Tag Archives: War

Role Of Youth In The Coming Transformation 

10 Apr

By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers, Popular Resistance

| , NEWSLETTER

The eruption of youth protests over gun violence in schools and other issues is another indicator that the 2020s could be a decade of transformation where people demand economic, racial and environmental justice as well as peace. Students who are in their teens now will be in their twenties then. They will have experience in how protests can change political culture.

Some view the youth awakening in these protests as reminiscent of youth movements in previous generations, others are less optimistic. We cannot predict the role this generation will play, but throughout the history of mass movements, youth have been a key factor by pushing boundaries and demanding change.

One of the slogans in the actions against gun violence is “adults failed to solve the problem.” The truth is, as many youth are aware, those currently in power have failed on many fronts, e.g. climate change, wealth disparity, racial injustice, never-ending wars and militarism, lack of health care and more. These crises are coming to a head and provide the environment for transformational changes, if we act.

Beware of Democratic Party Co-option

One of the challenges youth, and older, activists face is the Democratic Party. Democrats have a long history of co-opting political movements. They are present in recent mobilizations, such as the Women’s March and March for our Lives, which both centered on voting as the most important action to take.

Big Democratic Party donors, like George and Amal Clooney, provided massive resources to the March for Our Lives. The corporate media covered the students extensively, encouraged attendance at the marches and reported widely on them.

As Bruce Dixon writes, “It’s not hard to see the hand of the Democratic party behind the tens of millions in corporate contributions and free media accorded the March For Our Lives mobilization. 2018 is a midterm election year, and November is only seven months away. The Democrats urgently need some big sticks with which to beat out the vote this fall…”

Democratic politicians see the gun issue as an opportunity for the ‘Blue Wave’ they envision for 2018, even though the Democrat’s history of confronting gun violence has been dismal. When Democrats controlled Congress and the presidency, they did not challenge the culture of violence, confront the NRA or stop militarized policing that is resulting in hundreds of killings by police.

Ajamu Baraka writes, “Liberals and Democrat party connected organizations and networks have been quite adept at getting out in front of movements to pre-empt their radical potential and steer them back into the safe arms of liberal conformism.” Indeed the history of the Democratic Party since its founding as a slave-owners party has been one of absorbing political movements and weakening them.

For this new generation of activists to reach their potential, they must understand we live in a mirage democracy and cannot elect our way out of these crises. Our tasks are much larger. Violence is deeply embedded in US culture, dating to the founding of the nation when gun laws were designed for white colonizers to take land from Indigenous peoples and control black slaves.

When it comes to using the gun issue for elections, the challenge for the Democrats is “to keep the public anger high, but the discussion shallow, limited, and ahistorical,” as Bruce Dixon writes. Our task is to understand the roots of the crises we face.

Historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz describes this in her new book, Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment. The culture of violence in the US goes beyond the horrific shooting in schools to the militarization of our communities and military aggression abroad. The US military has killed more than 20 million people in 37 nations since World War II.

One step you can take in your community is to find out if there is a Junior ROTC program in your local school and shut it down.

 

 

Potential for Youth to Lead in Era of Transformation

One of the reasons we predict the 2020s may be an era of transformation is because issues that have been ignored or mishandled by powerholders are becoming so extreme they can no longer be ignored. Bruce Dixon of Black Agenda Report writes the gun protests present an opportunity to highlight all the issues where Democrats (and Republicans) have failed us.

Youth are already involved, often playing leadership roles, in many fronts of struggle. Rev. Jared Sawyer, Jr. writes that when racial violence arose at the “University of Missouri in recent years, student athletes and scholars united in protest, prompting the administration to take action. Organizations like Black Youth Power 100 have arisen in the wake of police” violence against black people. Youth are on the front lines of the environmental movement, blocking pipelines and carbon infrastructure to prevent climate change. Youth are leading the movement to protect immigrants from mass deportation.

This week, Hampton students took to the streets over sexual violence, housing, food and other problems on campus. Students at Howard University started HU Resist, to “make sure that Howard University fulfills its mission.” They are in their third day of occupying the administration building.

At March for Our Lives protests, some participants saw the connections between gun violence and other issues. Tom Hall reported that those who “attended the rally had far more on their minds than gun control and the midterm elections—the issues promoted by the media and the Democratic Party. Many sought to connect the epidemic of mass shootings in American schools to broader issues, from the promotion of militarism and war, to poverty and social inequality.” Youth also talked about tax cuts for the rich, inadequate healthcare, teacher strikes, the need for jobs and a better quality of life. He noted those who attended were “searching for a political perspective,” and that, while it was not seen from the stage, opposition to war was a common concern.

Robert Koehler writes, “This emerging movement must address the whole spectrum of violence.”  He includes racist violence, military violence, mass incarceration and the “mortally sinful corporate greed and of course, the destruction of the environment and all the creatures.” What unites all of these issues, Koehler writes, is the “ability to dehumanize certain people.” Dehumanization is required to allow mass murder, whether by a single gunman or in war, as well as the economic violence that leaves people homeless and hungry, or for the violence of denying people necessary healthcare and to pay people so little they need multiple jobs to survive.

