Trump Dashes Hopes for Afghan Peace

By handing off Afghan War decisions to “his generals,” President Trump may be conceding his unfitness as commander in chief, but he is also betraying voters who hoped he might end the war, says ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar.

By Paul R. Pillar

The comment of Georges Clemenceau, premier of France during World War I, that war is too important to be left to the generals was a sage observation even amid the total war in which his nation was then engaged.

Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter pilots fly near Jalalabad, Afghanistan, April 5, 2017. (Army photo by Capt. Brian Harris)

The importance of maintaining a strong sense of political purpose and political control can be appreciated by contrasting Clemenceau’s France with what was happening in Germany. There, General Erich Ludendorff, who held the title of quartermaster general, functioned during the last year of the war as almost a military dictator of Germany, with his influence extending to domestic and economic policy as well as operations at the battlefront. The warped political perspective involved had echoes in Ludendorff’s postwar activities, which included his pushing the “stab in the back” explanation for Germany’s defeat, his participation in Adolf Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch, and his propounding a doctrine in which total war is considered permanent and unending, with peace being only a brief interruption to the struggle.

The importance of clear political purpose and political control should be at least as evident when a total war is not being waged and national security decisions involve the use of military resources in a more calibrated way, with degrees of risk of small military involvement escalating into something larger and costlier. It is thus regrettable to see President Trump repeatedly sloughing off to the Pentagon what should be presidential (or presidential and Congressional) decisions. The most recent and clearest instance is his delegating to Secretary of Defense (née General) James Mattis the determination of how many U.S. troops should be in Afghanistan.

That delegation of authority is wrong not because civilian leaders necessarily have better judgment on such things than military officers. There is ground for criticism of Barack Obama’s handling of Afghanistan, which featured some micromanagement and in which some of his decisions about troop levels evidently were taken for less laudable political reasons.

What is instead wrong about the current president’s approach is that it loses sight of the principle that militarily achieving certain things on the ground is a means, not an end. Trump’s approach fails to acknowledge the need for a military expedition to have a clear objective that is not defined in a circular, self-referential way solely in military terms.

Beyond Military Judgments 

It fails to acknowledge not only the need for careful assessment of what can be achieved with military force but also whether such achievement is worth whatever costs are entailed, bearing in mind the full range of U.S. interests that may be at stake, including alternative purposes to which scarce national resources might be put. That last topic gets squarely to questions of troop levels in foreign lands. And it is a topic that the military should not be expected to try to answer on its own.

President Donald Trump announces the selection of Gen. H.R. McMaster as his new National Security Adviser on Feb. 20, 2017. (Screen shot from Whitehouse.gov)

The aforementioned issues are especially acute regarding Afghanistan, where U.S. forces have been engaged in war for more than 15 years. There are big unanswered questions about what is achievable, and about what would be achievable with a few thousand more U.S. troops that could not be achieved with the 100,000 troops the United States formerly had there.

There are even bigger unanswered questions about what difference to U.S. interests would be made by some turning of the military situation on the ground in Afghanistan. Being stuck in history — 9/11 and all that — doesn’t answer those questions. If it’s terrorist safe havens we’re worried about, there is nothing unique about Afghanistan today.

There is no Ludendorff in today’s U.S. military, but also no basis for in effect forcing the military to make political decisions. When U.S. military officers are forced to do that (and the not-long-out-of-uniform Mattis can be included with the military for purposes of this discussion), some recurring patterns have been apparent. One is that, if the United States is not already involved in an armed conflict, military officers, knowing something of the costs and pain of warfare, are often less inclined to initiate involvement than are non-veteran civilians.

Another pattern is that if the United States already is involved in an armed conflict, then the professional military is quite properly trained and conditioned to do what it takes to pursue the effort until an outcome is reached at which we can say a mission has been accomplished. If officers are not given a clear mission, then they grab whatever bits and pieces from the political discourse can reasonably be construed as a mission.

