Last year’s National Defense Authorization Act allocated half a billion dollars to train “vetted,” “moderate” rebels to attack ISIS in Syria and also to overthrow the country’s sovereign government. This schizophrenic policy goal not surprisingly produced a total (after the others were killed, captured, or willingly gave their weapons to ISIS) of four or five fighters. Even this micro force of five ultimately found itself in the depths of embarrassment as it was carjacked by al-Qaeda. Half a billion dollars to have five guys carjacked! Put ten plumbers in a room and they could craft a more workable foreign policy than the entirety of the US foreign policy establishment.
So how does Capitol Hill respond to such a total failure? Reassess the policy and cut the losses? Welcome the Russian entry into the fight against ISIS and al-Qaeda in Syria? Look at Iraq and Libya and decide that regime change is just an illicit fantasy of the perpetual adolescents of the neoconservative movement?
Currently sitting on President Obama’s desk is the National Defense Authorization Act of 2016 that, as could be predicted, doubles down on a bad bet and…wait for it!…authorizes $600 million for the mythical anti-ISIS/anti-Assad fighters. As it is not their money, why not open the national credit card wide to pursue a failed policy.
The authorization is in Section 1225 of the bill. Even as facts on the ground have suddenly gone very much against the US goal of fighting Assad and his enemies in the hopes that a replica of the US would magically emerge in Syria, the Beltway-ites will not back down (as long as it is other people’s blood and money).
But chasing failed fantasies of world domination is not limited to Syria. The National Defense Authorization Act also contains three-quarters of a billion dollars to continue to train an Iraqi army that, after ten years and $25 billion dollars, turned and ran at the first sight of ISIS. There is nothing like pumping more money into a failed policy — even as the Iraqis are starting to see the writing on the wall and asking the Russians to supplant the hapless Americans as their overlords and protectors.
The truth is the US is really bad at empire. It will have to back down sooner or later. Will it be $600 million down the road or $6 trillion?