For that matter, Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq simply don't trust each other, and this will remain the case for the foreseeable future. Indeed, the Islamic State exists for this very reason. We can't just order Iraq to get its shit together and then declare that they're ready to be our ally. I mean, that's a stupid joke.

OBAMA: "Our objective is clear: we will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy."

"Degrade" maybe. "Destroy" no way.

OBAMA: "Working with the Iraqi government, we will expand our efforts beyond protecting our own people and humanitarian missions, so that we're hitting ISIL targets as Iraqi forces go on offense."

I'll believe this about "Iraqi forces" when I see it. Thus far, the "Iraqi government" hasn't instilled me with much confidence.

OBAMA: "Across the border, in Syria, we have ramped up our military assistance to the Syrian opposition."

Wait a minute. I thought the Islamic State comprises a big chunk of Syrian opposition forces. This is just a big mess we're walking into, and, for me, these kinds of statements make Obama's speech near-incoherent at points.

The third and fourth points aren't so bad, the stuff about cutting funding for terrorists, improving intelligence, and upping humanitarian aid. So that's good stuff. But I'm also concerned about what, exactly, this "broadly based coalition" is going to be. Sure, I'm all about coalitions when it comes to world affairs. But there are coalitions like the joke one we bought for the Iraq invasion in 2003, and then there are coalitions like the UN. Needless to say, the UN is the far superior option.

But really, analyzing this speech on its own terms is something of an exercise in futility. The problems in the Middle East are pretty simple when you get right down to it:

1) All the industrialized nations want the region's oil. 2) The history of colonialism there has made the region inherently unstable, with artificially drawn borders, despots, and multiple ethnic/religious groups possessing legitimate grievances. And 3) The US decided long ago to embrace the region's instability, appointing Israel to be our local attack dog; it is, therefore, impossible to separate Israel's oppressive treatment of the indigenous Palestinian population from US policy in the Middle East.

And that's it. They're BIG problems, to be sure, but not nearly as complex as they appear to be when you listen to American establishment blathering about it, which is essentially what Obama's speech is, US establishment blathering.

The bottom line here is that, without addressing the root problems in the Middle East, instability will continue. Period. No way around it. And Obama isn't suggesting ANYTHING that would deal with those root problems. He's just trying to find a way to continue the long reign of Middle Eastern instability because the American establishment's perception is that this is beneficial to us. We want it to be unstable, but not so unstable as to hurt business. So US policy, from Nixon to Obama, has been all about finding the right level of instability, the one that makes us top dog.

Of course, that's totally insane.

For the full text of Obama's latest war speech, click here.