Or, they in effect construct their own mission, defined to involve some sort of vanquishing of an adversary’s forces. And U.S. officers will request the troops and other resources they believe they need to accomplish the mission, regardless of how shakily defined that mission is.

Never-ending War

This is often a prescription for escalation. In a situation like Afghanistan, it is a prescription for endless perpetuation of involvement in a conflict. And still unanswered is the question of whether accomplishing a given military mission is worth the cost. The talk one hears most often about a mission for a few thousand added U.S. troops Afghanistan is to reverse gains the Taliban have made over the past couple of years. Even if such reversal were accomplished, what exactly would that gain for U.S. interests?

A U.S. Army sergeant providing security outside a provincial governor’s compound in Farah City, Afghanistan, on Feb. 5, 2013. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Petty Officer Josh Ives )

Congress’s shirking of its own responsibility for declaring war and specifying clearly the broad objectives of the overseas use of U.S. military forces is a background to all these problems. The problems entail not just troop levels in any one area of fighting but also whether U.S. troops should be involved at all in conflicts in certain other areas. Thus direct U.S. involvement in an internal war in a place such as Somalia hinges on arbitrary, and little understood by the public, presidential determinations about what should be defined as a combat zone or how relationships between certain terrorist groups ought to be labeled.

As for Donald Trump’s specific role, perhaps his handing off to the Pentagon what should be presidential decisions is a tacit acknowledgment of how poorly qualified he is — by experience, not to mention temperament — to make national security policy. But the alternative to the excessive delegation is not just armchair strategizing by a real estate developer. The proper alternative is for the President and his national security adviser to preside over a full policy process involving all relevant parts of the government, including a fully staffed State Department, and that starts with careful consideration of the U.S. interests that are to be advanced or protected.

As for the sort of political input that this President ought to provide in such a process, Trump should think about some of the expectations regarding war and peace that helped to win him votes last November. He seems determined to fulfill, or to be perceived as fulfilling, campaign promises when it comes to building walls, rejecting Muslims, tearing down Obamacare, or moving backward in relations with Cuba. Maybe he should reflect on how many voters who wanted less rather than more U.S. involvement in foreign wars saw him as the less hawkish candidate.

What he instead appears to be thinking about is avoiding accountability. Sloughing off decisions to “his generals” means then blaming the generals when things don’t go well. He already did this after one of the first military setbacks of his presidency: the death of a Navy SEAL in a raid in Yemen in January. Expect the same posture from Trump with whatever doesn’t go well in Afghanistan.

Paul R. Pillar, in his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is author most recently of Why America Misunderstands the World. (This article first appeared as a blog post at The National Interest’s Web site. Reprinted with author’s permission.)

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44 comments for “Trump Dashes Hopes for Afghan Peace

  1. mike k
    June 18, 2017 at 2:26 pm

    This was a war that did not have to happen in the first place. Much better results could have been accomplished by negotiating with the Taliban over the Bin Laden issue. In fact every war the US has engaged in during the last fifty years has been a disaster for our country in every respect. The idea that any of these conflicts had anything to do with the security of the US is absurd. Every one of these wars was an aggressive and illegal action by the US. This country is among nations the most violent and stupid of all. When will we ever learn? Apparently never.

    • Joe Tedesky
      June 18, 2017 at 11:39 pm

      The Taliban if you recall were willing to hand over bin Laden to the U.S. if the U.S. would provide proof of Osama’s involvement into the 911 Attack. Cheney said no. To this day Osama bin Laden has never been charged by the FBI for the crime of 911. Cheney could not allow the Taliban to ruin the opening kick off, and the rest is a sad history as a result.

    • john wilson
      June 19, 2017 at 4:51 am

      A disaster for who Mike? As far as the companies and shareholders who are part of the industrial military complex is concerned these wars have been great. The military now receives staggering sums of money every year so they have been huge beneficiaries of these endless wars. In fact the military are now so huge that they are almost a race in their own right.

