Of Premature Withdrawals, Forever Wars, and the U.S. Military

Remember these generals?  The “adults in the room” for Trump?  How well did that work out?

W.J. Astore

As the Trump administration prepares to deploy more U.S. troops to serve the needs of Saudi Arabia, I got to thinking about America’s forever wars in the Middle East and Central Asia.  Back on August 17th, I clipped an article from the New York Times entitled “Debate Flares Over Afghanistan as Trump Considers Troop Withdrawal.”  I noted the usual “arguments” presented by U.S. military leaders and chickenhawks of both parties.  That withdrawals would constitute a “retreat” that would be “premature” and “reckless.”  That U.S. troops had to remain to counter “an enduring terrorist threat.”  That the Taliban enemy had perfected “weasel language” that would allow them to win any peace treaty.  Making his usual appearance was General (retired) David Petraeus, who warned ominously that a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan “would be even more ill-advised and risky than the Obama administration’s disengagement from Iraq.”  Petraeus, of course, has argued for a generational commitment to Afghanistan that could last as long as seventy years.

A few points to make here:

1.  A U.S. withdrawal wouldn’t be “premature.”  Rather, it’s at least seventeen years overdue.

2.  Terrorist threats are nothing new (I was reading about them on active duty in 1985).  Moreover, they are often fed by the presence of U.S. troops and bases as well as by “kinetic” actions, i.e. killing people, especially innocent civilians.

3.  It’s funny that the Taliban can’t be trusted for its “weasel” language, whereas Americans always negotiate in good faith.

4.  Why is Petraeus, a man who disgraced himself by illegally sharing classified information with his mistress, always the go-to guy for advice on any military situation?

Speaking of “premature withdrawals,” Tom Engelhardt noted how these same “arguments” were used to support the Iraq War in 2010.  The war song always remains the same: any military withdrawal is “premature” without total U.S. victory (whatever that may mean).

I swear if the U.S. military had had its way, U.S. forces would still be in Vietnam, and generals would still be arguing that withdrawal from Southeast Asia is “premature.”

In 2016, then-Candidate Trump deplored America’s dumb and costly wars, yet as President he now embraces the same tired tactics of the generals and their neo-con enablers.  All these men have a great fear of premature withdrawal — are they confusing it with premature ejaculation?

Even as America’s leaders boast about having the world’s greatest and most powerful military, their actions betray fears of defeat, of a lack of potency, and a concern they’re being played (i.e. those “weasel” words).  And indeed they are losing, they are showcasing their own impotence, they are being played, as long as these disastrous wars persist.

15 thoughts on “Of Premature Withdrawals, Forever Wars, and the U.S. Military

  1. Thanks for your thoughtful and penetrating posts–as a 76 y/o
    Vietnam combat Vet (Navy Battalion Surgeon with USMC 1/3/5 Infantry
    Battalion and 7th Engineering Battalion, An Hoa 7/69-7/70, and subsequently
    a Psychiatrist with a 40-year practice in Seattle including 5 years with the
    Seattle VA Mental Health Dept., And years of following and supporting
    Englehardt’s TomDispatch blog, I appreciate you journalists who
    are ethical, analytical and skeptical thinkers… please keep up the good work and know
    that there are many of us older Vets who look to the next generation to
    help get us through this most difficult time of militarization of both the US
    domestic and foreign policy “endless war on all fronts” pursuits.
    Peace and Care for All,
    Steve Melson MD


  2. No particular reason for mentioning still one more retired general moving out into the private sector after displeasing President Trump, but since Mad Dog Mattis gets a mention,
    Army General Herbert Raymond McMaster ought to get at least a footnote on the growing list of inept and ineffectual U. S. National Security Advisors. I think this guy preceded John Bolton.

    Anyway, whoever has the job now probably bullied President Trump into pimping out some more expendable U.S. war-workers to those bearded Sordid Arabian princes in long flowing dresses waving swords around and laying hands on a glowing orb. As Nesrine Malik, of The Guardian (September 22, 2019) reminds us: Saudi Arabia won’t attack Iran. But it may pay someone else to.

    Sort of like what Pepe Escobar wrote in a recent article for Information Clearing House (September 18, 2019), How the Houthis overturned the chessboard:

    “After all, the Saudis can’t even win a bar brawl – that’s why they rely on mercenaries.”

    Anyway, Representative Tulsi Gabbard nails the unvarnished truth once again. See:
    Tulsi Gabbard stuns Fox News war hawk, ‘Saudis are a bigger threat than Iran’ (Video), The Duran (September 22, 2019). True leadership in word and deed.


