Warrior Culture

 
Brick Bungalow
 
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Brick Bungalow
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10 July 2018 10:02
 

I’ve posted about this before but I feel the need to revisit the subject.

I’ve long held the opinion that the greatest human failures are moral. Not ‘moral failures’ in the sense that someone failed to uphold some community boundary mind you. Rather a large number of people succeeded in upholding a standard that happened to be disastrous for some other group.

A large number of Americans seem to feel it very important to respect the military in general and military service in particular. I appreciate and share this to some degree but it also gives me pause. I think this kind of blanket extension of respect and reverence based on a category rather than personal behavior will necessarily shelter a lot of toxicity. I’d say the same of police officers. I think it’s a category error to say ‘respect police’ or ‘respect military’. I want to respect some set of principles and I want to respect those individuals who uphold them.

Not to digress to far… what I’m wanting reflection is on is the practice of warfare. Either formally or as metaphor. There is a temptation to view wars as merely failures of diplomacy or commerce. The last resort if you will. I think that is the proper place of military intervention but does it occupy that place? I think we can reference societies in history that thrived on warfare and didn’t really have a plan for when the fighting stopped. I’d like to think we have progressed past that. I’d like to believe that there is a larger culture that reviles war and takes steps to prevent it.

So, of the active conflicts we can consider today: How many are reluctant resorts to force after all other options have failed? How many are exercises in the ability and the desire to wage war for it’s own sake? (I realize this is isn’t a dichotomy and can’t really be answered decisively)

 
sojourner
 
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sojourner
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10 July 2018 22:44
 

I once worked at a school for severely handicapped students where they spent a long time saving to buy a bus, to take the students on field trips. They would have loved that - going to the pool, bowling, visiting playgrounds, all that kind of thing. Just before the purchase was to be made, there was a problem - that slowly escalated - with bored teenagers in the neighborhood vandalizing the school. It started with petty acts but grew to them throwing rocks through windows. To what end? None. Just because they could. And so the money for a bus had to go to a security system instead. I witnessed an almost identical situation at a horse shelter where I volunteered, although at least in that case it wasn’t so much vandalism but people just wandering on to the property and trying to pet and play with the horses (some of whom were dangerous, because it was a rescue) whenever they damn well pleased. So, again, funds for the vulnerable beings who really needed them were redirected to security. No machinations of any ‘security state’ required - just a simple response to real life.


I take some heart in the idea that this senseless aggression and disregard is certainly not always present among humans. We manage to wake up, go to work, be out and about in the community, and so, without incident most days. Teenagers may throw rocks through windows at night, but it’s not as if the instinct is so prevalent that we can’t have so much as a community grocery store without people plundering it throughout the day - generally the cooperative instinct prevails. In the words of The Secret of NIMH: Jenner: I learned this much: take what you can, when you can. Justin: Then you have learned nothing. Somehow, some way, the vast majority of people get that. Even if we awoke tomorrow in Hobbesian anarchy, I still believe that the majority of people would be good actors, ready to help rather than to plunder. Most people behave collaboratively most of the time. But I don’t think there’s any point in pretending that all people are programmed to behave collaboratively all of the time, and that a few bad actors can’t wreak havoc for everyone. We spend a tremendous amount of time and resources fending off the low probability but high consequence problems in all realms, to my mind - medicine, disaster preparedness, standards for staying ‘up to code’, even social welfare programs are probably in that category… these are all safety nets and webs and walls that we as humans build for situations that generally don’t happen but still occur with enough frequency that we must address them when they do. Such is the samsaric realm, in my worldview - ‘desire realms’ are subject to game theory, and that’s just the way it is. We can come up with relatively better or worse ways of dealing with that dynamic, and those efforts are laudable, but to my mind the only way to transcend the dynamics of desire-based realms entirely is to transform one’s own mind. (That may sound like an esoteric, removed-from-reality mindset, but when one considers that there is an inverse relationship between violence and level of education, I think this is true in a very practical, real world way as well.)

