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Foreign Policy
Jacksonianism Alive and Well

Two beheadings later, and the Iraq syndrome begins to recede into the distance. Latest poll are showing that two thirds of Americans now favor more American airstrikes in the Middle East, with only 13 percent saying America has no interest in intervention. The Wall Street Journal:

The survey also found indications that more people were coming to believe the U.S. should play a more active role on the world stage, a shift from Journal/NBC surveys earlier this year that found war-weary Americans wanting to step back from foreign engagements.

Asked what type of military response was appropriate, some 40% of those polled said action against ISIS should be limited to airstrikes and an additional 34% were willing to use both airstrikes and commit U.S. ground troops—a remarkable mood swing for an electorate that just a year ago recoiled at Mr. Obama’s proposal to launch airstrikes against Syria.

The Vietnam War ended in 1973; by 1979 Jimmy Carter was under intense public pressure to begin the shift in American foreign policy and military spending—a shift that Reagan would continue. And in the interval, provocations like the Mayaguez incident, which saw Gerald Ford sending U.S. forces back into Indochina, could still stir the American people into action.

The Vietnam War was bigger than the Iraq War by a factor of ten from the standpoint of American casualties. There were many people then who believed that Vietnam marked a permanent change in the way Americans would think about foreign policy, converting us into a nation of doves. It didn’t happen then and it isn’t likely to happen now. If anything, because the crazed fanatics we now confront are more barbaric and less disciplined than most of our Communist opponents, and because the prospect of domestic terror attacks is more serious than it was during the Cold War, we are likely to see more beheading style attacks and other atrocities as time goes on.

The biggest beneficiary of ISIS attacks is undoubtedly Israel: American public opinion is once more engaged strongly in the Middle East in a way that highlights commonalities between the U.S. and the Jewish state. Second prize goes to the Kurds: more U.S. support is now in the bag.

President Obama can do himself some good with an effective speech tonight if it is linked to a strategy that strikes most of his listeners as serious and well thought through. But it will need to be followed up by success on the ground. Crises historically work to the benefit of an incumbent president as people rally around the flag; it would be one of the great political ironies of our time if President Obama gets a boost just before the midterm elections for launching America’s third Iraq war in 25 years—a war, it is worth noting, that like the previous foray into Iraq, has no formal blessing from either the United Nations Security Council or NATO.

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  • B-Sabre

    I can’t speak to anybody else here, but my opposition to the administration’s planned airstrikes in Syria had less to do with any “Iraq syndrome” but an absolute, unconditional belief that there was no way this administration could carry out an effective campaign. Between the President stating that the airstrikes would do no “significant damage” and the Secretary of State claiming “we don’t do pinpricks” it was obvious that nobody in charge knew a damn thing. From my observations, there is nobody in the administration that understands stategy anywhere in the building.

    Listen, the whole point of the exercise should have been to provide an object lesson to those that think that the possession of chemical weapons is a way to safeguard their regime that they. Are. Wrong. The point should of been that any use of chemical weapons against civilians is an express ticket to the dustbin of history. I’m sure that the usual suspects will claim that the negotiations that removed the “declared” chemical weapons from Assad regime was worth it, but in fact this is the same as taking the gun away from a serial killer, but leaving him with his knife and baseball bat. It hasn’t stopped the Assad regime from continuing to kill Syrians ‘the old fashioned way” or with chlorine gas cannisters. As in the gun control debates, the left cannot differentiate the tool from the user.

    • rheddles

      The administration will fail to carry out an effective campaign because it will not put boots on the ground. This will lead to progress too slow to satisfy Jacksonians and too many operational screw-ups that will establish in the Jacksonian mind that Democrats don’t know how to handle foreign policy. W will start to look prescient. We need to learn how to p[ace ourselves for what will be a very long war.

      • B-Sabre

        We can quibble about tactics – I don’t think its as much “boots on the ground” as this administration believing “violence never solved anything” with their own self-inflicted example of Libya reinforcing the rule. (The violence part worked fine – it was the aftermath they screwed up.)
        As the saying goes: If violence fails as a last resort, you didn’t resort to enough violence.

        • rheddles

          And they screwed up the aftermath of Libya because they didn’t have boots on the ground. That’s why Iraq got screwed up; the boots were no longer on the ground. And Kosovo didn’t; the boots are still on the ground, just like Germany and Japan. Bombs can kill people, they can’t change them. Only other people, aka boots on the ground, can do that.

    • johngbarker

      Well said!

  • Gene

    This post and its headline don’t really belong together. If I correctly understand our host’s concept of Jacksonianism, Jacksonians are reluctant to fight, but when they do they insist on fighting to win and ONLY to win.

    The survey results presented don’t paint a picture of a nation determined to win; they portray a nation “feeling” like something ought to be done without careful thought about what “something” ought to be. And those feelings about doing “something” will give way to a desire to bail out the moment anything goes wrong.

    Neither this nation’s leadership nor its people have much stomach for difficult military objectives any more. I think in the long run we may pay a very high price for that, but that is where we are nonetheless.

    • FriendlyGoat

      There are a lot of wounded warriors from the Bush adventures who think your “stomach” talk is a crock of ………

  • Arkeygeezer

    I don’t see that anything has changed in the Middle East in the past month other than two beheadings and a push poll from the Pew Research Foundation.

    Two free-lance “journalists” who had imbedded themselves with the rebels so they could sell propaganda stories back to the main stream media got beheaded. These men went there to make money, of their own free will, and in violation of State Department warnings to stay out of Syria.

    The media and some people in Washington have seized on this to beat the drums for another war in Iraq and Syria. They want us to order our troops to get killed without any measurable gain in sight for the United States.

    I don’t disagree with air strikes to protect the Kurds, but arming “moderate” rebels in Syria is foolish. ISIL is fighting with weapons we gave to the Iraq army. There are no “moderate islamists”. We give them weapons, they will only end up being used against Israel, the Kurds, or us.

    • FriendlyGoat

      Glad to know that SOMEBODY understands that there are no moderate Islamists. There are those in Islamic places who actually revere Islam. You can never, ever trust them because Islam detests western freedom. Then there are those who don’t really give a damn about Islam. You can’t trust them either because they are constantly being overrun in Islamic places by the first group.

  • John Wondra

    The President’s lack of commitment or resolve to perform as promised became evident almost from the start of his speech:
    “ISIL is not ‘Islamic’.”
    “No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim.”
    The first statement is completely false, and the second is as well, if the reader stops at “killing of innocents.”
    These misrepresentations accurately reflect Obama’s refusal to acknowledge that he is dealing with a terrorism fueled by religion. Given this starting point, he will never have the resolve to take the necessary “Jacksonian” steps to annihilate their threats. This will devolve into the sordid and ignorant “police action” of the Southeast Asian debacle that resulted in the miserable “Vietnam War.”
    Obama cannot, by nature, apply the necessary force to delver what he “promises,” and never intended to.

  • lukelea

    Favoring air strikes is hardly Jacksonianism alive and well, thank goodness.

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