 

 

Movements are Growing, Now How Do We Win?

We have written about the stages of successful social movements and that overall the United States is in the final stage before victory. This is the era of building national consensus on solutions to the crises we face and mobilizing millions to take action in support of these solutions.

Protests have been growing in the US over the past few decades. Strong anti-globalization protests were organized under Clinton to oppose the World Trade Organization. Under the Bush administration, hundreds of thousands of people took the streets against the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq. The anti-war movement faded under the Obama administration, even though he escalated US militarism, but other movements arose such as Occupy, immigrant’s rights, the fight for 15, Idle No More and black lives matter. Erica Chenowith posits that current youth activists “did their first activism with their moms. It’s a quicker learning curve for kids.”

At present, large drivers of mass protests are reaction to the actions of the Trump administration and the Democrats using their resources to augment and steer anti-Trump anger into elections. To prevent what happened to the anti-war movement under President Obama, people will need a broader understanding of the root causes of the crises we face, not the shallow analysis provided by the corporate media, and will need to understand how social movements can be effective.

To assist in this education, Popular Resistance is launching the Popular Resistance School. The first eight week course will begin on May 1 and will cover social movement theory – how social movements develop, how they win and roles people and organizations play in movements. All are welcome to participate in the school. There is no cost to join, but we do ask those who are able to donate to help cover the costs.

For more information on the school and to sign up, click here. Those who sign up will receive a weekly video lecture, a curriculum and an invitation to join a discussion group (each one will be limited to 30 participants). People who complete the course can then host the course locally with virtual support from Popular Resistance.

The next decade has the potential to be transformative. To make it so, we must not only develop national consensus that issues are being mishandled, that policies need to change and that we can change them, but we must also educate ourselves on issues and how to be effective. We have the power to create the change we want to see.

 

 

Sign up for the NEW Popular Resistance School, starting on May 1. More information below.

Source: Role Of Youth In The Coming Transformation | PopularResistance.Org

 

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Venezuela: Revenge of the Mad-Dog Empire 

25 Feb

Venezuela: Revenge of the Mad-Dog Empire

 

“It wasn’t until the administration of Barack Obama that the deadly gaze of the United States began to really re-focus on Latin America, with Venezuela as its main target.”

Ajamu Baraka, BAR editor and columnist 21 Feb 2018

Only in the world of comic-book fantasies is the United States a friend to the oppressed in Africa or anywhere else on the planet. In the real world, the U.S. is a predator, colonial/capitalist nation. But like the imagined nation of Wakanda, in the latest cultural assault on critical mass consciousness, “American exceptionalism” and “make America great again” — two slogans representing both sides of the imperialist coin—ruling class interests are obscured and the people are reduced to working against their objective interests and being accomplices to imperial lawlessness.
In every part of the world, the United States is engaged in maniacal, criminal assaults on democracy, basic human decency and common sense. From its support for armed jihadists groups in Syria and its illegal occupation of that nation, transferring heavy military equipment to its puppet regime in Ukraine, supporting unending war in Afghanistan, to the military invasion of African, the commitment to maintaining U.S. global dominance has moved war and militarism to the center of U.S. strategy.

But nowhere is U.S. criminality more apparent and unrelenting than right here in the Americas where the Pan-European project was born in 1492. That was the year “Europe” was born, emerging from its relative cultural backwardness using with terrifying efficiency the only advantage it had over the more civilized people of the region—armor protection and steel weapons—to slaughter the people, take the land and begin the 500-hundred-year nightmare the people of the world have suffered ever since.

 

 

The commitment to maintaining U.S. global dominance has moved war and militarism to the center of U.S. strategy.”
Today, the barbarism of the Pan-European project continues under the tutelage of what history will record—if humanity survives—as the most violent, racist, oppressive human experience ever to have emerged in the short span of human existence on Earth: the United States of America.
After centuries experiencing the horrors of genocide, slavery, military dictatorships, environmental destruction, and neoliberal exploitation, the people of Latin America began to slowly extract themselves from the clutches of the hegemon from the North. Social movements and peoples undeterred by coups, structural adjustment and death squads started to take back their history in Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil, and the rest of the continent. Venezuela has led the way, proclaiming the dawn of a 21st century socialism that would create the new society and the new human in the process.
Because of imperial overreach, the same trap that has ensnared other empires in decline, the U.S. was preoccupied with attempting to manage the mess it had created for itself as a result of the disastrous belief that it could fight two major wars simultaneously. So, while it was bogged down in Western Asia and the so-called “Middle East,” the full force of the U.S. repressive apparatus was not deployed against the fledgling people’s movements and the nominal capture of the state by those movements in Latin America. Of course, the United States helped to engineer a failed coup against Hugo Chavez and it continued training police and military forces in the region. But it wasn’t until the administration of Barack Obama that the deadly gaze of the United States began to really re-focus on Latin America, with Venezuela as its main target.

