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      John Kerry Said What? Welcome to Year 10 of the Long War

      Secretary of State John Kerry seems to be engaging in some double speak this week. (Photo: AP, December 2014)Secretary of State John Kerry today called for a congressional authorization of the New War before he didn't. 

      Instead Kerry proposed the appearance of an authorization before stripping the idea of real public and congressional accountability. Members of Congress should look carefully at this insult to their constitutional role. 

      First, Kerry said it was "crystal clear" that the President wants no US troops in combat operations on the ground, but that Congress should not, "preemptively bind the hands of the commander-in-chief to react to changing circumstances."

      Second, Kerry said he doesn't want an open-ended timeline for war but that the authorization should run for three years or longer, safely after the 2016 elections.

      Third, Kerry promised no wider war beyond Iraq and Syria, but doesn't want any constraint on US going after ISIS militarily in other nations. 


      This is nothing but an attempt to avoid an embarrassing battlefield defeat during the next two years before handing over the mission of derailing ISIS to the next president. At the same time, it will limit the ability of Congress to question the policy once they have signed on. This is how escalation works. 

      It's true that the president left a vacuum in Iraq when he withdrew American troops in December 2011. But it's equally true that he funded and permitted the Iraq vacuum to be filled with repressive sectarian Shiite militias and army units occupying Sunni-majority communities, which created the conditions for the ISIS offensive on behalf of persecuted Sunnis. It wasn't necessary for Obama and the Pentagon to leave American troops behind. What was necessary was to leave a fully non-sectarian regime and army behind, which they failed to do. The steps that have been taken since - forcing out al-Maliki, attempts at patching up sectarian differences - are insufficient to undo the damage that threatens to dissolve Iraq into sectarian war. 

      Second, the administration's vacillation on the Syrian civil war created a vast vacuum for ISIS to rise against the Assad regime, creating a cross-border zone of Sunni insurgency against two hostile regimes. 

      "Defeating" ISIS may be possible, but another ISIS will rise again as long as these conditions remain. ISIS, after all, arose as a breakaway from Al Qaeda, which rose in Iraq in response to the American invasion.   

      A key lesson of Vietnam is that American officials and their local allies can suffer a catastrophic crash landing while trying to save reputations for conflicts that were unnecessary in the first place. The American peace movement and peace voters in general can take credit for blocking even greater escalations, but can do little to stop the true believers who cannot admit their failures. 

      The same brutal lesson lies ahead in Afghanistan, where Obama has agreed to maintain a few thousand American troops for an additional year. That's to keep the Humpty-Dumpty known as the Afghan "government" from going the way of Iraq and collapsing entirely before the end of the Obama era. 

      The serious hawks never wanted to leave Iraq and Afghanistan anyway, not after US troops were deployed. They are adherents to the Long War Doctrine (2005), which projects a fifty-to-eighty year war against Islamic fundamentalists over many battlefronts. Welcome to Year Ten. 

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      Reader Comments (3)

      We've been constantly in one "war" or another since 1941. Today government uses the media to publicize the "glory" of being in the military to create a patriotically romanticized version of war or militarized "action" to maintain military recruitment and the public's acceptance of war as an unfortunate but necessary solution to the problems we create. You can not turn on a national sports program, many concerts, advertisements, political campaigns, etc. without a military presence designed to stir your emotions. They're in our schools, our stores, media and games. Just about anywhere we go, there's the constant reminder of the "glory of military service" keeping us free from all the terror lurking outside our borders reinforced with images and stories of 9/11 and movies of WWII. In short, we have become a militaristic nation, self promoted from police of the world to the army of the world. We even change the vocabulary to justify torture by calling it "Extreme Interigation", invasion of non-threatening nations with talk of terrorism and slaughter of civilians as "collateral damage." Vietnam taught the government valuable lessons on how to make war acceptable to the public. No more reporting from the front lines as happened in WWII through Vietnam. Now reporters are "imbedded" in positive situations so as to create a comic book G.I. Joe for the next generation to emulate. During the Vietnam war I was stationed first at Redstone Arsenal where I was told to use up all our equipment in order to get an increased budget. Next I was stationed in Frankfurt, Germany where I drank a lot of good German beer, flirted with beautiful German women, got busted a few times for having too much fun. When I tell my friends of my times in the army, they get somber and say the words they've been programmed to say, "Thank you for your service." When I insist I didn't fight or save anybody or anything, they thank me anyway.
      In 2008 candidate Obama said, "We are creating the enemy we're fighting" and it rang true, so we elected him to change this warring nation back to the principles we were founded on which are the true strengths of our nation. I can't be sure if he meant those words or if he was told to say what people wanted to hear. I do know there's been no let up creating the enemy we're fighting, thereby insuring war will go on.

      December 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLarry Arsenault

      Our generation has to be one of the most maligned in history, but we deserve credit. The Long War was supposed to have begun with Korea, onto Vietnam...etc & etc. We gave this country a 20 year breathing space with our commitment and our lives.

      When did our entire culture succumb to the mercantile percussion of $? Where are the bright young people of today?

      December 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAmy Dalzell

      This is the tenth year of a really long war (50 - 80 years?) projected. I think it will take longer, if it even ever finishes.
      We do not have the big picture or a "20 Year Plan" or anything. We just waste waste, spend, build ever-more armaments for sale and for our use in tragic wars.
      More spectacular attacks will occur (biochemical, nuclear). So tired of it. I have always been an optimist but when it comes to the US and war, we have wasted and lost every time since WWII. I am nearly 83.
      Growing up I was happy to support The Arms Control and Disarmament agency/group. As if there was a chance! It must have died off- perhaps taken up by your excellent work.
      WHAT IS WRONG WITH EVERYONE!!!??? Thank you.

      December 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDorothy Vollans
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