By Nick Sorrentino
“Any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should 'have his head examined,' as General [Douglas] MacArthur so delicately put it.”
-Defense Secretary Gates in a speech given at West Point February 25th 2011
The above statement was made by Secretary Gates fully aware that events were moving very quickly in the Middle East. The “Arab Spring” was in full bloom and spreading. He knew that there would be pressures on the US to intervene.
He was really making 2 points. One was that the army needed to become less enamored with tanks and other large heavy weapons, which have limited use in most modern military engagements. But the other point was to emphasize an American military adage that seems to have been forgotten since September 11th . Don’t go to war in Asia (or Africa.)
I am the son of a military officer. My father served in Vietnam. One of the lessons he taught me was that if the US was to engage in a war, it should have clearly defined objectives with an exit strategy already in place when fighting commences. This philosophy was very much on display during the first Gulf War. A generation of Vietnam vets who were then junior officers were in leadership during the first Gulf War. They had not forgotten the harsh lessons of a long, drawn out action. In and out with overwhelming force, this was the “best” way to wage a war. Colin Powell embodied this philosophy in 1991.
One of the other bits of wisdom handed down to me came not from our engagement in Vietnam, but from Korea. General Douglas MacArthur said that engaging in a land war in Asia was insane. And he knew what he was talking about. He commanded the Army during most of the Korean War.
Secretary Gates included Africa also in his updated warning. But did we listen? Some of us did. Unfortunately the White House did not.
Right after Obama left for his Brazilian vacation we started bombing in Libya and enforcing a “no-fly zone.” But according to the President it wasn’t yet another war. It was a “kinetic military engagement.”
This is where we are now my fellow Americans. War is “kinetic military engagement.” Apparently the lawyer at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue didn’t want to go on record as starting a war. Kind of reminds me of the last time we had a lawyer in the White House. Remember, “That depends on what your definition of “is” is.”
At least in Clinton’s case the subject was of little real consequence. In Obama’s case such linguistic gymnastics have huge consequences.
Not just for the people of Libya, our military service members, or even the price of oil, but for Obama’s re-election prospects.
I am in the business of following what people are talking about online and there is a large number of people on the left who are expressing deep dissatisfaction with the President and his adventurism.
Does that mean that there will be a mass migration away from Obama on election day 2012? No, that’s pretty unlikely. But the enthusiasm that the Democratic rank and file had for Obama has taken a huge hit. Many were willing to forgive Obama’s coziness with Goldman Sachs and the banking industry. They were willing to forgive his lack of leadership generally. But this “kinetic military engagement” was a bit too much. Though they won’t admit it in public, online many are questioning how Obama’s action is different from what Bush might have done.
Truth is it’s probably not all that different, and the left knows it.