Trump's Slide Into Endless-War Syndrome

Authored by Ivan Eland via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

During his campaign for the presidency, Donald Trump touted his nationalist “America First” foreign policy, which implied that he wanted to stay out of foreign brushfire wars. Even before that, he tweeted his disapproval of American involvement of the Afghan War.

The photograph released by the White House of President Trump meeting with his advisers at his estate in Mar-a-Lago on April 6, 2017, regarding his decision to launch missile strikes against Syria

Yet now he has delegated the authority to his Secretary of Defense to send several thousand more troops to Afghanistan to join the almost 9,000 that remain there advising and assisting Afghan forces and hunting Islamist terrorists. And that is not the only instance in which the Trump administration has gone against his original inclination or is contemplating it.

Trump appears to be delegating the troop re-escalation decision for Afghanistan to Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, because the president wants to be able to dodge responsibility in case that policy is ultimately unsuccessful, just as he blamed the botched Special Operations raid in Yemen on the military. Re-escalation is likely to fail, because the administration has no strategy for turning the already-lost conflict around. Adding 3,000 to 5,000 troops, according to a U.S. military that never wants to admit losing a war, would allow American troops to “advise” Afghan troops in battlefield areas, instead of remaining at higher headquarters, and also to call in U.S. air and artillery strikes in support of those local forces.

Yet the Afghan War is the longest conflict in American history, and no conception of “success” can be realistically imagined. How can an augmented force of 13,000 or 14,000 American advisers have success helping a still pathetic Afghan military (even after 16 years of U.S. training), when 100,000 much more potent U.S. combat troops could not defeat the Taliban during all those prior years of conflict?

And if the Taliban’s gains on the battlefield aren’t enough, the continued U.S. military presence in Afghanistan has caused some Islamist militants to pledge allegiance to the even more radical and brutal ISIS group. One can easily see that when the 3,000 to 5,000 troops have little effect on the battlefield, which is the probable outcome, the military will begin demanding a more sizeable re-escalation of the endless conflict.

Should we give the U.S. military a blank check for perpetual war until it comes up with a face-saving way to exit with honor? Such a ruse didn’t fool anyone in the Vietnam War.

India’s Interests

The original U.S. enemy, Al Qaeda, is already a spent force in that part of the world. In addition, the Indian government is assisting Afghanistan economically and Afghan forces militarily and would have an incentive to do much more if the United States withdrew from the fight. India doesn’t want its arch rival Pakistan’s support of the Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan to result in a Taliban-controlled or influenced Afghan government that will augment Pakistan’s power in the South Asian region. Thus, the United States could let India, which has greater strategic interest in this local war than does the United States these days, take over countering the Taliban and ISIS in the region.

Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter pilots fly near Jalalabad, Afghanistan, April 5, 2017.  (Army photo by Capt. Brian Harris)

In addition to re-escalating an already unsuccessful Afghan War, some in the Trump administration want to ramp up the fight in Syria and assistance to the Saudi Arabian-led coalition against the Houthi rebels in Yemen, who are loosely aligned with Saudi-rival Iran.

Trump, seemingly only to prove he was tougher than President Obama was in Syria, mounted a for-show cruise missile attack on a Syrian air base after an alleged chemical weapons attack by the Bashar al-Assad regime. Before the U.S. attack, the Trump administration warned the Russians and the thus the Syrians that it was coming, thus severely mitigating its effect.

Lately, however, some in the Trump administration want to widen the war against ISIS in Syria to include Iranian-sponsored militias that are also fighting ISIS. Yet the perils of escalation in Syria became apparent when a Syrian government plane dropped bombs near U.S.-sponsored rebels, U.S. aircraft shot down the plane, and then the Russians declared that any American aircraft flying over Syrian government-controlled areas would be tracked as potential targets. Russian downing of an American aircraft or vice versa would be an unneeded and dangerous escalation between two nuclear-armed great powers over the outcome of a civil war in a country that is not strategic to the United States.

The desire of some Trump administration officials to go after Iranian-sponsored militias in Syria is part of a larger Trump inclination to support Saudi Arabia in its regional rivalry with Iran in the Persian Gulf. That regional rivalry is also playing out in the destitute country of Yemen, with the United States selling the despotic Saudis a fresh batch of expensive military equipment, some of which will probably be used to kill Houthis in Yemen, including lots of civilians. Yet if Syria is not strategic to the United States, the poor nation of Yemen is certainly not either.

In the Syrian civil war, the United States should sit back and watch its adversaries fight each other — ISIS and other radical Sunni Islamists versus Iran, Iranian-sponsored militias, the autocratic Syrian government, and Russia.

In the internecine conflict in Yemen, the Saudi coalition, which has already killed many civilians, is hardly better than Iran.

In the Afghan civil war, the United States should accept defeat, withdraw its forces — instead of re-escalating the war — and let India fully take over assisting the Afghan military in its fight against the Taliban and ISIS.

In sum, Trump should avoid getting co-opted by the U.S. military and honor his campaign rhetoric, which implied staying out of non-strategic brushfire wars.


