Cheers for Trump’s decision to slow our Long War

Summary: William Lind cheers the most expansive interpretation of Trump’s remarks about Syria and Afghanistan, Unfortunately he has little support among our elites and less than decisive support among the American public. We have not yet learned the lessons of 4GW. Unless Trump acts decisively, we will have another decade or two of futile war to teach us the lessons we have so far failed to learn.

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Hurrah for the President!

By William S. Lind at Traditional Right, 4 January 2019.
Posted with his generous permission.

Finally, President Trump is doing what he was elected to do, namely ending our involvement in wars halfway around the world in which we have no interests at stake. President Trump was elected as a peace president. He promised to bring the boys home. His opponent, Hillary Clinton, was neo-lib/neo-con interventionist. He won, she lost.

Mr. Trump won not because he is a liberal peacenik who appealed to the Left. His constituency was and remains the Heartland Americans whose sons do the fighting and dying in these wars. They do not understand why we are involved in the conflict between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in Iraq and Syria, and neither do I. They know why we went to Afghanistan after 9/11, but not why we are still fighting there seventeen years later. Again, neither do I, although I understand that military incompetence at the senior levels has something to do with it. The Washington Establishment has careers and budgets at stake, so of course it wants wars to continue. That’s not much of an argument in the rest of the country.

Editor’s note: That is only somewhat true.

The President’s decisions to get out of Syria and Afghanistan are not only wise but necessary. In Syria, if we stay much longer, we will have to choose sides between the Kurds and the Turks. Turkey is going to go after the Syrian Kurds militarily, whether we like it or not. If we side with the Kurds we will find ourselves in the inconvenient situation of going to war with a member of NATO. We will also lose, simply because of geography: the conflict would be on Turkey’s border with Syria, where our logistics lines can only support a small American force. If we side with the Turks or try to remain neutral, we would lose our only local ally who can actually fight. At that point our forces in Syria would be surrounded by lots of enemies with no one to help. As President Trump would say, “Not good.” So we need to get out, now.

In Afghanistan, our position is deteriorating at an ever more rapid clip. President Trump is trying to negotiate with the Taliban for the only possible outcome that is not a catastrophe, an orderly and safe exit of our forces. The alternative is a sauve qui peut {panicked} rout where our losses could be serious. Just ask the Brits.

Editor’s note: for those that doubt Lind’s grim assessment, see the 41st Quarterly Report of 30 October 2018 of the Special Inspector General for the Afghanistan Reconstruction. These reports are a continuous record of increasing failure. Trump. of course, does not want us to have this information.

The Establishment is running in circles, screaming and shouting.{Ed. note: see this.} It’s fun to watch. Their latest cause for panic is Secretary Jim Mattis’s resignation. Frankly, there is little reason to regret his departure.

I know General Mattis only slightly. We had one meeting when he commanded the “Marine Corps University” at Quantico. (As Universities go, it has more in common with McDonald’s Hamburger U than with Harvard.) No actions resulted from that meeting.

Mattis is unquestionably well-read, and I had great hopes for him as SecDef. But he proved to be no better than his less well-read predecessors. He did nothing to reform either the services or the Pentagon itself. He promoted the strategic idiocy of turning away from preparing for Fourth Generation wars, the wars of the future, and instead making Russia and China our enemies of choice. Does he not know that both are nuclear powers? Is he unaware of why both the U.S. and the Soviet Union avoided direct engagements with each other’s forces throughout the Cold War, namely that whichever side were losing would feel immense pressure to go nuclear? The Pentagon likes such a “strategy” because “peer competitors” justify vast budgets and programs, but the Secretary of Defense is supposed to represent the real world. Mattis failed to do so.

Secretary Mattis began one initiative that deserves to continue after his departure. Called the “Close Combat Lethality Task Force” (CCLTF), its purpose is to provide more resources and better training for the men who do most of the dying, the infantry. They get a pittance of the resources devoted to, for example, tac air. The CCLTF aims to change that, and it would be a pity if it died because its sponsor was gone. The current concept for the CCLTF has some weakness, which I will address in a future column. But the need for it is real.