“Venezuela has led the way, proclaiming the dawn of a 21st century socialism that would create the new society and the new human in the process.”
In what appears on the surface to be a ludicrous position, Barack Obama declared Venezuela a threat to U.S. national security on three different occasions. However, the United States is the enforcer for the global capitalist system and the head of the white, Western, capitalist united front. With that in mind, seeing Venezuela as a threat made sense. Venezuela has been the driving force for the nations of the Americas south of the U.S. border attempting to free themselves from the yoke of U.S. imperialism.
The Trump administration took up with enthusiasm the policy of destabilization, subversion, and economic warfare that was intensified under the Obama administration. Violent regime change is now clearly the objective of the administration. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for the Venezuelan military to overthrow the government while on a visit to the region and reports have surfaced of military forces from Colombia and Brazil being deployed to their respective borders with Venezuela. Another clear sign that the lives of the people of Venezuela will be sacrificed with violent regime change is the collapse of the dialogue between the Venezuelan government and the counter-revolutionary opposition that had been taking place for almost two years. Up until just a few days ago, it appeared an agreement was in place for a peaceful political resolution.

 

 

“Violent regime change is now clearly the objective of the administration.”

The move toward a violent intervention became more apparent when discussions abruptly ended as the opposition decided not to sign an agreement designed to move both parties toward an eventual political resolution.
Concerned about the general disarray among the opposition and the fact that the ruling party and government won 18 out of 23 governorships in regional elections in October 2017, the Trump administration announced that it would not recognize the results of the upcoming Presidential election to be held April 22. All the evidence points to the administration, along with the Venezuela oligarchy, opting for a strategy of regime change, even though it will result in mass slaughter and the dictatorship that the United States pretends to be opposed to in Venezuela.
The moves by the Trump administration represent an ominous re-introduction of the worst imperialist excesses of the late 20th century, where violent coups were the preferred response to any threats to the rule of capital and U.S. imperialist control. Yet, what is even more ominous about the situation unfolding in Venezuela is that unlike a few decades ago, when there was a vocal and active radical and left opposition to U.S. imperialism, the left and many radicals in the U.S. are in open class collaboration with imperialism.
The left in the United States and Western Europe has completely abandoned any idea of solidarity with the global South’s revolutionary projects. A bizarre example of the reactionary nature of the European left was the European Parliament awarding the Sakharov Freedom Prize to the Venezuelan “opposition,” a group that has openly attacked journalists and burned alive two dozen people of primarily Black or dark complexions who they assumed were probably government supporters because they were poor and black. Clearly for the representatives in the European Union’s only democratic body, the integrity of the press and “Black lives” really don’t matter!

“Anti-imperialists must support national independence, especially when a nation is in the cross hairs.”
The courageous struggle of the Venezuelan people to defend their national sovereignty and dignity in the face of the murderous intentions of their North American neighbors and the racist obsequious Venezuelan oligarchy deserves the support of all true anti-imperialists. Whatever failure or internal contradiction we see in the Bolivarian process does not outweigh the principle that anti-imperialists must support national independence, especially when a nation is in the cross hairs of the greatest gangster nation on the planet.
For those of us who inhibit the colonized Black and Brown zones of non-being, as Fanon referred to them, to not resist the white supremacist, colonial/capitalist patriarchy at the center of the U.S./EU/NATO axis of domination is moral and political suicide.
When Secretary of State Rex Tillerson orders the Venezuelan opposition to undermine the agreement to stabilize the situation in Venezuela while simultaneously undermining the internal Korea efforts toward de-escalating the tensions between North and South Korea, we see the familiar hand of classic European colonialist divide-and-rule tactics that propelled them to global dominance and continues to give Western imperialism a leash (lease?) on life.
But for James “Mad Dog” Mattis, the U.S. Secretary of Defense, and all the Mad Dogs of empire, the people of the world have seen behind the curtain and are not impressed with the diversionary smoke and fire of your weapons and bellicosity. The people know they have the cure for the virus that affects you, but you will not be happy with their treatment plan.
Ajamu Baraka is the national organizer of the Black Alliance for Peace and was the 2016 candidate for vice president on the Green Party ticket. He is an editor and contributing columnist for the Black Agenda Report and contributing columnist for Counterpunch. His latest publications include contributions to “Jackson Rising: The Struggle for Economic Democracy and Self-Determination in Jackson, Mississippi. 

 

Source: Venezuela: Revenge of the Mad-Dog Empire | Black Agenda Report

 

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From W to Obama to Trump, the Policy Has Been Endless War 

24 Dec

Obama wasn’t innocent either.

 

Obama wasn’t innocent either. I remember the day President Obama let me down. It was December 1, 2009, and as soon as the young president took the podium at West Point and — calm and cool as ever — announced a new troop surge in Afghanistan, I knew.  There wasn’t a doubt in my mind.  In that instant, George W. Bush’s wars had become Barack Obama’s.

