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Danny Sjursen: Three Administrations, One Standard Playbook
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In a Washington politically riven in ways not seen since the pre-Civil War era, take hope. Despite everything you’ve read, bipartisanship is not dead. On one issue, congressional Democrats and Republicans, as well as Donald Trump, all speak with a single resounding voice, with, in fact, unmatched unanimity and fervor as they stretch hands across the aisle in a spirit of cooperation. Perhaps you’ve already guessed, but I’m referring to the Pentagon budget. By staggering majorities, both houses of Congress just passed an almost $700 billion defense bill, more money than even President Trump had requested and he’s already happily signed it.

And Americans generally seem to partake of the same spirit. After all, while esteem for other American institutions like, uh, Congress has fallen radically in these years, the U.S. military hasn’t lost a step. Last June, for instance, Gallup’s pollsters found that public confidence in U.S. institutions generally had dropped to a dismal 32%, but a soaring 73% of Americans had the highest possible confidence in the military, which means that Donald Trump’s decision to surround himself with three generals as secretary of defense, White House chief of staff, and national security adviser was undoubtedly a popular one. In a similar vein, it’s striking that America’s war on terror, now entering its 17th dismal year and still expanding, and the military that wages it remain essentially beyond criticism or protest. It hardly seems to matter that, in this century of constant warfare across significant parts of the planet, that military has yet to bring home a real victory of any sort.

Who cares? That military is, by now, a distinctly Teflon outfit to which no criticism sticks, even through it and the rest of the national security state swallow stunning amounts of taxpayer dollars as if there were no tomorrow, while the Pentagon experiences cost overruns of every kind for its weapons systems, has proven incapable of auditing itself (ever!), and recently couldn’t even account for 44,000 (yes, 44,000!) of its troops deployed somewhere in the imperium, though who knows where. No wonder Donald Trump, a man of no fixed beliefs (except about himself), but with a finely tuned sense of what might be popular with his base, has loosed that military from many of the already modest bounds within which it’s fought its largely losing wars of these last years, and seems to be leaving its generals (and the CIA) to do their escalatory damnedest from Afghanistan to Niger, Syria to Somalia.

With all of this in mind, as another year in which permanent war is the barely noticed background hum of American life, I asked TomDispatch regular U.S. Army Major Danny Sjursen, author of Ghost Riders of Baghdad, to assess American war in 2017 and consider just where we’re headed.

(Republished from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, Donald Trump 
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  1. Bubble Economy, Bubble Wars, Bubble everything.

    US is less a republic than a rebubblic.

  2. Its not the military. Military is O.K. more or less. It is the Administration that is the headless chicken.
    In Vietnam there was no consideration terrain. That was bigger mistake than Germans were not considering Russian winter.
    Concerning Somalia to this day I was not able to figure out what Carter wanted there.
    Than there was Iran that suddenly left the US sphere of influence and Bush l just could not tolerate such an impertinence. He hired Sadam to do the job. Everything what happened after is of this thoughtless
    act. Result is that Levant is now totally under Iran’s influence.
    US simply never was able to come up with comprehensive END FOCUSED policy using military.
    Total irresponsibility indicating failed administrative decisions.

    • Replies: @RobinG
  3. RobinG says:

    Sure, US policy is FUBAR, but could you explain what you’re talking about, and why you’re not attaching the wrong presidents to these countries/events? (Are you maybe referring to when GHW Bush was at CIA?)

    • Replies: @Ilyana_Rozumova
  4. @RobinG

    I am sloppy! I only throw in a hint.

    • Replies: @Grandpa Charlie
  5. @Ilyana_Rozumova


    Here’s another hint: when you referred to “Carter” — that was meant to indicate former Secretary of Defense Ashton (“Ash”) Carter, not former President Jimmy Carter.

    I don’t know whether you are deliberately sowing seeds of confusion, or what?