    • Peter Loeb
      June 19, 2017 at 6:44 am

      PROMISES, PROMISES

      By this time, everyone should know that there is no point in trying
      to hold President Trump to any campaign promises. It was
      not worth much with Barack Obama who after an anti-war campaign
      in 2008 appointed hawk Hillary Clinton, Victoria Nuland et al.

      In 1933, FDR ran on a campaign to “ballance the budget”.

      —-Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, US

  2. WC
    June 18, 2017 at 2:45 pm

    Follow the money. What is the untapped gas, oil and mineral wealth of this country?

    • Cal
      June 18, 2017 at 3:12 pm

      This is Afghanistan…you would spend more getting out what natural resources it has than you would make from it —-except maybe the poppy trade.
      World Fact Book
      https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/af.html

      • mike k
        June 18, 2017 at 3:19 pm

        Right. More heroin for the CIA to play with.

    • mike k
      June 18, 2017 at 3:18 pm

      Given the money and resources we have poured down this rat hole, whatever might be extracted from there will be a very poor return on investment – amounting to a huge loss actually. Of course the blood spilled there does no even appear on the accounting sheets of our eager warmakers.

      • Realist
        June 18, 2017 at 7:51 pm

        This war is sure not being conducted for freedom and democracy, or for any benefit to the Afghan people. I’m not sure that this war is even being conducted for financial gain, even if we do end up building a pipeline or two, considering the sunk costs. Well, not gain by the American taxpayer, maybe for some transnational corporations.

        I think the main reason was and remains simply to impose our will on yet another country, an added motive here in that country being i) Islamic and ii) having resisted invasion by the Soviet Union and other historical empires. So we, the exceptional ones, will succeed where all others have failed. Booyah! It is basically meant to be another trophy in the Pentagon’s glass case and a message to any remaining countries that refuse to submit to American vassalage (see Russia, China, Iran). It’s also a staging area for any future wars with Iran, Russia and China, probably in that order. Assholes at Langley are paid billions to brainstorm such scenarios. Basically they conclude that we must control half the world so we can attack the remaining half. It’s called defense of freedom! Nobody on the planet has a clearer mission than they.

        • Skip Scott
          June 19, 2017 at 7:38 am

          I think you have to ask whose costs and whose financial gains. That is always the case when it comes to America’s wars. Also, the Pentagon’s trophy case is rather sparse since WWII. Panama & Grenada? Of course, the CIA has a much larger trophy case. Our only real hope is for us proles to realize en masse that putting a uniform on and murdering foreigners for no good reason does not make you John Wayne. We have to learn that the immorality of our actions are our personal responsibility, in or out of uniform. Then war will end.

    • June 18, 2017 at 3:19 pm

      The main wealth that the MIC wants in Afghanistan is the heroin and opium for the CIA’s budget. All other natural resources are trivial compared to the heroin profitability and production.

      • Joe Tedesky
        June 18, 2017 at 11:53 pm

        You are right Craig, there is no money in winning wars, only huge profits which result from our military being bogged down in unending quagmires. I feel sorry for the average military person, who is truly being abused by their government, and is the same government who encourages us all to thank these war battered vets for their service. I say quit the unnecessary wars, and bring these brave women and men home, because this would be the right thing to do. The U.S. isn’t as much fighting wars, as it is committing a slow suicide by delaying any chance it has to live peacefully amongst the other inhabitants of this earth. Unless the U.S. changes it’s brutal ways, this U.S. empire will go down as other empires before it have gone down due to their hubris. Isn’t Afghanistan the graveyard of empires…well?

  3. June 18, 2017 at 3:37 pm

    The key statement by Mr. Pillar that Trump has handed military decisions over to the Pentagon generals showing how poorly qualified he is to be “Commanded-in-Chief” is so completely true. He campaigned on domestic policy more than foreign policy, but he’s found out how much foreign policy drives domestic policy. However, one could question what sense there is to either US domestic or foreign policy, just endless bad decisions done for the sake of power over the people domestically and power over the world militarily, mindless brutal dominance showing that those in charge have no wisdom. Trump became a pawn in their military game, and one wonders with his campaign bluster against money wasted in war, what got to him to make a complete 180 degree turn. Is he that stupid? Was he worked over?

