Tag Archives: forever wars

Joe Biden Is Following a Blueprint for Forever War, by Danny Sjursen

Going bigger in Syria and backing up the power-mad idiot in Saudi Arabia just gets the US more stuck on the Middle Eastern tar baby. From Danny Sjursen at inthesetimes.com:

Bombing Syria and excusing the crimes of the Saudi crown prince won’t bring us any closer to a withdrawal from the Middle East.

Last week, the U.S. military bombed a site near al-Hurri, along the Iraqi border inside Syria, where Iranian-backed Iraqi militias were allegedly stationed. Although the U.S. launched its missiles across an international border (and without the approval of Congress), White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki framed the strike as a ​defensive” response to a series of rocket attacks that have killed one and wounded several Americans over the past two weeks. The American bombing left up to a handful dead,” according to one U.S. official who spoke with CNN, and Tehran condemned the assault as ​illegal and a violation of Syria’s sovereignty” — a perception gap certain to complicate President Joe Biden’s pronounced plans to reverse Donald Trump’s antagonistic Iran policies and rejoin the nuclear deal.

The campaign will do little to further the United States’ objectives in the Middle East (in as much as they can even be articulated at this point), but it heralds something more dispiriting still: That nearly two decades into a regional war, Washington (perhaps willfully) does not understand the Syria-Iraq-Iran nexus, and that the Biden administration is following a failed blueprint in the Middle East — a reality that was thrown into even sharper relief when the U.S. elected not to punish Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) after the release of a declassified intelligence report that found he was directly responsible for the murder of the Washington Post’s Jamal Khashoggi.

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Is Biden Reenlisting in the Forever Wars? by Patrick J. Buchanan

Forever wars are forever appropriations to big, politically powerful defense and intelligence contractors, which is why these wars never end. From Patrick J. Buchanan at buchanan.org:

Thursday, in its first military action, the Biden Pentagon sent two U.S. F-15Es to strike targets of Kataib Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Iraqi militia just inside the eastern border of Syria.

The U.S. strikes were in retaliation for a missile attack on a U.S. base in Irbil, capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, which killed a contractor and wounded a U.S. soldier.

“We’re confident that the target was being used by the same Shia militia that conducted the strikes,” said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

But Democratic Sens. Tim Kaine and Chris Murphy want to know where President Joe Biden got his authority to launch attacks in Syria, where there was no clear or present danger to any U.S. troops.

Days before the U.S. strike, Kataib Hezbollah issued a statement denying any complicity in the Irbil attack: “We absolutely did not target Erbil or the Green Zone and have no knowledge of the group that did.”

Iran has also denied any involvement in the missile attack on the Americans. On a visit to Baghdad, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif called for an investigation as to who is initiating the attacks inside Iraq.

“We emphasize the need for the Iraqi government to find the perpetrators of these incidents,” said Zarif.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russian forces in Syria got only four or five minutes’ notice that U.S. planes were on their way to a strike.

Bottom line: Those conducting these attacks on U.S. bases and troops in Iraq, provoking American counterstrikes, seek to ignite a conflict between the U.S. and Iran, and its proxies in Iraq and Syria.

And they are succeeding.

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Washington chicken littles would keep troops in Afghanistan forever, by Dan DePetris

There never seems to be a “right” time for Washington to withdraw from its forever wars. One possibility the author doesn’t consider is that it’s not fear, but rather a gravy train of out and out intelligence and military corruption that leads to perpetual war in places like Afghanistan. From Dan DePetris at responsiblestatecraft.org:

n the days since the Trump administration announced the withdrawal of 2,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan, the Beltway has turned into the epicenter of righteous condemnation.

Lawmakers like Republican Sen. Ben Sasse are issuing mealy-mouthed press statements calling the troop drawdown a modern-day retreat from evil terrorist forces. Retired 4-Star Generals, including John Allen and Joseph Votel, are wondering why the White House would deliberately hand Afghanistan over to the Taliban when there is so much more work to do.

One of the most sanctimonious denunciations of the withdrawal came from none other than Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who scurried to the Senate floor on the eve of the announcement to make his displeasure known: “The consequences of a premature American exit…would be reminiscent of the humiliating American departure from Saigon in 1975.”

The American public has heard all of this before. Invocations of Vietnam, claims about terrorist vacuums, and the levying of emotionally stultifying words like “retreat” are par for the course in Washington. But the last several days of huffing and puffing from the usual, so-called national security “experts” have been so obscenely dishonest that one wonders why they are consulted at all.

The talking point of a U.S. withdrawal being rushed or irresponsible is perhaps the most laughable of the bunch. The term “precipitous” has been used by opponents of the withdrawal so many times over the last several days that some journalists are habitually injecting it into their own reports. “Precipitous,” however, connotes a disorganized, panicked sprint to the exits. Trump’s decision to reduce the U.S. troop presence in the country is anything but — the administration has made it abundantly clear that Trump sees no point in throwing good money after bad in one of the most violent and corrupt places on earth. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien telegraphed the move to bring U.S. force levels in Afghanistan to 2,500 over four weeks ago. Nobody should be surprised. Nor should movement towards a final exit from a war that just entered its 20th year be referred to as a “precipitous” action.

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ELECTION 2020: What President Biden Won’t Touch, by Danny Sjursen

Joe Biden’s no threat to the warfare state. From Danny Sjursen at consortiumnews.com:

Considering the think-tank imperialists in the bunch Biden is naming to direct U.S. foreign policy, Danny Sjursen expects little to change in the essence of the war-state.

Military aircraft streaming red, white and blue during the welcoming ceremony for President Donald Trump, May 2017, King Khalid International Airport, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (White House, Andrea Hanks)

In this mystifying moment, the post-electoral sentiments of most Americans can be summed up either as “Ding dong! The witch is dead!” or “We got robbed!” Both are problematic, not because the two candidates were intellectually indistinguishable or ethically equivalent, but because each jingle is laden with a dubious assumption: that President Donald Trump’s demise would provide either decisive deliverance or prove an utter disaster.

While there were indeed areas where his ability to cause disastrous harm lent truth to such a belief — race relations, climate change, and the courts come to mind — in others, it was distinctly (to use a dangerous phrase) overkill. Nowhere was that more true than with America’s expeditionary version of militarism, its forever wars of this century, and the venal system that continues to feed it.

For nearly two years, We the People were coached to believe that the 2020 election would mean everything, that Nov. 3 would be democracy’s ultimate judgment day. What if, however, when it comes to issues of war, peace, and empire, “Decision 2020” proves barely meaningful?

After all, in the election campaign just past, Donald Trump’s sweeping war-peace rhetoric and Joe Biden’s hedging aside, neither nuclear-code aspirant bothered to broach the most uncomfortable questions about America’s uniquely intrusive global role. Neither dared dissent from normative notions about America’s posture and policy “over there,” nor challenge the essence of the war-state, a sacred cow if ever there was one.

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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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