Art of the Union

Hello, my name is Mitchell. I am an artist and writer creating politically charged content. My goal is to use art and humor to introduce people to politics and history.

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  • April 8, 2014 6:01 pm
    Isn’t it that time of the year when I pick up everything and move? Why, yes it is. Thankfully, this move is not nearly as drastic as my yearly cross-country expeditions, I’m just moving down the road from Baltimore to D.C.
If you follow my blog, you’ve noticed the lack of posts that comes about when your time is being filled with stuffing your life into cardboard boxes, but fear not! As with every year around this time, I should be back up and running by the end of the month.
Oh, the above image was created for the Baltimore Sun, and I felt it fit nicely with my current circumstance. View high resolution

    Isn’t it that time of the year when I pick up everything and move? Why, yes it is. Thankfully, this move is not nearly as drastic as my yearly cross-country expeditions, I’m just moving down the road from Baltimore to D.C.

    If you follow my blog, you’ve noticed the lack of posts that comes about when your time is being filled with stuffing your life into cardboard boxes, but fear not! As with every year around this time, I should be back up and running by the end of the month.

    Oh, the above image was created for the Baltimore Sun, and I felt it fit nicely with my current circumstance.

  • February 18, 2014 8:12 pm
    Bob McDonnell Virginia, Republican
Crime: A thirst for looking fabulous.
Thanks in part to a disgruntled chef with Bond-like espionage talents and the need to look fly, Bob McDonnell was indicted in January 2014 on 14 counts of fraud. After being accused of stealing from the governor’s mansion, executive chef Todd Schneider began leaking information to authorities that revealed a sordid relationship between CEO of Star Scientific Jonnie Williams and the McDonnell clan. In exchange for lobbying on the part of his dubious medical products, Williams gave the McDonnell’s the standard political gifts that totaled upwards of $165,000. Perhaps spurred on by the fact that they were at the bottom of the economic barrel for a ruling class, the McDonnell’s used much of the gifts to pay off credit card debt and other common-folk priorities.

Chris Christie New Jersey, Republican
Crime: Trying his hardest to be a New Jersey stereotype.
What hasn’t Chris Christie been accused of at this point? He’s the rotund Shao Khan in the Garden States Mortal Kombat tournament. Closing down bridge lanes in a show of top tier ball-busting? Check. Extorting a mayor to tow a party line in exchange for hurricane relief funds? Check. Using said hurricane relief funds to film a campaign commercial? Check. The only thing missing in this Tri-State opera is a horse head under a sheet, but to make up for that there has been plenty of backstabbing to satiate a New Jersey party boss fantasy.

Bob Taft Ohio, Republican
Crime: Being the cheapest date in Ohio.
In 2005, then-governor Bob Taft was charged on four criminal misdemeanor counts for failing to report upwards $5,800 in undisclosed gifts. The list of lackluster presents that read more like last-minute Secret Santa scramble includes rounds of golf (obviously) with Republican fundraisers, tickets for the NHL’s most prestigious Columbus Blue Jackets (thanks?), and a photograph with accompanying medal from the Defense Supply Center (oh… you shouldn’t have). Even more embarrassing than Taft’s apparent taste is the fact that in 1999 he issued an executive order requiring ethics training for everyone in his cabinet. Now that’s practicing what you preach.

Eliot Spitzer New York, Democrat
Crime: Making every night ladies night.
In 2008 Eliot Spitzer’s trousers dropped and his career followed shortly after. After North Fork Bank threw up red flags due to Spitzer’s odd monetary transactions, the governor came under the ever watchful eye of the U.S. Government. While acting as a lawful Peeping Tom, the federal agents discovered an accumulated bill of up to $80,000 of taxpayer funds spent on putting ladies of the night “through school.” Facing potential impeachment, Spitzer would resign his office on March 17, assumedly due to exhaustion on account of his nightly calisthenics.

