Trump’s Afghan War Speech: More Of The Same, With More Killing

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Above Photo: Trump, surrounded by troops and patriotic bunting, defines his “new” Afghan strategy (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

As a private citizen and presidential candidate, Donald Trump railed against the Afghan war.  A waste, he said.  Americans should withdraw, he said.  But in last night’s speech, Trump went against his own instincts (so he said) and went with the failed policies of his predecessors.  The war will continue, no timetable set, no troop levels determined, with conditions on the ground dictating America’s actions, according to the president.

What caught my attention, beyond the usual paeans of praise to America’s “warriors” and “warfighters,” was the specious reasoning to justify the continuation of the war.  Trump gave three reasons, so let’s take them one at a time:

  1. “First, our nation must seek an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made, especially the sacrifices of lives …”

It’s piss-poor reasoning to argue that, because a lot of people have sacrificed and died in a war, the war should continue (with more people dying) to justify those previous sacrifices.  By this logic, the more who die, the more we should keep fighting, meaning more dead, meaning more fighting, and so on.  Where is the honor and “worthy” outcome here?

  1. “Second, the consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable. 9/11, the worst terrorist attack in our history, was planned and directed from Afghanistan because that country was ruled by a government that gave comfort and shelter to terrorists. A hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum that terrorists, including ISIS and al Qaeda, would instantly fill, just as happened before September 11th.”

Actually, the consequences of an American withdrawal are both unpredictable and (most probably) acceptable.  Sure, terrorist organizations may gain impetus from an American withdrawal.  It’s also possible that a notoriously corrupt Afghan government might finally nturegotiate with the Taliban and other organizations, and that regional power brokers like Pakistan and Iran, who have their own interests in regional stability, might broker a settlement that Americans could live with.

Trump further argued that a rapid U.S. withdrawal from Iraq in 2011 led to “hard-won gains slip[ping] back into the hands of terrorist enemies. Our soldiers watched as cities they had fought for, and bled to liberate, and won, were occupied by a terrorist group called ISIS.”  The truth is far more complex.  The prolonged U.S. occupation of Iraq helped to create ISIS in the first place, and failed American efforts to create and train reliable Iraqi security forces contributed to easy ISIS victories after U.S. forces left in 2011.

  1. “Third and finally, I concluded that the security threats we face in Afghanistan and the broader region are immense. Today, 20 U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations are active in Afghanistan and Pakistan — the highest concentration in any region anywhere in the world.”

Isn’t it remarkable that, after sixteen years of sustained effort by the U.S. military, the Af-Pak region is now home to 20+ terrorist organizations?  The “highest concentration” in the world?  Is this not an admission of the utter failure of U.S. policy and actions since 2001?  How is this failure to be rectified by yet more U.S. attacks?

Trump said the new American goal is to kill terrorists.  This is not a strategy.  It’s a perpetual and deadly game of Whac-A-Mole.  That’s what Trump’s vaunted new strategy boils down to, despite the talk of economic pressure and working with Pakistan and India and other regional powers.

On Afghanistan, Trump should have listened to his instincts and withdrawn.  Instead, he listened to “his” generals.  With Trump, the generals won this round.  What they can’t win, however, is the war.

 

  • Jed Grover

    Perhaps my logic is flawed but I thought that by sending the most sophisticated, most expensive military to this region to combat terrorism that it would have a reduction in these terror cells not an increase. Maybe the poppy fields created a distraction? Or ……. was it the oil and those so-called “American Interests” all funded by the US tax payer as they all are bent over grabbing their ankles and taking it up the old As…….. big time. Profiteering war time and the ways of the Neocons. Drink some more “exceptionalism” and Leader of the NOT so Free World in the name of “Democracy” in name only.

  • kevinzeese

    When you kill more civilians than so-called terrorists (who may be perceived locally as people fighting US imperialism), it is not surprising that the US creates more terrorists than it destroys. That has been a problem in all the US wars since 9-11.

  • AlanMacDonald

    W. J., the “generals” didn’t create the war — the EMPIRE did!

    EMPIRE is the alpha and omega, the metastasizing cancer, and the strange father and mother of War! — as well as all domestic tyranny, oppression, and looting.

    As I wrote in Feb of ’07 about the most important thing to consider in the
    up-coming November 2008 election a year and a half away:

    “The very most important question that the American people should be
    asking (and looking for) in any candidate for president in ’08 is not,
    “Where do you stand on the war?”, but, “Where do you stand on the EMPIRE
    that has taken over our country — an Empire of which the war in Iraq
    is only the biggest and most visible crime — yet?”

    And as the late great Jewish public intellectual, academic expert on empires, and renowned professor, Hannah Arendt tried to warn her own German people:

    “Empire abroad entails tyranny at home” — and we have more of both than the world can bear “Right here in River City”.

  • AlanMacDonald

    Yes, Kevin, Empire, and the wars it creates, are the ultimate and maximal type on ‘negative externality costs’ dumped on the people to create faux-profits for the Empire and its tiny sociopathic ruling-elite.