So hurrah for the president! He is ending stupid wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan, trying to mend fences with North Korea and wants a good relationship with Russia. All those initiatives are very much in America’s interest. Could that be why the Washington Establishment hates him so bitterly?

————————————-

 

War Room in Dr. Strangelove
They’re planning to lose more wars.

Editor’s afterword

Understanding our Long War requires knowledge of America’s geopolitical strategy? Spoiler: it’s quite mad. No technological or economic power can offset a mad grand strategy.

Lind advocates an alternative strategy for America, one focused on defense – much as Fabius Maximus did for Rome during its war with Carthage. See his “Strategic Defense Initiative”! It makes the same points as I have so many times. Most recently in Let’s try a defensive strategy in America’s wars, and win.

Our current strategy – and its foreign wars – works well for our elites, at the cost of America’s wealth and the blood of our most patriotic young men. Our apathy and passivity are our greatest foes. preventing us from changing course and winning.See these posts.

  1. Why the West loses so many wars, and how we can learn to win — about the two kinds of insurgencies (we’re fighting the kind we can’t win).
  2. The Cult of the offense returns: why we’re losing the long war, & how to win.
  3. Darwin explains the futility of killing insurgents. It makes them more effective.
  4. Will we repeat our mistakes in the Middle East & lose, or play defense & win? — Ignore the book. This tells you how to eat soup with a knife. That’s how to win playing defense.
  5. How I learned to stop worrying and love Fourth Generation War. We can win at this game. — Contrasting offense and defensive strategies.
  6. The key to playing defense: Militia is the ultimate defense against 4GW.
  7. Handicapping the clash of civilizations: bet on the West to win big.

About the author

William S. Lind is director of the American Conservative Center for Public Transportation. He has a Master’s Degree in History from Princeton University in 1971. He worked as a legislative aide for armed services for Senator Robert Taft, Jr., of Ohio from 1973 to 1976 and held a similar position with Senator Gary Hart of Colorado from 1977 to 1986. See his bio at Wikipedia.

William Lind

Mr. Lind is author of the Maneuver Warfare Handbook (1985), co-author with Gary Hart of America Can Win: The Case for Military Reform (1986), and co-author with William H. Marshner of Cultural Conservatism: Toward a New National Agenda (1987).

He’s perhaps best known for his articles about the long war, now published as On War: The Collected Columns of William S. Lind 2003-2009. See his other articles about a broad range of subjects…

  1. His posts at TraditionalRight.
  2. His articles about geopolitics at The American Conservative.
  3. His articles about transportation at The American Conservative.

For More Information

Ideas! For shopping ideas see my recommended books and films at Amazon.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about military strategy in theory & practice, about William Lind’s workabout our long war, about Syria, about Afghanistan, and especially these…

  1. Peter van Buren asks what the Middle East would look like if we hadn’t helped.
  2. Trump says the truth about our wars. Do Not Listen!
  3. Secrets about our attack on Syria & Russia to help jihadists.
  4. Big news about Syria. It’s news for proles! – “Trump agrees to an indefinite military effort.” WaPo on 6 September 2018.
  5. Trump protects al Qaeda in Syria. The Resistance applauds.
  6. Syrians don’t own Syria. It’s everyone’s, a devil’s playground. – By anthropologist Maximilian Forte.
  7. Washington spews lies at us about Syria while madness reigns.

Essential reading to understand modern war

The Transformation of War: The Most Radical Reinterpretation of Armed Conflict Since Clausewitz by Martin van Creveld.

The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World by General Rupert Smith. One of the great books about modern warfare.

Anatomy of Failure: Why America Loses Every War It Starts.

By Harlan Ullman (Naval Institute Press (2017).

“This book should be read by all practitioners and serious students of national security as the guide for avoiding failures and miscalculations in using American military power.”
— General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.), Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989-1993) and 65th Secretary of State.

Anatomy of Failure is part Von Clausewitz, part Tom Clancy, with personal insights by Harlan K. Ullman that brilliantly translate why the United States, the most powerful nation on earth, has so often fallen short of its objectives.”
— Michael Lord Dobbs, creator of the series “House of Cards.”

"Anatomy Of Failure" by Harlan Ullman.
Available at Amazon.

