I first started blogging back in 2004, motivated by the apparent political insanity of the Bush administration. Its ability to start a disastrous war based on lies without facing political consequences depressed me to no end. When Barack Obama was elected, I figured that the neo-conservative obsession with "pre-emptive war" would be over. Turns out that the joke was on me the whole time.
As the war drums beat in 2003, I attended anti-war protests. I remember talking to a woman who figured that war in Syria would follow one in Iraq, all part of the Bush administration's crusade to remake the Middle East in the American image. Turns out that war with Syria actually was on the horizon, but under a Democratic president. Back then Obama was a local politician in the state where I lived (Illinois), and I appreciated him speaking out against the war. So it goes.
We are hearing the familiar bromides while the bombs are falling this time. America is supporting "moderates" in Syria, who will somehow magically defeat both ISIS and the Assad regime with a little know-how and military support. Considering how a similarly America-molded government in Iraq had totally failed against ISIS attacks, I doubt that the moderates in Syria will gain any more legitimacy than the Diem regime did in Vietnam, the Contras in Nicaragua, Hamid Karzai in Aghanistan or Nuri al-Maliki in Iraq. The dangerous illusion that America can intervene in complex civil conflicts abroad and control the political process there by remote control just refuses to die.
By my reckoning, America has been engaged in war and occupation in the Middle East almost continuously since 1987, when the navy was sent to the Persian Gulf to escort Kuwaiti tankers during the Iran-Iraq War. During this now forgotten action lasting into 1988, the US accidentally shot down an Iranian air liner (similar to the sad fate of the Malaysian flight over the Ukraine this summer.) Less than two years later the American army flooded into Saudi Arabia after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Since then we've seen the Gulf War, the enforcement of No-Fly Zones, sanctions, the second invasion in 2003, a resulting guerrilla war, and now an intervention in the uprising by ISIS. You could maybe even argue that America has been on a war footing in the region since 1983, when Reagan sent the marines to Beirut. Although he sent them home after a horrific attack, he also simultaneously supported Hussein in the Iran-Iraq War, and supplied missiles to Iran in return for hostages.
Basically, the American government has been heavily involved in the Middle East for thirty years, with several interventions by ground troops and many more bombings and drone strikes. After all of this, what's been accomplished? ISIS taking down Iraq's government is the worst case scenario, and it looks like that just might happen. I wonder why our foreign policy mavens haven't figured out after three decades of intervention in the Middle East that they simply aren't capable of bending the region to their will. When will they stop? Until there is a truly final moment, like the fall of Saigon, which capped off another thirty year failed American intervention, it will be war without end.