Tuesday, August 22, 2017 at 7:47 AM

Trump Aping ‘Stupid’ Obama Who Aped “Crusading” Bush on War in Afghanistan

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

Like Obama, Trump made ending America’s longest war a signature promise of his presidential campaign.

We have wasted an enormous amount of blood and treasure in Afghanistan. Their government has zero appreciation. Let’s get out!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 21, 2013

Now, like Obama, he’s reneging on that promise just months into his presidency.

President Trump on Monday sought to rally the nation in support of a new strategy for the U.S. war in Afghanistan, taking greater ownership of a protracted conflict that he had long dismissed as a waste of time and resources. …

‘From now on, victory will have a clear definition: attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing al-Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over the country, and stopping mass terror attacks against Americans before they emerge.’ …

Trump did not specify how many more troops will be sent to Afghanistan, but congressional officials said the administration has told them it will be about 4,000.

(Washington Post, August 21, 2017)

Trust me, despite his kumbaya preamble and trademark bluster, Trump’s plan for victory amounts to nothing more than a continuation of Obama’s, which amounted to nothing more than a continuation of Bush’s.

At least Bush and Obama had a clear understanding of their respective plans and demonstrated a good faith belief that it might work. Nobody can say the same even of this straitjacketed Teleprompter Don – in either respect.

For example, he made much ado about announcing that “conditions on the ground,” not arbitrary timetables, will determine the withdrawal of US troops. But, past being prologue, conditions on the ground are bound to remain such that US troops could be mired in Afghanistan for the next 200 years, trying to no avail to accomplish Trump’s definition of victory.

Arguably, scientists will cure cancer before soldiers defeat terrorism. And, lest we forget, this is the same Trump who often scoffed that troops would be mired in Afghanistan for 200 years if “stupid” presidents like Bush and Obama had their way.

Incidentally, wasn’t the mother of all bombs (MOAB), which the US dropped on Afghanistan in April, supposed to change conditions on the ground, decisively…?

Then there’s the manifest absurdity of relying on Pakistan to help with Afghanistan the way he relied on China to help with North Korea. After all, anyone who knows anything about Pakistan’s nefarious involvement in Afghanistan knows that it is even less likely to help, especially given Trump’s provocative invitation for its archrival India to help too.

I am very disappointed in China. Our foolish past leaders have allowed them to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet they do NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk. We will no longer allow this to continue. China could easily solve this problem!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 29, 2017

And one has to wonder about Trump’s conspicuous failure to mention any measures to counter the destabilizing influence Russia  and Iran are wielding in this country.


The Taliban have received improved weaponry in Afghanistan that appears to have been supplied by the Russian government, according to exclusive videos obtained by CNN, adding weight to accusations by Afghan and American officials that Moscow is arming their one-time foe in the war-torn country.

US generals first suggested they were concerned the Russian government was seeking to arm the Afghan insurgents back in April, but images from the battlefield here corroborating these claims have been hard to come by. …

Two separate sets of Taliban, one in the north and another in the west, claim to be in possession of the weapons, which they say were originally supplied by Russian government sources.

(CNN, July 25, 2017)


In arming the Taliban, the Iranians are only doing to the Americans today what the Americans did to the Russians during the 1980s (when they were fighting an equally ill-fated war in Afghanistan). Anyone familiar with the derring-dos of Congressman Charlie Wilson, all of which are documented in Charlie Wilson’s War, knows this.

Karma: it’s a bitch!

(“Iran Arming America’s Enemies in Afghanistan,” The iPINIONS Journal, September 10, 2009)

Since launching my weblog 13 years ago, I have written countless commentaries decrying the folly of America’s involvement in Afghanistan. They range from “Meanwhile, Over in Afghanistan: Snatching Defeat from the Hands of Victory,” September 18, 2006, to “Three More Americans Die for ‘Mistake’ in Afghanistan,” June 12, 2017.

But here is a seminal excerpt from “Without (or Even With) More Troops, Failure in Afghanistan is Likely,” September 23, 2009. In a curious bit of symmetry, I wrote it around this time in Obama’ presidency – after he announced his fateful plan to ape Bush.


[N]ation building in Afghanistan (even under the guise of a ‘counterinsurgency strategy’) is no longer advisable or feasible. Indeed, all indications are that the die has been cast for this ‘good war.’