Mark Sanford South Carolina, Republican
Crime: Taking a “walk” on the wild side.
In June of 2009, then-governor Mark Sanford let his staff know that he was taking a vacation to go hiking on the Appalachian Trail, then he promptly boarded a plane to Argentina to simmer in the Sofrito of his Latin American mistress. The plan was fool-proof, except that Sanford decided not to answer phone calls while he was off on his own “Eat, Pray, Love” adventure, leaving everyone in South Carolina to assume that their governor was lost in the woods. The mystery was solved when a reporter intercepted the southern Carmen San Diego arriving from Argentina at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and not strolling in from the Appalachians with a walking stick and full-grown beard.

Rod Blagojevich Illinois, Democrat
Crime: Being too frugal.
In 2008, Rod Blagojevich was charged with one count of conspiracy and one count of soliciting bribes for, among other things, trying to sell off the vacated Senate seat of President-Elect Barack Obama. You see, maintaining gaudy hair like Blagojevich’s didn’t come cheap, and Rod knew it when he uttered the infamous quote “I’m not just giving it up for nothing.” Instead of getting campaign funds or a prestigious new job in exchange for the vacant seat like he anticipated, Blagojevich received the less enviable prize of impeachment and 14 years in prison. But lest Rod fear that it was all for nothing, he can take solace in the fact that he will go down in history as the seventh Illinois Governor to face criminal charges.  View high resolution

    Bob McDonnell Virginia, Republican

    Crime: A thirst for looking fabulous.

    Thanks in part to a disgruntled chef with Bond-like espionage talents and the need to look fly, Bob McDonnell was indicted in January 2014 on 14 counts of fraud. After being accused of stealing from the governor’s mansion, executive chef Todd Schneider began leaking information to authorities that revealed a sordid relationship between CEO of Star Scientific Jonnie Williams and the McDonnell clan. In exchange for lobbying on the part of his dubious medical products, Williams gave the McDonnell’s the standard political gifts that totaled upwards of $165,000. Perhaps spurred on by the fact that they were at the bottom of the economic barrel for a ruling class, the McDonnell’s used much of the gifts to pay off credit card debt and other common-folk priorities.

    Chris Christie New Jersey, Republican

    Crime: Trying his hardest to be a New Jersey stereotype.

    What hasn’t Chris Christie been accused of at this point? He’s the rotund Shao Khan in the Garden States Mortal Kombat tournament. Closing down bridge lanes in a show of top tier ball-busting? Check. Extorting a mayor to tow a party line in exchange for hurricane relief funds? Check. Using said hurricane relief funds to film a campaign commercial? Check. The only thing missing in this Tri-State opera is a horse head under a sheet, but to make up for that there has been plenty of backstabbing to satiate a New Jersey party boss fantasy.

    Bob Taft Ohio, Republican

    Crime: Being the cheapest date in Ohio.

    In 2005, then-governor Bob Taft was charged on four criminal misdemeanor counts for failing to report upwards $5,800 in undisclosed gifts. The list of lackluster presents that read more like last-minute Secret Santa scramble includes rounds of golf (obviously) with Republican fundraisers, tickets for the NHL’s most prestigious Columbus Blue Jackets (thanks?), and a photograph with accompanying medal from the Defense Supply Center (oh… you shouldn’t have). Even more embarrassing than Taft’s apparent taste is the fact that in 1999 he issued an executive order requiring ethics training for everyone in his cabinet. Now that’s practicing what you preach.

    Eliot Spitzer New York, Democrat

    Crime: Making every night ladies night.

    In 2008 Eliot Spitzer’s trousers dropped and his career followed shortly after. After North Fork Bank threw up red flags due to Spitzer’s odd monetary transactions, the governor came under the ever watchful eye of the U.S. Government. While acting as a lawful Peeping Tom, the federal agents discovered an accumulated bill of up to $80,000 of taxpayer funds spent on putting ladies of the night “through school.” Facing potential impeachment, Spitzer would resign his office on March 17, assumedly due to exhaustion on account of his nightly calisthenics.

    Mark Sanford South Carolina, Republican

    Crime: Taking a “walk” on the wild side.

