Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Operation CYA: Afghanistan

Steve Bannon’s Breitbart and others notwithstanding, that was Trump being Trump when he announced he would not be quitting Afghanistan, despite the manifest futility and counterproductivity — that is, idiocy — of America’s 16-year war there. He is not a captive of “my generals,” bad as they are. He is his own man.

Just look at the attitude toward military power he displayed throughout his presidential campaign and young presidency. He boasted of being the most “militaristic” candidate in the large Republican field — and that was saying something. He promised to “bomb the shit” out of ISIS, torture terrorist suspects, and kill their families. He promised to win.

So now he says his military’s renewed effort in Afghanistan will be directed at killing terrorists and eradicating evil. What else is new?

The great disrupter of the establishment turns out to be — surprise, surprise — a man of the establishment. He craves its acceptance and adoration, but he’ll settle for the love of his base until the real thing comes along. “If you can’t be with the one you love, honey,”  Stephen Stills wrote, “love the one you’re with.” The base may not like that he has put his “instincts” about Afghanistan on a shelf, but so be it.

Sure, during Barack Obama’s second term Trump questioned the wisdom of staying the course in Afghanistan, although in October 2015 he said, “At this point we probably have to [leave US troops there] because that thing will collapse in about two seconds after they leave.” The pro-withdrawal statements are easily explained in light of the Trumpian MO. As J.P. Sottile writes,

“Trump never had a ‘policy’ of anti-interventionism. He was simply a troll who tweeted out oppositional statements attacking Obama’s foreign policy. If Obama was doing it … he was against it. He knew that no matter what, it was red meat for his future base…. Sorry, but [his turn to intervene] wasn’t a Deep State plot….”

Does anyone know what Trump’s position on Afghanistan was on Sept. 12, 2001? I see nothing on the record, but it is hard to believe he opposed George W. Bush’s invasion and occupation back then. It would have been out of character, to say the least, for him to have opposed a military response to 9/11. He probably thought Donald Rumsfeld war-on-the-cheap strategy was for losers. Moreover, while he dishonestly and repeatedly bragged that he opposed in advance the U.S. military actions Iraq and Libya, I can’t recall his bragging about his early opposition to the Afghan war. (I think he mentioned this one time.) In light of his change of heart, Trump’s foes in the media, who love to point out flip-flops, would surely be pointing this out if it were true.

Beyond this, Trump’s position is tangled mess. He presents what is now his war as a matter of national security: his toy soldiers will be killing “terrorists” who allegedly threaten America, not building a democracy or telling the Afghans how to live. Leave aside the fact that killing alleged terrorists creates even more of them, as many military people recognize. Graeme Wood writes, “On September 11, 2001, al Qaeda commanded an army of 400. A decade and a half later, the Islamic State (or ISIS) had mobilized some 40,000 people to travel to Iraq and Syria.” There was no ISIS in Afghanistan in 2001.

The national-security state is a perpetual motion machine, which is fine with most politicians, the military bureaucracy, and its contractors.

Yet while Trump says Afghanistan is about national security, he also says:

America will work with the Afghan government as long as we see determination and progress.  However, our commitment is not unlimited, and our support is not a blank check.  The government of Afghanistan must carry their share of the military, political, and economic burden.  The American people expect to see real reforms, real progress, and real results.  Our patience is not unlimited. [Emphasis added.]

If the U.S. occupation is, as Trump insists, a matter of self-defense, how can this be? If the Afghan government fails to fulfill his requirements, will he end the war and withdraw? How could he do that in light of his national-security premise? Maybe he’s hinting he would overthrow the government and install a more cooperative one. Now we’re back to regime-change and nation-building. This certainly sounds like nation-building after all: “We want [India] to help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development.” (Emphasis added.)

A related problem is his stance that the U.S. government will not attempt to create a democracy in Afghanistan. Trump ignores that the democracy-builders make a national-security argument for their cause (which is not to say the argument is correct): a democracy, they say, would be less likely to harbor terrorists who seek to attack Americans. Trump surely cannot believe the political environment in Afghanistan is irrelevant to his security concerns. If he believes it is relevant and yet has no interest in promoting democracy there, doesn’t it follow that he would prefer that a friendly authoritarian leader capable of crushing terrorists? It seems so. And we know what authoritarians do to their own populations.

The problem with Trump’s case is his premise that Americans are threatened from any country that could be a safe haven for purported terrorists. Contrary to the official narrative, militant Islamists want revenge for decades of U.S. crimes against Muslims. (Civilian casualties are skyrocketing in several countries the U.S. government is bombing.) That’s why Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda in Afghanistan did what it did on 9/11. Moreover, much of the planning occurred outside Afghanistan, including in the West. If Afghanistan, which the U.S. government helped to prepare for bin Laden by underwriting the guerilla war against the Soviet occupiers, had not been available, he would have found another place. In fact, the U.S. government has created havens for militant groups by destabilizing Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Syria.

What is Trump’s strategy for preventing anywhere in the world from becoming a safe haven? His working principle is hardly “Come home, America.”

A far better way to keep Americans safe would be to stop killing Muslims and propping up repressive regimes (including Israel’s) in the Muslim and Arab world — in a word, liquidation of the American empire.

