Reprinted from Consortium News
Buoyed by the Republican electoral victories, America's neocons hope to collect their share of the winnings by pushing President Barack Obama into escalating conflicts around the world, from a new Cold War with Russia to hot wars in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and maybe Iran.
The new menu of neocon delights was listed by influential neocon theorist Max Boot in a blog post for Commentary magazine, an important outlet for neocon thinking. Boot argued that the Republicans -- and thus the neocons -- have earned a mandate on national security policy from the electoral repudiation of Obama's Democratic Party.
"The president did himself incalculable damage when he set a 'red line' for Syria last year but failed to enforce it. That created an image of weakness and indecision which has only gotten worse with the rise of ISIS and Putin's expansionism in Ukraine."
Boot's recounting of that history is, of course, wrongheaded in several ways. It may have been foolish for Obama to set a "red line" against chemical weapons use in Syria, but there is growing evidence that the Syrian government was not behind the lethal sarin attack of Aug. 21, 2013, and that it was instead a provocation by rebel extremists. [See Consortiumnews.com's "The Collapsing Syria-Sarin Case."]
Further, Putin's approach to the Ukraine crisis in February 2014 was reactive, not provocative or expansionistic. It was the European Union and the United States (led by neocons such as Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, National Endowment for Democracy President Carl Gershman and Sen. John McCain) that set out to overturn the Ukrainian status quo.
Neocon support for political disturbances in Kiev, including Nuland plotting how to "glue this thing," contributed to the putsch that ousted elected President Viktor Yanukovych and touched off a bloody civil war. Putin was supporting the status quo, i.e., maintaining the elected government, not instigating its overthrow. [See Consortiumnews.com's "The Powerful Group Think on Ukraine" and "Treating Putin Like a Lunatic."]
And, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria arose not from Obama's timidity but from the neocon-inspired invasion of Iraq last decade. ISIS emerged from the hyper-violent Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which didn't exist until President George W. Bush followed neocon advice to invade and occupy Iraq. The terrorist group, rebranding itself as the Islamic State, moved on to Syria where the neocons were seeking another "regime change" in the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Neocons Revive Syrian 'Regime Change' Plan."]
If Obama had bombed the Syrian military in summer 2013, as Boot and other neocons wanted, not only might Obama have been attacking the wrong people for the sarin attack, he might well have precipitated the collapse of the Syrian government and a victory for either ISIS or al-Qaeda's Nusra Front, the only two effective fighting forces among the anti-government rebels. There would have been a good chance that jihadist banners would be flying over Damascus, creating a terrorist state in the heart of the Middle East.
In other words, Boot is working not only from a false narrative but a dangerous fantasy. Nevertheless, it is a narrative that is widely accepted inside Official Washington where one of the favorite sayings is "perception is reality." So, although Boot's perception is factually unhinged, it is regarded as "reality" by many "smart people" in the world's most powerful capital.
After laying out his false diagnosis -- that Obama's supposed failure to destroy the Syrian military in 2013 led to the crises of Ukraine and ISIS in 2014 -- Boot then prescribes what needs to be done.
First, he wants the Republican-controlled Congress to pour more money into the U.S. military or, as he puts it, "Save the defense budget from the mindless cuts of sequestration, which are already hurting readiness and, if left unabated, risk another 'hollow' military."
Second, launch a full-scale economic war against Russia while dispatching the U.S. military to defend the Ukrainian regime now in control of Kiev and to other nations on Russia's borders. Or, as Boot says: "Impose tougher sanctions on Russia, freezing Russian companies entirely out of dollar-denominated transactions, while sending arms and trainers to Kiev and putting at least a Brigade Combat Team into each of the Baltic republics and Poland to signal that no more aggression from Putin will be tolerated."
Third, keep the U.S. military fighting in Afghanistan indefinitely. Or, as Boot says, "Repeal the 2016 deadline for pulling troops out of Afghanistan and announce that any drawdown will be conditions based."
Fourth, recommit a larger U.S. military force to aid the Iraqi military and to invade Syria. Or, as Boot says, "Increase the tempo of airstrikes against ISIS, and send a lot more troops to Iraq and Syria to work with indigenous groups -- we need at least 15,000 personnel, not the 1,400 sent so far." [Emphasis added to point out that sending U.S. troops into Syria would amount to an invasion.]