But where Bush had seemed, however foolishly, to believe his own rhetoric about America’s glorious military mission in the world, you always sensed that Obama’s heart just wasn’t in it.  He’d been steamrolled by ambitious generals who pioneered generational warfare and hawkish cabinet members like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Bush-holdover Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.  Then again, what choice did he have, given the way he’d run his presidential campaign on the idea that Afghanistan was a “war of necessity” and so the foil for Iraq, the “dumb war”?  Now he was stuck with that landlocked, inhospitable little war, come what may.  As we all know (and as I had little doubt then), it didn’t work out.  Not at all.

Like many other idealistic Americans, I’d bet big on Obama.  The madness and futility of my own 15 months in Iraq as a scout platoon leader — you know, one of those “warriors” you’re obligated to thank endlessly for his service — had forever soured me on nation-building crusades in faraway lands.  And the young, inspiring senator from Illinois seemed to have some authentic anti-war chops.  Unlike Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden, he was untarnished by the October 2002 Iraq War resolution vote that gave the Bush administration the right to shock and awe the hell out of Saddam Hussein.  Looking back, I suppose I should have known better.  Obama had only been a state senator with an essentially nonexistent record on foreign policy when he first criticized Operation Iraqi Freedom.  Still, after so many years of Bush’s messianic adventures, anyone seemed preferable.

That was more than eight years ago and somehow the United States military is still slogging along in Iraq and Afghanistan.  What’s more, Bush’s wars have only expanded in breadth, if not in depth, to Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, and Niger, among other places.  Yes, ISIS as a “caliphate” has been defeated.  As a now-global franchise, however, anything but, and victory — whatever that might mean at this point — couldn’t be further off as our next president, Donald Trump, approaches his one year mark in office and he and “his” military only ratchet up those wars further.

 

 

Good Instincts?

The Trump-Clinton election fiasco of 2016 was, to say the least, disturbing.  And while I was no fan of Mr. Trump’s language, demeanor, or (however vague) policies, when it came to our wars he did seem to demonstrate some redeeming qualities.  Running against Hillary the hawk presented him with genuine opportunities.  She, after all, had been wrong about every major foreign policy decision for more than a decade.  Iraq? She voted for it.  Afghanistan? She wanted another “surge.”  Libya?  She was all in and had a fine chuckle when autocrat Muammar Gaddafi was killed.

Mr. Trump, on the other hand, while visibly ill informed and anything but polished on such subjects, occasionally sounded strangely rational and ready to topple more than a few sacred cows of the foreign policy establishment.  He called both the Iraq and Afghan wars “stupid,” criticized the poorly planned and executed Libyan operation that had indeed loosed chaos and weaponry from Gaddafi’s looted arsenals across North Africa, and had even questioned whether military escalation, supposedly to balance Russian moves in Eastern Europe, was necessary.  Whether he really believed any of that stuff or was just being an effective attack dog by pouncing on Hillary’s grim record we may never know.

What already seems clear, however, is that Trump’s version of global strategy — to the extent that he even has one — is turning out to be yet more of more of the same.  He did, of course, quickly surround himself with three generals from America’s losing wars clearly convinced that they could “surge” their way out of anything.  More troublesome yet, it seems to have registered on him that military escalation, air strikes of various sorts, special operations raids, and general bellicosity all look “presidential” and so play well with the American people.

In constant need of positive reinforcement, Trump has seemed to revel in the role of war president.  When he simply led a round of applause for a widow whose husband had died in a botched raid in Yemen early in his presidency, CNN commentator Van Jones typically gushed that he “just became president of the United States, period.”  After he ordered the launching of a few dozen cruise missiles targeting one of Bashar al-Assad’s air bases in Syria, even Washington Post columnist and CNN host Fareed Zakaria lauded him for acting “presidential.”  War sells, as does fear, especially in the America of 2017, a country filled with outsized fears of Islamic terrorism that no one knows how to stoke better than Donald Trump.  So expect more, much more, of each next year.

 

 

A Brief Tour of Trump’s Wars

Where exactly does that leave us?  Like Obama before him, and Bush before him, President Trump has opted for continuing, even escalating, America’s war for the Greater Middle East.  Long gone are the critiques of “stupid” interventions.  As he announced a new mini-surge in Afghanistan, he did admit that his instinct had been to end America’s longest war, but it wasn’t an instinct that stood tall in the face of his war-fighting generals.

Now, after nearly a year in office, those instincts of his seem limited to whatever his generals tell him.  An ever-so-brief tour of his wars suggests — to give you a little preview of what’s to come (should Americans even care) — two things: first, that on the horizon is more of more of the same; second, that the result is likely to be, as it has largely been in these last years, some version of stalemate verging on defeat.

Afghanistan is a true mess.  Now entering its 17th year, the war in that infamous graveyard of empires has left the U.S. military short on answers.

Afghan Security Forces (ASF), the foundation of American “strategy” there, are being killed and wounded at an unsustainable rate.  And all that sacrifice — to the tune of perhaps 20,000 ASF casualties annually — has delivered precious little in the way of stability.  More Afghan provinces and districts are contested or under direct Taliban control today than at any time in these years of American intervention.  Corruption is still endemic in the government and the military and few rural Afghans seem to consider the regime in Kabul legitimate.

