Trump fails to cut war losses in Afghanistan due to military ego
as actor Tom Hanks said “there’s no crying in baseball” in A League of Their Own, there’s also no victory in Afghanistan. It’s a zero-sum game.
Somehow, I think Donald Trump understands this despite his announced decision that he isn’t ready to give up on the longest war in U.S. history — a decision that will require additional troops and estimates of financial outlay of more than $800 billion on top of the $1 trillion already spent as a direct and indirect result of 17 years of U.S. presence.
Trump was expressing the need to vacate the land of the Taliban throughout his campaign for the presidency and even after his inauguration. But apparently after contentious disagreement with “my generals,” as he likes to refer to the military leadership he has come to lean on, he capitulated. That may be the first of a series of losses he now faces in trying to quell the forces of a fierce ideology that surges and retreats but always is there.
If history has given a blueprint of the situation, the only thing that will bring stability to this troubled haven of radicalized Muslims is a continued U.S. commitment into perpetuity. The moment that disappears, the Taliban will reinsert itself into daily affairs until it ultimately takes total control of the state neither the British nor the Russians nor, for that matter, this nation has been able to stabilize. Not unlike Richard Nixon’s understanding that our achieving lasting peace in Vietnam without unification was a pipedream, that the best that could be accomplished would be a decent interval to permit the withdrawal of American forces, Trump must realize the same for Afghanistan. So why have we not learned from history after so many years of this tragic pressure on American troops, many of whom have had multiple tours there? Is it our military ego? Well, now it seems we will pay for the lost lives, broken homes and broken bodies for years to come. Since 2001 an estimated $212 billion has been expended to care for war veterans.
There are apparently several factors for staying with it. One is the concern that if we withdraw entirely from Afghanistan, we open the gate to further Mideast turmoil, including another safe spot for world terrorism. Radicals in nuclear-armed Pakistan could play a more dramatic role. Trump admonished India — U.S. ally and a traditional foe of Pakistan — to take a bigger part in the entire region.
Another reason is the fear that ending American presence altogether would further damage the nation’s image to the benefit of already increasing radicalization throughout the world.
By announcing his new strategy (which looks like the prior approach — more troops to aid and back up Afghan’s military) Trump is putting his own stamp on the war. He won’t be able to blame former presidents George W. Bush or Barack Obama when things go wrong, as they inevitably will if history is any indicator. The war is his now.
Beginning with George Wash- ington, this country has had several presidents who were military leaders: Andrew Jackson, Zachary Taylor, William Henry Harrison, U.S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower. But no one, it seems, has relied on the military as much as Trump. His top leaders on his White House staff and his Defense Secretary are all former general officers and he is close to several others who advise him. While they bring management skills sorely needed by a chaotic White House, critics contend that there is too much military in a government run by civilians.
As a president, Trump has not only proven to be volatile and unpredictable but also unprepared for such a position. His short tenure has been marred by empty promises, disingenuousness, swagger, unprecedented volatility and little sign of suitability. He now appears to be in a running battle with his own party in Congress.
With this new Afghan strategy, Trump will face more congressional disruption with lawmakers increasingly nervous about the continuing war. Almost two decades of sacrificing young Americans and asking taxpayers for unprecedented amounts of money without eradicating the Taliban is enough. Those who argue that total withdrawal would bring unacceptable threat to our national security should consider the cost already accrued and whether continuing the drain on manpower and purse is worth it. Isn’t it time to cut the losses? Tribune News Service