“We Want War!” Say Republicans And, Sadly, A Few Democrats

It’s a strange world in which two Fox “News” hosts are more critical of Speaker John Boehner’s unseemly invitation to Benjamin Netanyahu than is President Obama’s Chief of Staff.

Last week, the Speaker, against protocol and against decency and against our national interests, invited the Israeli Prime Minister to soon address Congress about what both Boehner and Netanyahu see as a misguided attempt to negotiate with Iran over its nuclear ambitions. The Speaker never told the White House in advance, and Netanyahu, up for reelection at home, didn’t bother to notify the State Department that he would accept the invitation. Boehner and Netanyahu are essentially undermining the efforts of the Obama administration to keep us out of another war. For most Republicans, Israeli interests appear to be more important than our own.

Worse than that, a few Democrats are also trying to get us into an honest-to-goodness war. Last week, after Obama’s State of the Union address, in which the President clearly stated that he would veto any legislation designed to interfere with his delicate negotiations with Iran (Republicans and some Democrats want to pile on additional sanctions), Senator Bob Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said,

The more I hear from the administration and its quotes, the more it sounds like talking points that come straight out of Tehran.

I want to remind you: that wasn’t said by a creepy, crazy-eyed Fox “News” host. It was uttered by a Democrat. In the U.S. Senate.

It isn’t clear to me exactly why that reckless statement would exit the lips of a Democrat, while President Obama and John Kerry are trying to bring a peaceful end to a crisis involving Iran, Israel, and nuclear weapons. But it is a foolish and dangerous statement that is made more foolish and dangerous by the fact that Republicans, who most certainly trust Netanyahu more than the President of the United States, are in charge of Congress and won’t hesitate to do all they can to get us involved in a hot war with Iran, all on the advice of the Israeli Prime Minister.

And speaking of war and misguided Democrats, on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday Diane Feinstein essentially joined warmonger John McCain in calling for more “special operations” troops on the ground in, uh, Yemen. Yes, Yemen. She thinks we need “more than just advisers” there. That’s called panic, folks. Feinstein also hinted that more troops may be needed in other hot spots:

BOB SCHIEFFER: And then, to go back to the Middle East just quickly, do you envision we might have to put more ground troops — or have to put ground troops back into the Middle East?

FEINSTEIN: Well, this is one thing that I have tried to follow carefully, particularly with respect to Syria.

And I don’t see what we’re doing making a difference. So, I think we need to relook at this. And if we are going to tolerate Assad, as McCain said — and I tend to agree — looks like is the case, that’s a problem.

Let me remind you what “McCain said” just before Feinstein appeared on the program. He began by saying that President Obama and his Chief of Staff Denis McDonough “have lost touch with reality.” Then he got to the point of his gazillionth appearance on Sunday television:

MCCAIN: I agree with the director of British intelligence, MI5, who gave a speech last week saying that these young people mainly from other countries that are now in Iraq and Syria will — are a direct threat to the United States of America and Great Britain.

So there is no strategy. It is delusional for them to think that what they’re doing is succeeding. And we need more boots on the ground. I know that is a tough thing to say and a tough thing for Americans to swallow, but it doesn’t mean the 82nd Airborne. It means forward air controllers. It means special forces. It means intelligence and it means other capabilities.

And for them to say we expect them to do it on their own, they’re not doing it on their own. And they are losing.

In case you missed his point, he later reiterated:

In the Middle East, we have got to have boots on the ground.

Whenever you hear someone say that, you are hearing the tempered version of, “Let’s get this war party started!”

While we all should be concerned about what is happening in Yemen, Syria, and elsewhere in the region, and while we all should acknowledge that Israel has reason to worry about an existential threat from Iran, we have to keep our wits about us and not panic and jump, boots first, into two more bleeping wars. Our air attacks on ISIL fighters are helping to keep them in check, whether right-wingers in Congress or war-hungry pundits blabbing on TV want to admit it. And it is unclear what will happen in Yemen, since the Shiite rebels—who apparently don’t want to take over the country—aren’t exactly al Qaeda supporters. In fact, we just killed three more al Qaeda terrorists with drone strikes in Yemen today. Yes. I said today, after all the panic on Sunday’s talk shows.