    In June of 2009, then-governor Mark Sanford let his staff know that he was taking a vacation to go hiking on the Appalachian Trail, then he promptly boarded a plane to Argentina to simmer in the Sofrito of his Latin American mistress. The plan was fool-proof, except that Sanford decided not to answer phone calls while he was off on his own “Eat, Pray, Love” adventure, leaving everyone in South Carolina to assume that their governor was lost in the woods. The mystery was solved when a reporter intercepted the southern Carmen San Diego arriving from Argentina at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and not strolling in from the Appalachians with a walking stick and full-grown beard.

    Rod Blagojevich Illinois, Democrat

    Crime: Being too frugal.

    In 2008, Rod Blagojevich was charged with one count of conspiracy and one count of soliciting bribes for, among other things, trying to sell off the vacated Senate seat of President-Elect Barack Obama. You see, maintaining gaudy hair like Blagojevich’s didn’t come cheap, and Rod knew it when he uttered the infamous quote “I’m not just giving it up for nothing.” Instead of getting campaign funds or a prestigious new job in exchange for the vacant seat like he anticipated, Blagojevich received the less enviable prize of impeachment and 14 years in prison. But lest Rod fear that it was all for nothing, he can take solace in the fact that he will go down in history as the seventh Illinois Governor to face criminal charges. 

  • January 22, 2014 9:19 pm

    With a possible evasion from the fire sale directed at the Detroit Institute of Art’s city owned collection, this could be a nice reprieve from art once again being taken to the woodshed to extract every last piece of copper to make up for budgetary tomfoolery. A group of foundations and individuals has stepped up and is attempting to donate enough money to offset an auction of the DIA’s portfolio, the city may hopefully be on a track to keep the cultural treasure. 

    The question is why should the DIA’s art be held responsible for covering the ground lost on Detroit’s pensions? Looting the museum is a patented short-sighted plan that gets drawn up in rough times and often does nothing more than shoot the craftsmen in their feet. Tearing up the DIA would not only disrupt one of the cities biggest tourist attractions and the dollars vacationers may bring, but attacking the arts could drive away the young crowd that cities so often depend on to pedal into their blighted areas and paint it over with a fresh layer of gentrification, using their elbow grease to put artisanal kale-only bistros in formerly abandoned libraries and beautifying the city with typography posters from Etsy.

    Let’s not think that art is the only asset of value that men in suits can send down the river for wealth. Detroit boasts 3 professional sports teams who chase other colorfully dressed men over fields of tax payer funds. With their conception in 2000, The Tigers’ $300 million Comerica Park was 38 percent funded by the taxpayers, and the Lions’ $430 million Ford Field was 36 percent funded by the taxpayers to consistently disappoint the public in. Even just last year the Detroit Red Wings were recently awarded public money for their new $450 million arena. To cover ground lost, why is there no discussion about levying an extra tax on athletic tickets/concessions to recover Detroit’s fly-by-night economy? Or even better, why is no one asking why Detroit should be giving money for a new stadium while they can’t afford the lights to see it at night? The answer’s easy - we value sports, or really anything, above art.

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  • January 19, 2014 8:51 pm
    Celebrate! I have a new website, and needless to say that whole process has been cutting into the time that I have to create work for here. But, it’s done!  Now, back to the politics. As well as weekly posts, I’m working on creating video content as well.
Until then check out the new site: http://www.macnaughtonillos.com View high resolution

    Celebrate! I have a new website, and needless to say that whole process has been cutting into the time that I have to create work for here. But, it’s done!  Now, back to the politics. As well as weekly posts, I’m working on creating video content as well.

    Until then check out the new site: http://www.macnaughtonillos.com

  • December 31, 2013 7:58 pm
    As I look back on 2013, I’m looking back on a very hectic year for myself. The highlights included (yet another) cross country move and the publishing of my first written piece.
My blog has been pretty silent this month. Aside from the mandatory year-end busy work, I have been in somewhat of a rest mode to prepare myself the new year. After 3 years of doing this blog, I can honestly say that writing has become just as much of a passion as art, and in 2014 I plan on going all out on Art of the Union.
So embrace the new year with me and hopefully you will be pleased with what’s to come. View high resolution

    As I look back on 2013, I’m looking back on a very hectic year for myself. The highlights included (yet another) cross country move and the publishing of my first written piece.

