- By Joseph J. Honick
In 1938, Winston Churchill pleaded with Britain to recognize the growth of German power and the threat it implied to his country. Thinking only inward and arrogantly, the nation mostly ignored the man who would commit to “blood, sweat and tears” in England’s darkest hour to rescue her and persuade the United States of the urgency to help.
Today, the United States presents a comic opera sans the humor to the rest of the world, with partisan quibbling, undefined foreign policy and threats of involvement in Syria we cannot carry out while still struggling preposterously in Afghanistan after failing in Iraq.
Meanwhile, as President Obama intones something about “consequences” if Syria’s President Assad crosses something called the “red line”, both Russia and Iran quite casually not only assert their rights to sell the Syrian dictator whatever arms they want but keep on doing it. The only nation taking on the Syrian boss is Israel who, in her own asserted defense, justifiably struck key nuclear and other production areas near and in Damascus.
These realities are seeds of potentially much larger conflicts unless we can recapture a semblance of world leadership that has been dwindling for some time in the face of partisan foolishness at home for all the rest of the nations to see.
Russia not only asserts its right to sell the Syrian government whatever arms it wants, she is planning to position ships of her fleet in Syrian waters. All this as our own president is moving to supply “rebels” whom we cannot identify with allegedly non-military aid…while defending an attack on our embassy in Libya some months ago by some other militants whom we also helped against another dictator….and wrestling with a Republican House of Representatives whose own leadership seems to think the Tea Party tax situation is more important because some boobs in the IRS played games with the TP’s application for tax deferred status.
Now, if you think that last paragraph is confusing, think of what Churchill was dealing with 75 years ago. But, then, we here don’t consider the lessons of history very well, unless that “history” was either last week or media’s revelations of yesterday.
A few weeks ago, I charged that we were getting “snookered” in the Syrian mess and demanded to know why we had not pressured the Arab League to get involved instead of risking our own standing, power and leverage. I also asked why on earth our own Congressional leadership from both parties has failed to get into this situation, not as partisans, but as Americans.
It is not boasting that five years ago, I wrote about a ”Death In The American Family: Public Confidence.” It is the realization of what we have not learned in that time and what our two biggest competitors, Russia and China, have learned while the world watches and wonders about choosing sides should it be necessary.
We’ve made this mistake more than once before. In 1981, when Israel believed herself threatened by Saddam Hussein’s nuclear development, she took the operation out, only to be rapidly chastised by President Reagan and the hypocritical United Nations. It was only a matter of time that we then deserted the Iraqi dictator to whom we had dealt billions in arms, intelligence and other support and decided to invade to take up what seems to be eternal residence there and in Afghanistan with no clear mission of national interest.
So back to Washington, where a group of Republicans have decided the world realities are less important than giving the shaft to a sitting president and the lady they fear most as a potential opponent in 2016. No doubt these junior McCarthyites have some legitimate gripes with issues of Benghazi and the IRS. No doubt they will exact their pounds of political flesh from the ways the President and his group have handled these matters. (Just imagine Harry Truman taking all this without storming right back to deal with big issues first and then politics.)
Leadership has been in fruitless demand for the past four consecutive terms, ever since President Bush decided we had to contend with weapons of mass destruction that eventually did not seem to exist. Perhaps, had we confessed to that reality and stopped what has become the longest wars in our history, wars we can neither win nor negotiate to armistice, millions of lives and trillions of dollars might have been diverted to more constructive ends and our standing as world leaders reinforced.
We cannot resurrect Churchill or Truman to kick the current claque of politicians from both parties in their collective pants. It is as Thomas Carlyle(I believe)said and could be said today about our bipartisan squabbling: “I do not believe in the collective genius of individual ignorance.”
Honick is president of GMA International Ltd with offices on Bainbridge Island, WA. He is an international consultant to business and writes on a variety of public affairs issues.