Accordingly, US legacy there will be distinguished either by a terminally wounded national pride – as American forces beat a hasty retreat in defeat (following the Russian precedent), or by thousands more American soldiers being lost in Afghanistan’s ‘graveyard of empires’ – as they continue fighting this unwinnable war (following America’s own Vietnam precedent): more troops only mean more sitting ducks for Taliban fighters. …

Obama would be well-advised to cut America’s losses and retreat ASAP; let the Afghans govern themselves however they like; and rely on Special Forces to disrupt and dismantle Taliban and al-Qaeda operations in country and on aerial drones to attack their havens in the mountainous regions of Pakistan.


Obviously, Trump would be well-advised to do the same. Unfortunately, like Bush and Obama, he seems determined to repeat the mistakes US presidents made during the Vietnam War. Only this vietnamization explains Trump’s military advisers thinking that 15,000 troops can do what 150,000 could not. Crazy!

And all this just because the generals invariably convince each president they serve that he does not want to go down in history as the president who lost this war. Again, crazy!

By the way, Steve Bannon is the nationalist White House adviser who got fired last week. He was reportedly advising Trump to “privatize US operations in Afghanistan.” But this outsourcing smacks of the Banana-Republic madness that has the president of the Philippines relying on vigilantes to fight that country’s war on drugs – with all of the reckless and feckless carnage that entails.

Not to mention suspicions that Bannon hoped to get kickbacks from the bounty of $10 billion annually, which his favored contractor, latter-day Viking Erik Prince, would charge the US government for his militia’s mercenary services.

In any event, it has been self-evident from the outset of this war that non-Taliban Afghans are all too happy to let the Americans fight their battles.

But the longer American soldiers remain mired in this unwinnable war, the more they will undermine the American military’s reputation of invincibility. And the more they undermine that reputation, the more not just the Taliban but tin-pot dictators like North Korea’s Kim Jong-un will feel emboldened to fight the United States – Trump’s “fire and fury” bluster notwithstanding.

Of course, it hardly instills fear in any adversary to have merchant ships and oil tankers ramming US battleships out of commission.

The US Navy ordered a broad investigation Monday into the performance and readiness of the Pacific-based 7th Fleet after the USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker in Southeast Asian waters, leaving 10 U.S. sailors missing and others injured.

It was the second major collision in the past few months involving the Navy’s 7th Fleet. Seven sailors died in June when the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship collided in waters off Japan.

(Washington Post, August 21, 2017)

To be fair, US soldiers have shown valor beyond the call of duty during this 16-year war. But it should be instructive that, despite their best efforts, military advisers readily admit that America is “not winning.” Indeed, you’d think even warmongering generals would be loath to waste more blood and treasure waging it – given the 2,250 soldiers already killed and nearly $1 trillion already spent.

Except that, based on the Vietnam toll of 58,000 killed, I suspect military advisers would consider another 2,250 killed over the next 16 years an “acceptable loss.” And everything we know about the military industrial complex suggests that they would not care how much it costs to continue waging this forever war.


Why should the United States be any more willing to keep troops stationed in Afghanistan to defend it from the Taliban than it was to keep them stationed in Vietnam to defend it from the Viet Cong? Especially given that the spread of communism posed a far greater existential threat to the United States back then than the spread of jihadism poses today. Hell, we have more to fear from the mercenary ideology of the NRA than the religious ideology of Islamic Jihad.

(“Obama, Nobel Peace Laureate, Seals Legacy as Wartime President,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 13, 2016)

Incidentally, it’s patently specious to justify continued US involvement in Afghanistan by citing US troops still stationed in post-war Germany. For starters, “post-war” is the operative distinction. Moreover, those troops never had Nazis trying to kill them while they were trying to help other Germans rebuild their country (namely West Germany).

Unfortunately, political reporters and pundits are too busy covering the silly folly of the fired Bannon threatening internecine “war” within the Republican Party to focus on the tragic follies of this war.

Finally, you’d be forgiven the impression that Trump looked more like a Saturday Night Live caricature of himself than a commander in chief as he addressed the nation tonight. No doubt recent reports on members of his own Republican Party questioning not just his moral authority and professional competence but even his mental stability reinforced this impression. Trump’s Nazi-coddling statements on the August 12 terrorist attack in Charlottesville proved the tipping point for their belated questioning.

Apropos of which, if the real mission of tonight’s address was to put a MLK spin on those statements: Mission Accomplished.

NOTE: The only way to stop American presidents these days from sending kids to die in politically motivated wars is to reinstate the Draft, which I argued for in “Support the Draft to Prevent Stupid Wars,” March 14, 2007.

Related commentaries:
Iran arming Taliban
Support the draft
snatching defeat
Obama Nobel Laureate

* This commentary was originally published yesterday, Monday, at 10:34 p.m.

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