A basket of snakes
“Once war is forced upon us, there is no other alternative than to apply every available means to bring it to a swift end.
“War’s very object is victory, not prolonged indecision.”
So said Gen. MacArthur in some of the wisest counsel the old soldier ever gave his countrymen.
Yet, “prolonged indecision” would seem the essence of the war the president has begun to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State.
For, following only one night of bombing in Syria, Gen. Bill Mayville, director of operations for the Joint Chiefs, asked to estimate how long this new war would last, replied: “I would think of it in terms of years.”
“Years,” the general said.
Yet, though we are already heavily into bombing, the president has no congressional authorization for this war in Syria.
Even Republicans are leery of voting for a war in Syria before the November elections. A third of the House GOP voted no to arming and training the Syrian rebels. The Democrats are even more wary.
And how are we going to “destroy” ISIS when Obama has ruled out U.S. combat troops and not one NATO or Arab ally has offered to send combat troops?
Consider Turkey. With its 400,000-man army, 1,000 planes, 3,600 tanks, 3,000 artillery pieces and self-propelled guns, the Turks, the largest military power in the Middle East, could make hash of the Islamic State.
Why have they not done so?
Because Turkish President Erdogan detests President Assad of Syria and has looked the other way as volunteers, including Turks, have crossed his border into Syria to join ISIS.
Up until now, this NATO ally has been a silent partner of ISIS. And, even now, Ankara has not volunteered to fight the Islamic State.
For Turkey is predominantly Sunni, and many Sunni see the Islamic State as a ruthless but effective ally against a Shia threat represented by Tehran, Baghdad, Damascus and Hezbollah.
If the Turkish army is not going to intervene in Syria against ISIS, and if Obama has ruled out U.S. boots on the ground in Iraq or Syria, where will the soldiers come from to dislodge the Islamic State from the Indiana-sized territory it has seized?
The Kurds can hold Erbil with U.S. air support. Iraq’s regime, backed by its Shia militias, can hold Baghdad. But can the Iraqi army retake Fallujah, Mosul or Anbar, from which they so recently ran away?
Who are the major fighting forces in Syria who have for years been holding the line against ISIS? Answer: the Syrian army, Hezbollah troops from Lebanon, and Iranians, backed by Putin’s Russia.
Denouncing the Islamic State for its beheadings of the two Americans and one British aid worker, Obama declared at the U.N.:
“There can be no reasoning — no negotiation — with this brand of evil. The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force. So the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death.”
Strong words, some of the strongest our Nobel Peace Prize-winning president has used in six years.
Yet, for three years, it has been NATO ally Turkey and Arab allies like Saudi Arabia and Qatar who have been clandestinely aiding this “network of death.” And it has been Assad, Hezbollah, Iran and Russia that have been resisting this “network of death.”
A year ago, the American people rose up to demand that Obama and John Kerry keep us out of Syria’s civil war, specifically, that they not carry out their threats to bomb the army of Bashar Assad.
Had it not been for Assad, Hezbollah, Iran, and Russia, the network of death Obama, rightly excoriated from that U.N. podium, might by now be establishing its caliphate, not in Raqqa but Damascus.
Before we go any deeper into Syria, Congress needs to be called back to debate and vote on whether to authorize this new war.
For this war against the Islamic State seems, for some in that blood-soaked region, not so much to be a war of good against evil, but the first of several wars they want America to fight.
For them, the Islamic State is to be destroyed by the Americans. Then the Assad regime is to be brought down by the Americans. Then Iran is to be smashed by the Americans. Everyone in the Middle East seems to have in mind some new war for the Americans to fight.
How many such wars are in our vital interests?
While, undeniably, the Islamic State has shown itself beyond the pale with its beheading of innocents and its massacres of soldiers who have surrendered, let us not forget that our allies abetted these monsters, while adversaries we have designated as terrorists and state sponsors of terror were fighting them.
Lord Palmerston had a point when he said Great Britain has no permanent friends, no permanent enemies, only permanent interests.
Those interests should determine our policy.
Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of the new book “The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority.”