Trump’s Afghanistan Mistake
The “General’s Coup” Is Not A Conspiracy
Scott Horton, the libertarian foreign policy analyst whose book Fool’s Errand just dropped, told economist Tom Woods that as soon as President George W. Bush learned that Afghanistan was serving as a safe haven for al Qaeda, the president had the means to negotiate.
He could have reached out to the Taliban and made a deal so they would turn over al Qaeda and its leader, Osama bin Laden, to any allied country such as Canada. Those were the Taliban’s conditions. Had Bush accepted them, we could have saved trillions of dollars and countless lives in the hunt for the man responsible for 9/11.
What a glorious win it would have been.
But the president wanted to “win” on his own. He wanted to go to war, Horton explains. And yes, even the American people wanted war.
Trump First Said No To War
By 2011, the U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan had already been going on for ten years and many of us had already been urging the president to get out.
Long before Donald Trump ran for president, he already had used Twitter to advise President Barack Obama on this wasteful, pointless war by telling him it was time to get out of that mess and “rebuild our country first.”
With that same message, Trump carried his 2016 campaign, being the only mainstream candidate to actually call both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars a waste. And while he was far from an anti-interventionist or even libertarian for that matter, he was the only popular candidate who sounded unwilling to remain in the Middle East. Why? Because his nationalist tone forced him to focus on the United States, leaving behind dreams of using the U.S. military as the world’s police.
So it was with great pain that many of Trump’s dedicated supporters saw the president say that while the U.S. under his leadership will continue to be “a partner and a friend” to Afghanistan without actually dictating “to the Afghan people how to live, or how to govern their own complex society,” he had given in. By listening to the generals in his administration he chose to keep America in place instead of pulling out.
But America isn’t fighting al Qaeda in the region. The Taliban retreated and have not been interested in fighting, allowing for ISIS to grow stronger — but not that strong. So what is the U.S. doing there?
Serving the interest of a minority by putting the financial burden of this adventure on the backs of our grandchildren.
Deep State Or Cronyism, Call What You Will
Trump didn’t stand his ground as president. Instead, he caved in to generals, ignoring his own instincts and for that, he must be blamed for being part of the incredible historic mess that the U.S. war in Afghanistan is.
But why are generals and politicians so invested in sending more young American men to see their lives fade away in the desert in a far away land?
President Dwight Eisenhower called it the “military industrial complex.” A fancy name for the marriage of U.S. military and private organizations catering to them. Austrian economists and libertarians call it simply another great example of crony capitalism.
In his farewell speech, Eisenhower urged politicians and common Americans alike to “guard against the acquisition of warranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”
Currently, Ryan McMaken explained in his latest article for the Mises Institute, we have “more than 12 million Americans who rely on military spending.”
But how can that be if military personnel make up only one percent of the population, you might ask. Easy. With the Department of Defense employing over 800,000 civil service employees, and anywhere between five and six million of contract employees who are tasked with building weapons, developing military systems, offering support services, and conducting related research, we’re looking at at least three to four percent of the population relying solely on war to put food on the table.
With state-level politicians working informally as lobbyists pushing for more military spending in their districts and hundreds of other official lobbyists working to promote the defense sector in Washington, D.C., it’s obvious that, no matter where you look, there will be a mother, a soldier, a man in a suit, or a politician telling you that war is the only answer. You will be outnumbered — no matter how much it costs us, no matter how pointless the effort will be in the long run.
In other words, the military industrial complex, crony capitalism, or what many also like to call the deep state has won — no matter how you slice it.
With career politicians in Washington, D.C., beholden to donors and with generals seeing yet another opportunity to stay relevant, we cannot underestimate their power to persuade.
But Trump doesn’t need any of this; he’s filthy rich. He’s as famous as it gets. What’s in this for him?
Fear, perhaps. Fear of having said no to a war that could work under his rule. Visions of grandeur, even. Who knows?
The idea that now things will be different if he just tweaks the campaign a bit. But once he gives in, the military runs wild. They have the freedom to run wild and with access to a blank check from taxpayers.
Libertarians aren’t surprised Trump decided to cave in, escalating an already unwinnable war. But his supporters will want to know why he would be so naive to fall for this powerful and complex network of countless Americans relying on war to go on paying their bills. Unfortunately, they may never get an answer. But they can rally and stand against their man. They can raise up and tell their chosen candidate that that isn’t the Trump they elected. And better yet, they can be louder than the “lying media,” that instead of doing its job, will prefer to praise Trump for “[bowing] to reality.”