TAMPA, December 5, 2013 — There has been predictable bluster about President Obama signing a deal with five other nations to begin the process of lifting sanctions on Iran in exchange for commitments by Iran not to develop nuclear weapons. Neoconservatives have howled that it abandons U.S. ally Israel and endangers the entire planet.
Regardless, it is a harbinger of things to come. Economic reality is forcing the United States to change its interventionist foreign policy. Normalizing relations with Iran is just one part of that puzzle. Without a realistic political solution to crushing entitlement liabilities, the only place to make meaningful cuts is in military spending.
As the U.S. government comes to grips with the inevitable, Americans should expect to hear quite a bit about the end of a decade of war and of the sacrifices so many have made to “accomplish the mission.”
There’s no doubt about the sacrifice, both in blood and treasure. It’s the accomplishments that should be evaluated with a high degree of skepticism.
A good percentage of the public seems to regard the Iraq War as a colossal mistake. President Bush took the fall for that, as did the Republican Party in two straight elections. Obama campaigned successfully on the argument that Iraq was “the wrong war.” The United States should be concentrating on Afghanistan, he argued, whence the 9/11 attacks and other terrorism supposedly originated.
Americans seem to accept this premise implicitly, but it is far-fetched justification for a decade of war and $5 trillion in additional debt.
Despite most of the 9/11 attackers being Saudi Arabian, Americans were told that Afghanistan must be invaded because Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda army enjoyed a safe haven there, where they “radicalized” new Islamic terrorists in a network of paramilitary training camps. By invading Afghanistian, Americans were told, the U.S. government could break up the camps and greatly diminish the threat of terrorism.
It all makes good sound bites, but almost none of it has any connection to reality. There is credible evidence that the 9/11 attacks were planned in Hamburg, Germany, not in Afghanistan. Whether that’s true or not, minimal critical thinking skills are required to arrive at the conclusion that an attack like 9/11 could be planned anywhere.
The Tsarnaev brothers proved that last April. Immediately following the attacks, there were several reports of authorities trying to establish that the elder Tsarnaev had traveled to Dagestan to “become radicalized.” This was a desperate attempt to keep the narrative going. Terrorists like Tsarnaev have to go somewhere in order to become fully committed to crimes like the Boston bombing.
Otherwise, the U.S. government really wasn’t accomplishing anything by invading and occupying Middle Eastern countries.
Ultimately, authorities concluded that Tsarnaev had changed his mind about joining a militant group in Dagestan and had been radicalized right here in the U.S.A.
For the second time in two generations, America has spent over a decade at war in third world countries thousands of miles away. With the Taliban officially part of negotiations and likely to be a major force in post-war Afghanistan, if they don’t return to power altogether, Americans should face some harsh realities.
The first is that twelve years of war in the Middle East has accomplished absolutely nothing. There is no cause and effect relationship between the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and the risk of new terrorist attacks in the United States. There never really was. It just sounded good when passions were high and the government felt it had to “do something.”
It hasn’t made Americans freer at home, either. On the contrary, the past decade has seen American society adopt a national security state footing that bears far too much resemblance to 1930’s Germany. There might not be concentration camps or mass murders, but Americans certainly live in a “Papers, please” culture, complete with surveillance cameras on every corner and drones flying overhead.
It’s important to face these facts and learn from history if American doesn’t want to remain doomed to repeat it. America should mourn the dead, take care of the wounded and try to put its finances in order. But don’t let the government put a smiley face on this debacle.
Otherwise, our children may find themselves fighting the next unnecessary war. They already have to pay for this one.
Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.