Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Swamped

     Boy, that was fast.
     As I predicted in Sunday's post, Steve Bannon wasted no time ripping Donald Trump a new one for his speech on Afghanistan and not altogether without good reasons. In fact, Breitbart.com posted five furious articles in rapid succession criticizing Trump on his new Wag-the-Dog Afghanistan policy (Or, as Mrs. JP says at least once a day, "What part of 'graveyard of empires' does he not understand?").
     Predictably, Bannon was allowed to slither out of the undrained swamp of Washington DC and into his old chair at Breitbart and, even more predictably, to fire several salvos at Trump. It only remains to be seen how long it'll take for Trump to denounce the once staunchly pro-Trump Breitbart as "fake news" and label Bannon as the stereotypical "disgruntled employee."
     We all know the impetus behind this about-face: Bannon will always have a mad on about being ousted from a position of immense power after what he no doubt considers a year of faithful service to Trump as his campaign CEO then his Chief Strategist. But, really, at this point who cares? It's always vicariously entertaining seeing Republicans eating their own even if it comes at the expense of the Republic.
     Trump is essentially about to make the same exact mistakes Bush did when he'd unofficially declared war on Afghanistan and Obama during his own troop "surge." Trump said he wasn't going to talk about troop levels, which should strike a warning note for anyone with a child in the armed forces. In fact, Trump is so ignorant about Afghanistan that he thinks they have a Prime Minister (Ashraf Ghani is Afghanistan's President).
     In the interests of full disclosure, it ought to be said that Bannon united with Trump in pulling out US service members out of the 16 year-old war zone (although Bannon wanted to replace them with mercs, which worked out so well in Iraq). And it's odd that the same generals whom Trump had dismissed as ignorant during briefings with them while he was still President-elect were the same ones who had talked him into continuing this quagmire.
     Trump's speech in Virginia last night was notable for its lack of details and tone deafness in the face of a United States that's not only tired of war with Afghanistan but is hardly aware we still have a significant presence there. Prior to Obama, we steadily had 4500 troops there then Obama raised that to 8400 during his surge. Last June, Trump had already ordered the Pentagon to make plans to send another 4000 to Afghanistan (an order belayed by Defense Secretary Mattis until Trump would articulate an actual mission, which he hadn't done as of last night), raising the total deployment to 12,400.
     It's hard to see how we're going to take back a country in which every invading and occupying force had failed from Alexander the Great to the Soviet Union, especially when under Bush then Obama the Taliban began taking back key cities and provinces.
     Also not mentioned by Trump were the real reasons for our continued squattage in Afghanistan: Hundreds of billions of barrels of untapped oil, roughly a trillion dollars worth of undeveloped minerals and the poppy fields that are so necessary to the CIA to fund their endless incursions. Trump's right about one thing: It isn't about nation-building. Never was, isn't now, never will be. Every invading force leaves behind a kingdom of rubble in a nation that infamously refuses to be conquered.
     And good luck trying to get India and especially Pakistan on board. Trump tried putting the arm on them last night just as he had earlier this year during the G20 when he accused our NATO allies of not kicking in their fair share (several world leaders were openly snickering at him during his speech in Brussels).
     So as long as Bannon wants to play the part of useful idiot, I say we let him and enjoy the fireworks.

     By coincidence, this is the picture taken yesterday by the 82nd Airborne out of Ft Bragg NC. They scheduled a jump exercise during the moment of the eclipse so they could take this shot. After Trump's speech later that night vowing unprecedented victory in Afghanistan, Americans can be forgiven if that photo brought to mind this much more famous one:

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