On August 21, President Trump announced his administration’s plan to prolong the war in Afghanistan.
He promised more troops, equipment, and fire power so that America can “fight to win”. During his address, Trump threw out the rules of engagement, ignored any diplomatic or otherwise nonviolent alternatives to the conflict, and failed to consider the complex history of American (and NATO) involvement in the region. Some of the more dangerous proposals are highlighted below.
David Prater, War Prevention Initiative’s Communication Program Manager, says “Trump’s ‘America First’ approach originally suggested a less interventionist agenda, which may have provided leverage for peace advocates in connecting unlikely allies challenging global military interventions with U.S. troops. However, the policy outlined in this speech, and his proposed $54B increase in defense spending, shows a clear path to continued U.S. military power projection on the global stage”.
No Government Oversight
Trump: “I have already lifted restrictions the previous administration placed on our war fighters that prevented the secretary of defense and our commanders in the field from fully and swiftly waging battle against the enemy. Micromanagement from Washington, D.C. does not win battles.”
This opens the door to unchecked battlefield decisions where military officials can operate without government oversight or input on the consequences of their decisions. Congress has the constitutional authority to declare war and should provide input into the military’s use of force and rules of engagement, they are now completely left out. With unchecked military authority, the dangers of full blown escalation, increased civilian and military deaths, and non-transparent practices increase dramatically. We have already seen the results of warrantless battlefield decisions in Afghanistan when in January 2017, the decision was made to use the MOAB bomb, the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used in warfare.
Sticks Masquerading as Carrots
Trump: “Another fundamental pillar of our new strategy is the integration of all instruments of American power: diplomatic, economic, and military, toward a successful outcome.”
For diplomatic or economic options to be successful, they must not be simultaneously accompanied by military action. In diplomacy, no one takes a carrot while they are beaten to death with a stick. Civil society cannot operate while under mortar fire, small business loans go unused when their benefactors are scared to leave their homes, and new roads and schools are worthless when infrastructure is leveled as quickly as it can be built. But more importantly, military action undermines all available nonviolent options to address this complex conflict. A commitment to end military operations can give viable, nonviolent approaches a chance to take hold. These include, but are not limited to: meaningful diplomacy, arms embargoes, ending military aid, civil society support, smart sanctions, working through supranational bodies, inclusive good governance, confronting violence-supporting beliefs, increasing women’s participation in social and political life, humanitarian assistance/protection, monitoring, observation and verification, and unarmed civilian peacekeeping.
Trump: “We are not nation building again, we are killing terrorists.”
Ideology is bomb-proof. Terrorism cannot be beaten with more violence. To “win” the war on terror we must transform the social, economic, and political environments that encourage young men and women to follow a path towards extremism. The U.S. must also stop occupying lands, which is proven to create resentment among local populations. Leaders from the intelligence, military, and academic communities have all agreed that the militarized “war on terror” has created a lot more terrorists. The platitude that “there is no military solution” needs to be transformed into a guiding principle for Afghanistan and the war on terror.
The War Prevention Initiative informs and educates about viable alternatives to war and violence.
For further comment or questions, please contact David Prater, War Prevention Initiative’s Communication Program Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-570-4509