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Obama’s “Limited” Intervention Keeps Expanding

I take Paul Waldman’s larger point here [1], but he is wrong when he says this:

That’s why all along, President Obama’s reaction to the situation in Syria and Iraq has been so careful and limited. The last thing he wanted was to be drawn back into another war with the potential to be just as bad for us and everyone else as George W. Bush’s Iraq War was. So instead, he’s been pulled in that direction one tiny step at a time [bold mine-DL].

We should be able to recognize by now that Obama’s response to conflicts in Syria and Iraq may be less aggressive than what others would like, but it hasn’t really been careful or limited. On several occasions, Obama has rhetorically committed the U.S. to very ambitious goals without having any idea how those goals are going to be met and without considering whether they would be worth the cost required. He has repeatedly claimed that there were limits to what the U.S. would be willing to do in Iraq and Syria and then violated one after another. Just weeks after Obama said that the U.S. wouldn’t function as the Iraqi government’s air force, the U.S. started being exactly that. Months after pledging that there would be no boots on the ground in Syria, Obama has reversed himself again. It is always just a matter of time before each limit is erased or ignored.

I have discussed Obama’s bad habit of issuing unwise ultimatums before, but a review might be useful here. When conflict in Syria was just beginning, Obama declared that Assad “must go,” and thereby locked himself into backing the removal of a foreign leader without thinking through how it would happen or what would come next. Then he issued his mistaken “red line” threat, and was on the verge of starting a war in 2013 to back up that threat until opposition in Britain and here at home made an intervention too politically risky. This is not the record of someone who has been “careful” in his responses. On the contrary, he has repeatedly trapped himself into pursuing bad policies through his careless rhetoric.

It is also strange to think of Obama’s response as “limited” when he keeps exceeding the limits that he set for U.S. involvement. The war on ISIS began last year ostensibly as a defensive mission to protect persecuted Yazidis and U.S. diplomatic outposts, but quickly became something entirely different. Then Obama declared that the U.S. mission was to “degrade and destroy” ISIS, and before we knew it U.S. planes were bombing targets in Syria. Now U.S. forces are being deployed in Syria, and presumably that will not be the last time that the administration ignores the limits it previously set. Note that at each step along the way, Obama was not “pulled” into any of these decisions. He made each one when he was never really compelled to do so.

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16 Comments To "Obama’s “Limited” Intervention Keeps Expanding"

#1 Comment By Grumpy Old Man On October 30, 2015 @ 2:08 pm

I am old enough to remember Vietnam. This gradual escalation is eerily reminiscent of that time. All we need for the roof to fall in is another Gulf of Tonkin incident, real or fabricated, say, the shooting down of a US plane.

“We learn from history that we do not learn from history.” Cliché, but a true one.

#2 Comment By EliteCommInc. On October 30, 2015 @ 2:39 pm

Well,

one has to have a history of actually standing for something on one’s own. And to stand regardless of opposition because he believes in the veracity of where he stands and can support it.

Because so much his executive time has been predicated on the pleasure of others and I do mean, pleasure, keeping them happy l’est he be seen as anything other than the executive, I think he is easy to push around.

Eventually interventionists, which still operate unrestrained, Ambassador Powers, for example, will bend his own ‘good sense”. It’s actually very painful to watch as he bends himself into pretzels to please someone other than his own vision, if he had one.

_________________

Speaking of standing . . .

Vietnam was not really a mission creep. Gulf of Tonkin or not the US was going to defend South Vietnam.

Syria is not that. This is not a fight against some aggressor, this is our own befuddled notion of hanging on to appearing engaged. When I think the moves of the Russians have made our involvement irrelevant.

And I am embarrassed to say so.

#3 Comment By Kurt Gayle On October 30, 2015 @ 2:49 pm

In May 1961 President John. F. Kennedy sent 400 US Army Special Forces personnel to South Vietnam to train South Vietnamese soldiers.

Today, President Barack Obama sent up to 50 Special Forces personnel to Syria to help co-ordinate the fight against ISIS.

What a difference in US foreign policy 54 years can make. The US learns from its mistakes. History doesn’t repeat itself.

#4 Comment By Shameless On October 30, 2015 @ 3:12 pm

“Just weeks after Obama said that the U.S. wouldn’t function as the Iraqi government’s air force, the U.S. started being exactly that. Months after pledging that there would be no boots on the ground in Syria, Obama has reversed himself again. It is always just a matter of time before each limit is erased or ignored. “

Don’t forget his promise to get us out of Afghanistan. Now he says there will be American troops and bases there when he leaves office.

