THIS IS WHY YOU THINK ABOUT IT FIRST

The short address about Afghanistan on Monday evening was among the least offensive speeches Trump has delivered. Not because he stuck to the script, but because literally any proposed "solution" to that ongoing conflict is approximately as stupid as any other.

There is no solution. Obama knew it, and the people with half a brain around Trump know it too. The options are (to coopt language from an equally long and lamentable conflict) to "Vietnamize" the problem, to do nothing, to bring everybody home, and to send more people over. Clearly the practical solution is to just pull the plug and bring everyone home. But since we can never admit a mistake or resist the pull of the sunk costs fallacy, that's politically infeasible even for a president who isn't a monster.

Vietnamize it? Give me a break. The Afghan government barely exercises any sovereignty in the country's urban centers. Go five miles outside the security perimeter established by the American military and that country is lawless. They have zero capacity, even after 15 years of throwing money and (military oriented) solutions at the problem. So (presumably Mattis) decides, what the hell let's send 10,000 more people there, or whatever. It's a token gesture likely to accomplish nothing in the short term and less than nothing in the long term.

This is why we were so vocal about the dumbass logic used to support intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan – because once you become embroiled in this kind of situation, it is next to impossible to get out. You become, as the trillion dollar military ours is, the main institution of power in an otherwise weak, ineffectual, corrupt, and impotent government. And a few years in you realize that no amount of treasure and patience and pleading is going to get this puppet government to do the things you believe it should be able to do, so the options are reduced to pulling out and watching the whole thing collapse Saigon '75 style or you do what we are doing right now which is to make an essentially eternal commitment to fighting a low level insurgency in a country you don't fully comprehend and in which you are distinctly unwanted.

The only thing that makes any sense is cutting bait, and the conflict has been back-burnered so completely with the American public that there will never be a critical mass of public opposition to force Congress and the Pentagon to pursue that course. The DoD found the perfect heat setting to maintain the war on a low simmer, barely noticeable except for the people who are directly being shattered by it. Maybe that's the lesson they learned from Vietnam – abolish the draft and keep the troop levels low enough that eventually people will just kinda forget about it.

If that was the plan, it worked.

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34 Responses to “THIS IS WHY YOU THINK ABOUT IT FIRST”

  1. NoelB Says:

    Not a comment – but a nice story. Wearing my new "None of this is ok" tee shirt I was approched by a woman and asked if I had the shirt with "Gin and Tacos" on the back – she asked if she could take a picture your logo to send to her son in NYC. I said what about the message on front? She said she agreed but then we had to have a little wink-wink to see which part of our situation we think not OK – we did realized we were OK. Earlier that day I showed the shirt to a friend thinking he would enjoy it – he did , he was AOK with calling out all the liberal college kids for pulling down statues and trying to rewrite history!

  2. Craig Says:

    Of course that was the plan. The real left has been screaming that to the heavens for decades.

  3. Major Kong Says:

    "Hey Rocky! Watch me do a troop surge in Afghanistan!"

    "Again? But that trick never works!"

  4. Dave Dell Says:

    I've said it here before and other sites. I'll say it again. If the children of the rich and powerful were at risk… If the rich and powerful had their taxes raised to pay for the wars… We'd have a real debate about our military adventures.

    Even if we just left the middle east the decades of blowback would still haunt my great grandchildren.

  5. geoff Says:

    The REAL plan was bin Laden's: drag the US into a war they couldn't win and shatter their empire. It worked against the Soviets, right?

    I'm not too happy about it, but Trump's mini-surge is maybe slightly better than Erik Prince's "just turn the whole war over to Blackwater" "strategy" that was floated a couple weeks ago.

    @Dave, nobody's paying for the war except the kids and old people getting blown up.

  6. democommie Says:

    I had an unpleasant, if brief, disagreement with a couple of idiots on Sunday evening. Two guys born and raised in Oswego, NY who are big fans of Robert E. Lee. He was a HEEEEERO to them. I told them that there HEEEEERO was a traitor and had violated his oath of allegiance to the U.S. They didn't like that much. Then one of them, a guy I've heard bragthreat to his babe how he'd kick some LGBQTliberal ass if they got in HIS face, say he'd read Lee's BIOGRAPHY. Oh, I see, then it's totes okay that he was the leader of the miltary traitors who got several hundred thousands of their kith and kin killed? Okey-dokey.

    Then the other idiot said that slavery had NOTHING to do with the war. The war was FORCED on the poor southrun states by economics and the machinations of the Northgression of the Feds.

    These guys are both UNION carpenters who grew up in the period 1960-1980 or so. That they apparently can't read history or simply won't is appalling. If Lee had won, we probably woudn't have ever HAS unions in this country. What incentive would there be for employers to deal with workers' complaints when they could rent some human machinery after they lock out their labor force?

