Well! The Donald, reading diligently from his teleprompter, has articulated a New and Improved strategy for Afghanistan! Acting essentially as a ventriloquist’s dummy for his Generals, his bold new approach sounded, in the end, pretty much like the old strategy, with just a couple of twists. The main thing is that despite several years of Trump yelling over his Twitter account that the U.S. should exit Afghanistan immediately, and the hell with what happens, he’s now persuaded (i.e., the Generals think) that to do so would leave a power vacuum to be filled by the Taliban and their terrorist buddies, and since we can’t bring ourselves to do that, US forces are going to stay.
Stay the course, then. Geez, I wish I’d though of that.
It’s worth highlighting just a few excerpts of the speech. Transcript in italics, translation in plain text:
- As a result of our comprehensive review, American strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia will change dramatically in the following ways. A core pillar of our new strategy is a shift from a time-based approach to one based on conditions. I’ve said it many times how counterproductive it is for the United States to announce in advance the dates we intend to begin or end military options. We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities.
We aren’t going until we can leave behind a stable regime that can hold the country against our enemies, and no, I can’t say when that will happen or how many men it will take. Don’t ask, either, cuz we aren’t talking about that any more. O.K.?
- Some day, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan, but nobody knows if or when that will ever happen.
Hey, it’s still possible that if we kick them hard enough, those Taliban types will enter into some sort of face-saving political settlement that allows us to declare victory and go home. You know, like in Viet Nam. Stop laughing – it could happen.
- We are a partner and a friend, but we will not dictate to the Afghan people how to live or how to govern their own complex society. We are not nation building again. We are killing terrorists.
No more getting squeamish about human rights, the plight of women, democracy, and all that jazz. No more schools, no more education for girls. No more of that “hearts and minds” crap. I don’t care what sort of backwards-assed Medieval thug regime we get in Kabul, as long as it’s on our side.
The next pillar of our new strategy is to change the approach in how to deal with Pakistan. We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe-havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond.
Those dicks in Pakistan have been serving from both sides of the net, and we’re now publicly pissed off, whereas before we used to just grit our teeth and bitch in private, mainly because most of the stuff we send to and from Afghanistan has to go through Pakistan – but never mind that.
- It is time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilization, order, and to peace. Another critical part of the South-Asia strategy for America is to further develop its strategic partnership with India; the world’s largest democracy, and a key security and economic partner of the United States. We appreciate India’s important contributions to stability in Afghanistan, but India makes billions of dollars in trade with the United States—and we want them to help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development.
Ha! How do you like them apples y’uncivilized Pakistani pricks, ya? You figured on playing us for chumps? Oh yeah? Fine, then, we’re going to be besties with your worst enemy. We’re even going to invite India in to make a meal out of this miserable little sandlot, and if a dramatic increase in Indian influence in both Washington and Afghanistan isn’t quite your worst nightmare, just watch us – we’ll come up with something that is.
- Micromangement from Washington, D.C., does not win battles. They’re won in the field, drawing upon the judgment and expertise of war-time commanders and front-line soldiers acting in real time with real authority and with a clear mission to defeat the enemy. That’s why we will also expand authority for American armed forces to target the terrorists and criminal networks that sow violence and chaos through Afghanistan.
Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war! The gloves are off. The boys in the field are gonna do whatever they f’ing please to win, and there ain’t nobody here inside the Beltway who’s gonna get all weepy about stupid shit like civilian casualties. That’s what screwed us in ‘Nam.
- We will ask our NATO allies and global partners to support our new strategy with additional troop and funding increases in line with our own. We are confident they will. Since taking office I have made clear that our allies and partners must contribute much more money to our collective defense. And they have done so.
O.K., I know I came into office having declared NATO obsolete, and I know I let them all sweat it out on our commitment to Article 5 while I crapped on them in public about being lousy European free riders, but let’s just forget all that. Look, I’m going to pretend that after I barked at them all, they all saluted smartly and upped their defence budgets overnight, so there, we’re friends again, right? So they’ll send more troops to help us, O.K.? Now that they know we have a new strategy, you know, that we would like to win, they’ll be keen as all get-out to hop on the bandwagon, believe me. O.K.?
