Category: Military Adventurism

Trump and Afghanistan an Exercise in Hubris

George S LedyardEver been through a corporate reorganization? The new management comes in, inevitably a bunch of “type A” personalities, and absolutely believes that they will do a better job than the folks that came before them.
Employees from the old regime find their experience discounted and their influence marginalized. If one points out that some new proposal was tried before and didn’t work, the response is always, “Well, you guys just didn’t execute it properly”.

The GOP spent years criticizing Democratic administrations for what they saw as “nation building”. But after 9/11, George Bush not only committed the US to a full scale invasion of Afghanistan, but immediately set out to do nation building. This despite the reputation for Afghanistan as the “graveyard of empires”. It wasn’t that the dangers weren’t known… But the Bush team put out the word that no one was allowed to even utter the word “quagmire”. Yet quagmire it has become.

Afghanistan military invasion
A US soldier in front of the remains of ancient invaders, long gone.

No one in history has ever successfully invaded and occupied Afghanistan. Afghans could be seen as one of the most ornery cultures in the world. Historically, the only thing that unites this culture is a foreign enemy on its soil.
Barrack Obama inherited the Afghanistan war. Despite our best efforts, it has become clear that despite this being the longest war in US history, we are no closer to the goals we set down when we invaded then we were.
Now, with all the incredible arrogance we would expect from the Trump administration, we are reversing Obama’s attempts to disentangle us from this disaster. We are, in effect, jumping back into the “quagmire”. The fundamental assumption behind this effort is that the previous administration didn’t “do it right”.

MOAB Mother of all Bombs
Trump’s latest “bigger hammer”

Trump’s default setting is the “use a bigger hammer” approach to just about everything. He uses threats liberally and then, in order top not appear as a paper tiger, needs to back these threats up militarily. A man who used to wield economic leverage as a weapon to win in business now has the most powerful military in the world at his disposal. And the newly appointed gurus of national defense are certainly not inclined to tell their new boss that they can’t accomplish the “mission”.
Trump’s obsession with showing that he is a better leader than Barrack Obama is going to cost this nation dearly. He is simply incapable of following any direction his predecessor took unless pressured strongly by his advisers and fellow Republicans.

US military in Afghanistan
US forces in Afghanistan

So, it’s back into Afghanistan we go with increased boots on the ground. There is absolutely no evidence that this will accomplish anything over time. It didn’t work for the Maurya Empire of ancient India, Alexander the Great of Greece, Umar, an Arab Caliphate, Genghis Khan of Mongolia, Timur of Persia and Central Asia, the Mughal Empire of India, various Persian Empires, the British Empire, the Sikh Empire, the Soviet Union, or the United States to date.. The idea that Donald Trump is going to succeed when everyone else has failed is pure hubris.
Washington Post: U.S. poised to expand military effort against Taliban in Afghanistan

