Scott Walker has got The Left spooked again. He has been in their gunsights as long as he has been Governor of Wisconsin and now that he has made a positive impression among conservatives on a national level, that target has become much bigger.
In response to Walker’s interview with Martha Raddatz of ABC News last Sunday in which he suggested he would not rule out boots on the ground in Syria, The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf has written an article assailing Walker’s foreign policy naivete. Friedersdorf, full of snark, writes, “It’s as if Walker learned about foreign policy by watching The West Wing or reading Bill Kristol columns.” But alas, Friedersdorf only succeeds his exposing his own foreign policy naivete:
What he fails to grapple with are the consequences of following this logic in the recent past. The Bush Administration’s decision to put boots on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan ultimately cost the lives of more Americans than the 9/11 terrorist attacks. And it isn’t as if those wars eliminated terrorism from those countries. Iraq is more hospitable to Islamist terrorists today than it was before the war.
So Friedersdorf argues that Bush’s decision to send troops to Afghanistan and Iraq cost more American lives than the 9/11 attacks. By this logic, Friedersdorf could admonish FDR and Truman for having sent American troops to Japan and Europe because nearly 200 times as many Americans died after WWII was declared than died at Pearl Harbor. WWII was most certainly costly but no serious person would begrudge FDR or Truman for the death tolls of American soldiers. The Germans and Japanese would ultimately surrender.
Of course, the same cannot be said for Iraq and Afghanistan. Friedersdorf is right to say that these wars have not eliminated terrorism from those countries and are indeed more hospitable to terrorists than ever before. And who is responsible for this state of affairs? Barack Obama has been President of the United States for the past six years. It was he who “winded these wars down” and “ended them responsibly”. A war can only conclude when one side is victorious and we were not victorious when we left Iraq or Afghanistan. ISIS, Obama’s so-called jay-vee squad, clearly had other ideas
Friedersdorf goes on to write, “In 2008, President Obama won the White House partly because he made the case against a war that the country had come to view as a catastrophic mistake.” Yup, and he ended up getting a Nobel Prize for it. Yet it was Obama who tried to claim back in August that pulling all of the troops out of Iraq wasn’t his decision. This didn’t stop Obama from making the decision to send troops to Iraq thrice in 2014 in response to ISIS; once in June, once in September and again in November.
Yes, the number of troops Obama has sent to Iraq pales in comparison to the number of troops sent during the Bush years. I know our troops are there ostensibly to train Iraqi and Kurdish troops and not be involved in combat, but we will invariably end up doing a lot of the fighting. On top of this, Obama’s Defense Secretary nominee Ashton Carter has just written to the Senate Armed Services Committee to say the Obama Administration should reconsider troop withdrawals from Afghanistan.
Obama will leave us with a military legacy that tells our enemies when we are leaving only to have send a token force back when things blow up. As for Scott Walker, he isn’t necessarily advocating that we put boots on the ground in Syria. Rather, Walker is arguing we can’t rule it out. And that’s exactly how Walker should approach military matters. Keep our enemy guessing. Scott Walker is anything but naive.