By Angelo Codevilla
The American people’s reaction to Muslim thugs of the “Islamic State” ritually knifing off the heads of people who look like you and me boils down to “let’s destroy these bastards”—which is common sense. But our ruling class, from President Obama on the Left to The Wall Street Journal on the Right, take the public’s pressure to do this as another occasion for further indulging their longtime preferences, prejudices, and proclivities for half-measures in foreign affairs—the very things that have invited people from all over the planet to join hunting season on Americans.
This indulgence so overwhelms our ruling class’s perception of reality that the recipes put forth by its several wings, little different from one another, are identical in the one essential respect: none of them involve any plans which, if carried out, would destroy the Islamic State, kill large numbers of the cut-throats, and discourage others from following in their footsteps. Hence, like the George W. Bush’s “war on terror” and for the same reasons, this exercise of our ruling class’s wisdom in foreign affairs will decrease respect for us while invigorating our enemies.
The WSJ’s recommendations, like the Obama administration’s projected activities, are all about discrete measures—some air strikes, some arming of local forces, etc. But they abstract from the fundamental reality of any and all activities: He who wills any end must will the means to achieve it. As in Bush’s war, as is the custom in Washington nowadays, our ruling class’s several sectors decide what actions they feel comfortable undertaking about any given problem, while avoiding reasonable judgment about whether these actions will actually fix the problem. This is the very definition of irresponsibility. But they call it “strategy.”
Irresponsibly Avoiding Debate
Our Constitution prescribes that war happens subsequent to votes by elected representatives. By debate and vote, presumably they reconcile the war’s ends with the means to be employed. But to reconcile ends and means is to banish illusions and pretenses. Yet because these are what our ruling class lives by, leaders of both parties have joined to preclude such debates and votes. They granted congressional funding for the one part of Obama’s venture with regard to the IS that required it—arming some of the Sunni rebels against Syria’s Assad regime—while avoiding votes on what precisely that or any other part of the venture means. This is textbook irresponsibility.
Representative Duncan Hunter (R-CA), a Marine veteran, objected: “We need to crush ISIS and not work on arming more Islamic radicals. Just what would arming these people accomplish?” To prevent massive numbers of Republican congressmen from joining this common-sense question, the House Armed Services Committee’s bill requires the administration to answer it in a report to Congress some time in the future, but not now. The fact that the administration and the leaders of both parties—the ruling class—did not make reasoned answers to the key questions the primary premise of their request suggests not so much that they are hiding these answers from others as much as that they themselves have not addressed the questions.
In the Senate, the ruling class avoided any vote at all by placing the money for arming the Sunni rebels into the Continuing Resolution for keeping the government open. This device, which reduces the senators’ choice to funding everything the the ruling class wants or “shutting down the government,” has become the principal way by which the ruling class dispenses with the Constitution.
Experience Says We’re Crazy
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV)’s common-sense objection to arming the Sunni rebels might as well have been voiced by any ordinary citizen for all the effect it had: “Our past experience, after 13 years, everything that we have tried to do has not proven to be beneficial, not proven at all. So what makes you think it’s going to be different this time? What makes you think we can ask a group of Islamists to agree with Americans to fight another group of Islamists, as barbaric as they may be?”
The answer is that our ruling class does not think, as much as it indulges its imagination and believes its own spin….