No one wants endless war.
War brings so much death and destruction, and the terrible loss of the world’s youth to the ambitions of the world’s leaders. We all want wars never to begin, and once begun, to end quickly.
But since WWII, the U.S. seldom has unequivocally won a war. Even after wars seemingly are won, skirmishes continue, sometimes flaring up, then cooling, but seldom ending with that familiar formal signing procedure.
With the cooperation of numerous allies, we defeated the Axis of Germany, Italy, and Japan. With that victory — and much money — we made them our allies.
Since then, we have engaged in numerous conflicts, been soundly defeated in one (Vietnam) and still are waging many others.
I was reminded of this by an article that appeared recently in THEWEEK magazine. Some excerpts are illustrative:
The strategic incoherence of Trump’s Syria critics
Trump’s apparent decision to permit Turkey to conduct military operations against (until now) American-backed Kurdish forces near the Turkish border in Syria has nothing to do with geopolitical strategy or any process of foreign policymaking beyond his personal and business relationship with Turkey’s quasi-authoritarian president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The most common response to Trump’s announced change of course in Syria has been a cry of lament for the fate of Kurds, who may well find themselves the target of Turkish attacks.
How can we abandon allies who fought by our side against the Islamic State and allow them to be crushed by a dictator like Erdogan?
(But) the Kurds aren’t our allies. Allies are defined by mutuality: We promise to defend a given state if attacked, that state promises to defend us if we are attacked.
The Kurds, a stateless ethnic group found in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran, has zero capacity to come to America’s defense.
If the U.S. has an ally in the region, it is … Turkey, a member of NATO, an explicit defense alliance. Do those denouncing Erdogan favor ejecting Turkey from NATO, thereby revoking the country’s status as an American ally?
Mutuality is not part of the definition of “allies,” and certainly not equal mutuality. The Kurds have aided us by fighting ISIS. In that alone, they are our allies.
One alternative to ejecting Turkey from NATO, or abandoning the Kurds, is simply to do what we have been doing: Station enough US soldiers there in Syria to prevent a Turkish attack.
Strangely, the author does not mention that alternative, because the implicit belief is that somehow we must preclude endless American involvement. The belief that we never must be involved in an endless war.
It is a misguided belief. We have endless responsibilities, and some of them require endless war.
When critics of Trump’s policy shift want to sound harder-nosed, they move beyond Turkey and the Kurds and talk instead about how irresponsible it would be to give up the fight against ISIS: If we don’t stay in Syria, terrorists will grow powerful again, threatening the U.S. homeland like they did on 9/11!
The first thing to be asked in response to those making such claims is whether they think it’s possible for the U.S. to win any war anywhere in the world.
The above is based on the false belief that wars must be won, as they often were in the old days, followed by bringing our boys home.
Wars do not need to be won or lost. They can forever be holding actions, or if not “forever,” then for no end in sight.
Consider the police. Is their goal to end all crime, at which time they can “come home”? Or more realistically, will we forever have to wage a “war against crime,” and always be required to station cops around the country?
Can we realistically set a goal for our firefighters to no longer battle blazes? Can we set a goal for our doctors to no longer battle illness? Just cure everyone and get out?
More realistically, should the police, firefighters and doctors plan to engage forever, in endless wars?
If the battle against ISIS is measured against the goals enunciated at the start — the elimination of ISIS’s territorial caliphate — it has been a smashing success. We won. The caliphate is gone.
Yet now the goalposts have been shifted. Sometimes it sounds like the goal is to make sure ISIS or a successor Islamist organization doesn’t arise.
At other times it appears to mean something even more amorphous, like the complete elimination of any person who might aspire to revive the caliphate at some time in the future.
But is that a sensible foreign policy goal? Keeping an American military footprint in the desert of Syria and Iraq in order to exert control over what happens there for fear that it may possibly cause eventual harm to the United States, a continent and an ocean away?