RenoCarlino Tue, 07/25/2017 - 02:08 Permalink

Staying out? Come on what's the profit in that? Look at all the billions of dollars worth in contracts the MIC can bid from the government if the US starts a war. The American people will suffer as they have their funding to services cut off but they don't really matter. Why save your own people when you can go kill other people instead?

shutterbug Tue, 07/25/2017 - 02:14 Permalink

"honor his campaign rhetoric, which implied staying out of non-strategic brushfire wars."Staying out of "non-strategic wars" ??? So all strategic wars ARE acceptable???The list with crazy morons keeps getting bigger, and bigger ...When we have another war let's put all the people like him in the front with WW1 rifles and orders to engage and never to return to the land of real humans... then they can play war, for the few minutes it lasts.

uhland62 shutterbug Tue, 07/25/2017 - 02:35 Permalink

Only the American people can reduce and prevent these wars - and the hardship conditions that they cause the population. We (where I am) are - unfortunately - allies and have to tag along, spend the money as swampies in Washington see fit.There was No. 1, Obama, championing 'change we can believe in' and 'nationbuilding at home'. Did not happen.Now there's No 2, Trump, with promises to put America First. Not really happening - the bleeding through the wars continues despite the rhetoric during the campaign. Does it have to be this term and another one to 2025 for the belligerence to continue? Or do we hope for the card house made from credit cards to tumble soon? Do they need a No. 3 with the real deal or will they wake up before

In reply to by shutterbug

NoDecaf Tue, 07/25/2017 - 02:14 Permalink

I have seen the swamp, and it looks like a sea of bald heads crowding around a screen. Clipboards, and water bottles, coffee cups and ties. 

Freedumb Tue, 07/25/2017 - 02:32 Permalink

Campaign promises are unenforceable, so our only remedy to ever exist is to vote for the "other" party in disapproval -- oh yeah by the way, the two parties actively collude to prevent any outside competition and have identical foreign policies, so it only ever will be one "other" party as long as they run the show. And they have zero incentive to ever allow things to change. Given that the only economy left is either a distortion of banks, the government or both (military, healthcare, tech bubble), the overuse of the military is not surprising in the least, and will never stop until the two parties are dethroned. Not holding my breath, I figure I will be dead in the minimum 50+ years it takes for people in this country to get pissed off enough. Bread and circuses indeed.

Golden Showers Tue, 07/25/2017 - 02:45 Permalink

Man, shit's really going to suck when the bugs from Klandathu attack the planet and wipe out Rio.No more Disney Movies about bluebirds. :/But it would be so awesome to have a clubhouse at my golf resort where my "advisors" came down into my secret fort house to talk shop and I showed them how desperate I was to do anything in Afghanistan. I mean, Russia got their asses kicked in Afghanistan. I'd probably stand there while my hair fell out.Are we talking about the same Afghanistan? Is it Chinatown? Is life imitating art? Do we have a government? Does it live underneath a golf resort? We're talking about April?I don't know since I have burnt my hypothalamus from alcohol, but I forget what day it is so I look at the bottom right corner of my screen and it says 7/25/2017. 1234 am. So, what the fuck does 4/6/2017 have to do with it? I can draw a clock so I don't have dementia. The last time I shit my pants I was 6 years old in 1981. It was traumatic. Huge hunks of solid poo weighing me down. But I survived and went on to vomit on my 25th birthday on the floor and go back to sleep. This shit, I don't know.Man, for one thing, I feel a lot safer to have that kid with the ropes and shit holding up the door. And that big TV and that little room with everyone scrunched in to the table... And that one dude on the lower left passing the pipe to the other guy in the black suit? Everyone looks all serious trying not to cough.Fucking hilarious. Call it: Still Life with Still Bornes. I've seen better Government on Sesame Street.They look pissed off there's not enough Wii controllers to go around the clubhouse and they're supposed to be running the country?What a fucking joke.

francis scott … Tue, 07/25/2017 - 03:04 Permalink

"Trump ... mounted a for-show cruise missile attack on a Syrian air base after an alleged chemical weapons attack by the Bashar al-Assad regime. Before the U.S. attack, the Trump administration warned the Russians and the thus the Syrians that it was coming, thus severely mitigating its effect." 

