When our interests and those of our friends are violently attacked, we cannot just vote for no war.


It appears that the world is headed towards Iraq War 3. It will not go away. We can either fight it smart or fight it stupid. We can either learn from mistakes made in places like Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, or again Iraq or we can just show how dumb Americans and Europeans can be. Rather than repeat "Fire, Ready, Aim", it is time to consider the following.

1. Identify the threats in the various theaters under attack (Iraq, Syria, home fronts).


2. Identify a possible objective. (Sending ISIS to the gates of hell may be difficult - rather like applying a mass cure for the Ebola epidemic. ISIS is a movement that reproduces itself with an ever-shifting DNA.) Perhaps shattering their fighting force and sending the remnants to Somalia and Sudan would be more doable.

3. Do not try to occupy a foreign country. It sucks up resources to little advantage and annoys the hell out of the inhabitants.

4. Identify allies, neutrals, and covert friends. Ambrose Bierce, the American satirist, wrote a hundred years ago in the Devil's Dictionary, that an alliance is the condition in which two thieves have their hands so embedded in each other's pockets that they cannot separately plunder a third. The Kurds, Germans and French may be true allies. Turkey may or may not be able to dig itself out of its own problems enough to unleash the formidable Turkish army on ISIS in Syria or Iraq. But it is stupid to ignore the fact that Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime all have their own reasons to defeat ISIS.

5. Do not try to heal wounds that have festered for 1500 years or more by force of arms or by sending in slick American diplomatic suits. The Sunni/Shiite split will not be resolved in our lifetime, and taking sides in that conflict - sometimes with Shiite militias, sometimes with Sunni Islamist opposition fighters in Syria - can only make matters worse. Be opportunistic enough to fight with those who will fight ISIS and leave the centuries-old schism to Muslims to resolve.

6. Do not be stupid. Set a realistic goal for participation in the conflict and do not mix too much in other people's affairs. Let the Kurds and their neighbors work out the sovereignty of that ethnic group. Do not set up unrealistic goals and then declare that they have been accomplished. Surely this was one of the most embarrassing moments of American history when George Bush declared that the war in Iraq was won.
Mission Accomplished! May 1, 2003



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