At a certain point you drop euphemisms like “he reversed himself” and start calling him what you’d call anyone else who talks out both sides of their face.

#5 Comment By EliteCommInc. On October 30, 2015 @ 4:27 pm

“In May 1961 President John. F. Kennedy sent 400 US Army Special Forces personnel to South Vietnam to train South Vietnamese soldiers.”

Just to be clear — the introduction of troops was gradual from Pres. Eisenhauer forward. But there always going to be a presence in South Vietnam.

Mission creep occurs as the result of an expanded mission. The mission in Vietnam was not the result of an expanded mission. There was never much question of the mission, merely what would be required to accomplish it. There is a very important distinction.

Syria is the result of constantly readjusting the mission. Not just strategic or tactical, but it’s very purpose. And that shift has been tying us in knots.

For example, mission: remove Pres. Assad. mission creep, attack ISIS in spite of the fact that the goals are the same, shift in mission or added mission. And then the question was to take on Pres. Assad, and ISIS in conjunction with Iran and now Russia . . .with Russia and Pres., Assaad taking on our proxies, none of whom are quite in sync with one another.

fulfilling these demands represents a mission creep — meaning a shift in mission.

Somalia was mission creep. From feeding people to intervening in the internal affairs of Somalia’s political infrastructure.

Wholly different than increasing support for a singular mission.

my comments are not reaffirm my positions about Vietnam, but to make an important distinction.

#6 Comment By Kurt Gayle On October 30, 2015 @ 4:40 pm

With US boots now admittedly on the ground in Syria – along with Iranian boots on the ground and Russian bombers in the air – the Israeli false flag teams must be positively salivating and chomping at the bit!

One morning soon we may wake up to the news that a number of US Special Forces personnel in Syria have been blown to smithereens from the air and that “unnamed, but usually reliable” sources say (1) “that the Russians did it” and (2) that “Iranian ground positions called in the coordinates and cheered the deaths of the Americans” (according to rough translation of a garbled Farsi phone intercept picked up by an unnamed source).

Politicians – led by Republicans and their neocon handlers — who likely wouldn’t have been able to resist either the siren calls of “Remember the Maine” or “the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution” — and who certainly weren’t able to resist the siren call of “weapons of mass destruction hidden in Iraq” demand immediate retaliation against the Russians and the Syrians.

Obama obliges — and thus begins the perilous period of what historians will later call “the politics of escalation in Syria.”

Fifty years from now declassified documents will show that Israeli war planes bombed the Americans (a la USS Liberty and the Lavon Affair), and that the Israelis falsified intelligence reports (“the Russians and Iranians did it”) which they then stove-piped directly to the White House and the New York Times via the usual AIPAC operatives (just as they did with the yellow cake uranium story in 2002).

The 2065-released documents will further show that as the fighting in Syria escalated, US and Russian nuclear forces were put on alert following Israeli threats to use nuclear weapons (just as US and Russian nuclear forces were put on alert in 1973 after Israel threatened to use nuclear weapons on the third day of the Yom Kippur War).

Beware the Ides of March and Israeli false flag operations!

#7 Comment By Bog of Despond On October 31, 2015 @ 12:05 pm

The Vietnam analogies are painfully clear.

But the politicians can’t or won’t acknowledge the parallels and stop it. Both Obama and the Republicans continue to commit more American troops, money, and weapons to the Middle East, despite no prospect of “winning”, no furthering of American interests, a constant, massive drain of money, blood, respect and focus. And no exit plan.

They will only stop if we make them. Election after election, we must replace larger numbers of elected officials of both parties and make it clear why we are replacing them.

And we must work harder to discredit others who advocated for these policies in the public sphere.

#8 Comment By EliteCommInc. On October 31, 2015 @ 12:48 pm

“The Vietnam analogies are painfully clear.”

I would that some had been made that were. Likening Vietnam, recognized state by the international community, even after the Departure of France, to the support of rebel factions in Syria is akin to comparing a truck and a boat. Sure they both travel, but they are not the same thing.

Further, one doesn’t need to dredge up the misconceptions about Vietnam to conclude that what has been advanced by this admin over the course of two terms has been harmful to the US.

What is painfully clear, is that unlike Vietnam, there is no democratic government in need of US support from an outside aggressor.

“Politicians – led by Republicans and their neocon handlers — who likely wouldn’t have been able to resist either the siren calls of “Remember the Maine” or “the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution” — and who certainly weren’t able to resist the siren call of “weapons of mass destruction hidden in Iraq” demand immediate retaliation against the Russians and the Syrians.”

