Lucian K. Truscott IV has some harsh words for the outgoing secretary of defense Jim Mattis, touted as the ‘Last Adult in The Room’, just like all the other high-ranking military officers that the media automatically endows with sterling qualities simply by virtue of their office. Truscott says like the other three generals that Donald Trump once had and have now left, Mattis was a toady who went along with pretty much all Trump’s hare-brained ideas, resigning only because his feelings were hurt that he was not consulted about the Syria withdrawal.
The arm-waving and hand-flapping and pearl-clutching in the foreign affairs and national security “communities,” not to mention in the Congress and among prominent Democrats, is something to behold. Significant portions of all those communities have long thought we didn’t have any business being in Syria in the first place. Not to mention fighting our 17th year of the so-called “war” in Afghanistan, from which Trump intends to remove some 7,000 American troops, another decision he apparently reached without consulting the Last Adult in the Room.
More than 2,400 American soldiers dead in Afghanistan so far. More than 30,000 Afghan civilians killed. Sixty percent of Afghan districts under control of the Taliban. Opium production at an “all-time high.” Dozens, sometimes hundreds of Afghan soldiers killed every single week. You thought Vietnam was a misbegotten military misadventure? How about 17 years in Afghanistan with no end in sight? Hell, opium production was said to be at an “all-time high” when I was in the Kunar River Valley in Afghanistan in 2004. That’s 14 years ago, 14 years of record-setting opium crops!
He says that the low US casualty figures in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan reveal what the troops are actually doing there.
We can get some idea what they’re doing by the number of casualties American forces have suffered in both places. An American soldier was killed in Manbij, Syria, by a roadside bomb in March of this year. He was the fourth American killed in Syria since our forces entered the country in 2014. There have been 18 Americans killed in Afghanistan this year. Eleven were killed there last year. About half of those killed in Afghanistan have been so-called “green-on-green” killings, incidents where “friendly” Afghans killed American soldiers, usually on American bases.
You want to know what those casualty numbers tell us? American forces in Syria, Afghanistan, or Iraq aren’t going outside the wire – off American bases – very often. That’s how you stay alive in places like Syria and Afghanistan. You stay away from places where things like IEDs can kill you. And even then, in the comparative safety of American bases, you’re not safe, because there are enemy soldiers posing as “friendly” Afghan soldiers who will kill you.
This is the nature of the conflicts we’re engaged in. You take thousands of American soldiers and send them thousands of miles away from home into combat zones in foreign lands, and you have them do as little as possible so not too many of them get killed.
It pains me to say this, but Trump pulling 2,000 soldiers out of Syria and 7,000 soldiers out of Afghanistan is the right thing to do. It might be getting done by a certifiable loon with an orange muskrat on his head, but it’s the right thing to do and it should have been done a long time ago.
On Twitter, Jeremy Scahill of The Intercept provides a top ten list of the takeaways from Mattis’s exit.
- I support withdrawing US troops from all these wars, overt and covert.
- Trump is an unstable authoritarian who cannot be trusted.
- “Mattis was an adult” is bullshit. He’s a hawkish war criminal.
- It’s very telling that the war party in DC is furious.
- This is an opportunity for progressive forces to assert an alternative vision for US foreign policy.
- Trump is a crooked charlatan. But these withdrawals would represent a dent in the armor of the bipartisan war machine.
- This chaos presents opportunity.
- There is a real possibility Trump will withdraw forces from Afghanistan and use Erik Prince’s forces. This must be opposed ferociously.
- One consequence of major drawdowns could be a dramatic uptick in covert actions and air strikes. Obama embraced that model.
- For those who somehow think this is Trump opposing the war machine, I point you to his massive escalation of drone strikes, his easing of rules for killing civilians, his use of ground troops in Yemen and Somalia and his use of criminal weaponry like the MOAB in Afghanistan.
As always, it must be remembered that just because Trump is generally awful does not mean that every single decision he makes must be wrong and opposed. A stopped clock etc., etc.