It’s all been so futile that it borders on the absurd.  Without an indefinite influx of Western money, training, and logistical support, the Afghan government simply cannot hold out.  Despite the efforts of hundreds of thousands of American troops and countless bureaucrats, Washington has never been able to deal with or alter the essential quandary that lies at the heart of the Afghan mission: the Taliban still counts on sanctuary in the tribal borderlands of Pakistan and so long as that’s available — and it seems it will be in perpetuity — there is no way to militarily defeat them.  Besides, the Taliban harbor no discernible transnational aspirations and most al-Qaeda operatives have long since left Afghanistan’s mountains for other locales throughout the Greater Middle East.

Mr. Trump’s generals and their troops on the ground have no answers to these confounding challenges.  One thing is guaranteed: 3,000, or even 50,000 more troops won’t break the stalemate, nor will loosing some of the last Vietnam-era B-52s to bomb the countryside.  When I last surged into Afghanistan myself in 2011-2012, I was joined by more than 100,000 fellow Americans.  It didn’t matter.  We achieved about as much as this current “strategy” will: stasis.

* Iraq is rarely in the headlines anymore, except maybe as an offshoot of America’s anti-ISIS campaign in Syria.  Nonetheless, with more than 5,200U.S. troops on the ground (and don’t forget the private contractors also in-country), you’ve not heard the last of Washington’s 14-year-old campaign there.  What exactly is the U.S. charter in Iraq these days anyway?  To defeat ISIS?  That’s (mostly) done, in a conventional sense anyway.  The so-called caliphate has fallen, though ISIS as a global brand is thriving.  To stabilize the country in order to avoid ISIS 2.0 or block the growth and spread of well-armed Shia militias?  Don’t count on a few thousand troops succeeding where 150,000 servicemen failed at similar tasks the last time around. 

Iraq remains divided and ultimately unstable.  In the north, the Kurds want autonomy, which the Shia-dominated Baghdad regime will have none of.  In the north and west, Sunnis, living in the rubble of their unreconstructed cities, remain distrustful of Baghdad.  (A year after its “liberation” from ISIS, for instance, significant parts of Fallujah still lack water or electricity.)  Unless they are somehow integrated more equitably into the Shia-controlled political heartland, they will predictably support the next iteration of Islamist extremists.

 

 

The only real winner in the Iraq War was Iran.  A mostly friendly, Shia-heavy government in Baghdad suits Tehran just fine.  In fact, by toppling Saddam Hussein, the United States all but ensured that Iran would gain increased regional influence.  The bottom line is that Iraq has many challenges ahead and Washington doesn’t have a hope in hell of meaningfully solving any of them.

How will Baghdad divide power between its various sects and factions?  How will it demobilize and/or integrate those Shia militia units that checked ISIS’s expansion in 2014-2015 into its military or will it?  How much autonomy will President Haider al-Abadi allow the Kurds?

The all but perpetual American military presence in that country seems unlikely to help with any of Iraq’s countless problems.  And given that, like just about anyone else on this planet, Arabs don’t take kindly to even the most minimalist of occupations, whatever they may officially be called, expect those U.S. troops to end up in someone’s line of fire sooner or later. (Recent history suggests that sooner is more likely.)

* When it comes to Syria, can anyone articulate a coherent strategy in the devastated ruins of that country amid a byzantine network of factions, terror groups, and the once again ascendant government and military of Bashar al-Assad?  It seems like another formula for certain disaster.  Somehow, Syria makes even the situation in Iraq seem simple.  Perhaps 2,000 U.S. troops are on the ground in north and southeast Syria.  Getting in was the easy part, getting out may be all but impossible.

U.S.-sponsored, mainly Kurdish forces, backed by American air power and artillery, seized ISIS’s self-proclaimed capital, Raqqa, and helped turn the militants of the Islamic State back into a guerilla force. Now what?  Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Syrian President Assad, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the Iranians all loathe the Kurds and are none-too-keen to allow them any form of long-term autonomy.  A tenuous stalemate has developed between Assad’s army and his foreign backers on one side and the small U.S. force with its allied Kurdish fighters on the other.  Sooner or later, however, it’s a recipe for disaster as the possibilities of “accidental” conflict abound.  The Trump team, like Obama’s before them, appears to have no consistent vision for Syria’s future.  Can Assad stay in power?  Does the U.S. even have a say in that question any longer?  Assad, Putin, and Hezbollah appear to hold a far stronger hand in that country’s six-year civil war.

In addition to yet more destruction, division, and chaos, it’s unclear what the U.S. stands to achieve in Syria.  Nevertheless, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and the Pentagon recently announced that, just as in Iraq, U.S. troops would stay in Syria after the final defeat of ISIS.  On the subject, a Pentagon spokesperson was quite emphatic: “We are going to maintain our commitment on the ground as long as we need to, to support our partners and prevent the return of terrorist groups.”  In other words, the U.S. military will remain there until when exactly?  Long enough for the civil war to end and liberal democracy to burst forth in the Syrian countryside?