Domestic Politics “Trumps” Foreign Policy Positions

George S Ledyard“There’s no such thing as foreign policy, there is only domestic policy” – Justin Raimondo of AntiWar.com in an interview on NPR today.
In this case he was talking about Donald Trump’s recent bombing of Syria, ostensibly in response to Assad’s sarin gas attack on civilians. His take on it, and I think it makes sense, is that Trump is basically bombing Syria, in order to try to show the American people that he isn’t in bad with the Russians.
Cruise missiles SyriaInterestingly, the total flip flop from the Reagan era when the GOP was full of anti-Russian cold warriors and the Democrats, as the opposition party were obligated to oppose Reagan’s global anti Communist efforts, we now have a Republican administration which is clearly positively disposed towards Russia and an almost hysterically anti-Russian Democratic Party.Anti RussianThis creates the most amazing political conjunction. Many of the far left Progressives who supported Bernie Sanders in the 2016 campaign, seem far more focused on the perceived evils of the Democratic Party establishment, the so-called Neo-Liberals, than they are  with what the people on the ultra right are doing. So, we find these Progressives putting forth the same pro-Russia, anti-Democratic messages that the far right talk show hosts are putting out.
WikiLeaksThey question whether the Russians really did hack the DNC, they deny that the Russians intervened in the election to benefit Donald Trump, they are depicting the Syrian gas attack as a false flag operation designed to generate support for anti-Assad  forces and pressure the Russians to perhaps distance themselves from their ally.
Isn’t it rather insane that a group of people who share absolutely no agenda items in their vision of America with the GOP or the Tea Party radicals end up allied on foreign policy issues with Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin?
And the Democrats themselves, have so committed to the anti-Russian narrative that, when their arch enemy, the Great Satan, Donald Trump chooses to bomb Syria in order to convince people he isn’t in the pocket of the Russians, they end up praising his actions and actually assisting him in his attempts to appear more “Presidential”. It is actually the far right nationalists, who thought Trump was going to be an isolationist that are upset about the bombing and his flip flop on the US as a global policeman.
My point here is that the Syrian issue ends up highlighting just how irrational most folk’s foreign policy positions are. They have little or nothing to do with the realities of the political and military situation on the ground in Syria. Folks take their positions based on the interplay of political considerations here on the domestic scene.
Trump PutinTrump clearly has a serious Russian influence problem. So, he goes against his publicly stated stance as an isolationist, and bombs Syria in order to show he’s not in the pocket of the Russians. The Democrats who have suddenly become hyper anti-Russian (just since the election amazingly) have been using the Russian influence scandal to bludgeon Trump. So, when Trump actually does something that runs counter to Russia’s stated interests, the Dems end up helping to legitimize and normalize this man whom they strongly oppose. This of course totally validates Trump’s attempts at deflection.
Hillary Clinton Progressive OppositionThe far left Progressive fanatics are trying to create a movement to set up a third party. Their narrative is that the Democratic Party is compromised beyond repair. They want to split off Democratic Party support in order to grow support for their new party. This means that their major focus isn’t on resisting Trump or the Alt Right, it’s on opposing any and all Democratic efforts to appear to recover from the Hillary Clinton / DNC electoral loss. So, if the Democratic establishment is taking an anti-Russian stance in response to Trump’s clear pro-Russia agenda, the Progressives end up pursuing the same agenda as the Trump forces.
Can everyone see just how little this has anything at all due to historical, cultural, and political reality in Syria? While I am sure that in the intelligence and military communities there are educated people striving for fact based decision making. But if one is listening to the leaders of ANY of the different political factions, Tea Party, Republican, Democratic, Progressive, it doesn’t matter, you see their positions change with the wind, based on domestic political concerns and with little regard to educated and consistent foreign policy agendas.

Endless War and the Unutterable Word “Quagmire”

Endless War, Unwinnable War

While the Republicans uniformly compete to see just how bellicose they can be, reasoned analysis shows that the on-going war in the middle east is unwinnable. If one is old enough to remember the march to war back during the GW Bush administration, one may remember how Rumsfeld and company virtually banned the term “quagmire” from any discussions about going into Iraq.

This intelligent analysis shows just how unprepared Liberals are to deal with the various wars inherited from the Bush years. This is very much like the early Kennedy years when, due to the close election with Nixon, Kennedy and the Dems felt they had to show that they could be tough on Communism. They backed an untenable administration in largely Buddhist Vietnam (Catholic Diem) sending in advisers only to get sucked in with disastrous results.

President Obama has attempted to show that he is “tough on terror”. He inherited this, yes I will say the word, “Quagmire”, has vacillated between trying to pull us out and trying to commit incrementally to the conflict. At some point we are going to have to understand that Pandora’s box was opened and we simply cannot effectively influence events on the ground there.

Afghanistan is still the “graveyard of empires”. Despite a massive infusion of force and aid, the country is likely to go right back to Taliban control. As with Vietnam, we can anticipate the need to provide a new home to the Afghans who have stood by us all these years. More immigration fallout from our great disaster.

Even if we pull out completely for a time, it is likely that one or more states end up controlled by our enemies with the consequent need to go back in to fight once again. The middle east continues to be the tar baby that we can’t let go of no matter what we try. It is the poster child for understanding the rule of unintended consequences. Maybe we’ll learn… but probably not if the electioneering is any indication.