Belmont Club

Chronic Virtue

Some analysts believe that president Obama’s unfocused and seemingly half-hearted efforts have created a counterterror resistant strain of Jihadists in the same way that the desultory use of antibiotics created superbugs. They predict that eventually even the NSA will “go deaf” against the Jihadists as their trade craft improves. Indeed Ahmad Khan Rahami, the Chelsea New York bomber “traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan several times without detection by the U.S. government, officials told The Daily Beast.”

In consequence the internal Western Jihadi threat may become chronic. It will never be solved. Not at least for decades. Acknowledging this fact, Angela Merkel admitted as her political party was drubbed at the polls “if I could, I would turn back time many, many years to better prepare myself, the federal government and all those in positions of responsibility for the situation we were rather unprepared for in the late summer of 2015.”

Internationally the situation is no different. None of the wars, not even Afghanistan or Iraq, are ending.  In fact conflict is spreading by the day. The ceasefire which John Kerry hoped would start the peace process in the Levant collapsed in tragic farce, with an errant American airstrike annihilating a Syrian Army position while a Russian airstrike decimated a UN relief column bound for Aleppo.
It’s so embarassing the White House admitted it was skeptical of its own plan from the first.

White House officials were also dubious. “I think we’d have some reasons to be skeptical that the Russians are able or are willing to implement the arrangement consistent with the way it’s been described,” Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said Monday at a briefing. He added, darkly, “But we’ll see.” …

The divide between Mr. Kerry and Mr. Carter reflects the inherent conflict in Mr. Obama’s Syria policy. The president has come under increased fire politically for his refusal to intervene more forcefully in the five-year civil war, which the United Nations says has killed more than 400,000 people, displaced more than six million and led to a refugee crisis in Europe. But keeping large numbers of American ground forces out of Syria has also created space for Russia to assume a greater role there, both on the battlefield and at the negotiating table.

There is no obvious end for the conflict which began on September 11, 2001, nor any plan for winning it.  The conflict is now sometimes referred to as the Forever War. Plan B for Kerry’s now demised ceasefire is instructive.  According to the Wall Street Journal, the next move is to expand the war on general principles, though to what end no one seems to be able to explain. Not Jill Stein, the presidential candidate of the Green Party, who is only certain that warmonger and hatred are everywhere.

I will feel terrible if Donald Trump gets elected and I will feel terrible if Hillary Clinton gets elected.  Hillary Clinton wants to start an air war over Syria with a nuclear-armed power [Russia] with 2,000 nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert. Given Hillary Clinton’s record not only in Iraq, but in Libya, I think this is as dangerous as it gets. Donald Trump wants to bar Muslims from entering into this country, but Hillary Clinton has been very busy bombing Muslims in other countries.

Nor Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, who asked what he would do about the siege of Aleppo answered, “what is Aleppo? ‘You’re kidding …’ the incredulous Barnicle answered. ‘No,’ Johnson said.” To be fair, nobody seems to have a clue. The video below shows Who’s On First in Syria. Everybody’s on First.

But who cares? As John Kerry begins his quest for a new ceasefire, president Barack Obama is devoting his remaining months in office to admitting more refugees into the West. The Atlantic’s Priscilla Alvarez writes, “on Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama will host a summit on the refugee crisis on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting. His administration reportedly plans to increase the number of refugees the United States will let in to 110,000 in fiscal year 2017, and he is expected to call on other world leaders to take in more refugees themselves.”

Taking in more refugees won’t solve anything either internationally or in the West itself. But it’s virtuous and signals it. One reason for the “Forever War” is because winning has become optional. Unlike WW2 when Roosevelt and Truman were under pressure to win the war and bring the boys home, Obama’s America can sustainably fight major conflicts without putting masses of voters under arms.  Whenever things get dicey, the administration can just send a B-1 over to restore the balance so Kerry can go back to the nth doomed ceasefire.

Today with the draft abolished and in possession of gee-whiz weapons which are orders of magnitude more powerful than anything Assad or ISIS has, Obama can avoid the hard question of ends with endless procrastination. Freed from the risk of actual defeat by a crushing military superiority, Washington doesn’t have to identify the enemy or seek victory. It can devote itself to the ends-free activity of pursuing the Process.

In common with many modern intellectuals he can regard winning as unnecessary and even evil, a triumphalism, a kind of bullying act, since as someone famously put it: “war never solves anything”. In the absence of the concept of victory the Peace Process can be pursued for its own sake. Indeed the administration’s entire objective in Syria has apparently been to to stay on the diplomatic road, to keep talking, to keep negotiating, to stagger from ceasefire to ceasefire, each more fragile than the last, so frail that they don’t even believe in it themselves. Why? Because that’s the “right thing to do”.

The result of such high-mindedness alas is not peace but endless conflict, suffering without cease, the destruction of nations, the dissolution of borders, the maiming and death of hundreds of thousands. But there was no overt aggression; nothing to be blamed for. Forever War has become cheap for political elites. Never has virtue signalling and indecisiveness been so affordable.

Forever Wars are the ultimate liberal foreign policy luxury. In an age when Western technology is so dominant that it can support intervention without victory, conflict without imperialistic aims and “absorb” terror, the status quo doesn’t have to win, just indulge its moral vanity.

Follow Wretchard on Twitter

Support the Belmont Club by purchasing from Amazon through the links below.

Recently purchased by readers:

Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade, By social psychologist Robert Cialdini. This book shines a light on effective persuasion and reveals that the secret doesn’t lie in the message itself, but in the key moment before that message is delivered.

Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic, In 49 B.C., the seven hundred fifth year since the founding of Rome, Julius Caesar crossed a small border river called the Rubicon and plunged Rome into cataclysmic civil war. In this book, author Tom Holland tells the story of Caesar’s generation, from Cicero, Spartacus, and Brutus, to Cleopatra, Virgil, and Augustus, and that of a great civilization in all its extremes of self-sacrifice and rivalry, decadence and catastrophe, intrigue, war, and world-shaking ambition.

The Kingdom of Speech, This book by storyteller/reporter Tom Wolfe is a paradigm-shifting argument that speech – not evolution – is responsible for humanity’s complex societies and achievements.

The Monster at the End of This Book, by Jon Stone.


Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, By Robert Cialdini. This classic book on persuasion by Dr. Cialdini, the seminal expert in the field of influence and persuasion, explains the psychology of why people say “yes” – and how to apply these understandings.

Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with your friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.
The War of the Words, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
Rebranding Christianity, or why the truth shall make you free
The Three Conjectures, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age
Storming the Castle, why government should get small
No Way In at Amazon Kindle. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.
Storm Over the South China Sea, how China is restarting history in the Pacific
Tip Jar or Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the Belmont Club