Does no one think that this may have been a "friendly" (in the parlance of soccer) Contest Between the Offensive Weapons of the US and the Defensive Weapons of Russia?  Where only Moscow and Washington know how many anti-missiles the Russians fired at the 59 incoming US birds, allowingthe US 23 hits. This was near the very beginning of strange, but not fake, news that makes no sense at all.Right up to today's announcement by Brennan that a coup is in order if Trump fires Mueller. First, the American-paid-for coup in Kiev when Viktor Yanukovych thought about withdrawing from an agreement with the EU.  Now the ex-Director of the CIA ordering a coup if Trump fires Mueller. CAN THERE BE ANY DOUBT THAT DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA IS AS DEAD AS JFK, SALVADOR ALLENDE,THE DIEM BROTHERS, OLAF PALME, AND SCORES OF OTHERS ASSASSINATED BY ORDERS OF THE CIA?

adanata Tue, 07/25/2017 - 04:13 Permalink

The propaganda in this article would GAG A MAGGOT. US Troops have been in Afghanistan for ten years to guard the poppy fields in order to ensure the Barons de Rothschild; and their central branch banking "system" et al, collects about $1Trillion per annum in drug profits. MI-6/CIA are the Lords of the international drug trade. The Syrian "war" is about the Barons and their banks gaining control of supplying Europe with energy while squeezing out the EU's more appropriate energy provider, Russia. More to the point, they also intend to ensure Israhell is the biggest iguana in that mineral rich desert while capturing the few countries left that have not yet been taken over by the Barons of Basel. The CIA led Libyan "rebels" made history by establishing a Rothschild led Libyan Central Bank [and Ministry of Oil] almost before firing a shot. Articles like this make me wanna puke; no wonder people don't know anything; there's barely a word of truth in. Rule of thumb... follow the money... it's ALWAYS the BANKS.

Grandad Grumps Tue, 07/25/2017 - 03:38 Permalink

Ya think that Trump could afford a little bigger meeting room.

But, then again, the entire purpose is as entertainment for us. It is not real. It is a strong illusion.

BritBob Tue, 07/25/2017 - 04:40 Permalink

Donald needs to keep an eye on the Spanish - Spanish Guardia Civil vessel Rio Cedena twice tried to disrupt the visit by ballistic missile sub USS Florida as it was approaching the British Overseas Territory on the southern tip of Spain. According to the Sun, the incident has caused outrage among senior officials in Gibraltar with one 'top source' saying: 'This is not only a very dangerous game for the Spanish to play but it is unbecoming of a NATO ally to treat the US Navy with such contempt.'(Daily Mail 6 May 2016)   Looks like Spain will try and play the Gibraltar card  (A worthless sovereignty claim): Gibraltar - Some Relevant International Law: Gibraltar is an important NATO base.

Blanco Diablo BritBob Tue, 07/25/2017 - 04:54 Permalink

Things are going smashingly well in King Khan's Londonistan. The City of London has the highest murder rate in the land. While the authorities launch investigations into pork being left at a mosque or a hijab supposedly being torn off, crime continues to rise. Like Islamic terrorism, stabbings in London are one of those things that can’t be solved by the police. Unlike people saying mean things about Muslims on Facebook and Twitter which the Met cops are well equipped to solve.Still the authorities have been doing their best to tackle stabbings with a knife ban. Carry a knife without a “good reason” and you can get four years in prison.  But it’s working well enough that many of the gangs responsible for the violence are turning to acid.Acid attacks in London rose from 162 in 2012 to 454 last year. There have already been 199 acid attacks this year. Five acid attacks just happened in London in the space of little more than an hour.And so the obvious new solution is drain cleaner control. "

In reply to by BritBob

Last of the Mi… Tue, 07/25/2017 - 07:08 Permalink

More fanning the flames with "Trump is responsible for all past and future wars" propaganda. The status quo has to be changed, of course there's going to be hurt feelings. damn.

PiratePiggy Tue, 07/25/2017 - 08:57 Permalink

> "Yet the Afghan War is the longest conflict in American history, and no conception of “success” can be realistically imagined." Not really. The Bushes got us involved in Iraq in 1991, approaching 30 years now with constant flyovers and no-fly zones during a shory lull in the Clonton years.

Rebelrebel7 (not verified) Tue, 07/25/2017 - 10:04 Permalink

Afghanistan has never lost a war, due to its geography, and the warrior mentality of the Afghani people to defend their sovereign land.We are in Afghanistan for the heroin. Thanks to our mitaty, 60,000 Americans overdosed on heroin last year.Here are photos of our military guarding poppy fields, a trillion dollar a year supplemental income for the corrupt MIC, Intel, and government:… military advisers are pure evil. Trump should keep his promise to Americans and stay out of Foreign wars.

FBaggins Tue, 07/25/2017 - 10:32 Permalink

You can’t blame Trump for all of America’s messes. For a brief historical synopsis, the following UN one is fairly accurate, but it leaves out a lot of the crimes of superpowers. When there is no universal standards or right and wrong, when there is no real up or down, and might is the only right, then the US will probably remain in Afghanistan and the poppies will continue to grow. However, if you insert moral principles of right and wrong there are many more problems and political life becomess more complicated, but you start solving those problems, not eliminating them along with people.   

Brazen Heist Tue, 07/25/2017 - 11:01 Permalink

Just get the fuck out....its a lost cause, a lost war and a waste of lives, money and resources, fullstop. Except for a select few psychopaths who thrive off war, this war has no purpose.

WTFUD Tue, 07/25/2017 - 12:25 Permalink

Through the law of diminishing returns you no longer get a bang for your buck these days or 100 ways to feel important/impotent even when you're a cunt.