Good news, we know know Trump’s secret plan to defeat ISIS — have Erdogan do it! Now I don’t think we’ve got much business in the Middle East (or Afghanistan). And “have countries in the region – Syria, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan – sort it” isn’t exactly a novel approach. But it is especially ironic for someone who touted their secret plan to subsequently say anyone else told him they’d take care of it.
Throughout the presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly called out the Obama administration and US military for announcing their plans to target an area. Tipping off the enemy, he said. No reason for it, he said. All manner of politicians, military strategists, and people who bothered to think about it for a few minutes explained the rational — there are a LOT of civilians in the area we will be targeting. We would rather not incur civilian casualties as part of our military campaigns — if for no other reason, it’s bad PR. Either the advanced warning drives them out of the area or they are still there to be hit. Driving them out of the area still disrupts their operations.
So now Trump is in charge – I am sure we’ve stopped advertising where military strikes will occur. And non-combatant civilian deaths have skyrocketed. Something like 1,000 reported in March — I’m sure there’s inflation involved in this reporting. The old Soviet instantaneous statistic modification was half anything good, double anything bad, which would still be 500 civilians killed in a month that is not yet over. Gee, if only there was some way we could let these civilians know ahead of time.
There is an incredible amount of money spent on the American military. Trump thinks NATO countries should be spending more on their militaries … and when I first heard this, I assumed it meant he wanted the US to reduce its military spending. Now that some details of his first proposed budget are floating around, it seems he wants to increase American military spending. INCREASE!?! So we’re lowering taxes, increasing military spending, and not touching entitlements (at least not for the elderly, maybe he’ll completely get rid of services for the poor to make up for spending increases and tax cuts?). Basic math fail. I get that Republicans have an odd belief that reducing taxes increases income so much that it offsets the tax reduction … but that’s a gamble (an odd governing methodology for a group claiming to be ‘conservative’). You might get lucky and hit the lottery if you sink next month’s mortgage/rent payment into lottery tickets too … but few will have any sympathy for you when the likely outcome occurs.
Lamenting a lack of “winning” — especially if the solution is increasing military budgets — shows a frightening lack of understanding the purpose of our participation in modern wars. We’ve entered into some untenable situations from which it was difficult to cleanly extract our forces. We’ve intervened in situations where we were not really wanted.
Money is not going to magically create “winning” situations. The problem is not insufficient tech, hardware, or troops. It is bloody impossible to hold hostile territory in the long run – and trying is socio-economically draining. Ask the Romans – demanding tribute engenders animosity. Consult the Brits – colonialism is quite possibly the technique most apt to succeed (create an economic incentive to accept the new rulers), but eventually the colony wants legal and economic independence to get a fair market price for goods. Replacing the government with one that supports you? Germans can tell you how well that works (La Résistance, for instance).
You hold a conquered territory by leaving sufficient military presence to continually re-take the area from the locals. So when I hear someone saying they want to “win” wars … I expect they don’t know exactly what it takes to win. Or what winning even means. Who really wins in a war? Executives and stockholders for companies with multi-million dollar contracts to manufacture equipment whilst remaining safely away from the combat zones.