Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Wars of Vengeance are Self Perpetuating


I have to agree with Phyllis Bennis when it comes to what to do about ISIS. This NBCnew.com piece has her view contrasted with 3 other international affairs experts; characterized as

1. The Slow squeeze: Michael Eisenstadt.
2. More Troops: Michael Leiter.
3. Arm the Kurds: David Phillips.
4. Stop Shooting: Phyllis Bennis.

Ms Bennis states:

"Phyllis Bennis, the director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, just wrote a book about ISIS. It's called "Understanding ISIS and the New Global War on Terror." In it, Bennis presses for an approach that hasn't been given much consideration since Friday's attacks in Paris.

It begins with the Hippocratic oath that physicians take before they start treating people: Do no harm.

Bennis agrees with Obama that the United States should not send troops. But she said the military campaign — air strikes included — is a complete failure, and actually hurts diplomatic and humanitarian efforts.

"This is a war of vengeance. And wars of vengeance never work," Bennis said in an interview. "Our leaders are supposed to look beyond that. But nobody is even questioning the idea of the air strikes. The only debate is over ground strikes."

She would like to see Obama, French President Francoise Hollande and other coalition leaders embark immediately on negotiations for a cease-fire. From there, she'd like to see a complete military withdrawal, a blockade of arms into Syria, a huge new influx of humanitarian aid, and a redoubling of efforts to block ISIS' fundraising sources, notably the sale of oil.

After Paris, "There needs to be answers, and people are understandably insistent that there be a response," she said. "But it's never true that the only option is war."


I would only add that the problem of a vengeance fueled war is only compounded when so much of what we do, regardless of how many troops are employed, or which proxy is supported more robustly, is done via drone. As in Drone intelligence, as well as direct drone strike.

What this does is create a tremendous influx of surveillance data that, no matter how good the optics are, comes down to guilt by association. Some times this is quite appropriate. Some times it is not, and the probabilities between the two vary wildly. You then add in the inevitable collateral damage, whether your intel is accurate or not, and you have an ever increasing population of those who would be likely to desire revenge. And in the case of religious zealots such vengeance becomes jihad far too easily.

Then, of course, you must consider why the middle east is important to us in the first place, or why permanent war would have advocates with interests beyond those of basic national security. And in this do we come to the various profit centers involved. Oil. Arms. Shipping lanes. The list could no doubt be continued.

National security is important. Having the ability to protect ourselves is important. The problem we have now is that political leaders want to serve a variety of interests without incurring fallout at the pols so they engage in conflicts without declaring war. Declaring actual war would involve complete mobilization, and involvement of the entire country, and not the exhaustion of the few, incredibly selfless, volunteers who sacrifice for us now. Such total commitments are also quite expensive in terms of money and so also require comprehensive fiscal sacrifice, but this is exactly what those who benefit from the previously mentioned profit centers are loath to have to do.

The bottom line for me here is as it always has been. In a cost based society; one where value is placed almost entirely on the counters involved with net gain, and the power inherent in having more counters than the other guy, not only does the process of prioritizing critical needs for our society suffer, the way we address those needs suffers as well. How can it be otherwise when livelyhoods depend on one thing or another being continued, no matter how destructive, or at cross purposes, they might be. Throw in greed, and its idolization, for good measure, any you have a formula for self destruction like no other.

As I have said many times before, it is all interconnected. Without fundamental, fully integrated, social-economic change, we will continue down the path of contradictions, and disarray, that having disconnected interest groups working at cross purposes entails. The effort based organizational model that I have outlined is one approach to addressing this needed change. It may not be the right answer in its current form, but it is at least a place to start from on what that fundamental change ought to be.


Paris Attacks Prompt Renewed Calls for Tougher ISIS Strategy