According to NBC News, last month President Donald Trump met with his generals and angrily demanded to know why we haven't "won" the war in Afghanistan since he became president. He wanted to fire the commander there and find someone who could get the job done.
Over nearly two hours in the situation room, according to the officials, Trump complained about NATO allies, inquired about the United States getting a piece of Afghan’s mineral wealth [sic] and repeatedly said the top U.S. general there should be fired. He also startled the room with a story that seemed to compare their advice to that of a paid consultant who cost a tony New York restaurateur profits by offering bad advice.
As with everything else on earth, Trump is clueless about the history of Afghanistan, the conditions on the ground or the war's ostensible objectives. To call it complicated is to understate it by a factor of a thousand.
Trump had been talking to some veterans who complained, as soldiers have been doing since time immemorial, about the generals not knowing their top brass from a foxhole in the ground. He believed them. But since his only frame of reference in life is that of an heir to a fortune who lives between Manhattan and Palm Beach, he explained his position by recounting a story about how the 21 Club had hired an expensive consultant to come up with a renovation plan when they should have just consulted with the waiters.
Trump's complaining about NATO was more of the usual ill-informed crankiness about U.S. allies, and the questions about why we aren't stealing minerals from Afghanistan (which would be a war crime) are par for the course. He's always said that his military strategy is to "bomb the shit out of 'em and take the oil," so one assumes that after dropping the MOAB, the biggest bomb short of nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal, he logically felt the next step was to take whatever he wanted.
In any case, the Pentagon's plan to have Trump sign off on a plan didn't happen that day. It took military brass until this past week to finalize one and get the president to approve a new "surge," which will probably do the same thing as the last surge: Not much. Politico reported that National Security adviser H.R.McMaster and Vice President Mike Pence actually rehearsed their pitch to Trump last Friday to get him to agree to the consensus. One imagines that it consisted of lots of pictures, small words and flattery. Apparently it worked.
Thank goodness for small favors. As useless as another surge in Afghanistan might turn out to be, it could have been a whole lot worse. A few weeks ago I wrote about the plan Steve Bannon and Eric Prince had reportedly cooked up, which Bannon and Jared Kushner were reported to have delivered personally to Defense Secretary Mattis. That plan was to privatize the war by hiring a mercenary army under the auspices of an American "viceroy," modeled on the old colonial British East India Company. They would then "take the minerals" as payment to finance the war, ostensibly on behalf of the locals.
Mattis told Bannon and Kushner that he wasn't looking for any "outside" plans at this time. Although the president was said to have been intrigued, this idea lost favor in the end, for unknown reasons. Perhaps the fact that the Trump Organization wouldn't be allowed a piece of the spoils soured the president on the scheme.
In any case, after some final deliberation over the weekend, on Monday night Trump took to the airwaves to announce his new strategy. He spoke stiffly from the teleprompter in flowery words that sounded nothing like his own and omitted the magic words "radical Islamic terrorism," which, according to his own campaign rhetoric means he supports the terrorists.
He cranked up the temperature on Pakistan and asked India to "help" more, which may very well have serious repercussions down the road. Apparently the Trump administration has decided that the nuclear standoff with North Korea and destabilizing the nuclear deal with Iran isn't enough of a challenge. Now it wants to get into the middle of that ongoing mess between two nuclear powers as well.
Trump also made some vague references to "defraying the costs" of the war, which may very well translate into grabbing Afghanistan by the minerals. And somebody definitely needs to answer for letting him say that the country has a prime minister when it has a president. Overall the whole thing was very light on details, which he once again explained away as his secret, special, super-duper surprise attack strategy.
Essentially Trump told us, "We have a plan, we won't tell you the plan and the plan will cost a lot of money." In other words: "Trust me."
Trust him? Let's review why those might be the scariest words in the English language right now. Two weeks ago, Trump inexplicably escalated the war of words with North Korea to the point at which Guam was issuing warnings to residents not to look up at incoming missiles in case Kim Jong-un came through with his threat to launch bombs in their direction. The possibility that one of the unstable men in charge of either the U.S. or North Korea might miscalculate and start World War III was one of the most nerve-wracking moments in recent memory. This was particularly true since Trump clearly didn't understand the nature of the nuclear threat during the campaign and obviously hasn't learned anything since becoming president.
But Trump's campaign promises were full of chilling messages that seemed designed to make our allies frightened of us and our enemies hate us even more. As I mentioned above, he's threatened to bomb, raze, torture, execute and pillage any country and any people he deems to be an enemy or a friend of an enemy. He routinely endorsed war crimes, even repeating one of the most lurid of them all just five days ago, when he tweeted his oft-repeated apocryphal tale about Gen. "Black Jack" Pershing dipping bullets in pig's blood and staging a mass execution of Muslims in the Philippines. Doing this just days after pronouncing that Nazis marching in the streets was no worse than your average protest march undoubtedly reinforced the message that the U.S. military answers to a bloodthirsty thug no better than the worst banana-republic tyrant.
Trump is impulsive and lies constantly without remorse. He often behaves like a child. He looked up at the eclipse without glasses, and acted proud of his juvenile rebelliousness. Trusting him, ever, about anything, is suicidal.