 
 
Brick Bungalow
 
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Brick Bungalow
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11 July 2018 17:45
 

There is this narrative that says we grow out of the cruel impulses of childhood. Hopefully that’s true for most of us. I still shudder when I consider some of the things I did as a teenager. I may not make the best decisions every day but do try to exercise compassion and take correction gracefully.

Sam worries about the intersection of religious ideology and modern weapons. What if its worse than that though? What if the fascination with the destruction of our fellow creatures precedes any kind of apocalypse story? I think it definitely does at some root level. I think we have truly failed culturally if we have not dispelled this when it comes to making decision about where to deploy nuclear powered fleets. Given the current podium rhetoric I’d say we have not.

I think about protracted, civil conflicts in various parts of the world… I can’t really find an example where its profitable for either side to persist. Of course it’s expensive in human terms but it’s also just regular expensive. In the case of U.S. deployments I feel like we throw obscene amounts of money for very dubious reasons. We actually arm our own opponents with the excess military hardware we leave behind. Ethics aside, this just seems like terrible strategy.

So, anyway, I guess what I want to say is that if we really want to thank veterans and honor military service and all that comes with that we should back it up by doing whatever possible not to put them in harms way for immoral or trivial reasons. We ought not make support of troops equivalent to support of war. (I realize it’s already a tshirt)

 
sojourner
 
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sojourner
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12 July 2018 08:10
 
Brick Bungalow - 11 July 2018 05:45 PM

There is this narrative that says we grow out of the cruel impulses of childhood. Hopefully that’s true for most of us. I still shudder when I consider some of the things I did as a teenager. I may not make the best decisions every day but do try to exercise compassion and take correction gracefully.


Sam worries about the intersection of religious ideology and modern weapons. What if its worse than that though? What if the fascination with the destruction of our fellow creatures precedes any kind of apocalypse story? I think it definitely does at some root level….


Sorry to be sexist, but if you’re talking about a love of violence (or at least portrayals of it) for its own sake, I think this definitely seems to be a male fascination. Not among all males, and not to say there is no crossover, but there is a reason that Jennifer Aniston never appeared in the chick flick version of Rambo, entitled Rambette. Or, at a more erudite level, why men tend to enjoy learning about the history of wars and watching war documentaries, where this is a far less common interest in females, in my estimation at least. But yeah, for a lot of guys, I think that is simply a byproduct of evolution, so on that point I agree.

...I think we have truly failed culturally if we have not dispelled this when it comes to making decision about where to deploy nuclear powered fleets. Given the current podium rhetoric I’d say we have not.

I think about protracted, civil conflicts in various parts of the world… I can’t really find an example where its profitable for either side to persist. Of course it’s expensive in human terms but it’s also just regular expensive. In the case of U.S. deployments I feel like we throw obscene amounts of money for very dubious reasons. We actually arm our own opponents with the excess military hardware we leave behind. Ethics aside, this just seems like terrible strategy.

So, anyway, I guess what I want to say is that if we really want to thank veterans and honor military service and all that comes with that we should back it up by doing whatever possible not to put them in harms way for immoral or trivial reasons. We ought not make support of troops equivalent to support of war. (I realize it’s already a tshirt)


I don’t think the idea of military involvement is predicated on the idea that it is profitable, so much as the idea that it is unfortunately necessary. The same for the police - I think everyone would agree that it is not ultimately a good thing on either end of the dynamic when the police have to get involved in a situation. It is not good that a person committed a crime; and it is not good that we have to use resources to stop people from committing crimes. In an ideal situation, no one would commit crimes and therefore it would not be necessary to police crime. (Although in a sense you could say this about almost anything - in an ideal world we would not need doctors and nurses as no one would get sick; we would not need teachers and professors as no one would suffer from ignorance… most professions can hypothetically be framed in a negative way in that sense, as beating back some aspect of subjective experience that we would rather not exist in human lives.) 


