09/13/2013 11:40 am ET Updated Nov 13, 2013

Slow Learners

We take too long to learn. Finally, General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff tells us: "We have learned from the past ten years that it is not enough to simply alter the balance of military power without careful consideration with what is necessary in order to preserve a functioning state" (Jerusalem Post 9/1/13). General Dempsey doesn't want to go into Syria because there is no such thing as limited war. The Military is trained to fight wars, not target practice or limited strikes. President Obama and Secretary Kerry keep calling for a "limited strike" that contemplates no reaction. We already see a reaction with refugees streaming into Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and Turkey. Refugees that cannot defend themselves become terrorists and the Wall Street Journal headlines "Iran Plots Revenge on U.S" (9/6/13).

No doubt Assad chemicals were used and Assad forces used them. But I don't think Bashar Assad ordered the attack. Assad is a London-trained doctor, an Ophthalmologist that ordinarily would not want to inflict his people with chemical death -- maybe when losing but not when winning. After two and a half years of war and winning, the last thing that Bashar Assad wanted was for the U.S. to come into Syria against him. The very reason that my friend, Secretary Kerry, proves it was Assad "beyond a reasonable doubt," i.e., the attempted cover-up that took four days, is the reason I don't think Assad was aware of the chemical attack. He thought he could cover it up -- and quickly. Several interests have been trying for two and a half years to get the Unites States involved. It could have been a cabal paid to launch the chemical attack to bring the United States into Syria. The limited strike lesson could fall on deaf ears.

The Washington government turns to the military too often to solve its problems offshore. We sent the military into Vietnam to stop the spread of Communism. The military tried for ten years to change the culture but Communism won out. Then in Iraq, that was kept together by a tyrant, we used the military for democracy to keep the country together which today is anything but together. Charlie Wilson told us that Afghans don't like foreigners. But using the military for twelve years to teach Afghans to like us foreigners has yet to happen. Finally, Tom Friedman in the New York Times (9/4/13) acknowledges that the military not only has limits: "...just limited bombing of Syria from the air makes us look weak at best, even if we hit targets." But can cause problems -- "And if we kill lots of Syrians, it enables Assad to divert attention from the 1,400 he has gassed to death to those we harmed."

President Bush contrived the War on Terror to go into Afghanistan. Osama Bin Laden had escaped into Pakistan at Tora Bora, an unruly area not controlled by either Afghanistan or Pakistan. Afghanistan was grateful for the U.S. ridding the Russians in Charlie Wilson's War. Afghanistan had no Army, Navy, Air Force to speak of -- was no threat to the United States. Osama bin Laden and 16 of the 19 terrorists on 9/11 were from Saudi Arabia. We had reason to invade Saudi Arabia but no reason to declare war against Afghanistan. Now, anybody that disagrees with us - particularly if he is Muslim -- and can be found by the CIA is subject to drone killing in The War on Terror. We create terrorists with drone kills.

We keep the War on Terror going by continuing to prove Bin Laden's case. Osama Bin Laden argued that our support for Israel was a Second Crusade against the Muslim world. This was 30 years ago when we had little military in the Mid-East. Now we have military everywhere in the Mid-East and are proceeding to missile kill in Syria while drone killing Muslims in Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan. It's time we pull in our horns; reappraise the deployment of 200,000 GI's; stop creating terrorists; stop The War on Terror and start making friends.

Senator Hollings of South Carolina served 38 years in the United States Senate, and for many years was Chairman of the Commerce, Space, Science & Transportation Committee. He is the author of "Making Government Work" (University of South Carolina Press, 2008). You can learn more about Hollings online at