    Anyway, when you start out with “It is the Administration that is the headless chicken,” you seem to have missed the central theme of Sjursen’s article — that one administration or another, it’s the same idiocy. Obviously, the “headless chicken” is an act, a ruse. Behind it all, there’s a continuity: there’s a method in the madness. The method proceeds from the neocon subversion, if not total domination, of the policy-making organs of the United States government (e.g., the NSC), which formulate the “civilian” strategy directives that the military (Joint Chiefs) must follow, per force and per the Constitution. The point that should be understood or inferred is that the continuity that Sjursen notes can only be explained by a trans-administration organ at the top of strategic-global policy-making, which means the National Security Council (NSC).

    The neocon infiltrators into high levels of our government do not care how headless the chicken appears as it does its dance, or how silly the dog appears as it is wagged by its tail. Their concern is primarily that they cannot be held responsible … and thus they always distance themselves from the military decisions.

    I agree that “It is not the military. The military is okay more or less.” It’s okay in that it still attempts to function as it should, that is, as subject to civilian control, per the Constitution of the United States. The top brass of the Pentagon can be compared to the Wehrmacht commanders during World War II, they always remained nominally loyal to Hitler no matter how idiotic might be Hitler’s instructions. Metaphorically, (((Neocons))) === Hitler

    “Yet none dare call it treason!”

    • Replies: @RobinG
  6. RobinG says:
    @Grandpa Charlie

    “I don’t know whether you are deliberately sowing seeds of confusion, or what?”

    Good question, considering Rozumova’s admission (her indifference to facts) and her erratic posting history.

  7. Hi Grandpa!
    I speak from my memory. It was President Carter who interfered in Somalia first.
    Nixon made peace in Vietnam. There were no wars until the end of his second term.
    Why Carter couldn’t live with that?
    But the theme of my comment is my frustration. US spent so much so called blood and treasure not even counting the misery US caused to the others. For what? For nothing.
    Sometime when I think about it I do look at it purpose was just keep the military trained in actual combat. I do get very upset with any waste. And the fact that US had no gain from those activities upsets me more than lives lost.
    (Probably I could look to some people strange But that is the way I am.}

    • Replies: @Grandpa Charlie
  8. @Ilyana_Rozumova

    Ilyana !

    Good to hear again from your unique POV!

    “Probably I could look to some people strange But that is the way I am.” –Ilyana

    I understand. Yet and still, I also understand RobinG who writes of your “indifference to facts”!

    But don’t let that bother you, Ilyana. After all, in this postmodern world, we each of us has a right to her or his set of facts! However, I would suggest that in portraying the Nixon years as a period of beloved peace, brought to an end only by the foolishness of President Carter when he engaged in an interventionist war of choice by involving USA in the Ogaden War … I would suggest that perhaps you go a bit too far.

    “Nixon made peace in Vietnam. There were no wars until the end of his second term.” — Ilyana

    You see, there are many veterans who participated in Vietnam — many or most of them during the Nixon years. And then, apologizing for my nitpicking, there are items of common knowledge, like these:

    Peace from USA’s POV came to Vietnam only after the cessation of hostilities marked by the Fall of Saigon, 30 April 1975, whereas Nixon’s presidency ended with his resignation 9 August 1974 — 9 months before the end of the war. Thus, it’s chronologically impossible that “Nixon made peace in Vietnam” or that “there were no wars until the end of his (Nixon’s) second term.” OTOH, since Carter did not become POTUS until January 1977, it’s also chronologically impossible to say that President Carter presided over the Fall of Saigon (which, to your credit, you never said). That event took place during what is known as the Kissinger-Ford Administration.

