Tag Archives: forever wars

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

 

The Generals: Failing Their Soldiers – and America, by Danny Sjursen

Danny Sjursen makes the same point SLL made in Dereliction of Duty, Part One and Part Two. The generals can’t just rubberstamp political decisions to continue wars the US has no intention of winning. From Sjursen at antiwar.com:

Where are the brave generals ready to ‘call BS’ on America’s forever wars?

September 2006. Iraq was falling apart. Nearly100 American troops were being killed a month. The war seemed hopeless, unwinnable (because it ultimately was). So the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Peter Pace, convened a “council of colonels’ – purportedly some of the brightest minds in the military – to recommend new policies. Only three, reportedly, had any combat experience in Iraq, but still, these guys were sharp. The group debated endlessly and eventually reached an impasse. They had three separate proposals and the group generally divided along service lines. Some Air Force and Navy guys wanted a phased withdrawal – the “Go Home” option – but their ideas were promptly dismissed. Other (mostly army and marine officers) wanted to “engage in prolonged conflict – the “Go Long” option. Finally, the most prominent army officers – including America’s current National Security Adviser, H.R. McMaster – wanted to “Go Big” and heavily reinforce the troops in Iraq with a “surge.” You can guess which side won out.

George W. Bush liked the can-do optimism of the “surge” team and doubled down. Violence briefly dropped, a couple thousand more American troops died, and the military promptly declared victory. We’re still dealing with the fallout.

That generation of colonels became today’s generals. The whole worldview of most senior officers is built on a fable, a myth: the surge worked. The reality is much messier. We’re still in Iraq (and Syria, and Afghanistan, and…everywhere). Still, our generals have a ready response. You see, the story goes, the problem is we didn’t go big enough or long enough and the damn liberals (like Obama!) pulled out the troops too soon. The “surge myth” provides our generals a comforting counterfactual, a road not taken, whereby the military could’ve-would’ve-should’ve won, but were denied victory.

So it stands, in 2018, that instead of a sensible “go home” option, America’s generals and civilian policymakers have handed us the worst of all worlds – a combo of “go big” and “go long.” Forever war.

To continue reading: The Generals: Failing Their Soldiers – and America