That country is hardly a vital national security interest of the United States and the Trump team’s plans seem as vague as they are foolish.  Nonetheless, on the intervention goes and where it ends nobody knows.  It’s not, however, likely to end well.

 

 

Yemen, Niger, Somalia, Libya, and various other smaller conflicts round out the exhausting list of what are now Trump’s wars.  U.S. troops still occasionally die in those places, which few Americans could find on a map.  Even hawkish wonks like Senator Lindsey Graham seem unclear about how many troops the U.S. has in Africa.  Fear not, however, Senator Graham assures us that Americans should expect “more, not less” intervention on that continent in the years to come and, given what we’re learning about the Pentagon’s latest plans for places like Somalia suggests that he couldn’t be more accurate and that the American version of what retired general and ex-CIA Director David Petraeus has termed (in relation to Afghanistan) “generational” warfare is now spreading from the Greater Middle East to Africa.

Washington’s efforts in Yemen and North Africa have been and continue to be nothing if not counterproductive.  In Yemen, the United States is complicitin the Saudi blockading and terror bombing of the poorest Arab state and a resultant famine and cholera outbreak that could affect millions, especially children.  This campaign isn’t winning America any friends on the “Arab street” and only seems to have empowered al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

In Africa, from Nigeria to Somalia, infusions of U.S. troops have not measurably improved regional stability.  Quite the opposite, despite the protestations of U.S. Africa Command.  In fact, there are now more radical Islamist groups than ever before and terrorist attacks have all but exploded on that continent.

All these wars, once Obama’s, are now Trump’s.  The only differences, it seems, are of form rather than substance.  Unlike Obama, Trump delegatestroop-level decisions to his secretary of defense and the generals.  Furthermore, when it comes to what the public can know, there appears to be even less transparency about the exact number of soldiers being deployed across the Middle East and North Africa than had previously been the case.  And that seems to suit most Americans just fine.  A warrior caste of professionals fights the country’s various undeclared wars, taxes remain low, and little is asked of the populace.

Call me a pessimist but I have no doubt that the United States is in for at least three more years of perpetual war — and it probably won’t end there either.  There’s no silver bullet for such conflicts, so the military won’t be able to end them in any reasonably easy way or it would have done so years ago.  And that’s assuming that far worse in the way of war isn’t in store for us in the Koreas or Iran.

Trump will not be impeached.  He may even win a second term.  Crazier things have happened, like, well, his election in 2016.  And even if he were gone, America’s wars like the Pentagon’s budget have proven remarkably bipartisan affairs.  As the Obama years make clear, don’t count on a Democratic president to end them.

Children born after 9/11 will vote in 2020.  In that sense, at least, General Petraeus is right.  These wars truly are generational.

Major Danny Sjursen, a TomDispatch regular, is a U.S. Army strategist and former history instructor at West Point. He served tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has written a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, Ghost Riders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge. He lives with his wife and four sons in Lawrence, Kansas.  Follow him on Twitter at @SkepticalVet.

[Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author, expressed in an unofficial capacity, and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.]

 

 

st, disturbing.  And while I was no fan of Mr. Trump’s language, demeanor, or (however vague) policies, when it came to our wars he did seem to demonstrate some redeeming qualities.  Running against Hillary the hawk presented him with genuine opportunities.  She, after all, had been wrong about every major foreign policy decision for more than a decade.  Iraq? She voted for it.  Afghanistan? She wanted another “surge.”  Libya?  She was all in and had a fine chuckle when autocrat Muammar Gaddafi was killed.

Mr. Trump, on the other hand, while visibly ill informed and anything but polished on such subjects, occasionally sounded strangely rational and ready to topple more than a few sacred cows of the foreign policy establishment.  He called both the Iraq and Afghan wars “stupid,” criticized the poorly planned and executed Libyan operation that had indeed loosed chaos and weaponry from Gaddafi’s looted arsenals across North Africa, and had even questioned whether military escalation, supposedly to balance Russian moves in Eastern Europe, was necessary.  Whether he really believed any of that stuff or was just being an effective attack dog by pouncing on Hillary’s grim record we may never know.

What already seems clear, however, is that Trump’s version of global strategy — to the extent that he even has one — is turning out to be yet more of more of the same.  He did, of course, quickly surround himself with three generals from America’s losing wars clearly convinced that they could “surge” their way out of anything.  More troublesome yet, it seems to have registered on him that military escalation, air strikes of various sorts, special operations raids, and general bellicosity all look “presidential” and so play well with the American people.

