Yesterday, I was asked for my thoughts on Trump’s order for withdrawing troops from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, and the resignation of Gen. Mattis as Secretary of Defense. In all honesty, my feelings on those topics were very mixed, but this morning, I ran across an article by Matt Taibbi, who writes for Rolling Stone, that really helped me sort them out.
On the one hand, I have argued for years that we have no business trying to police and control other nations and that our adventures in the Middle East are responsible for the creation of Al Queda, ISIL, ISIS, Al Nusra and all of the other terrorist organizations which we are unsuccessfully combating. I have also argued that we should have never sent troops into the Middle East in the first place and we should extricate ourselves from that morass as quickly and gracefully as possible. So, in that regard, Trump’s pull-out order is totally consistent with my beliefs.
On the other hand, the manner in which Trump ordered the pull-out was a travesty in that it was done without any consultation with, or consideration for, those of our allies who followed us into that morass and are now left holding the bag. This decision, along with other unilateral decisions to pull out of international agreements, further erodes our national credibility as no one trusts those who repeatedly renege on agreements. As I have said so many times, credibility, be it a person’s or a nation’s, is one’s greatest asset – and Trump has tossed ours in the toilet. That will cost us a number of the few friends we have left.
On the topic of Gen. Mattis’ resignation, his departure is no loss. Gen. “Mad Dog” Mattis, who has said more than once, “ It’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot some people.” hardly qualifies as “the adult in the room”. Along with Gen. Kelly, Mattis has consistently argued vehemently against pulling out or even reducing our troop strength in the Middle East. Furthermore, he is one of the neo-con establishment members advocating greater involvement in the Middle East and elsewhere and who are responsible for the creation of the terrorist organizations with which we are at war.
My biggest concern regarding Gen. Mattis’ resignation is who will replace him. He has been credited with stifling Trump’s wild impulses and irrational behavior, but other than pulling out of the Middle East, I am unaware of any other of Trump’s impulses he has stifled. And given that Trump probably doesn’t have a rational reason for pulling out, the decision to do so is not irrational. Hopefully, Mattis’ successor won’t be another senior military officer as we already have too many war mongers in our government.
I hear many arguments as to why we should “stay the course” or wait until “the job is finished” but each one echoes the arguments against pulling out of Vietnam we heard 50 years ago. These arguments ignore both the reality and totality of the problem. In ignoring the reality, those who believe that terrorism can be defeated militarily ignore the destruction of property and the death of innocents that accompany the killing of terrorists. This “collateral damage” in turn spawns more terrorism as it creates hatred and the urge for revenge among the friends and relatives of the victims. Secondly, while you can destroy the terrorist organizations, you cannot destroy the hatred. The more you try, the more you create. Even if you achieve a temporary victory, new terrorist organizations will spring up as soon as you leave. Like the game “Whack-a-Mole”, as soon as you “whack” one, a new one springs up somewhere else. You can never get them all because hatred doesn’t die with the victims, it lives on in the survivors.
In ignoring the totality of the problem, those who wish to continue this endless war ignore the cost to our national welfare and our children’s future. We are squandering nearly a trillion dollars each year on a war machine to wage never ending wars that cannot be won. While doing so, we are ignoring needed repairs in roads, bridges, water mains, sewage and waste management systems and other infrastructure, needed improvements in education, adequate food, shelter and healthcare for all of our citizens and alternatives to fossil fuels that are not only limited, but are the chief contributors to our greatest threat – global warming. It’s not just that we depriving our own citizens of those needs, we are compounding the problem by borrowing the money to do so which will have to be paid back by our children and their children for generations to come.
As a nation, we have lost our moral compass. Few people, least of all those in positions of influence or power, have a sense of what our national priorities should be. As we have no strategy, insufficient resources, and no moral right to police the world, we should not be squandering our wealth causing death and destruction year after year in country after country. We should be looking after our own people and helping others when needed and wanted, and when we can. Making America great should be about building up America, not tearing down the rest of the world. Armies and weapons are not useful tools for building America.