    Even though I am an unrepentant old-fashioned believer from the days of pre-post-modernity, i.e., an old-fashioned believer in modernity, I really do understand how things work in this post-modern era. For example, my favorite meme here at UR is like this:

    “Henry Kissinger (founding godfather of the neocon archconspiracy in USA’s government) in his secret trip to Beijing in 1971, on behalf of President Nixon, where he met with Chou Enlai and Mao Zedong, to arrange the surrender of USA to China in the Asia-Pacific area and also, inter alia, turned over the old “China Lobby” to the “New China” lobby, complete with payola channels into the Congress. Many were amazed at how well Kissinger got along with the Communist leadership of China, but then it was realized that Kissinger well understood that the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” — meaning that Kissinger played on the anti-Christian dogma of the Chinese Communists and they all joined in a celebration of anti-Christianism when Kissinger explained that as a Jew who grew up surrounded by the legendary Holocaust, he was a founding member (so to speak) of the cult of anti-Christianity. That’s how it all started. In February 1972, Nixon himself spent a week in China, while the details were worked out, behind the scenes, by Kissinger and Chou Enlai. It was a major project, and it took time to sow the propaganda that Kissinger and Nixon had very cleverly split world Communism to the disadvantage of the Soviet Union. (The anti-Russia policy pushed by the neocons as cover, while USA was careful never to mount opposition to any of China’s initiatives, began at that time.) USA next opened a Liason Office in Beijing (1 May 1973), followed soon enough by G.H.W. Bush’s appointment as USA’s first envoy to the People’s Republic of China (1974).” — Grandpa Charlie

    Now, I cannot really prove any of that, or fact-check it. So that’s what I mean when I say that I really do understand the victory of postmodern metaphysics in this postmodern world order. It’s like Stalin said about that he did not care how the voters voted, he only cared about who counted the votes. Same way, we needn’t concern ourselves with the facts so much as with the fact-checkers.

    BTW: I especially like Carter because he never allowed Kissinger into his administration, although his selection of Zbigniew “Zbig” Brzezinski may not have been such a great idea. … which returns us to the very important(?) matter of the Ogaden War:

    After the overthrow of Emperor Haile Selasie in Ethiopia, during the early post-colonial period in Somalia, leadership of the Soviet Union for a while actually believed what Marxism-Leninism told them, namely that all the peoples of the world were on their way toward becoming workers’ paradises, and then everything would be coming up roses all around the world. There was some reason to believe that way, since revolutionary parties were sprouting up everywhere, so that post-colonial nations really were going to undergo transformations that would result in revolutions like China’s. However, counter-revolutionary interventions, so the Soviets believed, were inevitable — just as had happened in Russia in the years after WW I, there would be armies of reactionaries trying to reverse the victories of socialism and they would be armed by the capitalist powers. So, it became the duty of the Soviets (and the Cubans and even the Chinese) to fight the good fight. Thinking this way, the Soviet Union decided to arm both regional powers: Ethiopia and Somalia. When those two nations developed a serious dispute over the Ogaden border, the Soviets found themselves arming both sides, which is always an embarrassing situation. So, the Soviets dropped Somalia in favor of Ethiopia.

    At this point, Zbig came into the picture. Being Polish, Zbig was rigidly anti-Soviet so he had no choice but to direct the USA’s MIC to arm Somalia, which had been dropped by the Soviets. That led to a stalemate and a return to the original Ogaden border (as drawn by the old colonial powers). All that Carter did was to approve the return to the status quo ante in a brief press conference in which he took presidential cognizance of the affair, for the first time in history probably that any POTUS took official cognizance of Somalia. You have to understand that Carter was/is always a conservative, and a former nuclear sub commander, so he saw things from a nuclear sub commander’s background that the main thing was always to avoid USA-USSR mutual annihilation, and so Carter simply put his stamp of approval on return to a peaceful ‘status quo ante’ in the Horn of Africa. Status quo ante is just about always the conservative thing, although just about never the neocon thing, because neocons are always seeking trouble somewhere so that they can keep the American people, Congress, etc., in a state of crisis at all times. So, your idea that “Carter couldn’t live with” a peaceful outcome is the exact opposite of the history, which shows that Carter was (and is) all about peace, as a true conservative — although not at all a neocon like Kissinger.

    “But the theme of my comment is my frustration. US spent so much so called blood and treasure not even counting the misery US caused to the others. For what? For nothing.” — Ilyana

    Now there we are all in agreement: you, me and Sjursen.

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