    • backwardsevolution
      June 19, 2017 at 12:56 am

      Jessica K – all I know is that one day Trump was all bluster and wanted to stop the wars, and then the next day he was a cartoon character in “Mr. Deer Meets Headlights”. It really was a 180 degree turn. I know with myself, I don’t make many 180 degree turns; maybe 45’s or 90’s, but not 180’s, especially not when I’m actually excited about something (as Trump was). What happened? I doubt he got bribed (he’s already rich enough, and that would have been taking too big a risk), but he certainly could have been threatened or blackmailed. That’s what I think must have happened.

      Look at his inauguration speech, which he wrote himself. He was speaking about helping the American people. He didn’t need to give that speech because the election was already over and he didn’t need to sell anything anymore, and yet he did.

      Jessica, I could be totally wrong, but I’ll bet you that Trump has been crippled by some very powerful people. Paul Craig Roberts said Trump would have a hard time finding people loyal to him. I mean, look at the Republicans. His own party is asking very difficult questions re Russia, they’re not going along with Trump’s plans. Whoever is pulling their strings has obviously given them strict orders not to comply with Trump’s wishes, to block him every chance they get.

      Trump versus the insiders. Gee, I wonder who is going to win.

      • Skip Scott
        June 19, 2017 at 7:48 am

        B.E.-

        I think you are right on that one. I really enjoyed his inaugural speech, and laughed out loud at the Obama’s reaction to it. But I think Obama also knew that Trump was about to get his “trip to the woodshed.”

        I think Trump was very naive to not have surrounded himself with better people, and to not have foreseen the forces allied against him. But truth be told, I don’t know if anyone is capable of standing up to these bast**ds. His “six ways from Sunday” is only about halfway through. It’ll take a revolution.

    • Kiza
      June 19, 2017 at 4:57 am

      Jessica, I like your summary of the policy: “mindlessly brutal domination”.

  4. LJ
    June 18, 2017 at 4:19 pm

    Trump is weaker than he may have been and he surrounded himself with Generals and “Military Intelligence” from the get go. This shouldn’t be a surprise since he is in a completely defensive position politically. How could he stand up to the Democrats, the FBI, the New York Times and Washington Post and subversives in the Republican Party and take on the Military as well?. Not possible. They want a surge , they get a surge. I admit a bit of surprise that he also seems to have embraced Neoconservative pipe dreams in Syria as well. Any port in a storm , eh? It’s all bad but Hillary was not going to do anything different. We have an Permanent Airbase at Bagram . We will be in Afghanistan for at least 30 years. The native peoples of the region , Pashtuns and others, have resisted and ultimately driven out all other Empires and we will leave as well but not until we have declared Victory.

    • backwardsevolution
      June 19, 2017 at 1:03 am

      LJ – good synopsis. Too big a giant to take on for Trump. Had he gotten the upper hand right away, he maybe could have had a chance. But TPTB were smart and they brought in all of the Russia nonsense. Anybody who might have wanted to work with Trump started sitting on the fence, seeing which way the wind blew, before they stepped forward. The American people had a chance with Trump; they needed to step up, but they didn’t.

