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Intro: "The 'three amigos' - John McCain, Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham - are the Senate's top war hawks, widely admired by the Washington Post's editors and other neocon voices. But the senators also were cheerleaders for the Iraq disaster and other dubious exploits, ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar recalls."

War hawks John McCain, Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham. (photo: ThinkProgress)
War hawks John McCain, Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham. (photo: ThinkProgress)

'Three Amigos' Eager for More War

By Paul R. Pillar, Consortium News

21 March 12


he tendentious and careless use of historical comparisons and analogies has long contributed to some of the biggest foreign-policy follies, such as the Vietnam War. Seeing a reincarnated Hitler in a two-bit dictator or a reenacted Munich in a decision to avoid a war has perhaps been the most frequent such misuse of history.

Now three U.S. senators, as described in a sympathetic puff piece by Jackson Diehl, are reaching into more recent history to argue that getting the United States involved in more wars is a good thing and that they themselves have been both courageous and insightful in taking the lead to see that this happens.

Sens. John McCain, R-Arizona, and Joe Lieberman, I-Connecticut, at a Capitol Hill news conference.

The senators — Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and John McCain of Arizona — whom their staffers affectionately refer to as the “three amigos,” are most immediately interested in getting the United States involved in the civil war in Syria.

Not far behind that, they also are itching to bomb, bomb, bomb Iran, with Graham and Lieberman being lead sponsors of a Senate resolution aimed at boxing the U.S. president into doing exactly that. The amigos describe themselves as repeatedly having been on the right side of recent history by pushing for more military action in situations such as Bosnia, Kosovo, Libya and the “surge” in Iraq.

As portrayed by Diehl, the trio's inspired, bellicose leadership keeps running up against others small-mindedly “playing their usual roles,” including the Pentagon cautioning about how tough some of the proposed combat missions are likely to be and “self-styled ‘realists' ” pointing out how intervention in a civil conflict may only make it worse.

The amigos' confidence remains undimmed. “We have a record of being right,” says McCain. The lesson of the recent history is quite simple, says Lieberman. “What it shows is that civil wars we get involved in can be settled more successfully than civil wars where we don't get involved.” Would that it be that simple.

There are at least three major problems with this use of history:

One is that the situations being discussed are not at all similar. Getting Serbs to stop doing what they were doing in Bosnia or Kosovo is not at all comparable to winning a civil war against a Syrian regime that is fighting for its life and still enjoys substantial backing from domestic elements who fear the alternative.

It is a comparison not just between apples and oranges but between apples and pumpkins. Even the more recent Libyan revolt, another part of the Arab Spring, was far different from the circumstances in Syria, mostly because of the sectarian dimension in the latter country.

Second, Diehl and the amigos are too quick to declare what is the right or the wrong side of history in the recent cases they cite. Diehl states that “the consensus in Washington” is that the surge in Iraq “rescued the United States from catastrophe in Iraq and made possible the withdrawal that Obama completed as president last year.”

What consensus? Probably the only conclusion clear enough to warrant that word is that the surge contributed — along with other factors, most notably the Sunni Awakening — to a reduction in the violence in Iraq that peaked in 2006 and 2007. But the surge failed miserably to accomplish its principal declared objective, which was to facilitate political reconciliation among the contending Iraqi factions.

Many of the defense intelligentsia in Washington who have been most keenly interested in the Iraq War argued against completion of the withdrawal because of the continued bitter internal conflict in Iraq that the surge failed to resolve.

As for Libya, it is far too early to declare that intervention wise or successful given the continued instability, atrocities and division to the point of secession in that country, not to mention the terrible example set by reneging on the deal with Qaddafi under which he gave up terrorism and development of weapons of mass destruction.

Third, the history being invoked is highly selective. Nowhere in Diehl's piece is there mention of what was by far the biggest act of military intervention that the three amigos supported. They all voted in 2002 in favor of a Congressional resolution authorizing it. That's right: the original launching of the Iraq War — the intervention with the trillion-dollar price tag, thousands of American dead, tens of thousands of American wounded and even more Iraqis dead, along with more extensive damage to U.S. interests still being incurred.

Of course, we can't say in that instance that the United States intervened in a civil war; in Iraq the United States precipitated a civil war. But for the amigos to say smugly that “we have a record of being right” about the application of military force while ignoring a blunder so big and so costly that it outweighs dozens of Kosovos would be — were it not for the tragic nature of the consequences of this blunder — laughable.

Paul R. Pillar, in his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is now a visiting professor at Georgetown University for security studies. (This article first appeared as blog post at The National Interest’s Web site. Reprinted with author’s permission.) your social media marketing partner


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+32 # PhilO 2012-03-21 09:51
I'd like to propose that Congress take a hint from NASCAR and require that all members of the House and Senate affix "sponsorship labels" to their clothing. That is, when they take money from a corporation, they then will wear a logo patch that is proportional to the size of the donation. This way, whenever they're speaking we'll know exactly whose interests they are representing. In the present case, I'd bet you anything that these three bozos get tons of money from companies that profit from warfare!

PS The 'sponsor label' idea came from my friend, Peter. But, since he's not suggesting it, I thought that I would.
+16 # AndreM5 2012-03-21 10:05
The Tres Amigos certainly have a record of being "right," but they mean FAR RIGHT not "correct."

They may be each other's friends, but no one else would claim them.

