The Enemy Of My Enemy Might Just Be Another Enemy


I heard the drums of war.  Again.

We are ready, once again, to pick sides in the Muslim world. We always think that we know what we are doing.  We identify the bad actors, the Evildoers, and announce that we will destroy them.  In an effort to minimize our personal involvement (ground troops), we lionize the sworn enemies of our new enemies.  We train our new friends.  We give them lots of nifty weapons.  And when our new enemy has been vanquished by us and our new friends, we try to leave.  We give the keys to the country to the victors and walk away.

That’s the theory.

We are currently freaked about a couple of brutal beheadings. To combat this we’ll recruit the help of the Saudi’s, the government that has helped to fund ISIS, provided leadership and manpower, and who has regularly scheduled public beheadings.

It’s the blind leading the visually impaired.

Should we have bombed Syria last year? Should we have armed the “moderate” Syrian opposition?

I have no idea. I have the same queasy feeling I had prior to our last incursion into Iraq.  What are we trying to do?  When will we know that we’ve done it?  What is our exit strategy?  My biggest concern centers on our lack of presidential leadership.

Wouldn’t it be great if we had a president with the courage of his convictions of a John McCain, but with the wisdom of – who?

Seriously, who? Certainly not John McCain, the human embodiment of road rage.  But not the current guy.  And not his predecessor.  Our current president can’t seem to grasp the counter-intuitive nature of these fights.  It’s not about logic.  Countries do not base their actions on President Obama’s perception of their best interest.  These decisions are based on religion, emotion, and slights that we’ve never bothered to understand.  With that in mind we must learn that the enemy of our enemy may also be our enemy.  In fact, it is unlikely that we have any friends in that region, just business partners.

And the last guy? That damage may never be repaired.

If you are looking for measured responses and justifiable restraint, you might want to consider Bill Clinton and the first President Bush. Colin Powell provided an oral history of the run-up to the first Gulf War to PBS.  Sadly, General Powell’s credibility was permanently damaged by the younger Bush.

We want to rid the world of ISIS. Sounds good.  How?  John McCain would have had us in Syria a year ago.  Undoubtedly, some of the very people he would have armed last year we would be fighting this year.

Déjà vu.

Do you remember the Mujahedeen? We wanted the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan.  President Ronald Reagan, with the help of Senator Charlie Wilson (D-TX), armed and trained the Mujahedeen.  Those weapons and that training greatly benefited two successor groups, Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

This link is to a Guardian article from 1999!  This article was published almost two years before September 11th.  Fifteen years later and it is difficult to prove that we have learned anything from our misadventures.

Five hundred years ago, observers from a distant planet would have seen the French, the Spanish, the Portuguese, the Italians, the English, the Dutch, and the Germans engaged in unspeakable behavior on behalf of their Church, their monarchs, and their homelands. Forced Conversions.  The slaughter of the innocents.  The destruction of other cultures.  Slavery.  Rape.  Brutality.  And our observers, safe in the knowledge that they were beyond the reach of humans could let this play out.  Who would survive?  Who wouldn’t?  It wouldn’t matter to them.  But we, the United States and the rest of the now-civilized world, don’t have that luxury in 2014.  We can’t just let the various sects of Islam fight it out amongst themselves.  We are too dependent on their oil.  And they are too dependent on our attention.

So I hear the drums of war.  Again.