  5. mrtmbrnmn
    June 18, 2017 at 4:46 pm

    1) Our never victorious army hasn’t won an actual war in 76 years
    2) If we just pour in another xxxx thousand dupes..um…troops, we can finally win the Vietnam War.
    3) To our soon-to-be $trillion “defense” budget hammer, everything is a thumb (ouch!)
    4) If the estimable Harry Truman had left things to Gen MacArthur in Korea we would all be dead today.
    5) Way too many Gen. Buck Turgidson”s & Col. Bat Guano’s on our side
    6) Go Warriors! (that would be the NBA Champs)…

  6. June 18, 2017 at 5:38 pm

    That’s true, LJ, he is weaker than he let on in campaigning, but the fact that he took on neocon generals right from the get-go, interviewing in Trump Tower, shows that either he is idiotic or manipulated. The investigation weakened him a lot and shows he never did have the chutzpah he claimed, and the people who supported him to affect domestic policy are getting another lesson that you never trust what a politician says. And now his domestic policy is completely reverse of his “MAGA” claims, the ME mess dominates everything.

    • Zachary Smith
      June 18, 2017 at 9:53 pm

      That’s true, LJ, he is weaker than he let on in campaigning, but the fact that he took on neocon generals right from the get-go, interviewing in Trump Tower, shows that either he is idiotic or manipulated.

      My knee-jerk reaction to that is to alter it to “is a lazy and ignorant blowhard who is easily maneuvered into doing what a clever guy inflating his ego wants him to do”.

      • Kiza
        June 19, 2017 at 5:01 am

        For a moment there I thought you were describing Reality Winner, but it certainly also applies to the Orange is the new Black.

    • backwardsevolution
      June 19, 2017 at 1:38 am

      Jessica K and Zachary – as Trump was not a seasoned politician, how could he have known that he would be weak when he got in? If anybody is shocked, I think Trump is the most shocked of all. I really think he thought he was going to be able to get things done; so did I. Only the insiders would have known he was going to be easily crushed because they know how the system really operates: that politicians are mere puppets who follow orders from the people who pay them. Even his own party is hanging him out to dry.

      The worst thing for Trump has been the Russia investigations. This weakened him more than anything else, this shadow hanging over his head. It gave the politicians (who are all against Trump) a reason/an excuse to distance themselves from him, gave them a reason to say to their constituents, “Well, gee, Trump is in league with our enemy,” precisely why the Deep State devised this diversion. Very smart, and the American people have been fooled again. Look how fast this “Russia is bad” business came in. It was trumped up out of the blue.

      If the American people should learn anything at all, it should be that their politicians are not working for them. They are employed and totally controlled by others. If in the future another outsider should get lucky and be elected, they’ll crush him/her the same way they have done to Trump.

      Even though Trump had good intentions (and I believe he did), he cannot fight the arms of the Deep State all by himself. What a terrible thing to realize. They have a stranglehold over the country; they own the country. That is the lesson.

      • Kiza
        June 19, 2017 at 5:11 am

        “If anybody is shocked, I think Trump is the most shocked of all. I really think he thought he was going to be able to get things done; so did I.”

        Then you have to watch The Putin Interviews. When Stone asked Putin in early 2016 to tell US people who is his champion in the US Presidential elections (so that this person would lose any chance of winning, says Stone), Putin repeats for the second time: “Presidents change but the US policies do not.” When asked about Trump specifically, Putin says that even if Trump wanted to make better relations with Russia, “the bureaucracy” (read Deep State) would not let him to.

        Therefore, someone objectively knew that Trump will not be able to change anything for the better. I am discounting all the lefties who hated Trump and wanted him to fail out of their own stupidity (he was supposed to make positive changes for those manipulated dummies too). Naturally, we all doubted but hoped for a miracle, including the little moi. I do not remember from your comments before that you were sure either.

        Finally, if anything Trump has exposed to the US people how much The President is powerless, an impotent figurehead standing in front of the Deep State to make the system look democratic. This will probably end up being his only legacy (not even a silly library).

        • mike k
          June 19, 2017 at 8:30 am

          Excellent insight Kiza. Our deep wish for a Savior keeps getting shot down by the crude but powerful realists” among us.