    My blog has been pretty silent this month. Aside from the mandatory year-end busy work, I have been in somewhat of a rest mode to prepare myself the new year. After 3 years of doing this blog, I can honestly say that writing has become just as much of a passion as art, and in 2014 I plan on going all out on Art of the Union.

    So embrace the new year with me and hopefully you will be pleased with what’s to come.

  • December 7, 2013 4:33 pm
    I don’t have any writing to go with this. Sometime down the line I would like to have an art show based on my favorite historical time period - the Cold War. Naturally, I kicked off the series with my idol John F. Kennedy in Berlin. View high resolution

    I don’t have any writing to go with this. Sometime down the line I would like to have an art show based on my favorite historical time period - the Cold War. Naturally, I kicked off the series with my idol John F. Kennedy in Berlin.

  • November 22, 2013 11:12 pm
    On today’s date in 1963 at 1 pm, the United States would lose it’s last free president, the last politician with a dream for the future. With President Kennedy’s death, our country’s path towards an era of peace and optimism was diverted off course and lead into a time of war and corruption.

This month, there have been plenty of people who have willfully chosen to mangle Kennedy’s time in office to portray any picture they pleased of him - whether it be one of a war hawk, an ineffective leader, or any other chosen narrative that they have in their head. But Kennedy was none of those, rather, he acted as a temporary stopgap to all of the standard Cold War chicanery up until his election and which proceeded after his death.

The standard lines against Kennedy are that his inexperience led him to fumble the Bay of Pigs invasion, but that’s usually about as deep as it goes. Of course history is never that simple. Kennedy was fighting a daily battle with the powers at be when it came to Cuba. The scheme was originally concocted by the Eisenhower administration (who seemed to have a warm spot in their heart for planted revolutions), and gifted to Kennedy upon his arrival. Kennedy had to fight tooth and nail against the war torn hotheads in the CIA and and his Joint Chiefs of Staff who ideally wanted to shift Cuba from a banana republic to a glass landscape by dropping nukes, all while they poured sugar into Kennedy’s ear about how the invading force was assured a victory. But Kennedy’s hands were tied, he was hamstrung by the fact that if he did not enact the invasion, he would be painted as the President who wouldn’t follow Eisenhower’s plan to liberate Cuba.

You see, opposite the popular opinion that Kennedy was a “Cold Warrior,” in reality he was an avid peace seeker. The fear he had of over-extending military might in Cuba also guided his hand with the rest of his foreign policy. Take for example Vietnam (another Eisenhower gift). Kennedy is often painted as being the most anti-Communist President in history and intended to continue escalation in Vietnam when, to the contrary, he signed National Security Action Memorandum 263 which ordered the beginning of U.S. forces withdrawal from South Vietnam. The same can be seen in Laos, where Kennedy went against the advice of the Eisenhower Administration to pursue military involvement and instead opted to negotiate for neutrality with Russia. Even when it came to the baddest boy of the red threat – The USSR - Kennedy was pursuing back door peace negotiations with Khrushchev behind the backs of the warhawks in Washington.

Some would label me as a Kennedy apologist or a romantic for inferring these ideas. And if that’s so, then so be it. Kennedy saw what we were told was the enemy for what they really were: humans. 

As President Kennedy said at American University, “We all breathe the same air.” The country witnessed what happened after Kennedy’s death, when greed and narcissism were allowed to replace a hopeful outlook. The Vietnam War, military actions in Cambodia, and a Cold War that would last over 30 more years to engulf the world in a constant fear of annihilation. As such senseless mindsets took hold again, the Kennedy world of peace and prosperity was pounded into one of turmoil and war. To honor Kennedy, we traded in philanthropy for pure force. But at our most cynical and darkest hours we can look to Kennedy for comfort that it is possible, even if for a stitch in time, to elect a leader with a promise of a better tomorrow. View high resolution

    On today’s date in 1963 at 1 pm, the United States would lose it’s last free president, the last politician with a dream for the future. With President Kennedy’s death, our country’s path towards an era of peace and optimism was diverted off course and lead into a time of war and corruption.

