It is popular in some circles to draw comparisons between Obama’s proposed action against Syria to Bush 43’s war in Iraq. A far better example would be Clinton’s bombing of Iraq. Even better: Clinton’s war on Kosovo.
Obama is simply following his Democratic idol in this latest wag-the-dog exercise.
For the uninitiated, “Wag the Dog” was a black comedy produced by Barry Levinson, starring Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro, that became a classic case of life imitating art.
In the film, just days before the presidential election, a spin doctor hires a Hollywood producer to construct a fake war with Albania to distract the media from a sex scandal involving the president and an underage girl.
After the film was released in 1997, the Monica Lewinsky scandal hit. Then, Clinton fired cruise missiles at Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and a chemical-weapons plant in Sudan. It was deja vu. Osama was nowhere to be found, and the chemical-weapons plant turned out to be an innocent pharmaceutical company. America yawned.
Lewinsky was just another in a long list of sex scandals involving our 42nd president, but the cover-up that ensued led to impeachment proceedings. On Dec. 16, 1998, just hours before the House of Representatives was scheduled to take up the matter, Clinton launched an attack on Iraq that lasted four days and delayed the hearing. The stated goal of Operation Desert Fox was to “degrade” Saddam Hussein’s ability to manufacture and use weapons of mass destruction, not to eliminate it. Does that “limited approach” sound the least bit familiar?
In February, Clinton was acquitted by the Senate but other scandals ensued making it hard, if not impossible, to govern. Details were coming out over his alleged rape of Juanita Broaddrick and there were serious security lapses that enabled China to gain access to the design of our latest nuclear warhead. What was a president to do?
He needed a little war with a villain he could conquer. Not too big, not too little – but just right!
Yugoslavia’s president, Slobodan Milosevic, was chosen as the fall guy, and he was an easy target. Like Syria’s Assad, Milosevic was a bad guy with little respect for human life. He was the architect of bloody conflicts in Croatia and Bosnia, and the harsh actions he took to put down the guerrilla Kosovo Liberation Army in that Serbian providence won the radical KLA some support from the West.
Clinton, with John McCain as his wingman, used the humanitarian rationale for our intervention in the region. On March 24, he said, “If we and our allies were to allow this war to continue with no response, President Milosevic would read our hesitation as a license to kill. There would be many more massacres, tens of thousands more refugees, more victims crying out for revenge.”
Clinton’s hyperbole was much like Obama’s. The problem for Clinton was that the fighting in Bosnia and Kosovo had been been going on for over six years with tens of thousands of refugees and victims “crying out for revenge,” which he had ignored. Obama has the same problem.
Yes, there were innocent civilians in Kosovo but very few good guys in that conflict. The KLA was a Marxist-led force tied to drug cartels and Islamic terrorists from Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. According to Jane’s International Defense Review, the KLA had three primary goals: 1) the assassination of (peaceful) Muslims who don’t cooperate with its objectives; 2) the assassination of Serbian police; and 3) a reign of terror against the Orthodox Christian Serb minority.
In Syria, there was the use of chemical weapons. Obama would have us to believe that “everyone agrees” that these weapons came from Assad. Far from the truth! In the run-up to the U.S.-led NATO air war in Kosovo, Clinton told us that there was ethnic cleansing being done by the Serbs. In truth, atrocities were committed by both sides.
Our assault in Kosovo on behalf of the KLA lasted 78 days. The mass executions of Kosovar Serbs was largely ignored by the media so as not interfere with Clinton’s military victory lap.
We left the area much worse than we found it. Our intervention accelerated the “ethnic cleansing” of Kosovar refugees, and it undermined the prestige and moral authority of America as a peaceful, non-aggressive nation.
Like Clinton, Obama is trying to wag the dog. For now, he has been forced to embrace the plan for Syria put forth by Russian President Vladmir Putin. But make no mistake. Obama is not happy about it because he needs a little war.