As a much more sober Fareed Zakaria pointed out on Sunday, we have to keep all of this in perspective. He showed this graphic, based on data from the Global Terrorism Database:

Fareed Zacharia and CNN graphic

Now, if that isn’t enough, look at this graphic, which I pulled from the Global Terrorism Database website:

global terrorism database

Those colored beams represent the number of terrorist attacks in 2013 and the relative deaths associated with them. Look at us and look at other places around the world. We should keep all of this in mind, even as we understand that we are not isolated from what is going on elsewhere. We do have to pay attention to what is happening around the world and do what we can to fight terrorism, Islamist or otherwise. But boots-on-the-ground warfare should be the last resort, not the first.

Thankfully, John McCain lost the election in 2008. Thankfully, Bob Menendez and Dianne Feinstein are in the Senate and not the White House. Thankfully, Republicans only control Congress and can only throw rhetorical rocks at President Obama. And, thankfully, we have a man at the helm who doesn’t tend to panic and get nervous and want to start putting American troops on the ground everywhere, when things start to look a little scary.

And, more important, President Obama understands that there is a big difference between American foreign policy and the foreign policy of a right-wing prime minister of Israel, who seems hell-bent on getting the United States involved in a war with Iran, before all the attempts at diplomacy have played out.

2 Comments

  1. This is a good perspective on the matter of war and the middle East. It highlights the problem of our being the world’s only “superpower” and the political problem of having the word’s best and most effective armed forces. The temptation to use those forces is almost irresistible and it is only due to the clear and far-sighted thinking by our present POTUS that we aren’t already involved in another ground war in Syria/Iraq/Yemen. That said, I can understand Israel’s posture. They are surrounded by serious hatred and have only recently been subjected to attacks resulting in both military and civilian deaths.

    I find it notable that there is no mutual defense treaty between the U.S. and Israel, and also that Israel’s nuclear capability is publicly undefined. However, thanks to U.S. help, Israel is likely well nuclear-capable on its own. There are credible reports that it has three submarines with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles</a?. What Israel has to fear most, I think, is not a preemptive strike from Iran's present regime but that the present hateful but clear-eyed Iranian regime will become religiously motivated beyond rationality. Introduction of U.S. ground troops and another hot war could actually promote that happening.

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  2. ansonburlingame

     /  January 27, 2015

    Duane,

    The man that convienced me best that not passing the current bill in Congress regarding a threat of more sanctions, if……, was the British Prime Minister, during his joint press conference with President Obama. They both said essentially the same thing, but Cameron’s words were crisp, short and very much on target in my view. Obviously while in the U.S, Cameron even “lobbied” some Senators it seems. So is it OK for a foreign leader that agrees with the President to lobby our Congress but not OK for one that does not support the President’s efforts?

    I of course believe “disagreements over foreign policy must stop at the water’s edge”. Thus inviting the Israeli PM to speak only to Congress is misguided. So why are the GOP and even some Dems undertakeing that effort?

    It is because they simply do not “trust the President” in critical foreign policy matters. There are certainly no compelling domestic political reasons for some Dem leaders to get in the face of the President on foreign policy. But yet they are doing so. Why?

    Iran may well resist what it considers too “hard a bargin” put forth by President Obama and Kerry. OR President Obama and Kerry might accept a deal, just to get a deal, that is NOT in American best national security interests. But until a deal is reached or negotiations broken off completely, who knows yet what will happen?

    The GOP, politically, would be smart to just shut up and let the President negotiate and see what happens. Once a deal is reached, I hope to God it is some form of a treaty requiring Senate approval as well. Then and only then can the GOP make a full and public case why the deal is “bad”, during a Senate debate on the matter. On the other hand, if negotiations with Iran fail to reach an agreement, it would be up to the President to make the case to we the people why diplomacy failed in such a case.

    Anson

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