    It's likely I won't run into both of them again (one of them now lives in SC) but the one that I will–well, it will be interesting to see if he's as willing to run his mouth when he's alone as he was when he had two rather large guys sitting beside him nodding their heads.

    Stupid, white and assholish. What a way to go through life–especially if you're the beneficiary of a union contract.

  7. democommie Says:

    I'm sorry, I got carried away with my comment and forgot what I meant to say.

    This nation is amazingly adept at starting wars for reasons that are known only to those who have something to gain from the conflict or something to hide with subterfuge.

    Afghanistan's history should serve as evidence enough to discourage its invaders over the last 25 centuries–at least. It never has. For reasons of pride, arrogance or greed it has been invaded, subjugated and then abandoned when it became painfully obvious that it was not a possible to actually GOVERN the country.

    There is no easy way out, but the first rule of holes applies here.

  8. Major Kong Says:

    @demo

    Suggest your friends read the Articles of Secession, especially Mississippi and South Carolina, which specifically state "This is about slavery!"

    Also the Cornerstone Speech by CSA Vice President Alexander Stephens.

  9. Safety Man! Says:

    @Major Kong

    I never served, but my understanding of the late conflict is that certain companies and contractors made a pretty penny providing sub-par ( to unacceptable) service and goods.

    @democommie

    It's hard to logic, when guys like that refer to The South they're picturing some kind of Avalon, where any and all problems don't exist. Whether or not they're picturing slavery in that is the deeper question, call it the Cliven Bundy test. In the Deep South you'll see all kinds of crazy revisionist history, including, I kid you not, that the South actually had more monetary worth. Somehow, because reasons.

    The best Civil War monument I ever saw was just a boulder somewhere in the TN backwoods that was carved, no plaque. Iirc it basically said, here on yada yada a skirmish line from X engaged Y at blank creek, with Z and A casualties. It literally closes with the line, paraphrased, that it wasn't an important battle, but it happened, and so was worth remembering. I really hope nobody took a sledgehammer to it.

  10. Major Kong Says:

    Gee. Maybe arming a bunch of religious nutjobs and teaching them how to fight a superpower back in the 1980s wasn't such a great idea after all?

    Who knew?

    Anyone remember the Rambo movie (I think it was #3) where the mujahideen were the good guys?

  11. democommie Says:

    "nobody's paying for the war except the kids and old people getting blown up."

    We're paying, they just haven't totted up the bill, yet.

    "Anyone remember the Rambo movie (I think it was #3) where the mujahideen were the good guys?"

    A bit like the second Michael Douglas/Kathleen Turner/Danny deVito actioner where the "Jewel of the Nile" was the head of a determined group of "people of FAITH" waging a valiant battle against the forces of secular eeeeeeeeevil.

  12. Bessemer Mucho Says:

    Not to forget all the jobs at all the military contractors located in every congressional district in the country. The status quo is extremely profitable for a lot of Americans. The ones in uniform are increasingly being drawn from a de facto military caste, & the privatized military functions provide profit directly without having to go through all the procurement hearings, &c. &c. If we got out of Afghanistan, the profitable war bidniss would just start up in some other godforsaken place. & yet I'm not willing to give up my 401-(k), go figure.

  13. democommie Says:

    @ Bessemer Mucho:

    It may be too late to really change the plunge over the cliff into a drive along its edge but much of the same ethos of militarization could be applied to rebuilding U.S. infrastucture and working on large scale, government funded alternative power generation to make it less IMPORTANT for us to blow shit up in faraway places.

    It would not be as sexy but if we told the contractors that they could still pad their expenses and wildly inflate costs, well, they'd be fine with that.

  14. seniorscrub Says:

    @ Major Kong 4:45am:
    " "Hey Rocky! Watch me do a troop surge in Afghanistan!"

    "Again? But that trick never works!" "

    Over/Under when we get the last line of that bit??

    "Hmmmmm, must have used the wrong troops."

  15. HoosierPoli Says:

    I remember the whole reason to go INTO Afghanistan was because they were harboring bin Laden and wouldn't give him up. He's now been dead 7 years.

  16. democommie Says:

    The should've hired Patrick McGoohan as an adviser.

    He could have told them, based on his two seasons of work in "The Prisoner" that no matter how many #2's* you manage to eliminate or discredit there are plenty waiting for the main chance.

    * According to Wiki there were 17 episodes and 17 different #2's.

  17. Brian M Says:

    Major Kong: which is why the non-partisan side of me likes to point out that much of the foreign policy disasters we face today are to a large extent the fault of purportedly progressive or liberal Democrats. Despite his saintly post-office history, Jimmy Carter was a disaster as a foreign policy president. (Afghanistan, Central America, Iran, Indonesia/East Timor).

    And, one of the biggest disasters in history was progressive racist tool Woodrow Wilson.

