Donald Trump likes wars we win.
“We have to start winning wars again.”
President Trump is nostalgic. For the good old days; “Some of you remember,” he says, “when we used to say, ‘We never lost a war.’”
Donald Trump was born on June 14, 1946, 10 months after the Japanese surrender ended the last war the United States unequivocally “won.” So, his nostalgia is not focused on real events, but on representations of it from the movies or TV. This selective viewing has left him a fan of war.
He was just 7 years old when America’s next war, in Korea, ended. Again, Donald Trump was not involved except as a youthful spectator.
But, I’m not sure he’d sign on as a fan of this war.
The US military did push North Korean forces back inside their borders, and did save our ally South Korea. But would that be enough for “the Donald?
The price of peace in Korea included leaving the North unconquered and their battlefield ally China unpunished. Not, I’d guess, a decisive enough endgame to make this “his kind of win.”
The “unconditional surrender” kind of war, the kind President Trump yearns for, may not exist any more. The nature of our enemies, their weaponry, and our communication-rich world make “total victory,” over ideologies like “radical Islamic terrorism” rather than nation-states, all but impossible to achieve.
Watch how even the unrestrained brutality of the Russians and the Syrian government leaves them still stuck in a continuing quagmire of guerilla war. Still, when Donald Trump talks about defeating ISIS, it sounds like absolute, eradicating conquest is what he’s after.
If only the world were that simple. But as the one military skirmish President Trump green-lighted shows, it isn’t.
The raid in late January, on a village in Yemen believed to have been a command base of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, may have produced some useful intelligence. But the cost was high. An American Navy SEAL, William “Ryan” Owens was killed, and so were a reported two dozen civilians, including women and children.
If the dead Yemenis were of any concern to President Trump, he’s never said so. But as far as Ryan Owens’ death is concerned, Trump has called him a “warrior and a hero,” and blamed everyone but himself.
“This was a mission that was started before I got here,” he said. It’s true, it had been proposed to President Obama, but he refused to give it a go. Which is why, as Trump tells it, “They came to see me and they explained what they wanted to do, the generals, who are very respected. My generals are the most respected that we’ve had in many decades, I believe. And they lost Ryan.”
Let’s ignore the fact that the generals who “came to see” Trump and “wanted to do it,” were the same generals who proposed the plan to President Obama, “before I got here.”
But now, Trump says, they are “my generals” who are “the most respected that we’ve had in many decades.”
And this is how he respects them: “They lost Ryan.”
How do you think Trump’s Generals, NSA Director H. R. McMaster, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford and CENTCOM Commander Gen. Joseph Votel, received that message?
Probably the way a star athlete might receive a young fan’s disappointed shriek after a loss, “You stink!”
Like the shallowest and least informed of sports fans, Trump’s solution for failure is simple, spend more money. Buy more stars. Buy better coaches or managers.
But the US already spends more money on its military than all its enemies combined, more than all its enemies and almost all of its allies put together.
Did we fail to “win” in Vietnam and Iraq and Afghanistan because we didn’t spend enough money, launch enough weapons, deploy and lose enough people? Has anyone suggested, if the war in Vietnam had lasted longer, if the “surges” of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan had been bigger, we would have “won” those wars?
Donald Trump likes to think of himself as “a tough guy.” But who’s he ever fought? When it comes to hand-to-hand combat, Trump has kept those stubby fingers stuffed in his deep pockets. Instead, he’s bought “muscle” from mobster unions and win-at-any-cost lawyers. These guys are tough in their ways, but not likely to defeat the Islamic State or the Russian or Chinese Armies.
Trump’s nostalgia extends to that simpler, largely fictional time when immigrants stayed in their countries and in their places, before “job-killing regulations” prevented worker- or environment-killing industrial practices. He dreams that his walls and executive orders will turn back the clock.
The President’s thoughts on war are every bit as anachronistic. Should he act on his fantasies, the results could be even worse.
His civilian subordinates, Pence, Tillerson, and even the former military men Mattis and Kelly, apparently smile and nod in acquiescence when Trump spouts his lunatic ideas about quarantining Mexico and bullying NATO. Then they go and tell the potentially affected parties, “Don’t worry. It’ll never happen.”
They’ll have to bone up a little more courage and not just undermine, but blow back the boss directly, should he ever tell them, “We have to start winning wars again.”
A short, but stellar week is coming up on HERE & THERE.
On Monday, the wonderfully articulate and direct Chief Justice of the New Mexico State Supreme Court Charles Daniels tells us about what he sees a great step forward in bail reform: Empowering judges to deny bail to dangerous defendants and to charge no bail for un-threatening but impoverished ones. He’ll also address the lack of funding for the NM Courts that, he says, is pushing them 2, 3, 100 steps back.
Tuesday, AP Lagos Bureau Chief Michelle Faul returns to chronicle the continuing collapse of what should be among the richest states in Africa, Nigeria.
We start with the fact that President Muhamadu Buhari has been out of the country for weeks, getting medical care in London, spurning the only state-of-the-art hospital in Nigeria, which is reserved for political leaders like himself. The other hospitals are known as “short-cuts to the cemetery.
Wednesday, KSFR covers the Santa Fe City Council meeting, so we’re off.
But on Thursday, we’re back, with another sterling AP correspondent, Mauricio Savarese, covering another potentially rich nation in dire straits, Brazil. On New Years Day, a prison riot killed 57 people, while in the 2 biggest cities in the country, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo political outsider Mayors took over. In the days that followed, there were more riots, more deaths, and more evidence of the nation-wide political corruption that’s let the outsiders get in.
Once again, I direct your attention to the provocative drawings of Amy Marash that are an essential part of the HERE & THERE mix.