Good guys and bad guys

good-badMany Americans, including our Representatives in Congress, are conflicted over American policy toward Iraq. No wonder–the question is complicated and confusing. To understand the problem, you need a crib sheet. From an American perspective, here’s mine.

Good guys Bad guys
Iraq army Assad
Kurds Iran
Al Maliki
Al Qaeda

The difficulty is that when we apply the rule: “my enemy’s enemy is my friend,” many of the bad guys are our friends. What to do then? Our friends aren’t doing well; how should we help them?

Here are some comments from American politicians as reported in a WSJ article by Janet Hook, Siobhan Hughes, et. al.:

“I oppose open-ended military commitments, which the president’s actions in Iraq could become,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.).

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), a leading voice in the party’s liberal wing, said in a statement: “I remain concerned about possible unintended consequences of intervention. We must not get bogged down in another war in the Middle East.”

Rep. Jim McGovern (D., Mass.) said he believed that Congress should vote on whether to authorize the military operation in Iraq. While the Islamist State “is a horrible group,” he said, “we have to realize that we are heading down the path of choosing sides in an ancient religious and sectarian war.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), a potential 2016 presidential aspirant who is using hawkish foreign-policy stances to distinguish himself on the national political stage, was one of the first to comment on the president’s action Thursday night. … “If we do not continue to take decisive action against ISIS now, it will be not just Iraqis or Syrians who continue to suffer,” Mr. Rubio said. “It will likely be Americans, as a result of a terrorist attack on the U.S. homeland or on our personnel overseas.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.), the leading voice of the GOP’s anti-interventionist wing and a potential presidential candidate, had no public comment Friday. In a June interview in Iowa, he indicated he might support airstrikes against Islamist militants in Iraq.

Vin Weber, a former Republican House member who was a foreign-policy adviser to GOP nominee Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential campaign, said that the situation wasn’t an easy issue for Republicans, because so many Americans—including many GOP voters—are in an anti-interventionist mood.

Tom Reed, who took a very active role encouraging voters to register opposition when President Obama proposed to act militarily in response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria, is quoted in the FL Times:

“While I support the humanitarian efforts to get desperately needed food and water to [religious] minorities and believe there may be an appropriate use of targeted air strikes, Americans are still lacking a clear directive from the president on what America’s long-term goals and strategies are in Iraq,” Reed said after decrying the brutality of the Islamic State’s troops. “The men and women serving in our military and all Americans deserve to hear from the commander in chief on what is America’s specific end goal in Iraq.”

Here Reed takes a poke at the President while keeping his own views vague. Perhaps Tom is waiting to learn the Republican Party line before expressing his views clearly.

© William Hungerford – August 2014


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10 Responses to Good guys and bad guys

  1. John Hunter says:

    The trouble with listing the Iraq army as a good guy is that so far they have not put up a defense against ISI(S)L. How can a powerless entity be considered a good guy?


  2. whungerford says:

    Thanks for your comment, John. I listed them as good guys from an American perspective because they were armed and trained by us.


  3. BOB McGILL says:

    so was the afghan who shot our general


  4. Deb meeker says:

    I think you might well list the US on the “bad guys” side, seeing as how the US, at one time or another, armed and/or funded the majority of the groups on the “bad guys” side.

    John McCain was recently outed for criticizing the President on his policy in Iraq. It seems McCain is shown with a picture of some of the now ISIS leaders, about whom he then was quoted as saying (paraphrased) : No, these are the good guys, we need to support them, I GUARANTEE they are on the right side of this!”

    And here’s our very own “Rummy” Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam.

    Reagan armed Saddam Hussein with chemical weapons which Hussein used on his own people. And, Reagan was helpful to all these bad guys too: the Phillipines’ Marcos, Zaire’s Mobutu, the UNITA beasts in Angola, the military dictators of the Southern Cone and Central America, the Contras, Haiti’s Baby Doc Duvalier, even Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge after they were driven out of Pnom Penh by the Vietnamese, and the Mujahideen.

    President Obama is a nemesis to the GOP. Obama has succeeded with actual leadership for the majority of US involvements in the world’s crises, (despite the crushingly obvious disdain of Congress) – with diplomacy, statesmanship, and a non bragging demeanor. Republicans just don’t understand that brilliance, nor how to deal with it. As far as Tom Reed goes (on the President’s ISIS decision) – it’s a lily-livered response. Always straddling that fence, our Tom, so if and when the manure hits the fan, Tom can twist what he said before into ” well, we just found ourselves there”.

