Paul Adams has an interesting piece this morning over at ipolitics. As of yesterday, Canada is now officially at war. Adams points out that, in the last twenty-five years, the United States has led five major wars in the Middle East. The only one that succeeded was the First Gulf War. It succeeded because Colin Powell thought very carefully about the situation before sending troops into the desert. What guided Powell was what has become known as the Powell Doctrine, which is best summarized in the answers to five questions:
- Is the goal clear and important?
- Is it a last resort after non-military efforts have failed?
- Does the mission command the support of the American people and the international community?
- Have the costs and expected gains been clearly analyzed?
- Can the planned military mission achieve the intended political objectives?
- Are the goals clearly circumscribed and is there a plausible exit strategy?
Adams writes that some thought has been given to answering the first two questions. But the rest of the answers -- particularly to questions 4 and 5 -- have been ignored:
Neither the Obama administration nor, for its small part, the Harper government has been frank about the potential costs of the mission. I am thinking now not just of the financial expense of an open-ended mission. I’m also talking about blowback from the Muslim world — which includes the implications of allying ourselves with the loathsome, head-chopping Saudis and, if we are honest, Bashar Al-Assad’s Syrian dictatorship. Not to mention the motley crew of Iraqi fighters who are now our military avatars.
Nor do many people who know about these things think that the military mission as it is now conceived — that is, bombing Islamic State and supplying the ragtag forces of our new best friends on the ground — can achieve its supposed aims. Stephen Harper, who seems so pleased just to be on the team, may say the mission is to “contain” Islamic State. But Obama, whose team it is, says the goal is to “eliminate” it.
We have entered a war without thinking about its long term consequences. When going to war, the standard advice is," Ready. Aim. Fire." We've got that advice backwards.