Syria and Afghanistan: Time to come home
Ever since the 1979 takeover of our embassy in Iran, the mad Mullahs have been a threat to peace in the Middle East. Even worse, nuclear weapons and long-range delivery systems in the hands of Iranís religion madmen pose an existential threat to the Continental United States. It is in our vital interest to prevent that from happening. While we have "concerns," we have no vital interests at stake in the Syria Civil War.
The same can be said about land-locked, war-lord ruled Afghanistan. After our armed forces and the CIA ejected Osama bin Ladenís followers and their Taliban protectors from Afghanistan in October-December, 2001, we had no more vital interest in that Graveyard of Empires. We have stayed far too long in Afghanistan. And, with perfect hindsight, we should not have invaded Iraq.
President G.W. Bush and his CIA director fell for faulty British intelligence that Saddam still possessed nuclear weapons. Even worse, we failed to recognize that Saddamís Iraq was an effective geographical block against the westward expansion of Iranian power and influence. Getting rid of the tyrant Saddam Hussein and his murderous sons was humanitarian.
Russia, historically desperate for a warm-water port in the Mediterranean Sea, thinks it has a vital interest in the two sea ports Syria dictator, Bashar al-Assad, allows Russia to occupy. But Russia needs the cooperation of the Turks to move its ships from the Black Sea into the Mediterranean. Moreover, Great Britain, looking down on the Strait of Gibraltar, can control all shipping in and out of the Mediterranean. Ergo: If Vladimir Putin is to boost Russiaís maritime economy, he has a vital interest in making nice-nice with Syria, Turkey and Great Britain.
Iran wants Assad to remain in power because he shares their religion, Syria is Iranís next door neighbor, and Assad allows the Iranians to transit Syria with troops and funds into Lebanon for terrorist attacks on Israel. But the mere desire to direct attacks on Israel does not rise to the level of an Iranian vital interest. Iranís existence does not depend on being able to pick at Israel. Conversely, Israelís existence depends on preventing the mad Mullahs from having nuclear weapons.
Other than the prevention of ISIS from forming, yet another, anti-western nation-state, the U.S. interest in that part of the Middle East is, at best, marginal. With ISIS virtually extinct, our troops are no longer needed. Saudi Arabia has agreed to take our place and protect our friends, the Kurds.
But even larger than these vital interest tests, the Trump Administration is embarked on a new foreign-military policy that depends on two elements: 1. Restoring the U.S. Armed Forces to the high level that so quickly overran Afghanistan and Iraq. 2. Rejecting the kind of military-industrial complex thinking which, for the last five decades, has gotten the U.S. bogged down in a never-ending series of conflicts that cannot be won in the traditional sense of winning.
In 2019, this former career officer will publish War During Peace: The Folly of Sanctuary Warfare, my 50-year-study of the origins and the conduct of the Vietnam War. Short preview: Our troops have served us well. But our politicians have not.
©2018. William Hamilton.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, is a laureate of the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame, the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, the Nebraska Aviation Hall of Fame, the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame, and the Oklahoma University Army ROTC Wall of Fame. Dr. Hamilton is the author of The Wit and Wisdom of William Hamilton: the Sage of Sheepdog Hill, Pegasus Imprimis Press (2017). "Central View," can also be seen at: www.central-view.com.