What's needed in the Middle East now is Saddam Hussein

Everyone would have been better off if we had just left Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussein alone.

We would have saved the more than 4,000 American lives and $1 trillion wasted in the Iraq War.

Saddam was such a force for stability that we wouldn't be worried today about the Islamic State barbarians. No beheadings. No genocide of the Christians and other "infidels" in the territory surrendered to the fanatics. And, while we're at it, we could have saved ourselves a lot of trouble by letting the Taliban continue to run their misogynist torture chambers in Afghanistan.

No one, of course, is stupid enough to come right out and say the world would have been ahead of the game if the cruel and repressive regimes

Chamberlain and Hitler in the 1939 Munich Agreement

Chamberlain and Hitler in the 1939 Munich Agreement

had been left to run things in Iraq and Afghanistan. But that's the implication of the recent and forceful reassertions that we should just mind our own business. We have no obligation to get involved in the ramped-up and monstrous barbarism now grinding up the Middle East.

Might as well throw into the debate the wisdom of President Barack Obama's hands-off policies toward the threats to world peace posed by Iran's coming nuclear weapons (I guess it's too late to do anything about North Korea) and his nebbish attempts to stop the re-energized czar, Vladimir Putin, from taking back the freedoms gained by the millions who had suffered the oppressions of the communist Soviet Union

Our civilized, 21st century selves believe that we have moved beyond the exterminations, carnages, butcheries, liquidations and other horrors that we now accuse our predecessors of having ignored until it was "too late." If we had lived in the 1930s, no way could we have been as stupid, naive or uncaring as the Neville Chamberlains of the day who thought that handing Czechoslovakia to Adolf Hitler would have so mollified him that he wouldn't have moved on to his next outrage — as if Obama's sluggishness in the face of Putin's blatant annexation of Crimea and the slicing off of eastern Ukraine is somehow vastly different.

Plenty of serious domestic and foreign policy issues are on the table in next month's elections, but perhaps none is as important as the proper use of America's power in an unraveling world.

The debate is broader than such tactical issues as whether we conduct only airstrikes against the Islamic State beasts or send in U.S. combat troops. (Can we henceforth stop using the insulting cliche of "boots on the ground?") Like it or not, we again face decisions about America's global purpose, as we were forced to do in the 20th century.

That debate has been held behind the Oval Office's closed doors, with Obama again trying to fit America into an ideological straightjacket that predated the world wars and that encouraged, if not created, the kind of vacuum that was filled by the planet's most evil opportunists.

As we are discovering thanks to recent tell-alls by those who were there for the internal debate, Obama defied the advice of his knowledgeable advisers, such as Leon Panetta, his secretary of defense and CIA chief, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates. They and others warned of the dangers of Obama's going turtle. By most accounts, the president's mind (and perhaps his superior ego) was made up long ago.

This is a decision that isn't the president's alone. Lawmakers should be in session at this very moment hashing it out, but shamefully they're too busy with their campaigns back home. (An aside: With Congress' approval rates lower than Obama's, has it occurred to anyone that part of the blame for its gridlock rests with the second most powerful Senate Democrat, Illinois' very own Dick Durbin? Anyone?)

Few question our moral obligation to insert ourselves into the West African Ebola crisis with our treasure and, yes, even our military. We do it not just because it serves our interests, but because it is right. It is the moral thing to do for a nation that is as blessed as the United States. Whether by God's special favor, the superiority of the American know-how, the creativity and wealth of its people — take your pick — our successes impose on us an obligation that cannot in good conscience be so facilely abandoned because an ideology or raw politics requires it.

The only question is what's the most effective and wise way to do it.

This column was previously published in the Chicago Tribune. 

See details of my award-winning historical novel, Madness: The War of 1812, at www.madness1812.com
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  • I don't understand your position at all. Are you in favor of an interventionist foreign policy? Opposed? Listen to your advisers and do what they tell you, Mr. President?

  • In reply to Darth Stout:

    Fair enough. I'm for a moral dimension to our foreign policy, as was JFK in his inaugural address.

  • Yes, what would McCain have done? Or Romney?

    The world has changed since the black-and-white days of WWII. It is far more complex. Statesmanship, diplomacy, economic sanctions must be, by all means, exhausted first before military responses. President Obama has exercised prudence in his foreign policy. We have seen where misguided military adventurism has us and we have learned, if anything, that the best course of action is to look before you leap and when you do, do it with a willing coalition and with clear and limited goals in mind.

    Your conflation of Obama with Chamberlain is absurd and unworthy of a journalist of your distinction.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Look before you leap? He who hesitates is lost.

    Foreign policy by cliche. There's a difference between prudence and inattention or negligence.

  • In reply to Dennis Byrne:

    Or recklessness and deceit a la GWB.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    So, Aquinas, explain to me how Obama and Chamberlain differ when it comes to the challenges of confronting what is pure evil? Or is what ISIS is doing (i.e. genocide) qualitatively different? Or is it that quantitatively it has not yet reached Hitler-like dimensions, so we should ignore it? Or should we just stand by and hope for the best?

  • In reply to Dennis Byrne:

    You're not seriously equating Isis with Hitler? Of course, they need to be degraded and destroyed. And surgical bombing should substantially do that. But, seriously, Isis, 30,000 strong with neither an air force nor a navy and virtually isolated in the Middle East hardly compares with Hitler and his formidable war machine.

  • Hitler started out without an army or navy. But, seriously, do you really that "surgical" bombing will drive them out of cities or ultimately destroy ISIS--the goal of your president? Obama's getting pounded from the left and the right (not to mention his own military leadership) for the unworkability of his feint. As for the Hitler analogy, the kind of evil they both engage(d) in is not qualitatively different. One is just on a smaller scale. Do you really think that a caliphate state with access to oil assets and a determination to eradicate innocents is not a problem?

  • And Isis started out in response to GWB's catastrophic militaristic adventure in Iraq.

    Genocide anywhere is to be abhorred and condemned. America should respond not only in the Middle East but everywhere else it occurs. But did you insist that we intervene in the genocides that have taken place in Africa? Qualitatively, weren't they Hitleresque?

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Yes, we should have (if you are thinking of, perhaps, Rwanda). But as I have noted, don't look for consistency from me; I was an anti-interventionist (isolationist?) early in my column-writing career, but now see the error of my ways.

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