    This month, there have been plenty of people who have willfully chosen to mangle Kennedy’s time in office to portray any picture they pleased of him - whether it be one of a war hawk, an ineffective leader, or any other chosen narrative that they have in their head. But Kennedy was none of those, rather, he acted as a temporary stopgap to all of the standard Cold War chicanery up until his election and which proceeded after his death.

    The standard lines against Kennedy are that his inexperience led him to fumble the Bay of Pigs invasion, but that’s usually about as deep as it goes. Of course history is never that simple. Kennedy was fighting a daily battle with the powers at be when it came to Cuba. The scheme was originally concocted by the Eisenhower administration (who seemed to have a warm spot in their heart for planted revolutions), and gifted to Kennedy upon his arrival. Kennedy had to fight tooth and nail against the war torn hotheads in the CIA and and his Joint Chiefs of Staff who ideally wanted to shift Cuba from a banana republic to a glass landscape by dropping nukes, all while they poured sugar into Kennedy’s ear about how the invading force was assured a victory. But Kennedy’s hands were tied, he was hamstrung by the fact that if he did not enact the invasion, he would be painted as the President who wouldn’t follow Eisenhower’s plan to liberate Cuba.

    You see, opposite the popular opinion that Kennedy was a “Cold Warrior,” in reality he was an avid peace seeker. The fear he had of over-extending military might in Cuba also guided his hand with the rest of his foreign policy. Take for example Vietnam (another Eisenhower gift). Kennedy is often painted as being the most anti-Communist President in history and intended to continue escalation in Vietnam when, to the contrary, he signed National Security Action Memorandum 263 which ordered the beginning of U.S. forces withdrawal from South Vietnam. The same can be seen in Laos, where Kennedy went against the advice of the Eisenhower Administration to pursue military involvement and instead opted to negotiate for neutrality with Russia. Even when it came to the baddest boy of the red threat – The USSR - Kennedy was pursuing back door peace negotiations with Khrushchev behind the backs of the warhawks in Washington.

    Some would label me as a Kennedy apologist or a romantic for inferring these ideas. And if that’s so, then so be it. Kennedy saw what we were told was the enemy for what they really were: humans. 

    As President Kennedy said at American University, “We all breathe the same air.” The country witnessed what happened after Kennedy’s death, when greed and narcissism were allowed to replace a hopeful outlook. The Vietnam War, military actions in Cambodia, and a Cold War that would last over 30 more years to engulf the world in a constant fear of annihilation. As such senseless mindsets took hold again, the Kennedy world of peace and prosperity was pounded into one of turmoil and war. To honor Kennedy, we traded in philanthropy for pure force. But at our most cynical and darkest hours we can look to Kennedy for comfort that it is possible, even if for a stitch in time, to elect a leader with a promise of a better tomorrow.

  • November 1, 2013 9:36 pm
    "And to remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.”
That is my favorite quote, delivered during the inauguration address of my favorite president and favorite American.
This month marks the 50th anniversary of the untimely death of John F. Kennedy. The man inspired many, including me. Throughout the month I will be posting writing and art inspired by Kennedy, analyzing various aspects of his Presidency. It won’t all be fawning praise, as his presidency was just as subject to it’s downfalls as any other. It will be an opportunity to shed some light on my hero, and I hope you will enjoy reading/viewing it as much as I enjoy creating it. View high resolution

    "And to remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.”

    That is my favorite quote, delivered during the inauguration address of my favorite president and favorite American.

    This month marks the 50th anniversary of the untimely death of John F. Kennedy. The man inspired many, including me. Throughout the month I will be posting writing and art inspired by Kennedy, analyzing various aspects of his Presidency. It won’t all be fawning praise, as his presidency was just as subject to it’s downfalls as any other. It will be an opportunity to shed some light on my hero, and I hope you will enjoy reading/viewing it as much as I enjoy creating it.

