The news that the Obama administration has spent $500 million to put "four or five" fighters on the ground in Syria adds an almost comic irony to what is ultimately a tragic farce.
In the 1980s, the symbol of Republican incompetence and mismanagement was the $600 toilet seat. Left out of the media coverage was the fact that the toilet seat was for a special kind of anti-submarine aircraft that had been out of production and needed special retrofitting. But forget all that. How does that compare to spending $100 million per non-bionic human soldier?
This news comes from Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, head of U.S. Central Command, or CENTCOM. Ever the loyal soldier, Austin insists that we should stay the course. It's not really a tenth of a billion dollars for each rebel, we've got another hundred "in the pipeline," he told Congress Wednesday. No doubt that will turn the tide.
Besides, he says the larger strategy in Syria is working. Specifically, he offered this word salad:
"Despite some slow movement at the tactical level, we continue to make progress across the battlespace in support of the broader U.S. government strategy to degrade and ultimately defeat (the Islamic State)."
No doubt Austin is an honorable man, but it's difficult to take such a promise at face value. And not just because the Defense Department's inspector general is investigating allegations -- according to reporting by the normally Obama-friendly Daily Beast and The New York Times -- that intelligence reports were falsified or otherwise altered to paint a rosy picture in the fight against the Islamic State. Another irony, given this president's sanctimony about allegedly "cooked" intelligence on his predecessor's watch.
There's also the fact that we've heard something like this before. Almost exactly one year ago, when Barack Obama announced his plan to build an army of Syrians to take out the Islamic State -- a group he had only recently dismissed as the "jayvee squad" -- he told the American people in a televised address:
"This counterterrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out (the Islamic State) wherever they exist, using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years."
Four months later, the terrorists Obama was degrading "successfully" toppled the government in Yemen.
Meanwhile, rumors of the Islamic State's demise are greatly exaggerated. It still controls an area roughly the size of England. Foreign fighters still flock to its ranks. It's winning the war in Syria, which is why the Iranians and the Russians are now racing to the regime's aid.
Such aid will come easy to Iran, given that the president's deal with the Iranians will give the world's biggest state sponsor of terror $100 billion.
Now the ironies are too numerous to count. Among Obama's most cherished ideals are the scourge of nuclear proliferation and the glories of ever-expanding globalism. In 1983, as a college student, he penned an earnest cri de coeur on the need to pursue a "nuclear free world." His "legacy" foreign policy accomplishment has been to all but guarantee the Iranians will one day have a nuclear bomb -- and, as a result, so will several of Iran's neighbors in the years to come. Even North Korea is returning to its nuclear saber-rattling in the hopes of shaking down the West yet again. Kim Jong Un may be crazy, but given Tehran's windfall, he knows a sucker when he sees one.
Some defenders of the Iran deal argue that the real point was to open an era of engagement with Iran. A good sign that this argument has cleared the laugh test will come when the regime's leaders stop chanting "Death to America!" Don't hold your breath.
As for globalism, then-candidate Obama gave a stirring speech at the former site of the Berlin Wall in 2008 on the evils of "walls" that divide people. Thanks to the river of people fleeing the "progress" of Obama's strategy in the Middle East, Europeans are building walls like never before (and, thanks to his studied fecklessness on illegal immigration here at home, walls are more popular than ever).
The ongoing meltdown in Syria and the migrant crisis it is fueling will be at the top of the agenda. But the fact is, it's failures all the way down.
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Jonah Goldberg is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and editor-at-large of National Review Online.