I think there will always be a much scaled down version of “mutually assured destruction” in many areas of life. Maybe there’s a term for that, but what I’m thinking of is “mutually assured pushback” or something of that nature. If you have ever dealt with a classic bully, you know that they do single out the weak, and there is no point in trying to appease them (I say ‘classic’ because there are probably degrees to which we all ‘bully’ one another in life, and in lesser cases, these are dynamics wherein things go along just fine so long as we toe a particular line, but there are consequences if we don’t. Arguably much of society is built around that dynamic. But a ‘classic’ bully [although to be more accurate I should say classic bullying behavior, as it’s a human trait that manifests in different people at different times,) wants domination for its own sake, and their behavior will not stop if you make a reasonable effort to accommodate them. They will simply take or harm, and continue to take or harm, until they run into a barrier that they can’t get around.] Thankfully such people (or, more accurately, mental states,) are relatively uncommon, but in dynamics like that, numbers don’t particularly matter, unless they are miniscule. If you have one wolf and a whole flock of unprotected sheep, you will very quickly have one wolf and zero sheep. (An example I’ve used before - look at how quickly flightless birds became extinct once the protected environments they lived in were discovered. Sometimes as new predators were introduced, but often just because of humans being douchebags and killing them because they could.)


So no, defense spending is not productive in the usual sense of the word, it’s preventative. Very few people look forward to spending their money on a security system, or bike padlock, or computer firewall - we do those things because we have to. Granted, if those types of things spiral into ‘arms races’, the consequences are not as dire (to a degree - hackers have indeed taken over whole hospital’s data when security software was not updated fast enough, and things like power grids may also be at stake, so there is some element of that, but thus far it’s not as severe as the potential for violent wars. If we get to a place where people were shutting off the electricity to hospitals, that might be the case in the future, however.) This is why to my mind the only ultimate solution can be at the level of individual minds. We will probably never live in a world where security measures are entirely unnecessary - again, even if 99.99% of people or mind states reached sainthood, it only takes that .01% to wreak havoc - but I think we can certainly look around and see examples of places where the need for that is scaled back to a huge degree. When we get up, go to the grocery store, walk around the park, etc. - there are parts of the world where those are actually dangerous situations, and places where they are not. I think the reasons for that are very complex, but clearly it is at least possible to engineer more peaceful environments - but I think that takes knowhow and active engineering, I don’t think it’s something one can just passively expect to happen by eliminating defensive measures. I think this is an area where perhaps we feel a bit stuck at the moment - exporting democracy to third world countries didn’t particularly work; simply eliminating defense and assuming that will be without consequence seems pretty naive; and so what do we have left but the risk of a spiraling arms race? I think if there is to be renewed focus on global peace, it should be in finding an alternative (to the ‘export democracy’ model) to helping to foster peaceful environments that make a ton of defense rather redundant (how much do we spend defending against, say, Canada, after all - clearly it can be done,) but as a nation I don’t think we’ve figured out what that strategy might be. I think the majority of people do want to make things better for everyone in the world, but that’s certainly easier said than done.

 
 
Jan_CAN
 
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Jan_CAN
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12 July 2018 08:29
 

BB, I share the views and concerns you expressed in these posts.


I most strongly agree with your statements:

— “I’ve long held the opinion that the greatest human failures are moral.
— “I think it’s a category error to say ‘respect police’ or ‘respect military’. I want to respect some set of principles and I want to respect those individuals who uphold them.
— “I think we can reference societies in history that thrived on warfare and didn’t really have a plan for when the fighting stopped.
— “In the case of U.S. deployments I feel like we throw obscene amounts of money for very dubious reasons.


Some of my views that come to mind:

— It is, in general, a human failure to not value the lives of ‘others’ as equal to ‘our’ own.  The tragedy of 9-11 cannot be overstated, but what of the 66,081 civilian lives lost in the Iraq War?
— It is immoral to target or disregard civilian lives in regard to military strategy and action.
— The only possible justification for war is self-defense (not self-interest) or the protection of human rights (i.e. prevention of genocide); war must ALWAYS be a last resort.
— Diplomacy and all other means should be fully exhausted before military action is considered.
— The mightiest powers (e.g. U.S.) often do not demonstrate the best judgement in regards to diplomacy or the aftermath created by the wars they engage in.
— Excessive power not only corrupts individuals, it also corrupts nations.
— The use of nuclear weapons should NEVER be considered.