    1. I truly appreciate Tulsi’s principled and outspoken positions. The other Democratic candidates are absorbed with domestic policies, too milquetoast to speak on foreign policy, co-opted by neo-cons and the military-industrial complex, or some combination of the three.


    2. And one more excellent take down of the U.S. President’s Excellent Escort Service from my favorite Australian rogue journalist, Caitlin Johnstone (September 22, 2019). See:
      US Defends Your Freedom By Using Troops As Saudi Oil Security Guards.

      Oh, well. Since hundreds of billions of dollars of “advanced” U.S. weaponry couldn’t protect those Polygamist princes’ precious petroleum profits, best to pimp out some inexpensive U.S. war-workers as “trip wire,” “human shield” rent-a-cops to “guard” with their cheap, disposable persons what no Sordid Arabian would dirty his fingernails fighting for himself. So any future attack on these exposed facilities will result in some dead Americans — as planned — just the excuse a great many war-agitating REMFs in Washington, D.C. need to bully President Trump into attacking Iran and starting WWIII.

      But, hey. What could possibly go wrong with stationing Infidel U.S. Christian war-workers near the Holy Muslim Shrines of Mecca and Medina? No doubt the FBI (Furtive Bungling Imbeciles) and CIA (Can’t Identify Anything) will keep a close eye out for any suicidal Saudi Arabians showing up for training at U.S. flight simulator schools and purchasing box-cutters at U.S. stationary stores.


      1. May I ask who do you think would want to start a war with Iran ? Trump seems very reluctant to do more than saber rattling with his tweets. I remember during his election campaign it was the threat of WW3 with Russia that was very popular with his supporters, and even General Dunford told the Congress that a no fly zone in Syria would mean just that – but Iran ?

        Flynn also was looking very humble in those pictures at president Putin’s party. So who could possibly want a local war which would start WW3 when even the big generals are afraid of it, I just can’t imagine.


          1. Thanks. He’s funny. But I don’t know why everybody is picking on CIA, I’m sure all the other intel agencies are just as evil.


        1. Who might want to start a war with Iran? Try to imagine Sordid Arabia and the Apartheid Zionist Entity: two foreign collections of (1) medieval polygamist bearded psychopaths and (2) gun-toting, land-grabbing settlers overrunning Palestine, both of which groups hate and fear Iran and can’t stop egging on the U.S. to do their dirty work for them. Just for starters, try imagining that. If you can’t, then a mere perusal of the available factual evidence might do it for you.

          As for generals and admirals supposedly cautioning against needless and pointless war in the interests of corporate profits and foreign puppet oligarchs, the US Imperial military currently conducts wars in seven countries (that they will admit to), so I suspect that some of them will counsel President Trump to the following effect:

          “We’ve already got the Perpetual War going all over the place: like in Syria, Libya, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, etc., bombing and maiming and dispossessing and killing all over the place. And we will never let you get out of any of these debacles. Too good for our careers and post-career sinecures on the boards of weapons-manufacturing corporations. But we do understand that you have to get past re-election by promising ‘Peace is at Hand,’ like Nixon in 1972. Therefore, we’ll let you sound like a dirty fucking hippie until November 8 of next year. After that, whether re-elected or not, you can ‘bomb the bastards like they’ve never been bombed before,’ preferably on Christmas Day. Just like Nixon. So, tell us where and when and how many. Or we’ll tell you. It makes no difference to us. And if you don’t believe that, just consider what we did to President Obama when he and Secretary of State John Kerry made an agreement to work with the Russians to cooperate in stamping out jihadi terrorists in Syria. In spite of what we say publicly, we really support those jihadi terrorists — financed by Sordid Arabia — so we bombed the shit out of some Syrian Army troops who do try to stamp out these jihadi terrorists. End of any possible military agreement with the Russian Federation. Get it?”

          I don’t have to use my imagination to know who wants a war with Iran and why. I can just observe what the best known of these motherless cretins, foreign and domestic, do every day.


  3. I don’t think Saudi Arabia has enough clout, and Israel is dependent on the US for its aid and can easily be blackmailed into submission. Running around in Palestine is one thing, but I’m sure they are smart enough to realize that Israel is too close to Iran for them not to be affected by such a war.
    Why would anybody want an agreement with the Russians ? They’re propping up dictators where ever they can, like Orban in Hungary, and Assad in Syria, and Maduro in Venezuela. And now they dream about an alliance which seems right out of Orwell’s 1984:
    But more likely this saber rattling about Iran is just to keep the people worried and alert and get them to participate in elections, which would not be a bad thing per se if only it didn’t involve so much propaganda on all sides.


