Category Archives: War and the Military

The ISIS Mission: Once Again, “The March of Folly”

March into wall

[I'm back home., and am almost finished with doing six ethics presentations in seven days in four states. I just added the photo of the Faber band marching into the wall in "Animal House"---the ultimate "march of folly"--- and more importantly, fixing about ten typos in the post. I knew ttey would be there. I had an 8 AM start time for my seminar, which would end at noon, and then had to drive to Boston, ditch my rental car, and fly back to Virginia. I wanted to get the post on this topic up, but knew it would be rushed, and that I wouldn't have time to proof it carefully until late in the day. Maybe I should do that; I don't like posting sloppy content. I apologize for the typos, but it was either a timely post with mistakes, or a late post without.  My choice; I'll accept your verdict.]

“The March of Folly” was historian Barbara Tuchman’s most specific exploration of the theme of many of her works. It was a cold-eyed retrospective of how supposedly brilliant people in power can follow through on destructive and objectively stupid policies; how a mission, ordered by a  leader, travels the arc from aspiration to delusion, and how the public, paralyzed by deference to authority, inertia, restraint, and irrational hope. accepts flawed premises long after the damage they are doing and will continue to do are obvious and undeniable. Tuchman calls this lethal tendency of policymakers throughout history a “process of self-hypnosis.” She concentrates on its long and bloody history using examples spanning the Trojan War,  through the British handling of the American rebellion, and the Vietnam War. In another book, she applied similar analysis to the infamous Charge of the Light Brigade. This is exactly what is going on with the ridiculous and pre-doomed Obama plan to arm the Syrian rebels to fight ISIS—but not the Syrian regime, which is who they are currently fighting. I doubt whether anyone with the necessary influence will stop it until it becomes a chapter in another historian’s sequel to Tuchman’s classic.

Because I have been in a hotel room between three ethics presentations in the Providence area, I have had a rare opportunity to watch much of the hearings on the proposed ISIS plan, as well as listen to the reaction on all of the news networks, from all sides of the political spectrum. I have also watched the President’s speeches on the subject. Seldom has something involving national policy unfolding before my eyes so clearly indicated a shocking deficit of either ethical leadership, or, in the alternative, competent leadership.

I don’t need to bombard you with links: nobody, with the possible  (and frightening) exception of President Obama, believes the proposed plan to defeat-degrade-stop-“send to the Gates of Hell” (pick your rhetoric) can possibly work as it has been described. Not the generals; not Republicans; not Democrats, not CNN’s Chris Cuomo and Carol Costello, who kept shaking their heads in amazement during the hearings, and not Fox News’ Shepard Smith, who was  hilarious as well as eloquent in his sarcasm and dead-eyed disgust while questioning various experts and pundits about what was being said on Capitol Hill.

Nobody believes that American air power and “advisors” alone can accomplish the objectives of this campaign without eventually involving combat troops. The idea is being ridiculed by anyone who knows the region, the participants, and the facts of military strategy, and who is not under orders by the President to toe the official line. (Who knows what poor John Kerry and Chuck Hagel think?Who knows if they are even thinking….) Yet it appears Congress is going to approve this born-to-fail plan anyway. Why? Well, some Republicans and Democrats believe that when the Commander-in-Chief asks for Congressional approval in a military action, he should get it. This is irresponsible. Some Republicans want an Obama military fiasco to hang around his neck, and are willing to spend billions and kill people to do it. Some Democrats would support their man in the White House if he asked them for a resolution that the moon was made of cheese. And some are undoubtedly idiots.

Is the President? No, he’s not an idiot. He is a hopelessly, tragically over-matched leader without the skills or character required for the job, making terrible choice after terrible choice and lacking the courage to forget politics and lead. He hates war–real war, not video game war, but war in which  Americans get shot, blown up and killed, and where the bad guys can’t be attacked solely from the safety of the skies, which is to say, war. His ideals in this respect are and always were completely contrary to the requirements of being the President of the United States. He is as close to a pacifist as we have ever had in that office, and pacifists do not belong there.

Sometimes, international crises and threats require American soldiers, with weapons, fighting. The President doesn’t like it? Too bad. (“I…hate…war,” said Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in one of his many memorable speeches.) The public is tired of combat? Tough. The nation still has obligations, and sometimes there are no happy choices. “I’m tired of being responsible; I’m tired of having to sacrifice; I’m tired of being part of the constant battle against chaos that is life”—none of these are rational and responsible sentiments, and a competent leader has to know when to ignore them. The Democratic Party’s progressive base is, in essence, pacifist in philosophy? Gee, sorry. Republicans have their screwballs too. This isn’t the time for politics, partisanship, or ideology unhinged to the real world.

What’s going on here?

