Trump is taking the leash off his pitbull.
McMaster, the Bush architect of the first failed surge in Afghanistan, has his chance to do it all over again. He’s got a plan to add 3,000 to 5,000 more troops to forces in Afghanistan to settle down the Taliban insurgents.
He’s going to do it in stages. Region by region. Like he did in Iraq. When Bush wanted him to train the locals and then get out, Bush didn’t account for McMaster’s taste for war.
McMaster was gung ho in Iraq.
The Washington Post: “In the Iraq War, McMaster commanded a 3,500-soldier brigade in the northern city of Tal Afar, which was being torn apart in 2005 by Iraq’s civil war. He largely jettisoned the Bush administration’s official strategy at the time of pulling back from cities and training Iraqi forces to take over the fight so U.S. troops could go home.
“McMaster pushed his troops deep into Tal Afar, establishing 29 small American-manned command outposts. Instead of focusing on training the Iraqis, McMaster and his troops worked to stop the killing in the city and replace the local mayor and security forces.
“ ‘It’s unclear to me how a higher degree of passivity would advance our mission,’ he said at the time in response to criticism.
“Eventually his strategy, dubbed ‘clear, hold and build,’ became a model for the broader campaign, led by Gen. David H. Petraeus, to stabilize Iraq in 2007 and 2008.”
It was the pacification strategy of the Vietnam War, and the pacification strategy was a pale imitation of the only successful imperialist strategy in U.S. military history—the taking of land from American Indigenous peoples.
In the European-American expansion into the American West, it started with a fort in Indian territory. Then there was a trading post and few settlers. And that worked for a while, and then more settlers, and a town. It was possible to subdue the original population slowly by getting them used to it—making treaties, making deals at the trading post. But, sometimes things went wrong, like in Mankato and the Sioux Uprising of 1862. When their treaty was broken, when they were cheated by Indian agents, and, finally, when they were starving, Native people began a guerrilla war against the invaders. At that point it became necessary for the U.S. government to ethnically cleanse the neighborhood of Sioux and move them to South Dakota.
That’s been the pattern for successful imperialism ever since.
It was the strategy of the Dutch and English Afrikaners in South Africa, and it worked until everyone recognized that the whites were outnumbered, so whites had to learn to get along. It stopped working about the same time in the rest of Africa.
It’s been the strategy of the Israelis, and they have been very careful to only annex pieces of land that have more Jews than Palestinians. In 1948 and 1967 they took over Palestinian villages and drove the Palestinians out. The Palestinians still believe they have the right to return, and the Russian settlers on the West Bank seem like they believe they’re back in the American Wild West playing cowboys and Indians. When Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman promised to eliminate the new Hamas leader, Ismail Haniyeh, within 48 hours when he was made defense minister, it sounded like the cowboy sheriff telling a Native to “Get out of Dodge.”
In Vietnam the policy ultimately failed for the same reason it did in South Africa—they ran out of settlers. For a while the CIA was able to convince enough Catholic collaborators and sympathizers with the French colonial government that the Virgin Mary had appeared in South Vietnam, and if they moved south the kindly Catholic John Kennedy and America would find land for them. But the CIA ran out of settlers, and the native South Vietnamese resented the intruders. It was doomed.
But McMaster argues they just didn’t try hard enough.
McMaster had argued in his book, “Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, The Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies that Led to Vietnam,” how a no-win attitude among civilians was the root cause of the loss of the war in Vietnam.
His personal hero in Vietnam was Curtis LeMay, who wanted to “Bomb ‘em back to the Stone Age.”
The generals told Kennedy, “Don’t go into Vietnam unless you start with 60,000 men and are prepared to use nuclear weapons to guarantee victory.”
McMaster is content to start with 3 to 5,000 troops, knowing that if they’re successful in “pacifying” a sector of Afghanistan, then he’ll have a green light to send in more. In fact, the report being sent to Trump specifically says that troop levels and choice of targets should be at the discretion of the military command. And McMaster knows Trump isn’t afraid to use nuclear bombs.
After writing about the causes of the failure of Vietnam, McMaster is finally getting civilians out of the way and leaving the business of war up to the generals.
But it’s a doomed strategy. It’s a hostile occupation that the Afghan people will resent and resist.
They must know that it can’t possibly work. Why are they proposing it?
Is it a bargaining chip in dealing with the Russians?
Is it Trump’s way of dealing himself in?
The Russians have been holding peace talks in Moscow with the Taliban, China, Iran and Pakistan. The latest was on Feb. 15. The U.S. and the Afghan government were not invited.
On April 13 Trump and McMaster dropped the MOAB (Mother Of All Bombs) on a remote village in Afghanistan. Civilian casualties are unknown at this point because the Afghan government won’t let journalists into the area. Most analysts, Trump officials and even Mike Pence think the bomb was meant to send a message to someone other than a Taliban insurgent in a tunnel in a remote village.
The renewed buildup is trying to send the same message. According to Andrew Wilder, from the U.S. Institute of Peace, a CIA front office (where an amazing amount of arrogance permits them not to see the irony in their doublethink message—the only way to peace is through war): “The review is an opportunity to send a message that, yes, the U.S. is going to send more troops, but it’s not to achieve a forever military victory, rather, it’s to try to bring about a negotiated end to this conflict.”
Trump wants to cut himself into the deal. There’s a lot on the table. There’s the $4 billion a year in the opium and heroin business. There’s that Trans Afghan Pipeline bringing oil to Pakistan. Trump would like some of that action.
He thought it was a done deal. He had Tillerson and Flynn in place. They both assured him that the deal was a done deal: “Trump gets part of the action.” Now, things all over seem like they’re changing. Now Trump is afraid: “Russia’s off making deals with Iran and China and Pakistan without me. Well, I’m gonna blast my way into the table. Boots on the ground are cards at the table.”
And he wants us to believe that the sacrifice of our children’s lives is worth it.
More war in Afghanistan
Trump is taking the leash off his pitbull.