The US's long­est war and di­vi­sive­ness in Amer­ica

People's Review - - OP-ED - BY M.R. JOSSE mr­

NEW YORK, NY: Last week, I briefly re­ferred to Amer­i­can Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump's re­cent res­o­lu­tion to sol­dier on in Afghanistan, where the US has been en­meshed in a deadly con­flict. That be­gan shortly after al-Qaida's September 11, 2001 ter­ror­ist at­tack on Amer­ica, hatched in that coun­try. LONG­EST WAR The mes­meris­ing sneak as­sault on Amer­ica, leav­ing nearly 3,000 dead, has, in its wake, hugely in­flu­enced the ebb and flow of in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions with rip­ple ef­fects ra­di­at­ing far from the shores of the US and the hotspots or epi­cen­tres of Is­lamic fer­ment or ji­had. To com­pre­hend fully the im­port of Trump's re­cent de­ci­sion to mod­er­ately in­crease Amer­ica's mil­i­tary in­volve­ment in that be­lea­guered na­tion, it may be use­ful at the out­set to note that Afghanistan has be­come Amer­i­can's long­est war in his­tory. Trump has, in­ci­den­tally, be­come the third con­sec­u­tive com­man­der-in-chief to au­tho­rize a ma­jor de­ploy­ment of Amer­i­can troops. Trump, of course, in­her­ited the never-end­ing war in Afghanistan along with his pres­i­dency. In fact, with his afore­men­tioned com­mit­ment, made in a na­tion­ally broad­cast ad­dress last week, he has squarely placed the al­ba­tross that is Afghanistan around his neck. Apart from the pro­tracted time­line of the war in Afghanistan - with its hu­mungous cost in Amer­i­can lives and money - it has sucked much of the oxy­gen of po­lit­i­cal life in Amer­ica, and, hardly sur­pris­ingly, led to a gen­eral sense of war-weariness among or­di­nary cit­i­zens. To more fully ap­pre­ci­ate the sig­nif­i­cance of Trump's de­ci­sion to stay the course in Afghanistan one must re­fer to his meta­mor­pho­sis on the is­sue. Thus, in 2013 he had stated: "We have wasted an enor­mous amount of blood and trea­sure in Afghanistan. Their gov­ern­ment has zero ap­pre­ci­a­tion. Let us get out!" Trump clung to that view through his elec­tion and inau­gu­ra­tion, un­til the top US com­man­der in the field Gen. John Ni­chol­son ear­lier in the year warned Congress that the con­flict was a 'stale­mate' and called for a fresh in­fu­sion of per­son­nel. That set the stage for a ma­jor re­view by the Pen­tagon, a study that lasted sev­eral months. Ul­ti­mately, fol­low­ing the Pen­tagon's rec­om­men­da­tion, Trump con­cluded that deep­en­ing Amer­ica's com­mit­ment to the nearly 16-year war was the right de­ci­sion. As he ex­plained, his "orig­i­nal in­stinct was to pull out" but de­cided to de­ploy more troops there - re­ported to be about 4,000, tak­ing their to­tal strength to about 12,000. Trump ar­gued that "with­out the US pres­ence in Afghanistan, alQaida, ISIS and the Tal­iban and other Is­lamic mil­i­tants would use Afghanistan to stage at­tacks on the West - specif­i­cally the United States - as hap­pened prior to the ter­ror at­tack on September 11, 2001." CON­SE­QUENCES How, if at all, does any of this mat­ter to the world, and our re­gion in par­tic­u­lar? First of all, to my mind, its un­der­lines that the world's only Su­per Power can­not - or does not - sim­ply or eas­ily walk away from a ma­jor mil­i­tary/eco­nomic com­mit­ment that in­volves not only its pres­tige and cred­i­bil­ity but also has vital na­tional se­cu­rity ram­i­fi­ca­tions. Clearly, while a re­minder of such a staunch geopo­lit­i­cal ver­ity is of pri­mary con­se­quence to the prin­ci­pals in­volved in Afghanistan - in­clud­ing the gov­ern­ment and ji­hadists - it should be noted by oth­ers as well, such as Pak­istan, Iran, In­dia, China and Rus­sia on her pe­riph­ery. Yet, it is pos­si­ble to ar­gue that Amer­ica will only stay on, a la Afghanistan, any­where, if do­ing so is in her na­tional in­ter­est: if the cost were to be un­af­ford­ably out of reach, there would be no guar­an­tee that the US would con­tinue to en­gage in­def­i­nitely. In the above con­text, Viet­nam and Korea come to mind: the former be­ing an ex­am­ple where it be­came Amer­ica's in­ter­est to cut her losses and with­draw, al­beit after a face-sav­ing peace agree­ment. Amer­i­can forces while not en­gaged in a hot war on the Korean penin­sula are still around, as they have been since 1950. In other words, cir­cum­stances on the ground, not time or just troop lev­els, would be the de­ter­min­ing fac­tors vis-à-vis Amer­i­can mil­i­tary en­gage­ment over­seas. Chang­ing gears, note that Trump as­serted that the US would not "use Amer­i­can mil­i­tary might to con­struct democ­ra­cies in far­away lands or try to re­build other coun­tries in our own im­age" - a sar­cas­tic ref­er­ence to the so­called 'na­tion build­ing' ef­forts of pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions. It would seem log­i­cal, there­fore, to as­sume that Trump's Amer­ica would not re­flex­ively - as many in In­dia, and per­haps Nepal, imag­ine - side with demo­cratic In­dia against com­mu­nist China. Nei­ther would she be tempted to take on China, merely for In­dia's sake. To me, that's a no brainer! DI­VIDED AMER­ICA Do­mes­ti­cally, Amer­ica seems trag­i­cally di­vided, as was trans­par­ently in­di­cated by a vi­o­lent clash mid-Au­gust at a white su­prem­a­cist rally in Char­lottesville, Va. - an en­counter that caused Trump to lose his cool, fan­ning the flames of prim­i­tive pas­sions and tor­pe­do­ing na­tional unity. Time mag­a­zine, against that som­bre back­cloth, came out with a bril­liant cover story 'Hate in Amer­ica' with a spate of il­lu­mi­nat­ing write-ups by a gal­axy of knowl­edge­able con­trib­u­tors. Here, I quote ex­cerpts from just one: Il­han Omar, a Min­nesota state rep­re­sen­ta­tive and first So­mali-Amer­i­can Mus­lim law­maker. "We need to rec­og­nize that racism has never been sub­tle, though it has gone un­der-re­ported. This is the same fight as the civil rights move­ment, the Civil War - we are fight­ing over hu­man rights. So the so­lu­tion is not com­pro­mise. "The so­lu­tion is to ed­u­cate. It is im­per­a­tive we col­lec­tively over­come and make amends with his­tory. We must con­front that our na­tion was founded by the geno­cide of indige­nous peo­ple and on the backs of slaves, that we main­tain global power with the tenor of neo­colo­nial­ism. Our fail­ure to rec­on­cile these facts and our fail­ure to take overt ac­tion to cor­rect mis­takes fur­ther deepen the di­vide... "It is pos­si­ble (to bridge the racial di­vide), but it will take a long time..." A damn­ing verdict? Yet, one that is freely ven­ti­lated by a pre­mier news­magazine. Only in Amer­ica!

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