In constant need of positive reinforcement, Trump has seemed to revel in the role of war president.  When he simply led a round of applause for a widow whose husband had died in a botched raid in Yemen early in his presidency, CNN commentator Van Jones typically gushed that he “just became president of the United States, period.”  After he ordered the launching of a few dozen cruise missiles targeting one of Bashar al-Assad’s air bases in Syria, even Washington Post columnist and CNN host Fareed Zakaria lauded him for acting “presidential.”  War sells, as does fear, especially in the America of 2017, a country filled with outsized fears of Islamic terrorism that no one knows how to stoke better than Donald Trump.  So expect more, much more, of each next year.

A Brief Tour of Trump’s Wars

Where exactly does that leave us?  Like Obama before him, and Bush before him, President Trump has opted for continuing, even escalating, America’s war for the Greater Middle East.  Long gone are the critiques of “stupid” interventions.  As he announced a new mini-surge in Afghanistan, he did admit that his instinct had been to end America’s longest war, but it wasn’t an instinct that stood tall in the face of his war-fighting generals.

Now, after nearly a year in office, those instincts of his seem limited to whatever his generals tell him.  An ever-so-brief tour of his wars suggests — to give you a little preview of what’s to come (should Americans even care) — two things: first, that on the horizon is more of more of the same; second, that the result is likely to be, as it has largely been in these last years, some version of stalemate verging on defeat.

Afghan Security Forces (ASF), the foundation of American “strategy” there, are being killed and wounded at an unsustainable rate.  And all that sacrifice — to the tune of perhaps 20,000 ASF casualties annually — has delivered precious little in the way of stability.  More Afghan provinces and districts are contested or under direct Taliban control today than at any time in these years of American intervention.  Corruption is still endemic in the government and the military and few rural Afghans seem to consider the regime in Kabul legitimate.

It’s all been so futile that it borders on the absurd.  Without an indefinite influx of Western money, training, and logistical support, the Afghan government simply cannot hold out.  Despite the efforts of hundreds of thousands of American troops and countless bureaucrats, Washington has never been able to deal with or alter the essential quandary that lies at the heart of the Afghan mission: the Taliban still counts on sanctuary in the tribal borderlands of Pakistan and so long as that’s available — and it seems it will be in perpetuity — there is no way to militarily defeat them.  Besides, the Taliban harbor no discernible transnational aspirations and most al-Qaeda operatives have long since left Afghanistan’s mountains for other locales throughout the Greater Middle East.

Mr. Trump’s generals and their troops on the ground have no answers to these confounding challenges.  One thing is guaranteed: 3,000, or even 50,000 more troops won’t break the stalemate, nor will loosing some of the last Vietnam-era B-52s to bomb the countryside.  When I last surged into Afghanistan myself in 2011-2012, I was joined by more than 100,000 fellow Americans.  It didn’t matter.  We achieved about as much as this current “strategy” will: stasis.

* Iraq is rarely in the headlines anymore, except maybe as an offshoot of America’s anti-ISIS campaign in Syria.  Nonetheless, with more than 5,200U.S. troops on the ground (and don’t forget the private contractors also in-country), you’ve not heard the last of Washington’s 14-year-old campaign there.  What exactly is the U.S. charter in Iraq these days anyway?  To defeat ISIS?  That’s (mostly) done, in a conventional sense anyway.  The so-called caliphate has fallen, though ISIS as a global brand is thriving.  To stabilize the country in order to avoid ISIS 2.0 or block the growth and spread of well-armed Shia militias?  Don’t count on a few thousand troops succeeding where 150,000 servicemen failed at similar tasks the last time around. 

Iraq remains divided and ultimately unstable.  In the north, the Kurds want autonomy, which the Shia-dominated Baghdad regime will have none of.  In the north and west, Sunnis, living in the rubble of their unreconstructed cities, remain distrustful of Baghdad.  (A year after its “liberation” from ISIS, for instance, significant parts of Fallujah still lack water or electricity.)  Unless they are somehow integrated more equitably into the Shia-controlled political heartland, they will predictably support the next iteration of Islamist extremists.

The only real winner in the Iraq War was Iran.  A mostly friendly, Shia-heavy government in Baghdad suits Tehran just fine.  In fact, by toppling Saddam Hussein, the United States all but ensured that Iran would gain increased regional influence.  The bottom line is that Iraq has many challenges ahead and Washington doesn’t have a hope in hell of meaningfully solving any of them.

How will Baghdad divide power between its various sects and factions?  How will it demobilize and/or integrate those Shia militia units that checked ISIS’s expansion in 2014-2015 into its military or will it?  How much autonomy will President Haider al-Abadi allow the Kurds?

The all but perpetual American military presence in that country seems unlikely to help with any of Iraq’s countless problems.  And given that, like just about anyone else on this planet, Arabs don’t take kindly to even the most minimalist of occupations, whatever they may officially be called, expect those U.S. troops to end up in someone’s line of fire sooner or later. (Recent history suggests that sooner is more likely.)

* When it comes to Syria, can anyone articulate a coherent strategy in the devastated ruins of that country amid a byzantine network of factions, terror groups, and the once again ascendant government and military of Bashar al-Assad?  It seems like another formula for certain disaster.  Somehow, Syria makes even the situation in Iraq seem simple.  Perhaps 2,000 U.S. troops are on the ground in north and southeast Syria.  Getting in was the easy part, getting out may be all but impossible.

