In The Art of War the Chinese General Sun Tzu asserted that «There is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare» and many of us had hoped that President Trump would bear in mind this and other instructive maxims after taking power in the country with the world’s largest warfare machine.
We had also hoped he might behave with prudence concerning US relations with countries which over the years have incurred the aggressive wrath of Washington’s drum-beating clique which is backed by a Congress of lamentable xenophobia, concerning which the great President Eisenhower had warned Americans that «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».
Wise words, indeed; but little did the world imagine that his forecast of likely dangers would be so acutely prophetic.
In the years since the catastrophic election of George W Bush there has been a disastrous rise of misplaced power. The US war on Iraq, the US-NATO war on Libya and the campaign in Afghanistan by that inept military alliance have been calamities resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths, a massive refugee crisis, and expansion of the barbaric Islamic State terrorist organisation. (The incompetence of US and British efforts in the Iraq and Afghan wars is compellingly described in several notable books, two of which are The Good War by Jack Fairweather and Investment in Blood, by Frank Ledwidge.)
Further, the US has appalling relations with many countries and the new president has managed to alienate even allied nations by his offensive conduct. One thing in international affairs that Trump should bear in mind is that insulting a foreign head of government is a good way to bind the disrespected country together in support of that leader — and against the vulgar buffoon who was so insensitive and crass as to exhibit his disdain and boredom when dealing with people far above his own intellectual stature and competence.
Which is where Trump’s prolonged warfare comes in.
We dreamers who had hoped that Trump would try to live up to promises such as refraining from military involvement around the world were foolishly optimistic. His 2015 declaration that «Everybody that’s gone to the Middle East has had nothing but problems» seemed to convey the sense that he would stay out of that hideous morass, but he appears intent on extending warfare and prolonging problems.
Since Trump came to power the number and ferocity of US «coalition» air attacks in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan have increased dramatically, as have associated civilian deaths, with it being recorded that there were hundreds in March. A glimpse of policy about acceptability of civilian casualties was provided by Iraqi General Ali Jamil who told the New York Times that in the past before airstrikes were authorised «There used to be a delay or no response sometimes, [by reason] of checking the location or looking for civilians». But now that things have speeded up, under Trump’s new rules for «my military», as he refers to the US armed forces, it can be expected that there will be even more civilians killed when yet more airstrikes are ordered by a man who appears to be suffering from delusions of grandeur.
On March 16 over 200 Iraqi and 46 Syrian civilians were killed by US airstrikes, and they were followed to their graves by another 30 Syrians on March 21 when, as reported by the New York Times, «Coalition warplanes carried out 19 airstrikes… an unusually high number for a single day».
On April 11 «a misdirected airstrike killed 18 allied fighters battling the Islamic State group in northern Syria [according to] the US military». NBC reported more accurately that the people killed were «members of the Syrian Democratic Forces fighting President Bashar Assad» (not fighting Islamic State, it will be noticed), and that «the Coalition is assessing the cause of the incident and will implement appropriate safeguards to prevent similar incidents in the future».
Then it was Syria again, this time for a whoopee-shoot multi-missile strike on a Syrian Air force base and the big one on April 13 in Afghanistan when «my military» said it had «dropped its most powerful non-nuclear bomb, the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb (Moab), on suspected Islamic State targets». Each of these bombs weighs ten tons and costs 16 million dollars, so the deaths of the 36 «suspected» insurgents who were killed cost 450,000 dollars each, but that doesn’t matter so long as the military is given the opportunity to try out its biggest high explosive bomb for the first time.
The sight of 59 Tomahawk Cruise Missiles blitzing Syria was greeted with enthusiasm by every mainstream US media outlet. One commentator, Brian Williams of MSNBC, was reported as declaring that the Pentagon had provided «beautiful pictures of fearsome armaments» and that he was enthralled «by the beauty of our weapons». You might think that this was striking a new low, even for the US media, and that the cretinous Williams would be subjected to at least some criticism — but he reflected widespread opinion that all these war knockouts are wonderful because so much of the public treats ‘fearsome armaments’ that kill people as simple extensions of thrilling video games.
Although the United States and the world at large will suffer from Washington’s intensified military meddling, there is an upside for the producers of ‘fearsome armaments’, not least the manufacturer of Mr Williams’ beautiful Tomahawks, Raytheon, whose share price increased from $126.35 to $151.71 in the last year. (Trump owns stock in Raytheon.) Then there is Lockheed Martin which makes all sorts of wonderful weaponry and enjoyed a rise from $226.07 to $268.00, Northrop Grumman (B-2 Bomber and much else) up to $240.20 from $200.00 and General Dynamics (F-16s etc, etc) which zoomed from $136.29 to $186.73. It’s so nice to know that some people are greatly enjoying the benefits of prolonged warfare.
Before his election, Donald Trump gave false signals about his intentions, indicating that he would not become more involved in Syria, and that the debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan were «wasting lives and money». He said the war in Afghanistan was a «complete waste» and tweeted «Let’s get out of Afghanistan. Our troops are being killed by the Afghanis we train and we waste billions there. Nonsense! Rebuild the USA». (His depth of knowledge of international affairs is demonstrated by his reference to Afghans as ‘Afghanis’ which is the country’s currency.)
To be sure, on April 13 the President-by-Tweet informed the world that «Things will work out fine between the USA and Russia. At the right time everyone will come to their senses & there will be lasting peace!» — but he didn’t contradict the statement by his malevolent ambassador to the UN that «We cannot trust Russia. We should never trust Russia,» or dispute her proud boast to ABC News that «The president has not once called me and said, ‘don't beat up on Russia’ — has not once called me and told me what to say. I am beating up on Russia».
The pattern of the Trump presidency can be reasonably described as alarmingly erratic, but the one loosely consistent thread appears to be his belief that in some fashion there will be benefits from prolonged warfare. He will learn that the beneficiaries will be few but there will be countless victims.