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Follies of U.S. policy

At last, The Washington Post did Donald Trump a favor. After a three-year struggle to obtain a secret history of the Afghanistan War, the Post won its case. In the report, the follies of U.S. policy were exposed. The failures of nation building, the isolation of the Afghan government and the corruption that inevitably comes with an endless struggle are all documented.

This chronicle of weakness and deceit largely confirm Trump’s suspicion of the national security state. Stanley McChrystal, David Petraeus and others are seen as either sunny optimists or willing tools in their analysis of this futile conflict. As with Robert McNamara during the Vietnam War, they struggled with whether they should escalate or not and always came back to “surge.”

Underlying this was the notion of nation building a discredited notion which has turned American soldiers into social workers and policemen. Moreover, the nation they are trying to reform is ancient with deep roots in traditions that Americans do not understand. With the frustration that ignorance engenders, the United States has used excessive firepower and drone strikes that served only to strengthen the Taliban.

Harmid Karzai, the past president of Afghanistan, tried to persuade the United States to limit its role in his county and was replaced. Instead, the national security apparatus trotted out elections and very one seems to have a purple thumb — a symbol of having voted. Their votes changed nothing and the U.S. nevertheless hailed non-existent successes. The machine simply raged on, fed by failure and fueled by fairy tales.

Usually such a report — initially compared to the Pentagon papers that exposed the follies of the Vietnam War would have been trumpeted. But largely, the media has been muted about it because it does not fit its narrative. Morning shows still prefer to laud the supposedly flawless Joint Chiefs, past and present, and praise the Central Intelligence Agency.

Note the Washington Post took three years to get the report public. Those are the years before Trump Became president. Now, the apparatus has no problem in convincing George W. Bush of perpetual war for he was their creature. Barack Obama was entirely a different case because he was skeptical. No worries, his appointment of Robert Gates, a Bush Republican, as Secretary of Defense ensured continual conflict. To paraphrase Pete Seeger, the presidents and generals were waist deep in the big muddy and those fools pressed on.

Which leaves Trump, who more than any president since the 1960s questioned the highly touted national security state. He has been criticized any time he tried to end the perpetual conflicts. His attempts to thaw the emerging cold war landed him in hot water. But, who has been right, Trump or his critics? He certainly was not seeing ghosts while demanding change from the Pentagon and State Department. But, as information begins to emerge on conflict such as Afghanistan, it becomes clear who is right and who is wrong. For those who dislike Trump, they should be wary of embracing the national security state.