I especially love the cozy, your one of us, insider tone of the articles. It may be ridiculous, but who cares? It’s fun for the space of a few hundred words to pretend you’re a select recipient of special intelligence.
So when I received George Friedman’s The United States Has Unfinished Business in Ukraine and Iraq I read it, because who does not want to know what it is we need to finish so we can be done. Mr. Friedman is Stratfor’s founder, so if anybody there would know, it should be him. Unfortunately, his missive was a disappointment.
The title is not accurate. Mr. Friedman is not suggesting we finish up a few tasks and move on. Rather, he is saying we should do less, but do it smarter, forever. A departure from the usual neocon ethos of do more and do it stupider. Unfortunately, doing anything is doing too much, but then again, we’re all Bourbons now in what we learn and forget.
So, do we have a precedent for losing a war the "smart" way? We sure do. It’s called Viet Nam. We put the word "smart" in quotes because nobody ever planned to lose our ten-year South East Asian field-training exercise and genius would have been to have never fought it in the first place.
Moi, I truly regretted our defeat at the time. I remember being on active duty the day the cease-fire went into effect and hearing the lieutenant in charge of our section sarcastically call it HPVN Day: Honorable Peace in Vietnam Day. I remember the collapse of the South’s regime and watching as their helicopters went overboard from the carriers.
There were all kinds of predictions that the dominoes would domino, and the Free World would collapse. I met my high school debate partner outside the local library, and we both agreed, the US had had it. One of those end of the world as we know it moments.
Except, the world did not end. The sunk costs were allowed to sink and Viet Nam was no longer our problem. We forgot about them and they forgot about us.
The Communist regime had the decency not to ask for foreign aid, though I am not absolutely convinced the Carter Administration wouldn’t have given it had it been requested.
Taken altogether, we are much better off having sent Viet Nam down the memory hole. They do seem to be coming back on the radar due to some contretemps with the Chinese over islands.
So we do have experience bugging out and staying bugged out.
In spite of Mr. Friedman, maybe we should forget about working on eternal unfinished business and just say au revoir.
All the neocons seem to be implying the world will end and there will be another 9/11 if we un-involve. John McCain claimed failing in Iraq was an existential crisis for our nation. He did not explain how the country would disappear, but did prove he does not know the meaning of existential.
The next 9/11 trope is overdone, but let’s examine it. Yes, one might suppose that if we leave the Middle East and the Ukraine, a team of men could be sent to pull off a terrorist exploit. Still, has anyone not asked the question, could they not do it now?
Clearly, it could happen. Is that a reason for the U.S. to go broke by spending trillions to keep Iraq one country or Ukraine in the maw of Western banks?
If ISIS takes over the whole of Iraq, so what? Yeah they get the oil. Sooner or later they’ll sell it. It’s fungible so we’ll get our share.
Maybe in their spare time, (i.e. when not killing or being killed by sectarian enemies) a terrorist incident or a hundred might be planned. Again, so what? 9/11 was an intel failure. The next one will be as well.
In truth, we’ve had our shot across the bow. Not too many noticed, but an incident took place on April 16, 2013 that was well planned and the perpetrators got away with it completely. They are still unknown. According to the Wall Street Journal as quoted by NPR,
“The attack began just before 1 a.m. on April 16 last year, when someone slipped into an underground vault not far from a busy freeway and cut telephone cables.
“Within half an hour, snipers opened fire on a nearby electrical substation. Shooting for 19 minutes, they surgically knocked out 17 giant transformers that funnel power to Silicon Valley. A minute before a police car arrived, the shooters disappeared into the night.
“To avoid a blackout, electric-grid officials rerouted power around the site and asked power plants in Silicon Valley to produce more electricity. But it took utility workers 27 days to make repairs and bring the substation back to life.”
Having troops over there did not stop it, nor did our NSA surveillance regime.
Bringing the troops home will not stop another incident. Contra all the heavy hitters predicting disaster, neither will leaving them over there. Let’s depart with no forwarding address and get an unlisted number for the State Department.
Richard Morchoe is a columnist, book reviewer and article writer for a regional monthly magazine in Western Central Massachusetts. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.