By the way, does Trump really think he can tell a terrorist in Afghanistan from an Afghan resisting the foreign occupation? He certainly can’t tell a terrorist from a resistor to the savage U.S. occupation of the Philippines over a hundred years ago.

Also, how convenient for Trump to keep the American people in the dark about the details of his surge because it would tip off “the enemy”? There’s a handy argument against transparency in anything Trump sees in national-security terms.

Perhaps most ridiculous of all is Trump’s pledge of “an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made, especially the sacrifices of lives.” Translation: since other Americans have already died, more Americans (he ignores the Afghan casualties) must die so it doesn’t look as though the previous deaths were in vain.

Yet more Americans will die vain. Retired Army Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis, who knows something about this war, writes,

“The Taliban and various terror groups are stronger now than that faced by Obama’s 2010 surge. What possible rationale can the president make to the American people that sending thirteen thousand U.S. troops against an enemy significantly stronger than the one we faced in 2010 will succeed where 140,000 NATO troops did not?”

But don’t try to tell Trump his objective is impossible. That line is for losers. Don’t you know by now that what’s impossible for others is a piece of cake for him? He’s not about to be yet another a president who loses yet another war. He will make America great again.

So Trump’s military will remain — in greater undisclosed numbers — where empires go to die until no-one-knows when. Avoiding the appearance of losing is the new winning.

***

The indispensable source for information and insight on this disastrous war is Scott Horton’s new book, Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan. Few of us can spend all our time investigating an important topic like this. So Scott has done it for us, and he presents the history and his analysis in a highly accessible way. If you care about peace and freedom, you’ll check out this book.

More articles by:

Sheldon Richman, author of America’s Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society, and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.  He is also the Executive Editor of The Libertarian Institute.

October 22, 2018
Henry Giroux
Neoliberalism in the Age of Pedagogical Terrorism
Melvin Goodman
Washington’s Latest Cold War Maneuver: Pulling Out of the INF
David Mattson
Basket of Deplorables Revisited: Grizzly Bears at the Mercy of Wyoming
Michelle Renee Matisons
Hurricane War Zone Further Immiserates Florida Panhandle, Panama City
Tom Gill
A Storm is Brewing in Europe: Italy and Its Public Finances Are at the Center of It
Suyapa Portillo Villeda
An Illegitimate, US-Backed Regime is Fueling the Honduran Refugee Crisis
Christopher Brauchli
The Liars’ Bench
Gary Leupp
Will Trump Split the World by Endorsing a Bold-Faced Lie?
Michael Howard
The New York Times’ Animal Cruelty Fetish
Alice Slater
Time Out for Nukes!
Geoff Dutton
Yes, Virginia, There are Conspiracies—I Think
Daniel Warner
Davos in the Desert: To Attend or Not, That is Not the Question
Priti Gulati Cox – Stan Cox
Mothers of Exiles: For Many, the Child-Separation Ordeal May Never End
Manuel E. Yepe
Pence v. China: Cold War 2.0 May Have Just Begun
Raouf Halaby
Of Pith Helmets and Sartorial Colonialism
Dan Carey
Aspirational Goals  
Wim Laven
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
The Pieties of the Liberal Class
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
Paul Street
“Male Energy,” Authoritarian Whiteness and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump
Nick Pemberton
Reflections on Chomsky’s Voting Strategy: Why The Democratic Party Can’t Be Saved
John Davis
The Last History of the United States
Yigal Bronner
The Road to Khan al-Akhmar
Robert Hunziker
The Negan Syndrome
Andrew Levine
Democrats Ahead: Progressives Beware
Rannie Amiri
There is No “Proxy War” in Yemen
David Rosen
America’s Lost Souls: the 21st Century Lumpen-Proletariat?
Joseph Natoli
The Age of Misrepresentations
Ron Jacobs
History Is Not Kind
John Laforge
White House Radiation: Weakened Regulations Would Save Industry Billions
Ramzy Baroud
The UN ‘Sheriff’: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing
Robert Fantina
Trump, Human Rights and the Middle East
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
NAFTA 2.0 Will Help Corporations More Than Farmers
Jill Richardson
Identity Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s Claims Cherokee Heritage
Sam Husseini
The Most Strategic Midterm Race: Elder Challenges Hoyer
Maria Foscarinis – John Tharp
The Criminalization of Homelessness
Robert Fisk
The Story of the Armenian Legion: a Dark Tale of Anger and Revenge
Jacques R. Pauwels
Dinner With Marx in the House of the Swan
Dave Lindorff
US ‘Outrage’ over Slaying of US Residents Depends on the Nation Responsible
Ricardo Vaz
How Many Yemenis is a DC Pundit Worth?
Elliot Sperber
Build More Gardens, Phase out Cars
Chris Gilbert
In the Wake of Nepal’s Incomplete Revolution: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian 
Muhammad Othman
Let Us Bray
Gerry Brown
Are Chinese Municipal $6 Trillion (40 Trillion Yuan) Hidden Debts Posing Titanic Risks?
Rev. William Alberts
Judge Kavanaugh’s Defenders Doth Protest Too Much
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail