Tag Archives: forever wars

What Does Winning Mean in a Forever War? by Patrick J. Buchanan

The ones who “win” from US forever wars are defense and intelligence contractors. From Patrick J. Buchanan at buchanan.org:

When a Wall Street Journal editorial warned this week against any precipitous U.S. withdrawal that might imperil our gains in Afghanistan, an exasperated President Trump shot back:

“Could someone please explain to them that we have been there for 19 years. … and except at the beginning, we never really fought to win.”

Is that true? Did we “never really” fight to win during our 19-year war in Afghanistan, except when we first ousted the Taliban in 2001?

At one point in this longest American war against al-Qaida and the Taliban, Barack Obama surged 100,000 U.S. troops into Afghanistan.

The issue here is with the terminology.

In the forever wars of the Middle East, what does “winning” mean?

To those of us who grew up in the mid-20th century, victory was Gen. MacArthur standing on the deck of the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay as top-hatted Japanese diplomats signed the articles of surrender.

Victory was unmistakable and irreversible.

Five years after V-J day, however, came Korea, a war that lasted three years and ended in deadlock, stalemate and a truce along the 38th parallel, where the North-South war had begun in June of 1950.

Vietnam also came to be called a “no-win war.”

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Where Have You Gone, Smedley Butler? by Danny Sjursen

You’d think America would have at least one renegade general who would publicly state that forever wars are idiotic and criminal, but sadly, that’s not the case. From Danny Sjursen at tomdispatch.com:

There once lived an odd little man — five feet nine inches tall and barely 140 pounds sopping wet — who rocked the lecture circuit and the nation itself. For all but a few activist insiders and scholars, U.S. Marine Corps Major General Smedley Darlington Butler is now lost to history. Yet more than a century ago, this strange contradiction of a man would become a national war hero, celebrated in pulp adventure novels, and then, 30 years later, as one of this country’s most prominent antiwar and anti-imperialist dissidents.

Raised in West Chester, Pennsylvania, and educated in Quaker (pacifist) schools, the son of an influential congressman, he would end up serving in nearly all of America’s “Banana Wars” from 1898 to 1931. Wounded in combat and a rare recipient of two Congressional Medals of Honor, he would retire as the youngest, most decorated major general in the Marines.

A teenage officer and a certified hero during an international intervention in the Chinese Boxer Rebellion of 1900, he would later become a constabulary leader of the Haitian gendarme, the police chief of Philadelphia (while on an approved absence from the military), and a proponent of Marine Corps football. In more standard fashion, he would serve in battle as well as in what might today be labeled peacekeeping, counterinsurgency, and advise-and-assist missions in Cuba, China, the Philippines, Panama, Nicaragua, Mexico, Haiti, France, and China (again). While he showed early signs of skepticism about some of those imperial campaigns or, as they were sardonically called by critics at the time, “Dollar Diplomacy” operations — that is, military campaigns waged on behalf of U.S. corporate business interests — until he retired he remained the prototypical loyal Marine.

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Marines, Not McDonald’s: Tom Friedman’s Fortune-Telling Folly, by Danny Sjursen

One way to greatly burnish one’s credentials as a seer and a sage and increase one’s book sales is to be consistently wrong. From Danny Sjursen at antiwar.com:

History is over. The world is flat.

These were the sort of self-congratulatory and wildly grandiose platitudes that passed for wisdom in first decade after the United States declared “victory” in the Cold War. Neither slim statement is true – at least not in the sense they meant them – naturally: literally (of course), or even figuratively. Then again, it isn’t strictly true that the U.S. “won” the Cold War, or “defeated” the Soviets, surely not militarily, either.

There’s reams of evidence that the collapse of the Soviet Empire, and the consequent America-piloted globalization crusade, didn’t usher in world peace or cover the world with Western-style, liberal governments. Yet, even in the face of such pesky facts, a staggeringly sizable core of establishment foreign policy elites, in that intellectual wasteland of Washington D.C., still cling to these comforting fictions. As if just a bit more effort, one last good old college-try, by their “indispensable nation” could get the job done. Thankfully, there are eloquent voices from outside the Beltway echo chamber doing their best to deep six these harmful myths.

For example, recently, I read – dissected really – my longtime muse Andrew Bacevich’s new book, The Age of Illusions: How America Squandered its Cold War Victory. It’s damn good. To emphasize his point, Bacevich conjures the (still living) ghosts of Francis Fukuyama and Thomas Friedman. Fukuyama was the prophetic one, and the lead phrase up top was his. His bold assertion was that, as the Cold War wound down, the future would belong to American-style governments, specifically that: “The end of history means liberal democracy is the final form of government for all nations.”

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Forever War in the Last 20 Years Cost $6.4 Trillion, by Mike “Mish” Shedlock

Think of what could have been done with the at least $6.4 trillion that has been wasted on senseless wars. From Mike “Mish” Shedlock at moneymaven.io:

Since 911, the cost of Forever War totals $6.4 Trillion and 801,000 killed including 335,000 dead civilians. For What?

Neta C. Crawford, Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science at Boston University and a co-director of the Costs of War Project at Brown University calculates the [Cost of 20 Years of War](https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/files/cow/imce/papers/2019/US%20Budgetary%20Costs%20of%20Wars%20November%202019.pdf?utm_source=Daily%20on%20Defense%20(2019%20TEMPLATE%29_11/15/2019&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=WEX_Daily%20on%20Defense&rid=84648).

Summary of War-Related Spending

Changing the Names of the Wars to Hide the Total

One potential barrier for civilians to understanding the total scale and costs of the post-9/11 wars is the changes in the naming of the wars. The US military designates main war zones in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Syria as named operations. The longest war so far, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, has had two names: Operation Enduring Freedom, designated the first phase of war in Afghanistan from October 2001; it was designated Operation Freedom’s Sentinel on 1 January 2015. The war in Iraq was designated Operation Iraqi Freedom from March 2003 to 31 August 2010, when it became Operation New Dawn. When the US began to fight in Syria and Iraq, the war was designated Operation Inherent Resolve. For ease of understanding, the costs are not labeled here by their OCO designation, but by major war zone — namely Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Iraq and later Iraq and Syria.

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Goodbye To All That, by Danny Sjursen

Danny Sjursen takes his parting shots at the US Army. From Sjursen at tomdispatch.com:

The Forever Wars Go On Without Me

“Patriotism, in the trenches, was too remote a sentiment, and at once rejected as fit only for civilians, or prisoners.” — Robert Graves, Goodbye To All That(1929).

I’m one of the lucky ones. Leaving the madness of Army life with a modest pension and all of my limbs intact feels like a genuine escape. Both the Army and I knew it was time for me to go. I’d tired of carrying water for empire and they’d grown weary of dealing with my dissenting articles and footing the bill for my seemingly never-ending PTSD treatments. Now, I’m society’s problem, unleashed into a civilian world I’ve never gazed upon with adult eyes.

I entered West Point in July 2001, a bygone era of (relative) peace, the moment, you might say, before the 9/11 storm broke. I leave an Army that remains remarkably engaged in global war, patrolling an increasingly militarized world.

In a sense, I snuck out of the military at age 35, my early retirement an ignominious end to a once-promising career. Make no mistake, I wanted out. I’d relocated 11 times in 18 years, often enough to war zones, and I simply didn’t have another deployment in me. Still, I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t admit that I’ll mourn the loss of my career, of the identity inherent in soldiering, of the experience of adulation from a grateful (if ill-informed) society.

Perhaps that’s only natural, no matter how much such a hokey admission embarrasses me. I recognize, at least, that there’s a paradox at work here: the Army and the Global War on Terror (GWOT) made me who I now am, brought a new version of me to life, and gifted me (if that’s the right phrase for something so grim) with the stories, the platform, and the pain that now make my writing possible. Those military deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan in particular turned a budding neocon into an unabashed progressive. My experiences there transformed an insecure, aspiring dealer-in-violence into someone who might be as near as a former military man can get to a pacifist. And what the U.S. Army helped me become is someone who, in the end, I don’t mind gazing at in the mirror each morning.

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The World According to the “Adults in the Room”, by Maj. Danny Sjursen

Nobody knows why those who promote war are adults and those who promote peace are children. From Maj. Danny Sjursen at tomdispatch.com:

A Year of Forever War in Review

Leave it to liberals to pin their hopes on the oddest things. In particular, they seemed to find post-Trump solace in the strange combination of the two-year-old Mueller investigation and the good judgment of certain Trump appointees, the proverbial “adults in the room.” Remember that crew? It once included Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former ExxonMobil CEO, and a trio of active and retired generals — so much for civilian control of the military — including Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. Until his sudden resignation, Mattis was (just barely) the last man standing. Still, for all these months, many Americans had counted on them to all but save the nation from an unpredictable president. They were the ones supposedly responsible for helming (or perhaps hemming in) the wayward ship of state when it came to foreign and national security policy.

Too bad it was all such a fantasy. As Donald Trump wraps up his second year in the Oval Office, despite sudden moves in Syria and Afghanistan, the United States remains entrenched in a set of military interventions across significant parts of the world. Worse yet, what those adults guided the president toward was yet more bombing, the establishment of yet more bases, and the funding of yet more oversized Pentagon budgets. And here was the truly odd thing: every time The Donald tweeted negatively about any of those wars or uttered an offhand remark in opposition to the warfare state or the Pentagon budget, that triumvirate of generals and good old Rex went to work steering him back onto the well-worn track of Bush-Obama-style forever wars.

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America’s Phony War Blitzkrieg Overseas, Sitzkrieg in the Homeland, by William J. Astore

The government and MIC don’t allow anyone on the home front to be inconvenienced by their wars. From William J. Astore at tomdispatch.com:

Overseas, the United States is engaged in real wars in which bombs are dropped, missiles are launched, and people (generally not Americans) are killed, wounded, uprooted, and displaced. Yet here at home, there’s nothing real about those wars.  Here, it’s phony war all the way. In the last 17 years of “forever war,” this nation hasn’t for one second been mobilized. Taxes are being cut instead of raised.  Wartime rationing is a faint memory from the World War II era.  No one is being required to sacrifice a thing.

Now, ask yourself a simple question: What sort of war requires no sacrifice?  What sort of war requires that almost no one in the country waging it take the slightest notice of it?

America’s conflicts in distant lands rumble on, even as individual attacks flash like lightning in our news feeds.  “Shock and awe” campaigns in Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, initially celebrated as decisive and game changing, ultimately led nowhere.  Various “surges” produced much sound and fury, but missions were left decidedly unaccomplished.  More recent strikes by the Trump administration against a Syrian air base or the first use of the most powerful non-nuclear weapon in the U.S. arsenal, the MOAB super-bomb, in Afghanistan flared brightly, only to fizzle even more quickly.  These versions of the German blitzkrieg-style attacks of World War II have been lightning assaults that promised much but in the end delivered little.  As these flashes of violence send America’s enemies of the moment (and nearby civilians) to early graves, the homeland (that’s us) slumbers.  Sounds of war, if heard at all, come from TV or video screens or Hollywood films in local multiplexes.

We are, in fact, kept isolated from Washington’s wars, even as America’s warriors traverse a remarkable expanse of the globe, from the Philippines through the Greater Middle East deep into Africa.  As conflicts flare and sputter, ramp up and down and up again, Americans have been placed in a form of behavioral lockdown.  Little more is expected of us than to be taxpaying spectators or, when it comes to the U.S. military, starry-eyed cheerleaders.  Most of the time, those conflicts are not just out of sight, but meant to be out of mind as well.  Rare exceptions are moments when our government asks us to mourn U.S. service members like Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens, killed in an abortive raid President Trump ordered in Yemen in early 2017 in which children also died (though that was something just about no one here even noticed).  While the military has been deploying and striking on a global scale, we’ve been told from the very first moments of Washington’s self-proclaimed war on terror to go shopping or to Disney World and let the experts handle it.

To continue reading: America’s Phony War Blitzkrieg Overseas, Sitzkrieg in the Homeland