With the recent decision to deploy additional troops to Iraq and Syria to help in the assault on Mosul and Raqqa, the two largest cities within the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed Caliphate, it appears that the Trump administration has begun to take the first steps towards re-engaging the US military in another Middle East intervention.
Yet, while the prospect of more boots on the ground in the Middle East inflames passions among some members of the media and the occasional politician, the continual flow of US armaments into the region hardly seems to register on the public agenda. In 2015, US companies sold $209.7 billion worth of military equipment, $33 billion of which was to Gulf countries.
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Ten years ago, Iraqi and Coalition Forces were boots-deep in Operation Together Forward, a two-phase mission to reduce violence and increase security in a war-torn Iraq. Soon after, the Iraq Study Group concluded that the operation’s results were “disheartening,” to tread lightly.
In July, the Chilcot Report yielded another sobering analysis of meddling in the Middle East. This inquiry unpacked the UK’s involvement in Iraq. Though much of the report simply confirms what the public already suspected – that leaders knew Hussein did not have WMDs, and that there were peaceful alternatives to war – this report, once again, exposes misguided military interventions only after the fact.
The findings of the Chilcot Report and memory of a failed Operation Together Forward should reinvigorate our efforts to curb the sleazy rhetorical tactics used by political leaders to sweep us off our feet and whisk us off to conflict somewhere beyond the sea. In other words, brace yourself for Trump v. Hillary before the storm of September 26 hits.
Time and again, politicians have incited wars without terribly strong public resistance. Why? Some don’t care. Some don’t believe they can affect the path to war if they do care. And some truly find themselves persuaded when leaders wax romantic about the duties of international, militaristic evangelism.
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As chaos reigns across the Middle East, Americans can rest easy knowing that President Obama is keeping the U.S. from sliding into another quagmire in the region. After all, the president has assured us that there won’t be any boots on the ground in the fight against ISIS.
Of course, this is only true if you don’t count the 5,000 soldiers in Iraq and the 300 soldiers in Syria as being “boots on the ground,” and ignore a military campaign in which several combat deaths have occurred.
Yet the Obama administration continues to deny that this large and increasing American presence in Iraq and Syria counts as a ground force. Pentagon officials have attempted to qualify the president’s previous statements by saying that the Americans who are deployed do not take the lead in combat operations, even though they may find themselves in combat. Of course, such qualifications are only used in instances when government officials aren’t flat-out denying that there ever was a “no boots on the ground” policy in the first place.
Such astonishing word acrobatics and bald-faced lies have sadly come to characterize the Washington foreign policy establishment, also known as “the blob.” They call to mind George Orwell’s famous essay “Politics and the English Language,” in which Orwell argues that “political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible.” Because the American public would not be pleased with an honest answer about America’s involvement in the Middle East, the foreign policy elite’s “political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.”
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