  • September 25, 2013 6:34 pm
    


Allow me to use this post as a break from politics so that I can express my gratitude for the Baltimore Orioles. As was somewhat alluded to in certain recent posts, I now live in Baltimore. I am not embarrassed to say that I was a little, let’s just say “uneasy” when I moved to the city earlier this year. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no farm and country hick boy and have lived in other cities, but none of them had nicknames quite as attention grabbing as “Bodymore, Murdaland” or “Bulletmore.” 
Having just picked up and moved from Florida to Baltimore, I knew absolutely no one and nothing about my new home, but The Orioles helped alleviate that feeling by giving me a sense of community. They helped make the city feel small and familiar against the perceived never ending sea of crusty smack addicts and cop cars. The Orioles served as my own little Charm City welcoming party.



View high resolution

    Allow me to use this post as a break from politics so that I can express my gratitude for the Baltimore Orioles. As was somewhat alluded to in certain recent posts, I now live in Baltimore. I am not embarrassed to say that I was a little, let’s just say “uneasy” when I moved to the city earlier this year. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no farm and country hick boy and have lived in other cities, but none of them had nicknames quite as attention grabbing as “Bodymore, Murdaland” or “Bulletmore.” 

    Having just picked up and moved from Florida to Baltimore, I knew absolutely no one and nothing about my new home, but The Orioles helped alleviate that feeling by giving me a sense of community. They helped make the city feel small and familiar against the perceived never ending sea of crusty smack addicts and cop cars. The Orioles served as my own little Charm City welcoming party.

  • September 11, 2013 10:43 pm
    By now the fix is in for Syria. President Obama has laid out his 2 options: Either Bashar al-Assad becomes a Middle Eastern flower child and hands over his chemical weapons to the international community peacefully or The U.S. will use Tomahawks to transform select Syrian targets into glass factories. But then there’s the third, less bandied about option: Supply Syrian rebels with lethal munitions to combat Assad’s forces. It’s a plan that has been in the works since June, but if put in a historical context, it may not be the most beneficial route to travel.

In my last post I had written about the U.S. intervention that ultimately lead Afghanistan’s Mujahideen rebels to upend the the invading Soviet forces. A key deciding factor to the Kremlin bashing in Kabul was the weapon that The United States supplied to the Afghan rebels - The FIM-92 Stinger. The MANPADS (Man-Portable Air Defense System) missile weighed in at 35 lbs of commie crushing power, traveled at a pace of 1,500 mph, and would haunt the Russians until wars-end.

Prior to the introduction of the Stinger, the Mujahideen forces arsenal of AK-47’s and weaponized Kajagoogoo records paled in comparison to the Soviet’s arial onslaught. But in 1986, the new projectile would turn the tables. The once hapless rebels could now make mincemeat of the arial death machines from up to 5 miles away with the missiles heat-seeking sensors. Couple the Mujahideen’s newly found land-to-air dominance with the fact that Soviet tanks had been rendered worthless due to Afghanistan’s mountainous terrain, the rebels were able to follow their U.S. supplied itchy trigger finger to victory road.

Nothing beats a happy ending. So, what bookends this touching tale of cooperation? The Mujahadeen handed over the unused Stinger rockets to the outstretched arms of The U.S., who then tucked the inanimate war heroes into bed to retire to a hero’s glory.

Well, not quite. What actually happened was the United States government had to don the hat akin to a disgruntled librarian and go on a witch hunt to recover it’s absent property. Operation Missing in Action Stingers (I did not make that up) was launched in 1990 with a budget of $65 million, and it tasked the CIA with hunting down every last Stinger missile. Alas, like any hunt for 80’s memorabilia, the item sought proved illusive and terribly overpriced. The missiles were selling for up to a whopping $100,000 a piece, and by the mid-90’s an estimated 600 Stingers were still unaccounted for, with the search still ongoing into the most recent war in Afghanistan. 

Now we sit and nurse the idea of opening and arms bazaar once again, potentially learning nothing from history. In trying to nudge the president down this path, Senator Carl Levin opined that the weapons would go to “vetted” groups amongst the Syrian rebels, supplying them with an arsenal that couldn’t be turned on us. But doesn’t this lack a sense of foresight? The history of the Stinger shows that there is more damage that can be done from your weapons than just having them turned on you. Lost missiles turned up in the hands of militant groups, were purchased by aggressor governments such as North Korea, and have been dissected by the Chinese to learn their inner workings. Not to mention the large search-and-recover costs. All of this played against the United State’s best interests, even though it wasn’t through direct physical violence.

