Democratic representative Tulsi Gabbard has been roundly criticized for her opposition to the air strike against Syria. For once, I’m going to go on the record in favor of a Democrat politician, because I think she has a point. The Hill reported her as saying:
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) has a message for the liberals attacking her criticism of President Trump’s missile strike on Syria, warning that a rush to aggression risks repeating the same mistakes that led the United States into the Iraq War.
“We need to learn from Iraq and Libya — wars that were propagated as necessary to relieve human suffering, but actually increased human suffering many times over,” she said in an email to The Hill.
Gabbard, a major in the Hawaii Army National Guard who served two tours in Iraq, has been highly critical of Trump’s decision last Thursday to launch 59 missiles at a Syrian airfield in response to a deadly chemical attack that killed scores of civilians, including children, in a western Syrian town days before.
. . .
Gabbard’s position — particularly her skepticism that the Syrian government was behind the chemical attacks — has led to an outcry from some establishment Democrats, including former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, who want her out of Congress.
A meeting between Gabbard and Assad in January has only heightened the critics’ belief that she’s acting as an apologist for a tyrannical leader known to employ brutal tactics, even against his own people, to keep a grip on power in the country’s yearslong civil war.
But Gabbard, who sits on both the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees, maintains those critics are ignoring the lessons of recent history that have left the United States mired in costly Middle Eastern conflicts for more than a decade.
“I and thousands of my brothers- and sisters-in-arms went to war in Iraq based on false intelligence and lies from our leaders — our president, military and political leaders. We should have been skeptical then, and we weren’t,” she said. “The cost was thousands of American lives and trillions of dollars down the drain. What to speak of millions of non-American lives.”
. . .
“No leader — of either party, pro or against military intervention — should let our President take us down the path to another regime change war without … debate.”
There’s more at the link.
I think any fair, objective assessment of the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would confirm her views. This country spent up to $6 trillion (depending on whose numbers you believe) in fighting those wars, aiming to prevent further terrorist attacks, change despotic regimes, and bring democracy to those countries. We’ve failed in every single objective, at the cost of thousands of US lives and hundreds of thousands of deaths and injuries among local civilians.
Military actions must take consequences into account, otherwise they risk overreach to the point of disaster. One that I’ve mentioned before is the Doolittle raid on Tokyo in 1942. It was nothing more than a propaganda exercise by the USA, designed to boost morale and show the Japanese that they weren’t invulnerable. It did a risible amount of damage to the Japanese war machine . . . but it led directly to the deaths of up to a quarter of a million Chinese civilians, killed by Japanese forces in their search for the American fliers, and in reprisal for the shelter and assistance provided to them in China. Would any of those 250,000-odd dead have agreed that a mere propaganda gesture was worth their lives? I somehow doubt it . . . but no-one bothered to ask them beforehand. They didn’t count. They weren’t Americans, after all – and besides, they weren’t even white. Their deaths were just another statistic, nothing to worry about.
There are times when action must be taken, irrespective of the consequences. However, that action needs to be carefully planned and even more carefully executed, always with an eye to consequences. If it isn’t – if it’s just a knee-jerk reaction – then complications almost always arise, sometimes so great that they completely obviate the original purpose of the exercise. I doubt that the War on Terror was worth the $6 trillion it’s cost the US taxpayer, or the lives lost or wounds suffered. The results have not justified the expense. In fact, the WoT has been a dismal failure.
I doubt whether I’d support Rep. Gabbard’s politics in general; but in this specific instance, I think she has a very valid point. What’s more, she served two deployments in Iraq. She’s “walked the walk”, something that most Congresscritters (on both sides of the aisle) have notably failed to do. For that, she deserves our respect, and an opportunity to state her case, whether or not we agree with her. (I say that as a combat veteran myself.)