The Only Way To Win America’s Wars Is To End Them

Today, I saw another article on why America is losing its wars in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. The gist of this and similar articles is that America’s wars are winnable. That is, if we bomb more, or send more troops, or change our strategy, or alter our ROE (rules of engagement), or give more latitude to the generals, or use all the weapons at our disposal (to include nukes?), and so on, these wars will prove tractable and even winnable. This jibes with President Trump’s promises about America winning again, everywhere, especially in wars.

Nonsense. The U.S. military hasn’t won these wars since the wars themselves are unwinnable by US military action. Indeed, US military action only makes them worse.

Consider Iraq. Our invasion in 2003 and our toppling of Saddam kicked off a regional, religious, ethnic, and otherwise complicated civil war that is simply unwinnable by American troops. Indeed, the presence of (and blunders made by) American troops in Iraq helped to produce ISIS, much-hyped as the current bane of American existence.

Consider Afghanistan. Our invasion in 2001 toppled the Taliban, at least for a moment, but did not produce peace as various Afghan factions and tribes jostled for power. Over time, the US and NATO presence in the country produced instability rather than stability even as the Taliban proved both resilient and resurgent. US and NATO forces have simply become yet another faction in the Afghan power game, but unless we want to stay there permanently, we are not going to “win” by any reasonable definition of that word.

You could say the same of the US military’s involvement in similar conflicts like Yemen or Syria (look at the mess we made of Libya). We can kill a lot of “terrorists” and drop a lot of bombs, spreading our share of chaos, but we aren’t going to win, not in the sense of these wars ending on terms that enhance US national security.

This hard reality is one that the US military explains away by using jargon. Military men talk of generational wars, of long wars, of fourth generation warfare, of gray zones, of military operations other than war (which has its own acronym, MOOTW), and so on. A friend of mine, an Air Force captain, once quipped: “You study long, you study wrong.” You can say something similar of war: “You wage war for long, you wage it wrong.” This is especially true for a democracy.

America’s wars today are unwinnable. They are unwinnable not only because they are not ours to win: they aren’t even ours. We refuse to take ownership of them. At the most fundamental level, we recognize they are not vital to us, since we don’t bother to unify as a country to declare war and to wage it. Most Americans ignore them because we can ignore them. The Afghans, the Iraqis, the Syrians, and so on don’t have the luxury of ignoring them.

Trump, with all his talk of winning, isn’t going to change this. The more he expands the US military, the more he leans on “his” generals for advice, the more he’s going to fail. Our new commander-in-chief needs to learn one lesson: The only way to win America’s wars is to end them.

William J. Astore is a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF). He taught history for fifteen years at military and civilian schools and blogs at Bracing Views. He can be reached at Reprinted from Bracing Views with the author’s permission.

8 thoughts on “The Only Way To Win America’s Wars Is To End Them”

  1. … And the way America “loses” is to keep waging all these wars and continue with all of these occupations. My guess: Our real “enemies” – or those who want to see the “American Empire” defeated – love what we are doing. They will simply wait us out.

  2. Pence recently said: [The tax bill could expand the spending deficit], “maybe in the short term”.

    Peter Schiff wrote on the matter:

    “The only silver lining to this cloud may be that the coming fiscal train wreck leaves lawmakers no choice but to slash government spending. If the real Republican agenda is to starve the beast, its success is assured.”

    To quote Candidate Trump: America is broke!

    The US economy simply cannot afford the empire.

    1. As long as it can print as much “money” as it needs it apparently can afford the “empire” plus all the entitlement programs and pensions at home. So the “establishment” has to protect the printing press at all costs. This is why the same people attack “sentiment” for gold and silver pretty much 24/7. These are the only two real competitors to “fiat” money, which can be created whenever needed (which is every day).

      1. I like platinum lately. South Africa has economic troubles, and it’s an industrial metal (cars, esp desiel), so its price should fall. But it will rise some day. Platinum is too dense to fake (no tungsten) and appears to cost (to mine) about what it sells for currently.

        1. I’m doing a lot of aluminum, steel, some copper and some titanium. Buy into a salvage yard. It’s one of my financial plans, assuming the thief in the White House doesn’t start World War Last. Or ruin the ecology to the point the entire agriculture doesn’t collapse. Earthworms are actually going extinct in the most “modern” agricultural systems. Having a worm farm is a really good investment, not that it will make you a bazillionaire but it will help you survive when the whole system goes suddenly to crap. Gold and Platinum are, however, the least toxic and best metallic conductors so it would be really efficient for purifying water and splitting water atoms with electrolysis into fuel hydrogen and breathable oxygen.

          I mean, in a Nuclear or Financial apocalypse we’ll not be able to sell silver or gold because everybody else in the area will want food water and air.

          on the other Other hand, gold is ballistically superior to lead.

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