Incredibly, it really seems to be this simple: Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Government & Politics, History, Incompetent Elected Officials, Journalism & Media, Leadership, War and the Military

Would You Want To Join A Coalition With People Who Talk This Way?

Lost and Confused Signpost

I just returned home from a funeral last night, and am running off to give an ethics presentation, but saw this and cannot resist pointing it out.

From the Hill:

The United States is at war with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS or ISIL), the White House and Pentagon said Friday, a day after Secretary of State John Kerry repeatedly declined to use that phrase.

“In the same way that we are at war with Al Qaeda and its affiliates around the globe, we are at war with ISIL,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at the White House.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby echoed that sentiment, telling reporters that while the effort was “not the Iraq war,” they should “make no mistake, we know we are at war with ISIL.”

Earnest said that it was important to distinguish that this was “different than the strategies previously pursued in Iraq” and that by “we,” he meant a “broader international coalition” that was fighting the terrorist organization. Earnest also said that the strategy for handling ISIS was “consistent with the counterterrorism strategy we’ve pursued in cases all around the world.”

“This president, as is expected of American presidents, is stepping up to lead an international coalition to confront that threat and to deny ISIL a safe haven. And ultimately, this international coalition will be responsible for degrading and destroying ISIL,” he said.

In a series of interviews on Thursday, Secretary of State John Kerry repeatedly rejected characterizations of the U.S. efforts against ISIS as war.

Kerry said the administration’s plan to combat ISIS includes “many different things that one doesn’t think of normally in context of war” during an interview with CNN.

In a separate interview with CBS News, Kerry also rejected the word “war” to describe the U.S. effort and encouraged the public not to “get into war fever” over the conflict.

“We’re engaged in a major counterterrorism operation, and it’s going to be a long-term counterterrorism operation. I think war is the wrong terminology and analogy but the fact is that we are engaged in a very significant global effort to curb terrorist activity,” Kerry told the network.

“I don’t think people need to get into war fever on this. I think they have to view it as a heightened level of counter terrorist activity … but it’s not dissimilar similar to what we’ve been doing the last few years with al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan and in Yemen and elsewhere,” Kerry said.

I see! So we’re at war, though you shouldn’t call it a war, though it is like the war we officially said was not a war, and although it is in Iraq, it’s not an Iraq war, and it really isn’t going to be like what you typically expect in a war, so we shouldn’t go into war fever. It’s more like what we’ve been doing in some places where we haven’t been at war, like Pakistan.

How can anyone trust these people?

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Unethical Quote of the Week: Presidential Spokesman Josh Earnest

Websters

“I didn’t bring my Webster’s dictionary with me up here.”

—-White House Spokesman Josh Earnest, in response to a reporter’s question regarding the President’s definition of “victory” in the conflict with ISIS.

The statement itself is only slightly less outrageous than the fact that it has been largely ignored by the mainstream media. I’m using Politico for the link, a slightly left-leaning political news website. The primary links on the web go to Fox (of course), RealClearPolitics, The Weekly Standard, PJ Media, the Washington Times, and The Blaze. No ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, or Daily Beast. There is no excuse for this. It is blatantly irresponsible, and terrible, biased, negligent journalism. Not only does the public have a right to know what the objectives are in Iraq, the public has a right to know how arrogant and incompetent its leadership is. I think Earnest’s performance provides a definitive answer: Very.
Continue reading

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When U.S. Officials Channel Orwell, U.S. Citizens Have An Ethical Obligation To Object Loudly

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I recognize that President Obama and his entire administration feel they are hostage to an infantile, irresponsible, pacifist  “base” that cringes at the concept of the kind of combat that might occasionally be necessary to preserve our liberty and keep the evil in the world at bay. (I also recognize that the Paul faction in the Republican Party is similarly addled.) That our leaders cater to such confusion is regrettable, indeed, frightening, since it means that they value the welfare of the nation and the world less than the objective of keeping their most naive and ignorant supporters happy. (The alternative, that they feel the same way as this historically unschooled mass is too horrible to contemplate, and I just refuse to believe it.) But when kowtowing to the delusion causes our leaders to embrace Orwellian language designed to declare the opposite of truth in pursuit of political advantage, even those cheered by the fantasy have an obligation, as citizens and as responsible human beings with brains, to protest.

Secretary of State John Kerry just denied that dropping bombs on a state constitutes warfare. WAR IS PEACE, you see. Continue reading

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Angelina Jolie’s Worse-Than-Useless Syrian Lament

JolieAngelina Jolie has a solution to the Syrian civil war, the strategy Barack Obama is searching for! She said, solemnly, I’m sure:

“We need to see a new attempt to resolve the conflict and greater efforts to support more than 13 million Syrians who are in desperate need. The reputation and credibility of the international system is at stake with so many thousands of lives threatened in Syria.

