Iraq and Syria

Following is an excerpt from a 2008 piece which I wrote for a
young friend on Obama.  The excerpt focuses on my concerns
about the then Iraqi policy views of Obama and the Democrats.
In retrospect I believe, given the subsequent appearance of ISIS,
that I got a lot right as I believe I did concerning the situation in
Syria in my 2011 letter and in my 2013 letter at the time Assad
crossed Obama’s red line.

                                June 30, 2008



(A Response to a Young Friend)

The policy issue on which I have the most disagreement with Obama and
the Democrats is on their position on Iraq.  During the 1992 campaign
Bill Clinton, although he understood little about the Yugoslav
situation, perceived that it presented an opportunity to score points
against George Bush Senior.  While he did so successfully, it
contributed greatly to the following disaster there during the Clinton
presidency.I fear that Obama and the Democrats are about to repeat this in Iraq
with even more serious consequences not only for the Iraqi, but more
importantly for us.  To be honest, I must admit that the Financial
Times on February 22/23, 2003 published my hard line letter on Iraq
which supported a position on this issue similar to that of Thomas
Friedman of the New York Times but clearly different from that taken
by Rob Webb and Barak Obama at the time.  Even if they were right and
we were wrong, Congress did authorize the Bush Administration to go in
if it thought it necessary to do so.  That decision cannot be undone.
But we surely must not repeat the mistake I believe we made in Vietnam
in 1975.As Melvin Laird and Sir Philip Goodhard pointed out in late 2005, as
summarized by Sir Philip, “when the American ground forces were
withdrawn from Vietnam, they left behind a confident South Vietnamese
government with a strong army.  It was only after the very substantial
logistical support, which had been promised, was cutoff [in 1975] by
the [Democratic controlled] American Congress that South Vietnamese
forces were defeated.”

Obama and the Democrats seem hell bent on repeating that mistake.
Certainly his promise, which he could go back on, of pulling out
American troops within 18 months can only encourage our opponents in
Iraq to make every effort to rev up violence to undermine our war
effort there through American public opinion and its impact on the
election.  With the exception of Geert Wilders and Ayaan Hirsi Ali,
Western politicians are simply naive about Islam and the Islamic
threat to the West.  Obama and the Democrats fail to acknowledge that
they were wrong about the surge and to recognize the importance that
its success has for our own national security let alone the fate of
the Iraqi people.  Failure in Iraq will only encourage more jihad
against us.  But success there, which I believe is in our reach given
the results of the surge, will do a lot to dampen that threat.

My unpublished letter to the Financial Times August 1, 2011

                                                 4 West Eden Court
                                                Ann Arbor, Michigan 48108
                                                Tel. 734/477-9942
                                                August 1, 2011 Sir:

Your August 1 article on Syria (‘Ramadan massacre” leaves 100
dead) makes it obvious that the situation there has gone from
deplorable to unacceptable.  If the US Government agrees with
such an assessment, it surely could take steps to do something
effective about this.

Such steps should include the following: 1) A clear call for Assad
to leave now with a clear statement that if he does not do so, the
least costly solution for Syria would be assassination.  2) Sans
his leaving the scene either voluntarily or involuntarily a public
appeal to Turkey to send its army into Syria to stop the slaughter
and appalling oppression of fellow Muslims.  3) And if the Turks
are unwilling to do this, an open appeal to its Israeli ally to do
the job in both its and the US vital interests given the Iranian
influence in Syria.

Unfortunately, the US will not do this for two reasons.  First,
this current administration views such leadership by the US
as the source of much foreign hostility towards us.  And
second, because it strongly believes in “leading from behind”
on such matters.  Expect a lot more Syrian dead.

                    Sincerely yours,

                    John Howard Wilhelm, PH. D.,

Following is the text of my letter published in the New York
Times September 6, 2012


RE “The Right Questions on Syria” (column, Sept.5):
My answer to the question NIcholas DKristof asks of those
of us who oppose cruise missile strikes against Syria
concerning what alternative we favor would be simple.
A one-off, limited, punitive strike by the United States and
its allies will surely inflict more gratuitous violence on the
long-suffering Syrians without enhancing Western or world
Instead of authorizing a strike now, Congress should ask
President Obama to seek the Security Council’s imposition
of a no-fly zone and an arms embargo on the Bashar al-Assad
regime and the jihadists, and its mandating of the convening
of a conference to negotiate a political transition without Mr.
If Russia or China should veto such a resolution, Congress
should mandate that the United States impose a no-fly
zone and a naval blockade on arms shipments into Syria,
with authorization to use appropriate military responses to
any challenge to them.
Ann Arbor, Mich, Sept. 5, 2013