America And The Wars That Never End

By David Malcolm

If there was one thing that Trump and Obama could apparently agree on, it was that America has wasted too much on costly foreign wars. Obama wanted to end American intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan while Trump promised that he wouldn’t plunge America into foreign wars and would ensure that any conflict would be in America’s interest. Yet Trump seems to crave a war, actively seeks it infact. Oh, how times have changed!

Trump’s love of the military is somewhat understandable, given that America has great pride in those who answer their country’s call and who risk life-or-death situations to protect others. It is truly amazing what soldiers deal with on a daily basis in some of the most dangerous places in the world. Nevertheless, I feel that no one will thank Trump for escalating conflicts in pursuit of glory or to distract from his disaster of a presidency.

North Korea is the obvious one that springs to mind but sending more troops in Afghanistan and threatening Iran certainly doesn’t help. Trump is clearly a believer in the idea that foreign wars or international posturing make up for unpopular policies and childish behavior at home. He probably hopes that starting a small war or winning one will make him popular.

This is why he claims that the victories against ISIS are his doing when the battles started in Obama’s presidency. It’ll be interesting to see how much credit he claims when the casualties mount up in Afghanistan after his troop surge. How many widows will he offend then?

Then we have Niger which perfectly symbolizes America’s forgotten wars. The recent spat between Trump and a Gold Star widow brought belated attention to the fact that US troops are in Niger. No one really knows why or how they got there when no one in Congress authorized this and when no one in the USA said that we need troops there. The military gets away with it by saying that American troops are there to ‘advise and assist’ local forces. It sounds reasonable on paper, but what it means is that special forces are dropped in foreign nations and fighting without congressional oversight.

You might say this is a good thing. Soldiers don’t want to be bound up in red tape. War isn’t the honorable combat that children’s books about medieval knights dress up. It’s kill or be killed out there. Who needs politicians thousands of miles away telling soldiers on the ground what to do? That’s why Vietnam went wrong. No, no, let the soldiers commit their violent acts and we can all sleep a little easier, just as George Orwell said we would.

This sets a dangerous precedent and it means that America is permanent on the war footing. Men and materials will be sunk into local conflicts. After you send troops to ‘advise and assist’ and they get killed so you send more troops to advise and assist. Every soldier that dies is an excuse to escalate the military presence in an area.

It’s not just Niger either. The truth is, there are thousands of US troops, as many as 6,000, serving in African countries in the hunt for terrorists. How many of them will return home? Will their war stay out of the spotlight or will it be a new Vietnam? American troops are risking their lives in hostile countries where most people, including those they call allies, resent their presence. They’ve seen what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan. They saw how air superiority ‘liberated’ Libya and they wonder whether they are next.

Without public scrutiny or congressional oversight, no one really knows what’s happening in these places. There’s no real objective, no coherent strategy we know of or any end in sight. Since the passing of AUMF (Authorization of Use of Military Force) shortly after 9/1, a law made up of 60 words means that conflicts can be easily justified, effectively giving the president a blank cheque to pursue America’s enemies, whoever they are. In the hands of Donald Trump, that’s a dangerous and powerful tool to hand him.

Unless the law changes or Congress starts asking the difficult questions about what American troops are doing wherever they are, conflicts aboard will only get worse. Trump doesn’t have America’s best interests at heart, especially when it comes to the military. He supports the military because he knows he gets rewarded for it. He escalates tensions with North Korea and threatens Iran because he knows people will follow him.

War is not a game! No one, especially the President of the United States, should be risking thousands of civilian and military lives for the sake of ratings! Someone needs to start asking what America’s strategy really is and what the end goal is. If the terrorists are to be defeated, then there needs to be a plan better than just ‘shoot the bad guys.’

For the sake of those who fight and die for their country, let’s learn from our mistakes rather than repeat them.

I'm a historian based in the UK who likes jumping from one thought to next. I love to learn new things and explore other ideas.

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