Yes! Why didn’t anyone think of that? We need to resolve the conflict! Of course, Jolie would never approve of armed intervention, because she believes in non-violence. No, what is needed is, well, an attempt. You can read the rest of her noble, fatuous, narcissistic plea here.

I’m certain this will further enhance Ms. Jolie’s status as a humanitarian among the actress’s many sensitive, peace-loving followers. It would not surprise me if she adds to her list of awards because of it. Her words are worthy of the Pope, but to be fair, making empty, inspiring statements full of non-committal goodness is his job.

Whatever Jolie thinks she is accomplishing by making such an obvious, useless, pointless statement and having the news media duly report it as if she knew anything whatsoever about geopolitical tensions or could begin to suggest what “attempts” would consist of,  what she is in fact doing is exploiting an international tragedy to gild her own perceived virtue. Her statement advances no objective or contributes any wisdom. Indeed, it interferes with legitimate efforts to deal with this difficult situation, because such statements mislead the public about the painful, indeed ugly trade-offs and choices necessary to deal with despots and evil in the world.   I’m sure, if pressed to suggest what attempts she, in all her Hollywood-infused wisdom regarding foreign affairs, would advocate, she would insist that they be humanitarian in nature, and take into consideration the needs of all parties, as well as the root causes that lead to such violence and disruption. In other words, something. Continue reading

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Unethical Quote of the Month: President Obama

“We don’t have a strategy yet.”

President Barack Obama, responding to a question regarding the military response to ISIS in Iraq and Stria.

But hey, there’s no rush!

no-we-cantI don’t enjoy beating dead horses, I don’t like using Ethics Alarms to pile on, and I try not to say I told you so. However, if you were looking for a statement that constitutes signature significance of this man’s complete lack of fitness to serve as a leader of anything more complicated or important than a Rotary Chapter, this is it. Let’s see:

  • It is an admission of inattention to duty.
  • It is a confession of incompetence.
  • Coming on the heels of studied disengagement via fundraisers and golfing, it is proof of neglect.
  • In the context of Obama’s reported focus on illegal immigration and climate change, it demonstrates warped priorities
  • It is frightening, and
  • Even if  true, this is an irresponsible thing to say in public if you want to be taken seriously as Commander-in-Chief and as a world leader.

It is depressing to read the comments of desperate Democratic Obama enablers on various websites. One said, “You don’t reveal to your enemy that you have a strategy!” No, you utter fool, you don’t reveal to your enemy what your strategy is. (Obama has done this too, in Iraq and Afghanistan.) If you believe world leaders benefit by acting as if they just walked off the street with no clue what they are doing, perhaps Obama’s next brilliant ploy should be to appear wearing a propeller beanie and speak like stroke victim. That should really fool ‘em!

Finance blogger Jeffrey Carter explains why the answer is so alarming and ominous (though, I have to say, it shouldn’t be surprising): Continue reading

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Comment of the Day: “Mid-EthicsTrainwreck Observations On Ferguson”

China Protest

How much fire power should a democracy’s police forces have at their disposal? Is the trend toward militarization in urban police departments an inherent threat to our liberty? These are interesting topics, and issues with public policy as well as ethical implications, brought to our attention by the armored vehicles we have seen prowling through the streets of Ferguson, Missouri.

I confess to neglecting these matters on Ethics Alarms, in part because the question of whether a police officer justly and legally shot (six times) and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown has been muddled by too many other considerations already. As a result, I haven’t given the issues much quality thought, other than my usual fascination at the ability of some committed libertarians to take a position dictated by their ideology without being troubled by the obvious practical problems associated with that position, a proclivity I would file under the heading of “Irresponsible.” Also, “Strange.” How can someone advocate virtually unregulated access to increasingly powerful weaponry by citizens—including criminals—and oppose sufficient arms in the hands of the police to protect the public from a misuse of that weaponry? Libertarians (and others) maintain that a prime purpose of the Second Amendment  is to prevent the government from disarming  citizens to dominate and control them. Agreed. But the unfettered freedom of law-abiding citizens to acquire the weapons they feel are necessary for whatever lawful purpose they choose will also result in the same weapons being available to those with less savory objectives in mind. I understand that the opposition to a police force armed to the teeth springs from either a distrust of government generally (libertarians and anarchists) or police specifically , especially by a segment of the population, African-Americans, who are otherwise favorably inclined toward a large, intrusive government—a contradiction as striking as that offered by the libertarian position, but understandable for those who live under the threatening authority of the Killer Klown act known as the Ferguson Police Department.

Fortunately, texagg04, a distinguished Ethics Alarms regular, has been inspired to delve into some of these questions, and others, in a superb post, the Comment of the Day, on the essay Mid-EthicsTrain Wreck Observations On Ferguson. Here it is: Continue reading

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