From the publisher …

“Why, since the end of World War II, has the United States either lost every war it started or failed in every military intervention it prosecuted? Harlan Ullman’s new book answers this most disturbing question, a question Americans would never think of even asking because this record of failure has been largely hidden in plain sight or forgotten with the passage of time.

“The most straightforward answer is that presidents and administrations have consistently failed to use sound strategic thinking and lacked sufficient knowledge or understanding of the circumstances prior to deciding whether or not to employ force.

“Making this case is an in-depth analysis of the records of presidents from John F. Kennedy to Barack Obama and Donald Trump in using force or starting wars. His recommended solutions begin with a ‘brains-based’ approach to sound strategic thinking to address one of the major causes of failure: the inexperience of too many of the nation’s commanders-in-chief. Ullman reinforces his argument through the use of autobiographical vignettes that provide a human dimension and insight into the reasons for failure, in some cases making public previously unknown history.

“The clarion call of Anatomy of Failure is that both a sound strategic framework and sufficient knowledge and understanding of the circumstance that may lead to using force are vital. Without them, failure is virtually guaranteed.”

 

20 thoughts on “Cheers for Trump’s decision to slow our Long War

  1. More questions than answers!

    Air strikes on Syria:

    “While 58 percent of voters support the strikes, only 23 percent oppose them…”

    Are these numbers real or is this another bout of propaganda? In any case, Dr. Joe Goebbels would be proud!

    How else could anyone explain this?

    Did Syrian government or UNSC invited the US to “help” with fighting the Daesh? If not, shouldn’t the US be sanctioned by the rest of the world? Would the US voters then support the war on the rest of the world?

    Or, better yet, do these voters really enjoy ruining lives of millions of Afghans, Iraqis, Libyans, Syrians and Yemenis…? How did the “Regime Changes” of late improve the her security/safety or even her image?

    Where is the spirit of THE REAL AMERICA:
    In April 1953, President Dwight Eisenhower … Addressing the American Society of Newspaper editors, he declared: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed.” A militarized world “is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”

    Is this rendition all but gone?

    1. Jako,

      “Are these numbers real or is this another bout of propaganda?”

      I worry that so many people refuse to believe info from multiple private sources. IT’S THE MASTER CONSPIRACY! Don your tin foil hats!

      “How else could anyone explain this?”

      A more interesting question is “why are you surprised?” Americans usually believe whatever the government tells us. See The Big List of Lies by our Leaders. It’s a “big list”, not a “complete list.” Gullible R’ USA.

      “Dr. Joe Goebbels would be proud!”

      Yes, the art of propaganda has evolved greatly since his day. But then, as now, the key ingredient is a gullible audience.

      “Did Syrian government or UNSC invited the US to “help” with fighting the Daesh?”

      I – and others – have discussed this at length during the past several years. The answer is “of course not.”

      “shouldn’t the US be sanctioned by the rest of the world?”

      “Would the US voters then support the war on the rest of the world?”

      What war? We would ignore the UN or whatever, as we have before. The rest of the world would lose interest in the matter after 20 seconds.

      “do these voters really enjoy ruining lives of millions of Afghans, Iraqis, Libyans, Syrians and Yemenis…?”

      You know the answer to all these questions. Americans live in little isolated bubbles. We’re helping those nations. Presidents of the other party are all Hitler. The leaders of my party are angels. This makes us a gift to our rulers, so easy to control.

      “Where is the spirit of THE REAL AMERICA”

      We are the real America, the only America.

      1. I always admired the Fabius Maximus (Cunctator) for his inexhaustible tenacity. If gen. Patton’s role model was Alexander, I can imagine the role model of Kutuzov was he, the “delayer.”
        On the same note, many would give up in the quest for “Reigniting the spirit of a nation grown cold.” And I, for one, do recognize the immense effort of this FM website.
        We may not always agree on points while, I wonder — why wouldn’t you go a step further and instead of “shooting from the sideline” to go for it — a Congressman as a first step etc…
        I, and many others as here and at large, would be wishing you the best of luck then!

      2. Jako,

        “I always admired the Fabius Maximus {website team}”

        Thank you. I often seems hopeless. But I can’t think of anything better to do, so here we are.