 

 

U.S.-sponsored, mainly Kurdish forces, backed by American air power and artillery, seized ISIS’s self-proclaimed capital, Raqqa, and helped turn the militants of the Islamic State back into a guerilla force. Now what?  Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Syrian President Assad, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the Iranians all loathe the Kurds and are none-too-keen to allow them any form of long-term autonomy.  A tenuous stalemate has developed between Assad’s army and his foreign backers on one side and the small U.S. force with its allied Kurdish fighters on the other.  Sooner or later, however, it’s a recipe for disaster as the possibilities of “accidental” conflict abound.  The Trump team, like Obama’s before them, appears to have no consistent vision for Syria’s future.  Can Assad stay in power?  Does the U.S. even have a say in that question any longer?  Assad, Putin, and Hezbollah appear to hold a far stronger hand in that country’s six-year civil war.

In addition to yet more destruction, division, and chaos, it’s unclear what the U.S. stands to achieve in Syria.  Nevertheless, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and the Pentagon recently announced that, just as in Iraq, U.S. troops would stay in Syria after the final defeat of ISIS.  On the subject, a Pentagon spokesperson was quite emphatic: “We are going to maintain our commitment on the ground as long as we need to, to support our partners and prevent the return of terrorist groups.”  In other words, the U.S. military will remain there until when exactly?  Long enough for the civil war to end and liberal democracy to burst forth in the Syrian countryside?

That country is hardly a vital national security interest of the United States and the Trump team’s plans seem as vague as they are foolish.  Nonetheless, on the intervention goes and where it ends nobody knows.  It’s not, however, likely to end well.

* Yemen, Niger, Somalia, Libya, and various other smaller conflicts round out the exhausting list of what are now Trump’s wars.  U.S. troops still occasionally die in those places, which few Americans could find on a map.  Even hawkish wonks like Senator Lindsey Graham seem unclear about how many troops the U.S. has in Africa.  Fear not, however, Senator Graham assures us that Americans should expect “more, not less” intervention on that continent in the years to come and, given what we’re learning about the Pentagon’s latest plans for places like Somalia suggests that he couldn’t be more accurate and that the American version of what retired general and ex-CIA Director David Petraeus has termed (in relation to Afghanistan) “generational” warfare is now spreading from the Greater Middle East to Africa.

Washington’s efforts in Yemen and North Africa have been and continue to be nothing if not counterproductive.  In Yemen, the United States is complicitin the Saudi blockading and terror bombing of the poorest Arab state and a resultant famine and cholera outbreak that could affect millions, especially children.  This campaign isn’t winning America any friends on the “Arab street” and only seems to have empowered al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

In Africa, from Nigeria to Somalia, infusions of U.S. troops have not measurably improved regional stability.  Quite the opposite, despite the protestations of U.S. Africa Command.  In fact, there are now more radical Islamist groups than ever before and terrorist attacks have all but exploded on that continent.

All these wars, once Obama’s, are now Trump’s.  The only differences, it seems, are of form rather than substance.  Unlike Obama, Trump delegatestroop-level decisions to his secretary of defense and the generals.  Furthermore, when it comes to what the public can know, there appears to be even less transparency about the exact number of soldiers being deployed across the Middle East and North Africa than had previously been the case.  And that seems to suit most Americans just fine.  A warrior caste of professionals fights the country’s various undeclared wars, taxes remain low, and little is asked of the populace.

Call me a pessimist but I have no doubt that the United States is in for at least three more years of perpetual war — and it probably won’t end there either.  There’s no silver bullet for such conflicts, so the military won’t be able to end them in any reasonably easy way or it would have done so years ago.  And that’s assuming that far worse in the way of war isn’t in store for us in the Koreas or Iran.

Trump will not be impeached.  He may even win a second term.  Crazier things have happened, like, well, his election in 2016.  And even if he were gone, America’s wars like the Pentagon’s budget have proven remarkably bipartisan affairs.  As the Obama years make clear, don’t count on a Democratic president to end them.

Children born after 9/11 will vote in 2020.  In that sense, at least, General Petraeus is right.  These wars truly are generational.

Major Danny Sjursen, a TomDispatch regular, is a U.S. Army strategist and former history instructor at West Point. He served tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has written a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, Ghost Riders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge. He lives with his wife and four sons in Lawrence, Kansas.  Follow him on Twitter at @SkepticalVet.

[Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author, expressed in an unofficial capacity, and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.]

 

Major Danny Sjursen, a TomDispatch regular, is a U.S. Army strategist and former history instructor at West Point. He served tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has written a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, Ghost Riders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge. He lives with his wife and four sons in Lawrence, Kansas.  Follow him on Twitter at @SkepticalVet

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power, as well as John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II, John Feffer’s dystopian novel Splinterlands, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt’s Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World 

 

 

Source: From W to Obama to Trump, the Policy Has Been Endless War @alternet

 

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