So much for the anti-war left and draining the swamp. Monday evening, President Donald Trump announced he would deploy another 4,000 troops to Afghanistan, a place where the U.S. has been bogged down in an unwinnable war for 16 years. Despite his criticisms and campaign promises, it seems war is alive and well under this administration. He attempted to justify the decision in a televised speech by claiming to be convinced after many meetings with his Cabinet and generals over the last several months. In the end, he caved to the war-hungry generals surrounding him.
Why is the president staying the course in Afghanistan and amplifying U.S. presence? He said:
A hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum that terrorists, including ISIS and al Qaeda, would instantly fill, just as happened before September 11.
Like the Soviet invasion in the 1980s, the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan has been a failure. This battle has already cost 2,300 soldiers their lives. 20,000 troops have been wounded, and we’ve spent $1 trillion. The U.S. is currently spending around $50 billion a year to maintain operations, which is more than the entire defense budget of Japan or France.
And there is no end in sight.
What makes matters worse is that the U.S. may be on the verge of colliding with Pakistan. President Trump called out the fledgling nation and censured the government for harboring terrorists. He argued that the Pakistani leadership has a lot to win by “partnering” with the U.S. and a lot to lose by not collaborating with America. What will happen if Islamabad refuses? More conflict, war, and bloodshed?
The Bush and Obama administrations routinely ordered drone strikes in the northwest region of Pakistan, causing massive civilian deaths. So, it is understandable if Pakistan would be apprehensive about such an arrangement.
Despite disparaging the Afghan war under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, he is going against his better judgment and pushing ahead with more war and nation-building. You can count this as a win for the neoconservatives, the media, the Dr. Strangelove generals, and the deep state.
It is evident that neither the White House nor the Pentagon learned from history. It is also apparent that the American electorate has been duped once again. Since the 1960s, voters have tended to elect the anti-war candidate – but that same person often maintains the war efforts. One of the most popular modern commanders-in-chief is former President Bill Clinton. When he moved into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Clinton did not have to contend with a Soviet superpower. Rather than bringing troops back home from Europe, however, Clinton bombed Iraq throughout his two terms in office while using the Adolf Hitler excuse to risk American lives in Kosovo.
Although the U.S. and British media claimed that the Serbs were the only obstacle to peace, it was a misrepresentation: the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) performed regular assaults on Albanian and Serbian civilians, igniting a civil war. The president labeled it as a genocide and intervened, defending his acts through the method of fabrication. It was regularly reported that tens of thousands of men and women were “murdered” or “missing,” claims that were later disproven. Once NATO bombing ceased in June 1999 and the press lost interest in the story, the Albanians sought revenge, which created even more violence and conflict.
Let’s go back to the year 2000, then-Governor George W. Bush (R-TX) pledged a humbler foreign policy. This meant no more nation-building, no more looking for dragons to slay, and no more bullying other nations. Then the September 11 terrorist attacks transpired.
At the time, most Americans approved of Congress authorizing the president to invade Afghanistan (not declaring war). Unfortunately, rather than concentrating on getting Osama bin Laden and going after the Taliban, thfe U.S. engaged in nation-building and occupation. The objective morphed into freeing Afghan people, but up to a certain limit. On several occasions, the U.S. intervened into the democratic elections of that country, including the manipulation of vote tallies in an attempt to oust President Hamid Karzai.
It’s still a mess sixteen years later; the situation in Afghanistan is more unstable today than it was at the start of the war.
The Iraq War was another military blunder for President Bush. He urged for the removal of Saddam Hussein, the man previously put into power by the U.S. government, because he had weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). What happened in Baghdad? WMDs were not found, 5,000 U.S. troops died, 31,000 were wounded, and tens of thousands of Iraqis lost their lives. Was there a victory? Nope. Instead, a corrupt government was formed, al-Qaeda was established, and ISIS gained control. Iraq is in as much of a mess as it was when the Western forces first invaded the country.
Then there was President Obama, a Nobel Peace Prize winner because he said nice things. Obama will go down as the only president in U.S. history who was at perpetual war throughout his entire tenure. The media claimed that Obama ended the war in Iraq, but the number of U.S. troops steadily increased by the time he left office. His administration also conducted thousands of drone strikes in seven Muslim-majority nations, including Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. In his final year in the White House, Obama dropped more than 26,000 bombs without any objections from the Democrats or the media.
Who knows how much longer the wars will go on under President Trump? Who knows how many more new wars he will launch? We already see growing strife in the Korean Peninsula, as the standard U.S.-South Korean military exercises in the region irk the belligerent Kim Jong-Un regime.
Whether it was President Richard Nixon or President Obama, there is one certainty for any administration: war persists. The Republicans and Democrats may differ on transgender bathrooms and Confederate statues, but war is one area where they find common ground.
Legendary 20th-century commentator H.L. Mencken had this to say about politicians and war:
But the main reason why it is easy to sell war to peaceful people is that the demagogues who act as salesmen quickly acquire a monopoly of both public information and public instruction…. The dead are still dead, the fellows who lost legs still lack them, war widows go on suffering the orneriness of their second husbands, and taxpayers continue to pay, pay, pay.
If President Trump wanted to vex the CNNs, the Max Boots, and the Lindsey Grahams of the world, the best speech would have been this:
Folks, we’re ending this war. Good night.
Succinct, right to the point, and justified. Sadly, the opposite happened, and now more U.S. troops will die or become wounded because of the military leadership that needs war, the media that needs images and the neocons who know nothing else but combat. Like so many presidents before him, it seems Trump has failed his base and the nation. For many, the Trump Train has officially derailed.
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