Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Trump Flops Badly On Afghanistan


There is only one elected official who was ever right about Afghanistan-- just one: Barbara Lee, who stood alone among the entire Congress and voted against Bush's decision to attack and occupy Afghanistan 17 years ago. After Trumpanzee read the speech someone had written for him from a teleprompter Monday night, Congresswoman Lee released a statement criticizing Trump for his "failure to outline a comprehensive strategy to bring an end to our nation’s longest war. After sixteen years at war, one thing is clear: there is no military solution in Afghanistan. Any lasting peace in Afghanistan must be secured through diplomacy. Further military engagement will only put our brave servicemen and women in harm’s way while doing little to enhance our national security. This war has already cost our nation too much, in blood and in treasure. We have lost 2,386 brave American service members, and more than 20,000 American soldiers have been wounded. It is past time to end the war and bring all of our troops home. In 2001, I opposed authorization for this war because it allowed any President a blank check to wage endless war without Congressional oversight. The Constitution is clear: Congress must provide advise and consent in matters of war and peace. At a minimum, Congress should debate and vote on a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force before we commit to another surge that will keep our troops in Afghanistan for years to come and cost billions more in spending."

Way across the ideological spectrum, Rand Paul was also critical of Trump's stupid, knee-jerk reaction which was based entirely on his own fears and his own vanity-- exactly what you would expect from a deranged sociopath thrust into power by a kakistocracy. Paul, in an OpEd for The Hill reminded his readers that "The mission in Afghanistan has lost its purpose, and I think it is a terrible idea to send any more troops into that war. It’s time to come home now."
We went from striking back against those who attacked us, to regime change, to nation-building, to policing their country for them. And we do it all now with an authorization that is flimsy at best, with the reason blurred, and the costs now known. We do it with an authorization that was debated and passed before some of our newest military personnel were out of diapers. This isn’t fair to them, to the American people, or to a rational foreign policy.

The Afghanistan war going beyond its original mission has an enormous cost. First and most important is the cost to our troops. Deaths, injuries and unnecessary deployments causing harm to families are certainly the most important reason as to why you don’t go to wars that aren’t necessary.

Then comes the taxpayer. We have spent over $1 trillion in Afghanistan, and nearly $5 trillion on Middle East wars in the past 15 years. Would we not be better off with $5 trillion less in debt or using these funds in other, more productive ways?

Nation-building should not be our job, and it has consistently been a fool’s errand for us, particularly in this region. There is no reason to believe we can do it in Afghanistan, and certainly no reason to believe we can do it without a permanent, costly presence in the country.

So I strongly disagree with the administration’s actions here. I’ve spoken to the president, and I know he wants to end this war. We’ve all heard him say it. But talk won’t get it done. Although I’ve been informed that the president rejected larger expansions of troops than the one announced this week, that’s not good enough. He should have rejected this one and stuck to his principles. He knows this war is over, and he-- unlike the last two presidents-- should have the guts to end it for real, on his watch.

Regardless of the argument over the number of troops, I also will insist my colleagues take up a larger argument over the power to declare war. I believe we have allowed the executive to exercise far too much power in recent years.

This is one of the reasons I objected just before the recess when the Senate moved to consider the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). I have an amendment that I will insist be considered that would repeal the 2001 AUMF on Afghanistan. That AUMF is outdated, overcome by events, and provides a feeble bit of cover for people who still want to be there.

If the president and my colleagues want to continue the war in Afghanistan, then at the very least Congress should vote on it. I’ll insist they do this fall, and I’ll be leading the charge for “no.”
Derrick Crowe is currently the Blue America-endorsed congressional candidate for the TX-21 seat occupied by Trumpo rubber-stamp Lamar Smith. We first met him many years ago when he was the political director at Brave New Foundation’s Rethink Afghanistan project.

Right after Trump's speech, Crowe released a statement for TX-21 voters that I think is worthwhile for all Americans to read. "The Afghanistan War is a bipartisan failure," he wrote, "that should end with the immediate withdrawal of troops from that country. Instead, Donald Trump is making a profoundly stupid mistake by adding military forces, despite the clear evidence that the war isn’t making us safer and isn’t worth the costs."
Osama Bin Laden is dead, along with more than 104,000 people. This war created the second largest number of refugees and internally displaced persons behind Syria. Despite these facts, the United States continues to spend $4 million per hour on a war in which Washington, D.C. has lost the plot.

