Bluster is not a strategy

Bluster is on the loose. With ISIS, an al-Qaeda offshoot, proclaiming a Caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria, Russia facing off with Ukraine, Libya descending into a civil chaos, the Taliban striking in Afghanistan, pundits and politicians are raising a drum beat of demands for muscular action, condemning President Obama for his caution and supposed passivity. But the bluster is providing more heat than light.

Remember, we had a president who shot first and thought later, who roused Americans with the threat of weapons of mass destruction, and dispatched American forces into a war of choice halfway around the world. The result was the Iraq debacle, source of much of the troubles we face today. We were told it would be easy, and that it wouldn’t cost much. We were told — by ever-macho Sen. John McCain — that setting up a new government wouldn’t be a problem, that there wasn’t really much enmity between Sunni and Shiite. The administration’s hawks — led by Rumsfeld and Cheney — didn’t even think it necessary to plan for the aftermath. Shock and awe and then democracy would break out.

The result was certainly the worst foreign policy calamity since Vietnam. The war will end up costing an estimated $3 trillion dollars, along with tens of thousands of American soldiers dead and wounded. The invasion helped to destabilize the entire Middle East, unleashing a Sunni-Shiite civil war that continues to this day.

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