  4. 1. “Clout” is a term that originated in Chicago ward politics a long time ago, at least as far back as “Pushcart Tony” Cermak’s brief mayoral stint: “You don’t get nowhere in this city what without your Chinaman, without your clout.”
    The Saudis have plenty of money and in today’s world, that’s enough. “Money talks.” Just ask the current occupant of the Oval Office.

    2. Israel will do whatever it wants to do, as it always has. Its many supporters both inside and outside The Beltway guarantee no aspirant to or holder of public office will say them nay, let alone attempt to “blackmail” them. Ask any member of Congress.

    3. “Why would anyone want an agreement with the Russians?” Ask the current occupant of the Oval Office.


    1. Thanks for taking up for debunking some of the more egregious (i.e., “astounding”) assertions presented by our resident mollusk. I especially appreciated your etymology of the term “clout” which substitutes poorly for “leverage,” the word I would have chosen to describe Sordid Arabian and Apartheid Zionist influence over U.S. foreign policy dating back to the middle of the last century. I have in mind here, especially, the agreement between FDR and the House of Saud that Sordid Aramco petroleum sales take place denominated in U.S. dollars. This agreement underlies the entire fraudulent “value” of the U.S. currency, without which “black gold standard” the hyper-leveraged casino banking scam of a U.S. “economy” would collapse (as it inevitably will). Most of the real world outside the domination of U.S. corporate-media blanket narrative understand this very well and can easily recognize who has whom by the balls. Also, the attempt in 1948 — still ongoing — to establish some sort of Zionist Crusader Kingdom in historic Palestine, has enfeebled U.S. sovereignty to the point of abject vassalage. I mean, what sort of “blackmailer” would force his “victim” to pocket three billion dollars of tribute annually, just as a down payment on other military, political, and diplomatic services that the “blackmailer” insists his “victim” arrogantly accept?

      Only a constipated collection of stuffed-shirt, ticket-punching, greasy-pole-climbing, fuck-up-and-move-up U.S. generals could do such an outstanding job of “blackmail — sort of how they conduct “wars.” Speaking of military-imperial “leverage” reminds me of the time a U.S. military historian visited North Vietnam and asked Pham Van Dong, the Foreign Minister, how he could call the U.S.-installed-and-supported Saigon dictator-government a “puppet,” since it so consistently worked against U.S. interests. “It’s a puppet all right,” replied the Foreign Minister, “it’s just a bad puppet.” [quoted from Fire in the Lake: the Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam, by Frances FitzGerald]. Now, when you combine a global constellation of bad American puppets with a truly inept American puppeteer, you get the rapidly imploding U.S. “empire,” perhaps one of the shortest-lived in human history. A truly awesome Bad Puppet Show, with the erstwhile puppeteer strangled in his own strings.

      So much for the topic of “leverage.”


      1. That sounds very much like the extreme right wing narrative. Or Russian propaganda. But for the sake of argument, how do you think Israel does its blackmail of the US ? Usually the big bully with the biggest guns controls the show, and in this case the US has the biggest guns aka control of the military and a president with vast executive powers. How exactly does the “Zionist Kingdom” blackmail the powerful US ?


  5. A good article in Counterpunch about how the drone attack on the Saudi facilities changed warfare.
    On the morning of 14 September, 18 drones and seven cruise missiles – all cheap and unsophisticated compared to modern military aircraft – disabled half of Saudi Arabia’s crude oil production and raised the world price of oil by 20 per cent.

    This happened despite the Saudis spending $67.6bn (£54bn) on their defence budget last year, much of it on vastly expensive aircraft and air defence systems, which notably failed to stop the attack. The US defence budget stands at $750bn (£600.2bn), and its intelligence budget at $85bn (£68bn), but the US forces in the Gulf did not know what was happening until it was all over.

    Excuses advanced for this failure include the drones flying too low to be detected and unfairly coming from a direction different from the one that might have been expected. Such explanations sound pathetic when set against the proud boasts of the arms manufacturers and military commanders about the effectiveness of their weapons systems.

    The trump card for the US, Nato powers and Israel has long been their overwhelming superiority in airpower over any likely enemy. Suddenly this calculus has been undermined because almost anybody can be a player on the cheap when it comes to airpower. https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/09/24/the-drone-strikes-on-the-saudi-oil-facilities-have-changed-global-warfare/
    Suddenly, like the punji sticks and booby traps in Vietnam or the IED’s in Iraq, and Afghanistan leveled the playing field between our “grunts” and theirs, the drones have stripped America’s Air Supremacy away. We may make air strikes against Iran, but the Iranians will not be helplessly throttled. A barrage of cheap missiles against Saudi targets by Iran, will follow and certainly cause destabilization.

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