[ Edited: 12 July 2018 08:32 by Jan_CAN]
 
 
sojourner
 
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sojourner
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12 July 2018 11:37
 
Jan_CAN - 12 July 2018 08:29 AM

Some of my views that come to mind:

— It is, in general, a human failure to not value the lives of ‘others’ as equal to ‘our’ own.  The tragedy of 9-11 cannot be overstated, but what of the 66,081 civilian lives lost in the Iraq War?
— It is immoral to target or disregard civilian lives in regard to military strategy and action.
— The only possible justification for war is self-defense (not self-interest) or the protection of human rights (i.e. prevention of genocide); war must ALWAYS be a last resort.
— Diplomacy and all other means should be fully exhausted before military action is considered.
— The mightiest powers (e.g. U.S.) often do not demonstrate the best judgement in regards to diplomacy or the aftermath created by the wars they engage in.
— Excessive power not only corrupts individuals, it also corrupts nations.
— The use of nuclear weapons should NEVER be considered.


While I strongly agree that no institution should be considered infallible or beyond criticism (again, I think bulwarks against corruption of all sorts are incredibly important,) I do think it is difficult to assess what is solely ‘defensive’, which is a part of what makes this topic so difficult.


For example - while these numbers change often and do not reflect other forms of military strength, keep in mind that North Korea’s standing army is not all that much smaller than the United State’s, and they are a much smaller country.


Earnest question - would you be comfortable if Iran, North Korea, Russia, etc., greatly increased their respective military sizes, while the US and Canada simultaneously greatly reduced theirs, and encourage the US and Canada to continue the reduction as these other countries continued to build their forces? If the answer is ‘yes’, do you feel the buildup of military forces in other parts of the world would ultimately be inconsequential? If the answer is ‘no’, then how does this factor into your views on deescalation when it involves the entire world and not necessarily individual countries?

 

[ Edited: 12 July 2018 11:39 by sojourner]
 
 
Jan_CAN
 
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Jan_CAN
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12 July 2018 12:26
 
NL. - 12 July 2018 11:37 AM
Jan_CAN - 12 July 2018 08:29 AM

Some of my views that come to mind:

— It is, in general, a human failure to not value the lives of ‘others’ as equal to ‘our’ own.  The tragedy of 9-11 cannot be overstated, but what of the 66,081 civilian lives lost in the Iraq War?
— It is immoral to target or disregard civilian lives in regard to military strategy and action.
— The only possible justification for war is self-defense (not self-interest) or the protection of human rights (i.e. prevention of genocide); war must ALWAYS be a last resort.
— Diplomacy and all other means should be fully exhausted before military action is considered.
— The mightiest powers (e.g. U.S.) often do not demonstrate the best judgement in regards to diplomacy or the aftermath created by the wars they engage in.
— Excessive power not only corrupts individuals, it also corrupts nations.
— The use of nuclear weapons should NEVER be considered.

While I strongly agree that no institution should be considered infallible or beyond criticism (again, I think bulwarks against corruption of all sorts are incredibly important,) I do think it is difficult to assess what is solely ‘defensive’, which is a part of what makes this topic so difficult.

For example - while these numbers change often and do not reflect other forms of military strength, keep in mind that North Korea’s standing army is not all that much smaller than the United State’s, and they are a much smaller country.

Earnest question - would you be comfortable if Iran, North Korea, Russia, etc., greatly increased their respective military sizes, while the US and Canada simultaneously greatly reduced theirs, and encourage the US and Canada to continue the reduction as these other countries continued to build their forces? If the answer is ‘yes’, do you feel the buildup of military forces in other parts of the world would ultimately be inconsequential? If the answer is ‘no’, then how does this factor into your views on deescalation when it involves the entire world and not necessarily individual countries?

Of course there are no easy answers to these questions.  A continued arms race is dangerous, but one can also see the need for military strength as defense and for peacekeeping.

