Listen to me on KTRS/St. Louis every Friday, 3-6pm CT

Monday, December 30, 2013

Foreign Policy Bites Again

The NY Times story on what really happened in the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, last year won't change the minds of any Obama-Hillary haters on the right, because they never let the facts get in the way of their blind rage. But the investigation by reporter David Kirkpatrick does more than disprove conspiracy theories about whether Al Qaeda was involved (it wasn't) and whether an anti-Muslim video sparked some of the rage (it did).

Months of investigation by The New York Times, centered on extensive interviews with Libyans in Benghazi who had direct knowledge of the attack there and its context, turned up no evidence that Al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault. The attack was led, instead, by fighters who had benefited directly from NATO’s extensive air power and logistics support during the uprising against Colonel Qaddafi. And contrary to claims by some members of Congress, it was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.
It also proves once again that the US should stop getting involved in foreign matters, particularly in the Middle East.  We have a dismal record of taking sides there, without really knowing which way the wind of the new leadership will blow once we have helped depose the current leader. That was the case in Libya, as Kirkpatrick reports that some of those who attacked the consulate and killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were from the very militia groups that the US aided in their fight against Qaddafi.

All you need do is look at prior foreign policy mistakes that we didn't learn from -- all from my lifetime:
  • We helped the Egyptians get rid of our former ally of thirty years, Mubarak, only to see him succeeded by the equally brutal and corrupt Morsi.
  • We helped the Afghan rebels fight off the Soviet Union in the early '80s, and they morphed into the Taliban, who eventually gave Al Qaeda a base from which it planned the 9/11 attacks. Then we had to go back into Afghanistan to get rid of the Taliban who, according to a new National Intelligence Estimate report, will likely take over the country again once we leave next year.
  • We helped put Saddam Hussein in power in Iraq and he was our friend in the Reagan years, until he gassed his own people and invaded Kuwait and the neo-cons shoved him under the bogus WMD bus a decade ago. Then we had to stay there for too long and have too many members of our armed forces killed and injured while trying to rebuild Iraq (an impossible and still unaccomplished feat).
  • We fought a war in Vietnam that cost more than 50,000 American lives because we were told by our government that communism would ripple through southeast Asia (the "Domino Theory") without US intervention. We eventually withdrew in defeat, the communists in the north beat the south, the country has long been unified without any other dominoes falling over, and we now have both diplomatic and tourist relations with Vietnam.
What do these have in common? The use of force rather than diplomacy. We saw that preference rear its ugly head again recently with Syria, until cooler heads prevailed. The hawks keep talking about taking on Iran, too, although there's hope for a peaceful solution now that the leadership there is a bit more moderate.

In his final speech, President Dwight Eisenhower warned against the march of the military-industrial complex. In the 5+ decades since, the US has repeatedly put its missiles and manpower on the line, but can anyone point to a single outcome we would call victory in hindsight?