        “why wouldn’t you go a step further and instead of “shooting from the sideline” to go for it — a Congressman as a first step etc…”

        It’s been done countless times across history. Can you cite some times it made things better. I can give a long list of examples where that put a society on the fast track to hell.

      3. Well, honestly, we all know our limits — the only ones who don’t become our rulers, it seems.
        Why would you suppose someone like you would bring a standard calamity into the system of perpetual journey to hell? Me thinks you’d know better than that, why wouldn’t you admit it and act upon it?

      4. Jako.

        “Why would you suppose someone like you would bring a standard calamity into the system of perpetual journey to hell?”

        I don’t understand what that means.

  2. Lind writes: “President Trump is trying to negotiate with the Taliban for the only possible outcome that is not a catastrophe, an orderly and safe exit of our forces. The alternative is a sauve qui peut {panicked} rout where our losses could be serious.”

    No doubt, Trump would prefer a negotiated settlement, since that would save face. But why is the only alternative a rout? Real question. It could be a rout if bungled, but I don’t see why that can be assumed.

    As it stands, it seems that the Afghan government forces are doing almost all the fighting. At least, they are doing almost all the dying. So they would be there to cover our withdrawal, unless those forces just melt away the moment we start to withdraw. That would seem unlikely since they would have their own reasons for fighting.

    1. Mike,

      “So they would be there to cover our withdrawal’

      The Afghanistan army would fight and die to cover the withdrawal of infidel foreigners? That is possible, but seems unlikely imo. Everybody turning on us seems a possible, and imo more likely, outcome. Slaughter the foreign infidels is something that such peoples can often agree upon. That would be rough justice, considering what we’ve done to Afghanistan during the past 4 decades.

      “unless those forces just melt away the moment we start to withdraw.”

      Or defect. That’s how we so quickly took control, aided by CIA bagman (and their bags of cash).

      “That would seem unlikely since they would have their own reasons for fighting.”

      What reasons? Wars in tribal states are seldom to the death. One side gains the upper hand, and terms are made. That’s how the Taliban gained power so quickly.

    2. LK: ” Wars in tribal states are seldom to the death. One side gains the upper hand, and terms are made. That’s how the Taliban gained power so quickly.”

      Something that is studiously ignored by the talking heads on TV that I have watched. I remember the surprise people had when we left Vietnam by the last chopper in Saigon. A case of two tribes only in the wishes of the War party.

      Likewise, Vietnam War was costly,deadly, and lost.

      How quickly we forget.

  3. I favor withdrawing from Syria, but the fact that Trump favors it does not mean it will happen, and I’m not so sure that the fact he orders it means it’s going to happen. Large parts of the government, notably the Justice Department and the security agencies have been in a state of mutiny since 2016, and I half expect that mutiny to extend to the General Staff. (The troops will still obey a lawful order, but I’m not sure about the Flag Officers) It will be a bit like the declassification order Trump issued and rescinded last year regarding documents that had been withheld from Congressional investigators. The order won’t be carried out, or it’s execution will be put back until after 2020 and Trump won’t force the issue if he even can. I should like very much to be wrong about this.

  4. When you say mutiny, do you mean under 10 U.S. Code § 894 – Art. 94. Mutiny or sedition?

    (a) Any person subject to this chapter who—

    (1) with intent to usurp or override lawful military authority, refuses, in concert with any other person, to obey orders or otherwise do his duty or creates any violence or disturbance is guilty of mutiny;

    (2) with intent to cause the overthrow or destruction of lawful civil authority, creates, in concert with any other person, revolt, violence, or other disturbance against that authority is guilty of sedition;

    (3) fails to do his utmost to prevent and suppress a mutiny or sedition being committed in his presence, or fails to take all reasonable means to inform his superior commissioned officer or commanding officer of a mutiny or sedition which he knows or has reason to believe is taking place, is guilty of a failure to suppress or report a mutiny or sedition.

    (b) A person who is found guilty of attempted mutiny, mutiny, sedition, or failure to suppress or report a mutiny or sedition shall be punished by death or such other punishment as a court-martial may direct.
    (Aug. 10, 1956, ch. 1041, 70A Stat. 68.)