Would that liberals and democrats would cease blaming anyone but the admin. for the current mess. Pointing fingers, for choices made by democrats is the problem. Whether it is Sec Clinton, blaming everyone else for her decisions on Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya (including the embassy fiasco), Egypt and the backtracking, Ukraine, etc.

The only thing one seems to be able to expect from her and others of her brand is blaming everyone for their bad calls.

What concerns me about the future is the complete unaccountability that continues to come from political and economic leaderships. And it’s sickening the level of democrats will go to support everything they say they hate.

But hey, free college . . .

#9 Comment By EliteCommInc. On October 31, 2015 @ 1:16 pm

” . . . the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution” — and who certainly weren’t able to resist the siren call of “weapons of mass destruction hidden in Iraq” demand immediate retaliation against the Russians and the Syrians.”

We had already pledged our support for South Vietnam under Pres. Eisenhower, affirmed by Pres. Kennedy, and Pres. Johnson. I find it curious that for all of the knowledge one seems to have ignored that we were placing troops into Vietnam since the 1950’s.

There was never any doubt that should the defense of SV be required we would do what was needed. The constant conspiratorial advances about Vietnam are convenient for maintaining Vietnam as a disaster. truth Vietnam had very little if any negative impact on US foreign policy.

That has not been the case with any or our adventures in the ME.

Again, I want to avoid the slippery slope of Vietnam reassessments. I think I have made my position along with corresponding data very clear. In Syria we are the one’s supporting rebel groups about which I must begrudgingly admit could be rationalized as a support for terrorism. Hardly a Vietnam scenario.

#10 Comment By James Housel On October 31, 2015 @ 4:44 pm

Well,

It is a curiosity. On the one hand you have this, on the other you have the withdrawal of our carrier group from the PG, the pull back of Patriot missile batteries in Turkey, and the abandonment of the overt training mission of the “moderate rebels”. So…a very mixed message sent to multiple parties.

#11 Comment By Thus Sprach Obama On October 31, 2015 @ 9:02 pm

It’s difficult to know what Obama means by the word “limited”.

What “limits” could possibly restrain someone who believes he has the right to assassinate anyone he chooses?

#12 Comment By Message Mix On November 1, 2015 @ 12:37 pm

@James Housel: “So…a very mixed message sent to multiple parties.”

And yet the message from our presidential primaries is unmixed. Most candidates from both parties overwhelmingly support more war and interference in the Middle East.

Hillary Clinton, for example, is deeply implicated in Obama’s expansion of Bush’s Middle Eastern wars. She was an architect and strong booster of the Libya intervention, now generally recognized as a disaster on a par with the invasion of Iraq (which she voted for). Her judgment has been consistently poor and her behavior and language intemperate and at times bizarre, such as her threat to “obliterate” Iran. Nor can one look to her advisors for balance or restraint: her “people” include aggressive geopolitical semiliterates like Victoria “F*** the EU” Nuland.

On the Republican side it’s as bad – punks with no foreign policy experience like Rubio aping Hillary by threatening to use military force on anyone who rubs them the wrong way.

In this respect at least the message is completely unmixed. Friends and opponents alike know exactly what to expect from America in 2017: we will be even more aggressive and do even more damage.

#13 Comment By Uncle Billy On November 1, 2015 @ 3:17 pm

The Neocons infest both parties. The Republicans are perhaps a little worse, but Hillary & Co., will doubtless get us involved in more middle eastern septic tanks. We need a major change in US foreign policy. Throw the Neocons under the bus, run over them, and then back up the bus to make sure that they are dead. They will scream. Let them scream. Get the US out of the middle east and focus on US domestic policy. Note to the so called US allies: we are tired of being your patsy. You are on your own. Good luck.

#14 Comment By Kurt Gayle On November 1, 2015 @ 5:03 pm

@ Uncle Billy

An editing suggestion: Not the “Good luck.”

#15 Comment By sid_finster On November 2, 2015 @ 12:45 pm

It is painfully obvious that the real reason for “boots on the ground” is to prevent further Russian influence in Iraq and to prevent an Assad victory in Syria.

If the administration were serious about fighting ISIS, they’d pressure Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar to stop arming, financing and otherwise supporting ISIS.

That would do more than all the boots in the American army and cost the US Treasury a total of zero dollars out of pocket, not to mention put precisely zero soldiers’ lives at risk.

So why doesn’t the administration do that??

#16 Comment By EliteCommInc. On November 3, 2015 @ 8:56 pm

“It is painfully obvious that the real reason for “boots on the ground” is to prevent further Russian influence in Iraq and to prevent an Assad victory in Syria.”

Sadly,

I think this is correct.