        • backwardsevolution
          June 19, 2017 at 2:18 pm

          Kiza – I haven’t seen the Putin interviews yet, but I did see the clip where Putin said, “Presidents change, but the U.S. policies do not” just this week. I thought to myself: “Good God, I think he’s right.” And we’re seeing this play out right before our eyes, aren’t we? Putin knew. I think just now, just this very minute, I’m actually absorbing that fact and coming to realize that he is absolutely correct. It’s a hard thing to let sink in because it erases any hope you might have had. I’ll probably still wrestle back and forth for awhile, hoping against hope, until reality finally sinks in. It’s a hard thing to absorb.

          So, yes, as Trump is not in control and can’t change anything, then he must do the next best thing: further expose the inner workings, the rot, the corruption, the backstabbing. Put it all out there for everyone to see. I think Trump himself is only just recently coming to the conclusion that Putin is right; I think Trump had hope too. They’ve probably been stringing him along, “Yes, Mr. President, good idea,” knowing full well that whatever Trump wants will never see the light of day. Trump is probably grappling with what Putin said, just like we are, wanting to disbelieve that it could be the truth.

          When Trump finally comes to the realization that he is absolutely NOT in charge, he will expose. Up until now he’s still had hope. That’s where Trump poses the most danger for the Deep State, writing his own speeches and telling the American people what’s really going on. He is dangerous to them in this respect.

          Thanks, Kiza.

          • backwardsevolution
            June 19, 2017 at 2:27 pm

            Kiza – but I still do believe that Trump had high hopes to change things for the better. I do not believe, as others have said, that he came into the Presidency to enrich himself, for what he could get out of it, or for his ego alone. For being an outsider and getting where he got, we have to hand it to him. They say he is a tireless worker and that he’s working hard to get stuff done. I kind of feel for the guy: working so hard, and yet swimming with sharks.

            Come on, Trump, all you’ve got left is the ability to expose. You can’t drain the swamp, but you can certainly expose it. That’s the next best thing.

          • Kiza
            June 19, 2017 at 8:47 pm

            Dear bwe, the real coup happened in 1963, now we are feeling just one ripple of it. Trump can lose more than Presidency by impeachment, he could lose his own or his family’s lives. Therefore, please do not build up your hopes about exposure either. What we see now is probably all that we will get. Plus an all out war in Syria.

          • backwardsevolution
            June 20, 2017 at 1:51 am

            Kiza – thanks for the ray of sunshine! All hope is gone and, oh, by the way, there’ll be a war with Syria. Where are my meds?

            Thanks for the advice. I can’t say I’ll lose all hope, but I will tone it down. But war with Syria? That’ll get my blood pressure up!

  7. incontinent reader
    June 18, 2017 at 7:41 pm

    Professor Pillar has never conceded that there is a ‘Deep State’, but IMHO I would maintain not only that there is, but that, as with Clinton (Bill), Bush (both of them), Obama, and Clinton (Hillary) it has now co-opted Trump, and made the decision, whether for the geopolitical location and ability to make trouble for China, Russia and Iran, or for the extremely valuable resources contained therein, or the still huge military profits to be earned (increased by virtue of DOD’s flawed audit systems) that the U.S. shall remain in Afghanistan for the long term. Trump may be compromised and unfit as Commander in Chief, but so are his military, just as were his above-mentioned predecessors and opponent – and our Congress that is as gutless now as it was 25 years ago.

    • mike k
      June 19, 2017 at 8:24 am

      The deep state is made up of those persons who represent the final product of centuries of ruthless competition and warfare, economic and military, aiming at total domination of the world. In their own minds, they are the cream of a long process of selection, and are the true “realists” in the evolution of the world.

      In the distant past of my own primary school “education” the figures epitomizing this insane profile were characterized as “Great.” There was Alexander the Great, etc. These deluded thugs were held up as some kind of role models to be held in awe by us lesser mortals. It was not made clear that these “heroes” were the greatest enemies of humankind.

      And to this day anyone teetering at the top of the power pyramid is held in awe, and a figure to be emulated by the mass of people. Such is the deadly fascination with wealth and power that has shaped our history.

