Saturday, 22 April 2017

Trump's War Doctrine

Bombast, Money, and Technology

With the advent of Donald Trump "wartalk" has suddenly assumed much greater weight.  Jehu drove his chariot furiously, as does Trump.  This represents a radical change from Barack Obama, who appeared to like the blood and guts, but only cerebrally, you understand.   Obama, we suspect, was the ultimate arm-chair general.  He pondered extensively over the minutia of the matter.  He insisted (we were told) on personally authorizing each drone strike against Islamic mujahideen,  He thought himself into a blue funk over Syria, announcing a "Red Line" which overnight morphed into an "Invisible Line drawn with Fading Ink".

Meanwhile, he struck great blows for human rights within the military.  He recognised homosexuality in the ranks, striking down "don't ask, don't tell"; he strove to achieve gender equality; he wanted the military to resemble a modern liberal arts campus.  Obama was a feckless president.  He was also ideologically blinded.  He refused to see any real threat in Islam, preferring instead to see the whole matter as little more than a Marxist struggle on the part of Islamic nations for self-respect and independence.  His role, as he saw it, was not to make things worse, but to cut the mujahideen lots of slack.  Hence, he forbade calling terrorist attacks upon the US "Islamic"terrorist acts.  He proclaimed that Afghanistan was a war the US had to fight (as opposed to finishing the job in Iraq); within months the Afghan war morphed into "nation building", requiring a time frame of over twenty-five years.

Donald Trump is none of these things.  But this does not make him right.
 If Obama were feckless, Trump is like a bull in a china shop.  The instant strike against Syria which appeared to be little more than an emotional reaction on his part against the use of chemical weapons on presumed innocents was impressive indeed--if one is wedded to the idea that doing "something" quickly is better than nothing.

Angelo Codevilla has some salutary things to say regarding military power.
People, not things, generate military power.  Regimes that nurture the proper habits ind they have military power when they call on it, while those that trust in economics or technology to provide it are disappointed.

No view is more prevalent than that money is the sinew of war.  But history abounds with instances of wealthy peoples defeated by lean and hungry ones.  Alexander's poor Macedonians cut through Darius's wealthy Persian Empire like a knife through butter.  Genghis Khan's tent-dwelling, dung-burning Mongols did the same to the Chinese and the Persian plutocrats.  George Washington's rag-clothed Continentals defeated the wealthiest power of the age.  Americans were defeated by poor Vietnamese.  And of course the wealth of the impotent Romans only excited various barbarians to take it.  [Angelo Codevilla, The Character of Nations: How Politics Makes and Breaks Prosperity, Family, and Civility (New York: Basic Books, 1997),  p. 193f.]
In the end, wars are fought by human beings, and character matters.  Fundamentally important to those in the Christian tradition is whether the war to be fought is a Just War.  This concept, however, for the post-Christian west, is little more than an arcane relic of a distant, ignorant, and primitive past.  War, for most in the West, has more to do with imposing Western "values" upon the rest of the world--values which arise out of Humanitarianism, Progressivism, Gaia, or Marx.  We expect America's Jehu to flow consistently within this vein.

Going to war is, for the United States, a small matter--at least in the minds of so many.  When wars are believed to turn upon money, the United States has tons of moolah.  When wars are believed to turn upon technological prowess, the US is streets ahead, so, either way, the decision to go to war has little risk.

We come to the next iteration of the "small matter" of war: North Korea, a cursed land, suffering under the third generation of a monstrously tyrannical and bloodthirsty dynasty.  President Jehu has said he will sort them out.  Collectively, or unilaterally--it matters not.  But the responsibility to "sort out" North Korea surely belongs to those immediately contiguous nation states under threat from its petty tyrant: China, South Korea, Japan, India, the Philippines.  Even so, such actions, if undertaken, must always be defensive in character, not pre-emptive, not "just in case".

Jehu, however, drives his chariot furiously.  That's the problem.  He has a facile view of war and the use of armed force.  In our view, he is every bit as dangerous as Obama, but for the opposite reasons.

Obama created a vacuum with his warped neo-Marxist world-view.  Trump thinks that wars are won with bombast and money and technological prowess.  Both are creatures of their time and culture.

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