We have the greatest military in the world…We have given them total authorization…If you look at what’s happened over the last eight weeks and compare that really with what’s happened over the last eight years, you’ll see there’s a tremendous difference. Tremendous difference.–President Donald Trump
Yes, I see a tremendous difference, but nothing to celebrate: War was not the answer in Korea or Vietnam. It wasn’t the answer in Afghanistan or Iraq. It isn’t the answer today in Afghanistan, Korea or Syria.
- Korea: War in Korea had reached a stalemate. President Eisenhower insisted on a ceasefire which ended the killing. During more than 50 years of relative peace, South Korea at least has prospered.
- Vietnam: Recall the “domino theory?” We had to fight and win in Vietnam or the whole of SE Asia would be “lost.” We abandoned the war, peace and prosperity followed. The “domino theory” was bunk.
- Afghanistan: The Russians tried to tame Afghanistan by establishing a proxy government there; they failed. GWB thought he could win cheap by supporting a faction known as the “Northern Alliance;” that led to years of inconclusive war there. President Obama then worked to reduce US involvement in Afghanistan. Can a return to active participation in war there be wise?
- Iraq: We fought in Iraq; one unsatisfactory government was replaced with another. Conflict continues there.
- Syria: The Obama Administration resisted pressure to intervene in the Syrian Civil war other than to give limited support to those battling ISIS. The political situation in Syria is complex. Our goal ought to be to seek a ceasefire and political settlement in Syria, not to widen the war there.
- Korea again: What good could possibly come from war in Korea even if it caused the rapid collapse of the North Korean government? What would be the cost? What is our exit strategy? What might the Koreans do to thwart our plans?
Nuclear weapons are a threat to life on Earth. There is nothing extraordinary about Korea or Iran that sets them clearly apart from India, Pakistan, Israel, Britain, France, Russia, China, or the USA. Rather than threaten war, we should work for peace and the elimination of these weapons in every country.
Donald Trump is like Sleeping Beauty–waking up after 50 years in dreamland, knowing nothing, with no experience in government, he assiduously sets out to retry mistakes of the past. He needs good advice, but instead relies on his equally naive children.
“Total authorization” is militarism–there is good reason for civilian control of the military. Senior military officers surely know that guns and bombs are no cure for terrorism and insurgency. Civilian officials in the Trump Administration ought to recognize that as well.