Portiz, the "sponsor patches" joke has been around for at least three decades, applied to Congress for sure but most pointedly applied to the Supremes since their black robes and their corruption are so well suited for it.
+11 # PhilO 2012-03-21 10:58
Portiz, the "sponsor patches" joke has been around for at least three decades, applied to Congress for sure but most pointedly applied to the Supremes since their black robes and their corruption are so well suited for it.

Well, Peter's a bright guy, so I'll assume that he reached his conclusion independently. You know what they say, great minds think alike!
+18 # Billy Bob 2012-03-21 10:32
McCain/Lieberma n 1012 - Keep the Saracens at bay for a brighter Dark Ages to come!!!
+13 # SundownLF 2012-03-21 11:05
The 'three Amigos' need to grow up!

If they're so certain of their stance (war hawks), then they should be trained, equipped and put into the midst of the 'action' in these areas that they can so easily condemn with a 'righteous vote'!
+15 # dick 2012-03-21 12:04
Has there been a more treacherous "Democrat" than Joe Lieberman since Reconstruction? Tragically, he played Gore like a fiddle, then slow learner Obama followed. I think Democrats have to learn to develop some team discipline in their own party, like the GOP has. There should be a few, very few, lines that Dems MUST NOT CROSS without getting in SERIOUS TROUBLE with their party, Senatorial courtesy be damned. Obama had to BEG far too often. LBJ would have had a remedy. Blue Dogs must heel sometimes. Punish/reward.
+11 # dick 2012-03-21 12:14
Whoa! I don't think they need sponsor patches. I think we KNOW who they represent. Big Banks, War Profiteers, Big Banks, Gun Manufacturers, Big Energy, War Profiteers, Gun Manufacturers, Insurance Corps, Hedge Funds, The Flag, Subordinate Motherhood, Apple Pie, God, Jesus, Joseph, & Mary. And now ultra-sound equipment makers. I bet their health insurance covers Viagra, which they take Just In Case.
0 # Joe Bob 2012-03-26 10:48
Whoa !!! There are Millions who ain't gotta clue about the sponsors. Just because you and I read this info, doesn't mean FOX viewers do.
+12 # pernsey 2012-03-21 13:00
I see a very dangerous 3 Stooges!
+3 # Activista 2012-03-21 13:25
"Libya, it is far too early to declare that intervention wise or successful given the continued instability, atrocities and division to the point of secession in that country"
the point of intervention is to DESTROY country - list is getting longer and longer under Obama.
It is uber NEOCON Lieberman - geopolitical - China was making grab of Africa resources - now Libya exports oil to "liberators" mostly.
Syria supports Palestinians and is friend with Iran - part of war on Iran.
"Success" is Iraq - perpetual civil war, destroyed country, dozen killed each day.
Thousands are "protecting" the 11,000 American personnel who staff the huge US embassy in Baghdad.
+13 # PABLO DIABLO 2012-03-21 13:53
Give them all the weapons we've got and send the "Three Amigos" to the front lines.
+3 # RMDC 2012-03-22 07:27
Three Amigos? More like the Three Stooges. These three frontmen for Israel and US imperialism have led Americans into one quagmire after another. They just don't seem to notice all the suffering and death that follow their efforts in humanitarian war.

If there were ever war criminals on earth, these three would be right up at the top of that group. I'm sure they will always be re-elected from their states, such are the corrupt elections we have in the US. But at least the media could take a critical look at the policies they stand for.

The Libyan invasion that the Three Stooges cite as a good model was a true horror. A whole nation destroyed. Death squads still roam the country killing any supporters of Qaddafi they find. Why do these Three Stooges think they have the right to order the killing of other people. How would they like it if someone started talking very openly and loudly about killing them. I'm sure they would have such a person arrested. We should be arresting the Three Stooges for incitement to murder.
0 # Activista 2012-03-22 12:07
"The Libyan invasion that the Three Stooges cite as a good model was a true horror. A whole nation destroyed. Death squads still roam the country killing" and looting.
Libya is/will be an Islamic state under Sharia law (used to be secular and women were educated and FREE).
The same is plan for one of the few secular states in the Middle East - Syria. 80% plus people of Syria want reforms under Assad. Instead US is SUPPORTING car bombs in Damascus - killing dozens, injuring hundreds.
0 # Joe Bob 2012-03-26 10:52
God gave them the right.... and yes they should be arrested, and it will never happen.
Sad state of our country. I think you're giving the Three Stooges a bad name.
0 # Activista 2012-03-22 20:32
Syria is secular state (one of the few left in Middle East). Did you see lately "liberated" women of Libya - sharia law? US-Israel is sick MONEY culture. "European foreign ministers due to meet Friday in Brussels are expected to slap new sanctions on the president of Syria wife (British born - educated, intelligent)." Is this absurd?
European foreign ministers should go to prison for the crimes they committed in Libya.
0 # Activista 2012-03-23 00:02
US government officials requested that an American private security firm contact Syrian opposition figures in Turkey to see “how they can help in regime change,” the CEO of one of these firms told Stratfor in a company email obtained by WikiLeaks and Al-Akhbar.
James F. Smith, former director of Blackwater, is currently the Chief Executive of SCG International, a private security firm with experience in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. In what appears to be his first email to Stratfor, Smith stated that his “background is CIA” and his company is comprised of “former DOD [Department of Defense], CIA and former law enforcement personnel.”
“We provide services for those same groups in the form of training, security and information collection,” he explained to Stratfor. (doc-id 5441475)
0 # Activista 2012-03-23 14:26
Secretary Clinton Says Assad Might Qualify as War Criminal ... in front of he Three Stooges - all in the family?

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