    The 113th Congress has lost all manner of respect in the world. How our enemies must find it amazing and helpful, that President Obama will be attacked and thwarted at every turn by the US own Congress. United We Stand – Divided we Fall.

    Thanks for letting me rant.


  5. whungerford says:

    The question isn’t how we got here, although we might learn from that, but where do we go from here? Those quoted in the article point out dangers without showing how best to avoid them. It is relatively easy to deplore atrocities, but much harder to prevent them. We have let the furies out of the box, we can’t put them back, but perhaps there is hope that a wise course of action might help not hurt.


  6. Deb meeker says:

    Yes, and I do believe, for the most part, Obama’s policies have in general ( big exception – drone strikes) been the best under the circumstances. While the war hawks on the right would have invaded and bombed Syria, Iran, and any others not heretofore attacked by the US , Obama has used the one true thing that works – calculated diplomacy.


  7. josephurban says:

    One of the lessons that the US seems to never learn is this: The US does not have the ability or right to impose it’s will anywhere and everywhere on earth. Does the US have a moral responsibility to the refugees created by the Iraqi occupation ? Yes. After all, it was the destabilization caused by the US invasion and occupation that have unleashed these fundamentalist forces. Does that mean sending troops to another land war in Iraq or Kurdistan? No. I agree with Reed that the US should help in this humanitarian crisis. I disagree with him that it is the role of the US president to impose US determined “long term strategies” on the people of Iraq.
    Remember, it was Wolfowitz, Cheney, Bush and Rice who were determined to impose a “New World Order” , calling for a “New American Century”. This kind of hubris and adventurism lead to not only massive US debt and loss of life, but fed the kind of radicalism we see today in the Middle East. By weakening the international community the US attempted to position itself as the leader of the New World order. The attempt failed. It backfired.
    Now Obama is between a rock and a hard place. He is too smart to get involved in an unsustainable land war, yet continues to support the US foreign policy goals of the expansion of US economic interests.
    The US needs to withdraw from many of it’s overseas bases and stop financing the defenses of other nations. Not complete isolationism, but intelligent withdrawal. Some of our political “leaders” seem very concerned with the “freedom” of folks in other nations, while demanding voter suppression here at home. Ironic?
    Regarding Tom Reed. From what I have seen he pretty much waits to see where the political winds are blowing before he steps up. Not a leader, a follower.


  8. whungerford says:

    How should the US help in a humanitarian crisis caused by an armed group like ISIS without some form of military intervention? Should such an effort be limited, or ought we up the ante until we accomplish the humanitarian goals? Should we act on our own or try to enlist others–the Kurds for example–to act on our behalf? How could we apply Howard Zinn’s suggestion that we become a humanitarian superpower?


  9. josephurban says:

    1. I think the US has the air power capabilities to keep forces like ISIS at bay. No need for boots on the ground. Bottle up the ISIS forces with air strikes. After all, we spent 10 years (under Bush, Clinton and Bush 2) bombing Iraqi airfields, anti-aircraft positions, etc. that was why Iraq was unable to defend itself against the US invasion. It had been totally crippled by air strikes.
    2. To your second point. We need to help the UN reestablish itself as the primary mechanism for humanitarian efforts. When the US stepped out and defied the UN by invading Iraq we sent a clear message. Namely that the UN does not matter to us. The US is above international law. We need to send another message. We will work through the UN, make it stronger and demand it take humanitarian action.


  10. whungerford says:

    The use of airplanes isn’t much different from the use of tanks. If military force is counter-productive–ineffective, but creates a backlash–one form is as bad as another. The use of air power is likely only politically acceptable at home as long as no planes are shot down and no pilots captured.

    I’m all for support of the UN, but there is no consensus, at least domestically, for that. UN military intervention–when not a fig leaf for superpower war making–is likely a thing of the past in anything but third world conflicts.

    I think it unlikely that human values can be imposed on others by force, but perhaps we could lead by example as Howard Zinn proposed. It can’t be easy when conflicts rage, but if we don’t start now, then when?


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