What I am saying (or implying), is that the excessive power of the U.S. has led to military blunders, the loss of huge numbers of civilian lives, and destabilization in many regions.  In my view, the U.S. – the only country to have actually used nuclear weapons on human beings – is not to be trusted with such power, especially now.  I think it is likely that there would be increased stability if the western allies acted together and more equally in regards to military might and decisions, with the U.S. taking a lesser role than they have been (or better yet, a backseat role under Trump).  Not that this will happen, more’s the pity.

 

 
 
sojourner
 
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12 July 2018 13:55
 
Jan_CAN - 12 July 2018 12:26 PM

Of course there are no easy answers to these questions.  A continued arms race is dangerous, but one can also see the need for military strength as defense and for peacekeeping.

What I am saying (or implying), is that the excessive power of the U.S. has led to military blunders, the loss of huge numbers of civilian lives, and destabilization in many regions.  In my view, the U.S. – the only country to have actually used nuclear weapons on human beings – is not to be trusted with such power, especially now.  I think it is likely that there would be increased stability if the western allies acted together and more equally in regards to military might and decisions, with the U.S. taking a lesser role than they have been (or better yet, a backseat role under Trump).  Not that this will happen, more’s the pity.


I dunno, I can see it. I actually think there is a push for this at the moment, often coming from the US even (it’s a hotly debated point, of course, but I see the talking point that “allies need to pay more!” increasingly in the news these days - I think there’s an assumption that Americans love playing global police and aren’t, instead, kind of feeling put upon about it. It’s a big country, but I think there are definitely groups who do feel that way.)


So who knows, this may indeed be the direction the world is headed in. For all the talk of the US having aspirations of empire, I think many Americans halfway forget that the rest of the world even exists much of the time, and are just as happy ignoring it. If Germany hadn’t gone so cataclysmically FUBAR during WWII I suspect they would already be in much more of a world leadership role.


Beyond that, though, at a broad philosophical level, my concern is that this simply redraws the boundaries around which groups are checking and balancing which other groups - it doesn’t speak to the underlying question of whether or not a ‘bloc’ system - and the corresponding need for defense between blocs - will always be necessary to some degree. I have been over and over this problem in many varying manifestations through the years.

 
 
LadyJane
 
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LadyJane
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12 July 2018 14:02
 

Examine the evidence…and really let it sink in.

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/06/us-military-bases-around-the-world-119321

Despite recently closing hundreds of bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States still maintains nearly 800 military bases in more than 70 countries and territories abroad—from giant “Little Americas” to small radar facilities. Britain, France and Russia, by contrast, have about 30 foreign bases combined.

 
 
Antisocialdarwinist
 
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Antisocialdarwinist
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12 July 2018 17:01
 

Eisenhower’s farewell address seems apropos.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence,
whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous
rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.
We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the
proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful
methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

It seems to me that Eisenhower’s message has been completely lost to us. We don’t wage war for war’s sake, we wage it for profit.

 
 
Brick Bungalow
 
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Brick Bungalow
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12 July 2018 22:55
 
Antisocialdarwinist - 12 July 2018 05:01 PM

Eisenhower’s farewell address seems apropos.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence,
whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous
rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.
We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the
proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful
methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

It seems to me that Eisenhower’s message has been completely lost to us. We don’t wage war for war’s sake, we wage it for profit.

I definitely cannot miss the profit motive. Our forts surround natural resources and choke points. I think war has always been this way. It’s always been, fundamentally, a contest for control of resources. This is horrible enough on it’s own. What’s more horrible is the probability that we would keep fighting even without such practical incentives… which seems to be the case in many regions. The resources are essentially depleted by the protracted conflict and now it subsists on pure ideology and generational spite and totalitarian ambition.

 
hannahtoo
 
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13 July 2018 19:18
 

Last year in October, 4 American soldiers were killed in Niger.  Turns out we have 800 troops there.  The American public had no idea we even had military presence in Niger.  Neihter did prominent Senators Lindsey Graham and Chuck Schumer.  Seems these soldiers are part of the never-ending War on Terror.  The NY Times explains that these sorts of deployments were authorized by

...the short resolution known as the Authorization for Use of Military Force, or A.U.M.F. It simply said that Congress authorizes the president to use “all necessary and appropriate force” against the nations, organizations or people that “he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided” the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 “to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations, or persons.”