- In this struggle, the heaviest burden will continue to be borne by the good people of Afghanistan and their courageous armed forces. As the prime minister of Afghanistan has promised, we are going to participate in economic development to help defray the cost of this war to us.
This mess is costing us an unholy shitload of dough. What’s in it for us – you know, apart from defeating those who would kill us in our beds, and denying them safe havens, blah, blah, blah? I’ll tell you this, I keep hearing that they’ve got tons of resources just sitting there in the ground, especially valuable minerals, so O.K., we’ll have those then, for a start. Say – they don’t have any oil, do they? We should check.
- Afghans will secure and build their own nation and define their own future. We want them to succeed, but we will no longer use American military might to construct democracies in faraway lands, or try to rebuild other countries in our own image…America will work with the Afghan government as long as we see determination and progress. However, our commitment is not unlimited and our support is not a blank check. The government of Afghanistan must carry their share of the military, political, and economic burden. The American people expect to see real reforms, real progress, and real results. Our patience is not unlimited.
Oops, I just said we were going to win, and wouldn’t leave until we figured conditions on the ground satisfied our strategic objectives, didn’t I? Yeah, what I meant was, we won’t leave until:
- we achieve all our strategic objectives; or
- we get pissed off enough at our crappy degenerate allies to leave them standing there all alone, unarmed, buck naked, and crying for Daddy to come back.
I don’t know what their problem is anyway, I just said they could go back to being autocratic Medieval misogynist A-holes. What do they want? I swear to God – either they shape up or we’ll just go. Look it up, dick-weeds, you know we’ve done it before. I’d get you to ask a guy named Nguyễn Văn Thiệu, but he’s not around any more. You could Google it I guess.
- We will push onward to victory with power in our hearts, courage in our souls, and everlasting pride in each and every one of you.
And, oh yeah, despite that threat to leave if we get pissed off, we still want to win, O.K? That’s our new strategy – to win. Like, the opposite of losing. Believe me.
Still, let’s be fair. It’s hard to blame Trump for failing to articulate a bold and winning new strategy for Afghanistan. There isn’t one. It’s hard to fault him for listening to his Generals, too – Afghanistan will become a geopolitical crack house when the Americans leave, and that is hard to stomach. Obama, much as I admire him, couldn’t come up with anything better; even a surge to 100,000 troops didn’t help, and pulling most of them out according to a pre-announced schedule, and leaving a core of advisors behind to try to train the Afghan Army while staying clear of the fray themselves, wasn’t working out so great either. If you’re going to keep fighting, it is counterproductive to announce just exactly when you’ll be leaving, and if you’re determined to stay it does make sense that you fight for real, without absurd restrictions baked into the rules of engagement.
Moreover, Trump’s speech, it has to be admitted, could have been given by just about any U.S. President, and has been, actually. It wasn’t his typical Trumpian idiocy. It was merely the garden-variety vagueness we’ve heard many times about such military quagmires, from Johnson, Nixon, Bush, et.al. True, the “no more Mr. Nice Guy” stuff about Pakistan might have been counterproductive, but Pakistan really is The Ally From Hell, working both sides of the street while sucking back billions in U.S. aid. You think they didn’t know Bin Laden was hiding in their country? You think they don’t shelter the foe – the foe their intelligence services pretty much invented? It would be nice to yank their chains a bit, if only that was possible.
The Hell of it is, Former Tweeting Trump was more or less right. Sooner or later, they’re going to have to give up and go home, and just let whatever happens happen. The Generals will fight that tooth and nail, and with Bannon gone, thank God for small mercies, Donald will probably keep listening to them. Johnson listened to his, too. Since we’re replaying history these days, maybe Trump can, after all, pull a Nixon and beat on the enemy until they decide to take him up on his offer, and enter into a phoney peace treaty that actually leaves them in a position to complete their conquest, after a decent interval for the U.S. to leave town on the “peace with honour” express.
No new strategy, even if there was one, can salvage this mess. For once, Trump isn’t doing anything worse than many Presidents who preceded him. The real answer, as anyone who remembers Apocalypse Now can tell you, is never get off the boat, and they screwed the pooch on that one 16 years ago.