Remember when Condi Rice proclaimed that we would henceforth reach out to the peoples of Middle Eastern tyrannies? That we’d have diplomats all over those countries? I don’t believe it happened. At least she had the right words: we have to stand with people who want freedom, and we have to be able to sort out real freedom fighters from those who want to trick us or those who just want to take the money and live it up. That takes time. So our efforts to catch up will often fail, we’ll end up supporting the wrong people and turning our backs on some potential heroes.
Fourth, dithering makes things worse, and we dithered over Libya and Syria, and at best — at best — we are still dithering over Iran. You may recall that I wrote a blog post early on in the Libyan adventure in which I said we should bomb the Libyan Air Force. That would have shortened the war, don’t you think? And it would have saved a lot of lives, especially in the neighborhood of Benghazi. Remember that the fear of mass slaughter there was what produced the Obama Doctrine: Lead With the Behind.
Fifth, and finally, that doctrine is literally back-asswards. It’s great to work with friends and allies; every president knows that (indeed, when the real history of the Iraq War is written, most analysts will conclude that Bush waited too long because of the requests of allies, especially the Brits). But you’re more likely to put together a coalition if you lead, rather than pushing others into the front ranks.
Ask the Marines. Their officers lead from the front, and they’re the best we’ve got. If you’re looking for elite forces, just go to Quantico or Pendleton, or to the Special Forces folks at Bragg or down in Tampa.
Let’s hope we don’t need them in Syria or Iran.