I’m no Donald Trump fan (to put it mildly) but occasionally, he’s absolutely right. He wants to get out of Syria. He said so back at the end of March. I have a nasty suspicion that his statement may be the reason we ended up bombing that poor country a few weeks ago. As I’ve documented fairly rigorously over the past couple years, almost everybody in “respectable” politics in the United States is angling for a wider war in Syria.
That’s why it’s so hard to find the basic information I’ve laid out in today’s video. The conflicts in Vietnam and Iraq are often talked about in broad terms. It’s conceded that the conflicts were mistakes, but we get bogged down in the details, and questions of the individual mis-steps and controversies. The bigger picture gets obscured. I’d argue that’s kind of the goal. Because if you back up a bit, and view the trajectory of these conflicts, you quickly realize that they are very similar. And, horrifyingly, this is exactly the trajectory we’ve embarked upon in Syria. Today’s video draws back the curtain.
Video Transcript after the jump…
Hey there. It feels like years ago, but back in March Donald Trump suggested that it was time to get out of Syria. All of Washington, DC and US media has teamed up to convince him otherwise. This is a shame. It is time to get out of Syria. This truth is illustrated by the US’s two greatest failures, in Iraq and Vietnam.
On a first look our approach to Syria doesn’t look anything like Iraq or Vietnam. But I would argue that that’s because we don’t remember those conflicts correctly.
For most people, the big mistake in Iraq was Bush’s invasion in 2003. And for those who remember, the big mistake in Vietnam was president Johnson’s massive escalation after 1964. Very few are suggesting anything like that for Syria. But let me correct that. Very few are suggesting anything like that for Syria… So far.
People pay a lot less attention to the decisions that led up to 2003 and 1964. The Baby Boomers have put John F Kennedy up on a pedestal, and Washington DC really likes to see the first Gulf war in 1991 as a victory. Both of these myths, and they are myths, hide the truth.
We were deeply involved in these countries long before the big mistake years. We set traps for ourselves. I’m not trying to defend George W. Bush or LBJ, they both lied to create pointless wars with multi-million person body counts. But their choices were logical progressions from bad choices that had already been made. The US government set traps for itself. The situations in these countries were completely of our own making. This garbage was somehow seen as building our credibility with allies and opponents.
The first Bush’s Gulf war never ended. In the 1980s we worked with our Arab allies to create Saddam Hussein’s war machine to fight Iran. When Saddam went rogue the first Bush got to throw his Gulf War party in 1991. The Iraqi occupation started back then, not in 2003. There were no-fly zones and brutal sanctions throughout the 1990s. Clinton bombed the country repeatedly and inaugurated an official policy of regime change in 1998. Bush’s actual invasion of Iraq in 2003 was just a continuation of the same policy.
The US involvement in Vietnam dated back to the 1950s. We funded the last years of France’s failed and brutal attempt to hold on to that country. Our CIA was on the ground throughout this period. The first US soldiers arrived in 1955 under Eisenhower. Kennedy dramatically expanded the war. We held onto the fiction that our troops were just advisers, and not really involved in combat. We can see that fiction in Syria today as well. The adviser myth ended under LBJ when our troop levels went up to over half a million US soldiers.
Both of these terrible decisions were taken in the framework of a world that the United States led, debatably in 1964 but unquestionably in 2003. Our parents and grandparents had built a world system so effective that even today, after all our squandered opportunities, it has the potential to endure. Can you imagine how much stronger that system would be if we hadn’t gone into Iraq?
The survival of the US-led system is a much more open question in 2018 than it was in 1964 or 2003. What the US government is proposing in Syria today isn’t the same as a 1964 or a 2003. It’s more of a 1955 or a 1998. We’re just going to keep our 2000 troops there until ISIS is defeated, Assad falls, and Iran no longer has any regional influence. In other words Washington wants to keep our troops there forever. Once again it’s all about US credibility, whatever that means. The US government wants to set another trap for itself, to put things in place that make a Syrian 1964 or 2003 inevitable. Whether it’s 5 years from now or ten years from now, some foreign policy genius will decide that an invasion is the only way to solve this problem we created. But we can no longer afford this. 5 to 10 years from now we will have real rivals again.
I still believe, like Abraham Lincoln, that the United States can be the last, best hope for this planet. Even today, much of the world still believes that we can be better than we have been these past 17 years. That’is what our goal should be for the time on top we have left. We should be working to convince the world that the world system built by our parents and grandparents is worthwhile. Outside of the countries and regions sacrificed to our various complexes, that system has in fact done a great deal of good. We should be working to strengthen that system so that all of the world’s rising actors can benefit from it, and so that the system shifts from an American-led system to one that provides ever growing prosperity to all, from here to the stars. This is still very possible. We can still salvage the respect of the world. The first step would be getting out of Syria. If we don’t get out of Syria, history has a very good chance of repeating itself, creating another decades long disaster. And in the coming decades we won’t be competing with small or fading powers like Iran and the Soviets. We will be competing with China. Which is the topic of our next video.
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