  8. Sam F
    June 19, 2017 at 6:34 am

    All comments so far very good and with much truth.

    The President does not have power to start or conduct foreign wars any more than his generals: he is simply the chief commander and treaty negotiator. Apart from treaties, the federal government has no constitutional power to wage foreign wars, just to repel invasions and suppress insurrections. Treaties must be rigorously restricted to defense, but NATO has become the primary means for warmongering demagogues to subvert the Constitution. All US wars since WWII are unconstitutional power grabs by tyrants of the oligarchy. NATO must be renegotiated and warmaking powers taken back by Congress.

    Your elected officials do not represent you and do not care about you: they are nearly all taking bribes, selfish scoundrels and thieves who should be turned out of office and prosecuted for corruption.

    Restoration of democracy requires amendments to protect elections and mass media debate from economic power, better checks and balances within the government branches, purging the corrupt judiciary and Congress, monitoring of government officials for corruption, and regulation of business so that bullies and scammers do not rise to control economic power. But we cannot get those improvements while mass media and elections are controlled by oligarchy.

    We cannot stop the wars, establish a humanitarian democracy, nor achieve benefits for the people, until the oligarchy is deposed; this is the greatest problem of civilization.

    • mike k
      June 19, 2017 at 7:58 am

      You have the diagnosis and the treatment plan exactly right, Sam. The remaining question is – how do we get the patient to take the medicine??

      • Sam F
        June 19, 2017 at 9:38 am

        Yes, that is the question, and I imagine that you know the outline of the answer.
        1. By education in alternative journalism, history, literature, public debate, and conversation;
        2. By new forms of public debate on internet (a College of Policy Analysis/Debate);
        3. By political action: letters to Congress, forming new parties, demonstrations, strikes, secessions;
        4. By a series of defeats in imperial wars, economic embargoes against the US, and severe recessions;
        But history suggests that far more is necessary to restore democracy (which I cannot advocate):
        5. By civil unrest leading to personal fear among the wealthy, mass media, judges, and politicians;
        6. By organization within the police, national guard and armed forces to deny enforcement to oligarchy;
        7. By actual confrontation of forces, with a failure of enforcement attempts by oligarchy (as in the USSR);
        If all of that fails, history shows that revolutions occur when conditions are bad enough, as Jefferson said, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

  9. Herman
    June 19, 2017 at 7:27 am

    The author states: “The proper alternative is for the President and his national security adviser to preside over a full policy process involving all relevant parts of the government, including a fully staffed State Department, and that starts with careful consideration of the U.S. interests that are to be advanced or protected.”

    If a national state of mind exists, and it probably does, such as process would be slower but likely put us is the same position as we are today. And if Trumps knowledge is a determinant of how will act, that creates a need to explain why Obama’s behavior was any different than Trumps.

    At least as far back as the end of World War II we have financed the same kinds of forces that destroyed viable states in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya and many, many more. What we created in Afghanistan with the mujahideen is a template for destroying our enemies with cold disdain for the lives of the people caught in our efforts to cripple our real enemies, most notably Russia, China and Iran.

    • mike k
      June 19, 2017 at 7:51 am

      Our “enemies” are our own creation. The underlying obsession to dominate the world leads to paranoid projection on everyone who is not our vassal being our enemy. Drop the world domination project, and we might be able to make some friends, as Trump naively believed before encountering the power of the neocons and the deep state.

      Our real enemies are those in our midst who want to rule the world at all costs. There is a whole world out there wanting to be friends with a friendly USA. People would love to love us, if we would just stop playing the global bully.