Yes, that is a sensible foreign policy, which the U.S. is well able to afford financially, so long as minimal lives are lost.
There is no realistic alternative to an endless, religious war. Even if leaders of all participating groups came together and signed a peace treaty, there always will remain some faction who is dissatisfied with the outcome.
And that faction will simmer in resentment, soon to begin another conflict.
America, even with our massive armies, never will completely defeat ISIS, so long as there is at least one, hate-filled fighter who, seeking revenge, gathers together yet another guerilla army.
Even assuming this makes sense, for how long should it continue? Five more years? Ten? Twenty? More? And what metrics should we use to evaluate whether it’s really benefiting the country, or is working, or has worked?
Like the cop, firefighter, doctor analogies, it can continue indefinitely, so long as the threat remains viable.
The war against alcohol (aka, “Prohibition”) never was won and never could be won. At best we can fight a holding action by licensing, taxing, and age restrictions.
Similarly, the “war on drugs” was doomed to failure, because the goals and expectations were unrealistic. We never could defeat drug use.
No one wants to say because no one has an answer that makes sense.
It’s enough, they think, to speak gravely and vaguely about dire threats and keep us doing the same thing — always expanding American commitments abroad, never pulling them back, and never even prioritizing among them. Anywhere.
Surely we can and should prioritize them, just as a village may prioritize the location of its cops: Which corners are more important; which speed limits should be set?
The U.S. is committed, all at once, to defending Europe, including serving as a check on Russia’s ambitions in Eastern Europe, and to defending Israel.
It also wants to micromanage regional rivalries across the Middle East in perpetuity. And keep a lid on terrorist activity across North Africa. And win an 18-year-old game of Whack-a-Mole against the Taliban in Afghanistan.
And contain North Korea. And stand toe to toe with a rising China. And determine the outcome of a political transition in Venezuela.
The author complains about our multitude of obligations, but with great power comes great responsibility. The alternative would be a world in which brutal dictators rule everywhere, a world that declines into a dark-ages mentality.
Clearly, America should have better planning than what a government led by Donald Trump can provide. But even poor planning takes us some distance from total dereliction.
Depending on cost and affordability, it is an ongoing job, with no real end date.
That’s a lot for any country to handle intelligently or wisely — because having such control-freak ambitions in the world isn’t intelligent or wise in the first place.
That doesn’t mean that Donald Trump’s acting out in defiance of Washington’s foreign policy consensus makes sense.
But it does mean that those who oppose the president need to do more than run screaming back into the arms of that consensus without reflection on its many unacknowledged problems and confusions.
The biggest problem is the strange belief that the US should pull its soldiers out of harm’s way, and instead surround ourselves with a huge wall, and pretend we now are safe.
Some wars never end. The police fight crime; the firefighters attack fires; the doctors fight illness; the teachers fight ignorance; the U.S. continually must fight to remain safe and free.
Given America’s wealth and military power, we must try to be the world’s policeman. It is our ongoing “forever” job.
Do not decry endless war. Embrace it as a “long view” that endless war is a better, more realistic than the alternative. It is the price we must pay for security.
Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
Search #monetarysovereignty Facebook: Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
The most important problems in economics involve:
- Monetary Sovereignty describes money creation and destruction.
- Gap Psychology describes the common desire to distance oneself from those “below” in any socio-economic ranking, and to come nearer those “above.” The socio-economic distance is referred to as “The Gap.”
Wide Gaps negatively affect poverty, health and longevity, education, housing, law and crime, war, leadership, ownership, bigotry, supply and demand, taxation, GDP, international relations, scientific advancement, the environment, human motivation and well-being, and virtually every other issue in economics.
Implementation of Monetary Sovereignty and The Ten Steps To Prosperity can grow the economy and narrow the Gaps:
Ten Steps To Prosperity:
3. Provide a monthly economic bonus to every man, woman and child in America (similar to social security for all)
The Ten Steps will grow the economy and narrow the income/wealth/power Gap between the rich and the rest.