And that was all in the 1980’s-90’s. The world has become an even more globalized and borderless place since, letting any possible errant weaponry supplied to the Syrian rebels travel with much more ease. So now the question stands:  Are lethal instruments slipping through the cracks worth it to combat a potential national security threat? Or is it replacing one national security threat with another? In both the 80’s and today we seemingly answered yes to the first , and now we watch to see if history does indeed repeat itself. View high resolution

    By now the fix is in for Syria. President Obama has laid out his 2 options: Either Bashar al-Assad becomes a Middle Eastern flower child and hands over his chemical weapons to the international community peacefully or The U.S. will use Tomahawks to transform select Syrian targets into glass factories. But then there’s the third, less bandied about option: Supply Syrian rebels with lethal munitions to combat Assad’s forces. It’s a plan that has been in the works since June, but if put in a historical context, it may not be the most beneficial route to travel.

    In my last post I had written about the U.S. intervention that ultimately lead Afghanistan’s Mujahideen rebels to upend the the invading Soviet forces. A key deciding factor to the Kremlin bashing in Kabul was the weapon that The United States supplied to the Afghan rebels - The FIM-92 Stinger. The MANPADS (Man-Portable Air Defense System) missile weighed in at 35 lbs of commie crushing power, traveled at a pace of 1,500 mph, and would haunt the Russians until wars-end.

    Prior to the introduction of the Stinger, the Mujahideen forces arsenal of AK-47’s and weaponized Kajagoogoo records paled in comparison to the Soviet’s arial onslaught. But in 1986, the new projectile would turn the tables. The once hapless rebels could now make mincemeat of the arial death machines from up to 5 miles away with the missiles heat-seeking sensors. Couple the Mujahideen’s newly found land-to-air dominance with the fact that Soviet tanks had been rendered worthless due to Afghanistan’s mountainous terrain, the rebels were able to follow their U.S. supplied itchy trigger finger to victory road.

    Nothing beats a happy ending. So, what bookends this touching tale of cooperation? The Mujahadeen handed over the unused Stinger rockets to the outstretched arms of The U.S., who then tucked the inanimate war heroes into bed to retire to a hero’s glory.

    Well, not quite. What actually happened was the United States government had to don the hat akin to a disgruntled librarian and go on a witch hunt to recover it’s absent property. Operation Missing in Action Stingers (I did not make that up) was launched in 1990 with a budget of $65 million, and it tasked the CIA with hunting down every last Stinger missile. Alas, like any hunt for 80’s memorabilia, the item sought proved illusive and terribly overpriced. The missiles were selling for up to a whopping $100,000 a piece, and by the mid-90’s an estimated 600 Stingers were still unaccounted for, with the search still ongoing into the most recent war in Afghanistan. 

    Now we sit and nurse the idea of opening and arms bazaar once again, potentially learning nothing from history. In trying to nudge the president down this path, Senator Carl Levin opined that the weapons would go to “vetted” groups amongst the Syrian rebels, supplying them with an arsenal that couldn’t be turned on us. But doesn’t this lack a sense of foresight? The history of the Stinger shows that there is more damage that can be done from your weapons than just having them turned on you. Lost missiles turned up in the hands of militant groups, were purchased by aggressor governments such as North Korea, and have been dissected by the Chinese to learn their inner workings. Not to mention the large search-and-recover costs. All of this played against the United State’s best interests, even though it wasn’t through direct physical violence.

    And that was all in the 1980’s-90’s. The world has become an even more globalized and borderless place since, letting any possible errant weaponry supplied to the Syrian rebels travel with much more ease. So now the question stands:  Are lethal instruments slipping through the cracks worth it to combat a potential national security threat? Or is it replacing one national security threat with another? In both the 80’s and today we seemingly answered yes to the first , and now we watch to see if history does indeed repeat itself.