  10. June 19, 2017 at 8:51 am

    Some excellent comments to this very important article and issue. Backwardsevolution, I have noted your posts over time that you think Trump did want to accomplish something to change the business environment and bring jobs back, and I have always agreed with that point, in believing that in campaigning Trump had a naive sincerity on that. He just had no idea what he was going to run into with the deep state power structure, and none of us could imagine the hysteria that would be unleashed in the US by Clinton’s loss. Now he is completely hogtied and hamstrung, has capitulated because of the maniacal, day-in, day-out Democraziness, no doubt. And because he really did not know a thing about the political Beltway environment. I think it may be true that he’s been given enough veiled threats that he just gave up. I still believe Clinton and her cabal are working behind the scenes to keep this insanity going. Mike Adams of Natural News called this “carpet bombing of the American psyche”, and for the propaganda done daily by journalists supporting the Democrazies, he calls it “journo-terrorism”.

    I was looking into writings on Afghanistan as “graveyard of empires” and “land of bones”, and a book by Milton Bearden from 2001 titled “Afghanistan: Graveyard of Empires” looks worth reading. Everyone from Genghis Khan to Alexander the Great to the British and Soviets have gotten out, the mountainous terrain and tribal peoples who know it well just won’t be subdued. But USA learns no history lessons from anything because their leading warlords do not want to. And is the opium (“hopium”, as Kiza so cleverly called it the other day) too tempting, they want it to keep their desperate people quiet?

    I suggest a T-shirt reading: AFGHANISTAN, GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES: USA OUT OF AFGHANISTAN

    (…just daydreaming as an activist I used to be, before the deep state rolled up activism and everything got so expensive, even to produce T-shirts)

    • mike k
      June 19, 2017 at 11:38 am

      It will take more than Afghanistan to kill the US Empire; but die it will, from it’s own internal toxicity. Empires are a cancer: they kill themselves after destroying many other lives. Whether this one kills all other lives before itself is the question hanging over us now.

      • mike k
        June 19, 2017 at 11:43 am

        In many ways pollution is he ultimate threat facing us now. Think about pollution in the broadest context, including toxic beliefs, killing topsoil, poisoning the Oceans, nuclear toxicity…….

    • backwardsevolution
      June 20, 2017 at 1:18 am

      Jessica K – thank you for your great comments; I agree. Interesting re Afghanistan. Maybe that’s why they’re there: a war they can keep fighting, never win, but make lots of money off of? I remember watching a program that followed the writings of a Roman historian who described what the Romans encountered when they tried to enter Scotland. He called them “barbarians” because of the way they fought back, and the Romans just decided to build Hadrian’s Wall and call it a day.

      Unions gone, activism gone, free speech being rolled up. I think I need a chocolate brownie! Cheers, Jessica.

  11. Bill Goldman
    June 19, 2017 at 3:00 pm

    Neither Trump nor his team have a clue on fighting a war. Despite overwhelming firepower, they have been losers in one war after the other. The hearts and minds of the opposition are dead set against them and their right wing brain stems. All they can do is make missile fodder out of friend and foe alike.

    • Herman
      June 19, 2017 at 5:44 pm

      Bill Goldman comment: “Neither Trump nor his team have a clue on fighting a war. Despite overwhelming firepower, they have been losers in one war after the other. The hearts and minds of the opposition are dead set against them and their right wing brain stems. All they can do is make missile fodder out of friend and foe alike”

      Who are on Trump’s team. Johnson? Carter? Reagan? Bushes? Clinton? Obama? Is he the captain? Actually, Bill, if you extend the comment to other presidents, I agree with your comment. The did and do make missile fodder out of friend and foe alike.

      • backwardsevolution
        June 20, 2017 at 1:26 am

        Herman – good comments. In Bill Goldman’s mind, only Trump can do wrong.

        “The hearts and minds of the opposition are dead set against them and their right wing brain stems.” Bill Goldman, who said, “We came, we saw, he died”? Do you mean that opposition? I agree with Herman, the list is long.

  12. June 20, 2017 at 6:48 pm

    TOTALLY DISAGREE, it is so refreshing having a president that gives control over to people who know better in military affairs! If we pull out President Ghani will be over-run with al qaeda and ISIS will re-emerge!

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