It passed the 435-member US House of Representatives with only 1 “no” vote and 10 abstentions after the 911 attacks.

Deployments like this are why the US spends more than 4% of our GDP on defense.  Pres Trump used this percent figure to chastise the NATO allies, saying they should spend more than their target 2% GDP on defense.  But the US leaders have far over-reached with American military presence in every corner of the globe, so we are not comparable to European countries.

 
sojourner
 
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14 July 2018 08:08
 

I dunno. The irony is that pre-Trump, I was often on a posting soapbox on this very topic, so perhaps I am super contrarian in that I can’t just say “Wow, sudden and almost total agreement, awesome! Everyone on the same page!”. It’s certainly possible, I do like to play devil’s advocate to explore both sides in conversation. So maybe I’m being a hypocrite.


That said, I think my concern is that reactionary backlash in the opposite direction can be almost as destructive as the original problem it was meant to address. I have long been in favor of reassessing The War On Terror, but neither do I think we should go in the opposite direction and simply say “What the hell are we doing in these countries this is ridiculous let’s get out!” I think we have to - in very literal terms - ask “Wait, what are we doing in these countries?”, as it’s not always clear. Is the function of the army peacekeeping, intelligence gathering, or what? I think people have vague fears that it is about economic advantage but I’d want a specific proposal on how a given base likely helped US economic interest before worrying about that. Do the host countries actually want troops there, and to what degree? Etc.


I am definitely in favor of assessing all of that, but I do worry that a knee-jerk reaction in the opposite direction can be just as bad, and we shouldn’t go on the assumption that it would be entirely without consequence. If there is more pressure to bring troops home I think it should be done strategically and on timelines developed to minimize disruption. That may well be a problem of our making (for example, when we left Iraq we got ISIS,) but it’s still a problem that we have to address responsibly. I worry that it’s just as harmful to other countries to totally shift course on a dime when the winds of sentiment change.

 
 
hannahtoo
 
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14 July 2018 14:15
 
NL. - 14 July 2018 08:08 AM

I dunno. The irony is that pre-Trump, I was often on a posting soapbox on this very topic, so perhaps I am super contrarian in that I can’t just say “Wow, sudden and almost total agreement, awesome! Everyone on the same page!”. It’s certainly possible, I do like to play devil’s advocate to explore both sides in conversation. So maybe I’m being a hypocrite.


That said, I think my concern is that reactionary backlash in the opposite direction can be almost as destructive as the original problem it was meant to address. I have long been in favor of reassessing The War On Terror, but neither do I think we should go in the opposite direction and simply say “What the hell are we doing in these countries this is ridiculous let’s get out!” I think we have to - in very literal terms - ask “Wait, what are we doing in these countries?”, as it’s not always clear. Is the function of the army peacekeeping, intelligence gathering, or what? I think people have vague fears that it is about economic advantage but I’d want a specific proposal on how a given base likely helped US economic interest before worrying about that. Do the host countries actually want troops there, and to what degree? Etc.


I am definitely in favor of assessing all of that, but I do worry that a knee-jerk reaction in the opposite direction can be just as bad, and we shouldn’t go on the assumption that it would be entirely without consequence. If there is more pressure to bring troops home I think it should be done strategically and on timelines developed to minimize disruption. That may well be a problem of our making (for example, when we left Iraq we got ISIS,) but it’s still a problem that we have to address responsibly. I worry that it’s just as harmful to other countries to totally shift course on a dime when the winds of sentiment change.

A big part of the problem is that, since 911, the President can make these decisions without Congress.  That seems to short circuit some basic safeguards built into our system.  The US was over-reaching before these changes.  Now, it’s even easier.  Just for the record, I feel Obama may have over-reached, as well as Bush.  So it’s not just that I don’t trust Trump.