    That sort of mutiny regarding Justice Department and the security agencies?

    1. Der Maiden,

      This isn’t a courtroom. Few here are attorneys. I suspect The Man meant “mutiny” in the general sense.

      Definition: “Refuse to obey the orders of a person in authority.”

      Synonyms: rise up, rebel, revolt, riot, disobey/defy authority, be insubordinate.

      Etymology: from the Middle French verb mutiner “to revolt,” noun meute “a revolt,” adjective meutin “rebellious.”

      1. Larry,

        I thought The Man meant to imply subvert instead of mutiny as in the general sense of…

        Definition: “to raze, destroy, overthrow, undermine, overturn,”

        Synonyms: destabilize, unsettle, overthrow, corrupt, pervert, contaminate, embitter

        Etymology: From Middle English subverten, from Old French subvertir, from Latin subvertō (“to overthrow”, literally “to underturn, turn from beneath”)

        This isn’t nitpicking for the sake of nitpicking. Why would the General Staff risk being insubordinate when they can be good subordinates allowing them covertly coordinate their plans to circumnavigate the Chief-In-State’s mandate?

      2. Der Maiden,

        (1) On re-reading the Man’s comment, I see that you were correct. I misread it, giving too generous an interpretation. As you said, he was referring to munity in the legal sense. He His belief is quite daft. It’s a common delusion among Americans who don’t know many officers, belief that they don’t take their oath of office seriously.

        More broadly, the desire for a military coup is increasing on the Left – part of their desire to make America into a Latin America hellhole.

        (2) “Subvert”, “overthrow”

        To mutiny against the Commander in Chief would be an attempt to subvert and perhaps overthrow the Republic.

  5. “On re-reading the Man’s comment, I see that you were correct. I misread it, giving too generous an interpretation. As you said, he was referring to munity in the legal sense. He is quite daft. It’s a common delusion among Americans who don’t know many officers, belief that they don’t take their oath of office seriously.”

    Daft am i? well, I’ve been called worse by better people. You’re the one who ran the piece somewhere back up the line about the coming out of the Deep State being the most significant event of 2018. The resignations from DOD haven’t stopped at Mattis. If the attitude of that “I am the Deep State” New York times op ed had spread to the Generals, then their loyalty can, in my view, no longer be taken for granted.

    1. The Man,

      “If the attitude of that “I am the Deep State” New York times op ed had spread to the Generals, then their loyalty can, in my view, no longer be taken for granted.”

      It’s daft to believe that in the absence of any evidence.

      “He is quite daft.”

      That is a mis-statement, for which I apologize. I meant to say “that is a daft belief.” I’ve corrected my comment.

  6. Larry,

    Apology accepted. It is a rare for anyone to write as many words as you do without mis-statement. Certainly I could not, In any case…

    “If the attitude of that “I am the Deep State” New York times op ed had spread to the Generals, then their loyalty can, in my view, no longer be taken for granted.”

    The statement is expressed in the conditional. I don’t know what the attitude of the Generals is, but after 2018 I’m not taking much of anything on faith. If you had told me in 2016 that a senior FBI man would treat Congress with the open steering contempt shown by Peter Strozk, I would have called you daft. We live in strange times.

    1. The Man,

      “If you had told me in 2016 that a senior FBI man would treat Congress with the open steering contempt shown by Peter Strozk…”

      Yes, you are right about this – and I was wrong. You raise an important point, one I keep forgetting, and that we must keep in mind. It’s easy to forget how much the world has changed since 1960 – and how much more our perception of the world has changed. With that in mind, you are correct — we can’t rely on comfortable assumptions about the foundations of the Republic. They are washing away, slowly but certainly.

      I wrote about this five years ago: We lived amidst dreams in 1963 & were harshly awakened. How clearly do we see today? So much of what we “knew” in 1960 proved to be false. Who can say for sure what we know today is true? I can’t imagine the generals turning against the Republic. But then in the early 1970s I couldn’t imagine the dark secrets about the FBI’s incompetence and law-breaking, or that the generals were eager to risk nuclear war in the Cuban Missile Crisis.

      With your reminder, I’ll post an update of that.

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