Senator John McCain, the militarist spokesperson for the Republican opposition to President Barack Obama, had this terse comment on the president’s war on the Islamic State: “They’re winning, and we’re not,” McCain told CNN on Oct. 12 and called for ground troops.
Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Patrick Dempsey, who had already left the door open to advocate for using U.S. ground troops, told ABC’s “This Week” on Oct. 12 that to put a “no-fly zone” in Syria would involve hundreds of U.S. aircraft and cost as much as $1 billion a month.
Obama may be the CEO of the most powerful oppressor state in the history of humanity, but to wage this “war on the Islamic State,” he’s holding a weak hand. Washington’s current strategy is to avoid risking the lives of U.S. youth. The “boots on the ground” — soon to be bodies under the ground — are supposed to come from regional allies.
Obama has a problem: None of the allies want to take casualties fighting the Islamic State.
He has another problem: Hardly any working people in the United States, and especially people of color, say U.S. youth should be fighting in Iraq and/or Syria. And no one, outside of McCain and Dempsey, is volunteering to go. Come to think of it: those two are volunteering other people to go fight ISIS.
When the U.S. opened its war against Vietnam more than 50 years ago, ruling-class warmakers could count on the official veterans’ groups — the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars — to support their adventure. In those days U.S. capitalist society was providing a good living for a large section of the working class, with plenty left over for guns. This built them a strong base of support, especially among a privileged sector of anti-communist union leaders.
Now, after the earlier experience in Vietnam and the more recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, you hardly hear from those veterans’ groups. You do hear from Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War. They say: “Stay out of Syria! Stay out of Iraq!”
Meanwhile, U.S. capitalism is providing only austerity, cuts in social programs, economic stagnation and lower wages for the workers. The once-patriotic union leaders are disillusioned. Even before Obama’s war on Iraq and Syria has started in earnest, a war weariness pervades the U.S. population.
Aware of that premature war weariness, Obama and the Pentagon have planned the battle relying on drones, smart bombs and rockets fired from massive warships. No U.S. boots on the ground. They would like to maneuver with their various allies and enemies in the region to smash the Islamic State — and then maybe take on Syria. Dempsey and McCain say it will take more than that.
In prior historic situations, a negative mood alone was incapable of stopping an imperialist state on the speedway to war. Fighting today’s war drive requires action, protests, even strikes. Let’s not wait for the painful costs of war to stir us to activity. If the ruling class hasn’t the good sense to stop this militarist adventure, let us prepare the ground for the uprising that will stop them for good. n