Posted on September 19, 2017
The US military includes a lot of very smart people. It has to. It has more money and more people (directly or on contract) and more Ph.D.s and more institutions of higher education and more research facilities than almost the rest of federal government put together. A lot of those people understand very well what we ought to do, from the point of view of long-term US interests as variously defined. I might disagree on many points, but I could get along with many of them intellectually.
However the US military as an institution effectively has two values:
One is upholding honor, which in practice mostly means winning wars.
The other is tolerating the substantial corruption of many in its top officer class, who in practice stand to become millionaires after exiting the revolving door into employment with whichever contractors they were previously aligned with.
Trump has basically given the military free rein. What else could he do? He doesn’t know jack shit about national security policy, he didn’t hire any civilians who do, and also he is already as corrupt as they come.
The net result is that the military is going to keep trying to win all the wars of attrition they are fighting in the Middle East. Of course they can’t win. They will probably eliminate a small number of formal above-ground organizations like ISIS, but the warring tendencies live there and will never go away and can always get outside help. And eventually we will admit this is Viet Nam all over again and leave.
So it turns out that all the folks who believed Trump’s antiwar rhetoric and disbelieved Hillary’s got it entirely backward. As Democrats go, Hillary was a war hawk, but at least she had a sense of strategic vision, and she had some mistakes to learn from. Also she had an antiwar party to hold together. Some people think of Obama as a hawk because he never got our troops out the Middle East. However he drastically reduced our level of involvement and the American death rate. Hillary would have had similar pressures. Trump doesn’t.
Of course, the President who finally gets all our troops out of Afghanistan and/or Iraq is going to go down in mythic history as the President who sold out our military. I kinda wish Obama had bit the bullet, but I’m guessing Hillary would have lost the popular vote if he had.