  18. Major Kong Says:

    @Brian M

    I don't recall Carter as being particularly progressive.

    Deregulation of the airlines and trucking industry both happened during the Carter administration.

    It's the GOP that paints him as being "far left". In their minds that makes Reagan even greater in comparison.

  19. geoff Says:

    @dc, yeah, re:the war's cost, i was being kinda facetious. What I SORTA meant was that we've basically put the wars "on the credit card", i.e. are not paying for them as we go, as Congress insists we do with any expenditures that might, I dunno, HELP AMERICANS.

    It comes down to the goddamn cliche ('cos it's true!): "OMG WE CAN'T AFFORD HEALTHCARE FOR PO' FOLKS DEFICIT DEFICIT", but "WE CANNOT AFFORD TO *STOP* BOMBING POOR KIDS IN AFGHANISTAN" (and Iraq and Syria and Pakistan and Yemen and Somalia and on and on).

    PS, I checked and there's a CNN Money story up today estimating the cost of the Afghan Adventure at $841 billion to $2 TRILLION.
    http://money.cnn.com/video/news/2017/08/22/cost-of-afghanistan-war.cnnmoney/index.html
    And that's assuming it ever ends.

  20. geoff Says:

    @BrianM, you forgot Kennedy and Johnson ; ) OH, and Truman, too.

  21. Mo Says:

    Major Kong wins this thread. The End.

  22. Townsend Harris Says:

    "except for the people who are directly being shattered by it"
    Civilians *and* soldiers:
    Listen to musician Richard Thompson's "Dad's Gonna Kill Me".
    "Dad" is soldier's shorthand for "Baghdad".

  23. mojrim Says:

    What I love is Brzezinski fucking bragging about sucking the USSR into Afghanistan against their will to give them a Vietnam experience. The movie "Charlie Wilson's War" is pure revisionism.

  24. Mark Says:

    Exactly, sir. We must extract ourselves from this horrible mistake and learn that we cannot be policeman to the world. I despise George W. Bush for getting the US into this quagmire.

    Major Kong, I laughed out loud.

  25. Nick-B Says:

    What would happen – and I'm honestly curious here – if we actually went all-in on it? Why not try to just run the place like our own territory? If we can't seem to find competent, honest people to run their own country (without it dissolving into shia v shiite murder-fest again), why not run it ourselves? Try to be England to early America, but actually LISTEN to the people and be perfectly willing to hand the country back once a sufficient amount of decent human beings have been found and given responsibilities.

    It might take decades, sure, but if we are unwilling to run off and admit defeat like Russia did in Afghanistan, we might as well give it a real shot.

  26. E* Says:

    America fell victim to one of the classic blunders – the most famous of which is "never get involved in a land war in Asia."

  27. mojrim Says:

    We did that once, Nick-B. It's called the Republic of the Philippines. You can't give people modernity and the state, everyone must build it for themselves it is is to last.

  28. democommie Says:

    I left this comment last night, more or less, and it disappeared.

    "You can't give people modernity and the state, everyone must build it for themselves it is is to last."

    We gave the filipinos modernity and a state–after we finished the job the Spaniards started of ruining their society and eliminating most of their potential leaders by killing them in "gueriila war" campaigns.

  29. mojrim Says:

    That's kinda my point @demmocommie. "Giving" modernity and state always has and will begin with mass murder and elimination of anyone capable of governing. What you get, in the end, is a toxic and hollow state that cannot last because it was built on murder and lies.

  30. H-Bob Says:

    Nick-B & mojrim: We tried that in the Confederacy and even a 10-year occupation didn't work! And those people even speak a pidgin form of English!

  31. Brian M Says:

    Major Kong at 11:28. Well….you gotta point there! I guess from the perspective of 2017 Ronald Reagan was a progressive. :(

  32. Brian M Says:

    H-Bob conquers the thread at 5:09 p.m. Bravo, Good suh (in a Foghorn Leghorn voice)

  33. JustRuss Says:

    @Brian M: " Jimmy Carter was a disaster as a foreign policy president. (Afghanistan, Central America, Iran, Indonesia/East Timor)."

    I think you're being awfully tough on Carter. Sure, he didn't prevent the Soviets from going in to Afghanistan, but how was he supposed to do that, exactly?

    Central America's a gimme, but just about every president of the the 20th century has been horrible there one way or another.

    The US spent decades propping up an unpopular regime in Iran. it was overthrown on Carter's watch, but again, how was he supposed to prevent it?

    The US was in a defensive crouch in the late 70s due to a severe Vietnam hangover, there was no public support for further overseas military adventures.

  34. Brian M Says:

    Justruss:

    Perhaps. Yet Carter refused to listen to alternatives presented by some of his advisers, being totally beholden to that vile Brzenski imperialist.