House Speaker Paul Ryan made the incredible statement on CNN Monday night that our enemies will just ‘wait us out’ if we put an end date on our military deployment in Afghanistan. I’d like to discuss with Speaker Ryan what he thinks is happening now in the longest war in U.S. history. There are people finishing graduate school now who were in fourth grade when this war started.

Continuing the Afghanistan War in any way at this point is a profoundly status quo decision, one that will send many more U.S. troops home with deep physical, psychological, and moral injuries, to say nothing of the civilian deaths and maimings that will result as we reheat the conflict. Congress must immediately repeal the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force and bar President Trump from tearing another festering war wound into the painful history of the last two decades of U.S. foreign policy.
Meanwhile Breitbart, the Trump-supporting neo-Nazi website run by the criminal Mercer family and Steve Bannon, wasn't all that supportive. Trump’s 'America First' Base Unhappy with Flip-Flop Afghanistan Speech was the headline.
President Trump’s “America First” base was the biggest loser of Trump’s speech on Afghanistan Monday night, and many quickly expressed their disappointment at the business-as-usual address from the president who had once promised to limit American intervention abroad and focus on nation-building at home.

Trump’s speech, in which he pledged to increase the number of troops in the 16-year-war, was the first since the departure of Chief Strategist Steve Bannon and confirmed the fears of many on the right that without a strong nationalist voice in the West Wing, the President would revert to the same old fare that Americans had voted to reject in November.

Using many of the same vague promises that previous presidents had used, including a repeat of Obama’s promise not to give a “blank check” to Afghanistan and a pledge to finally get tough on Pakistan, it was a far cry from the “America First” foreign policy he laid out in the months before election day.

Conservative commentator Ann Coulter, who had been an enthusiastic supporter of Trump during the campaign and penned a book called In Trump we Trust, summed up the weariness of the nationalist right when she tweeted: “It doesn’t matter who you vote for. The military-industrial complex wins.”
They noted that neo-fascist Putin supporter Mike Cernovich was making fun of Ivanka, Jared and McMaster during the speech. He was also laughing at GOP goof-ball Marco Rubio. You can always count on Cernovich to be opposing all policies and actions viewed negatively by the Kremlin-- and Trump's Afghanistan blunder is, a blunder a president in severely over his depth was pushed into by the Military Industrial Complex Eisenhower warned us about.   
The plan-- which will maintain an unspecified U.S. troop presence without withdrawal timetables and intensify pressure on Pakistan to crack down on terrorist safe havens-- was the product of a months-long strategy review in which the president’s national security team talked him out of ending the costly 16-year war. “It wasn’t a debate,” said a senior White House aide. “It was an attempt to convince the president.”

It was also an unsatisfying outcome for a president who likes to act boldly and who has called America’s commitment to Afghanistan a waste of money. But the president conceded that the world looks different from behind the presidential desk.

“My original instinct was to pull out,” Trump conceded, adding that “decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office.”

...While Trump demands obedience from his civilian subordinates, his decision to recommit to Afghanistan demonstrated a willingness to change his mind on matters of national security when his military aides press him hard enough. “It shows that he’s open to reconsidering his positions on national security, which is a good thing,” said Fred Kagan, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a former adviser to Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq in the late 2000s.

...McMaster and Mattis, both of whom served in Afghanistan, stressed the weakness of the Afghan government, which controls little more than half the country, and warned that an end to U.S. military support would lead to a Taliban takeover.

In one of the last senior staff meetings before the president made his decision last Friday at Camp David, chief of staff John Kelly-- himself a retired Marine general-- played devil’s advocate, preparing Cabinet members and top aides for a grilling from the skeptical president. Kelly peppered the group with questions that reflected much of Trump’s thinking, according to a senior White House aide, from “Why can't we withdraw?” and “Why can’t we shift to a counter-terrorism only platform?” to “Why couldn’t we do this with paramilitary forces [supplied by the CIA] only?”

...[L]ike Obama, who later complained that his generals had boxed him into sending 30,000 more troops to the country in 2009, Trump chafed at the options presented to him by his military advisers.

“Obama was suspicious of what the generals were telling him. They were telling him to put in more troops than he wanted to,” said Eric Edelman, who served as Undersecretary of Defense for Policy under George W. Bush. “Trump does recognize that just pulling out is not an option. If the Taliban takes over and then there’s a terrorist attack, that is a big political risk for him,” Edelman added.

Although McMaster had hoped Trump would sign off on a strategy before a late May NATO summit in Brussels, allowing him to work out the new plan with allies there, White House aides say Trump’s resistance to the proposals from his national security team dragged out the process. In the spring, he told aides, including McMaster, that he had “campaigned against this” and had “been to Walter Reed and seen these guys with their arms and legs blown off.” He asked for more options and he demanded to know how he could justify an additional troop commitment.

White House aides say the president’s cabinet was united in its recommendation to the president, but there were skeptics and dissenters along the way. Chief strategist Steve Bannon, who was dismissed Friday, was a vocal opponent of the strategy endorsed by the president Monday, and though one White House adviser described him as a “ghost” in internal deliberations-- he preferred to speak privately with the president or to talk to the news media-- he succeeded, at least temporarily, in dubbing the effort “McMaster’s War.”

Some Trump advisers-- including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and Homeland Security Adviser Thomas Bossert-- worried that Trump’s approach might betray the promises he made as a candidate. The president’s national security team presented him with additional options, including a plan to outsource the war to contractors overseen by Erik Prince, the former Blackwater chief.

Trump was also intrigued, in two discussions with Afghan president Ashraf Ghani, by Ghani’s mention of the Afghan-istan’s huge mineral reserves-- which, he told Trump, the Afghans themselves lacked the technology and the resources to exploit. By some assessments, more than $1 trillion in mineral wealth, much of it in the form of lithium, could lay in the rock and soil of Afghanistan. But many analysts say that, given conditions in the country, it could be many years before it can be tapped at a significant profit.

After Trump raised the question of mineral wealth one cabinet meeting, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson-- a former ExxonMobil CEO who oversaw projects in several dangerous nations-- warned him about the risk of investing in politically unstable regions.

Trump nevertheless tasked Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross with examining any potential investment opportunities for the U.S. in Afghanistan, according to a senior White House aide.
Politico's Susan Glasser had a more informed perspective. She wrote that the one thing that the Trumpanzee speech proved "beyond the shadow of a doubt" is that "after nearly 16 years of fighting America’s longest war, there are no new ideas," despite Trumpanzee insisting that "his" plan is "dramatically different." Only his war-mongering rhetoric was different. Pakistan is not likely to change any substantive policies towards Afghanistan despite Trump's blustering. The only change will be that, with the disregard for collateral damage, many more Afghan civilians will die now, something that will further turn these people who never forget into eternal enemies. Meanwhile, by the by, the most historically ignorant president in history is pressuring other NATO members to send more troops into the pointless Afghan meat-grinder.

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At 8:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

America's longest war was the war against the Indians.

At 6:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

8:23, it's not past tense. it still "is" (ask bill fucking Clinton about the meaning). Standing Rock proves this.

That said, EVERYONE has flopped badly on Afghanistan. As the Russians found out, and the brits before them, THERE IS NO GOOD OUTCOME THERE!

If we stay we continue burning borrowed money in a regulation bon-sized fire with ZERO chance of ever creating a free, democratic society.

WHEN we finally go broke and leave, the Taliban return. period. you cannot argue this shall not happen. Not all of afghans are Pashtun, but all the Pashtun will become Taliban ruled. And from there the Taliban will, again, seek to rule everyone else too. And they may win. they may not.

We can either keep Afghanistan war/terror-torn, violent and corrupt by spending trillions more and losing a few dozen lads per year propping up our puppet façade of a democratic government, or we can leave Afghanistan to its own devices and let their people and their mullahs oppress themselves.

See? no good outcome at all is possible. So saying trump flopped is almost redundant.


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