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War Without End (nytimes.com)
93 points by chaseha 4 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 126 comments

The endless (and pointless) wars that our soldier are being spent on has a relatively easy solution

Reinstate the draft.

That might seem counterintuitive since that would give us a lot more soldiers to use, but it would give a lot of families, a lot of Americans real skin in the game.

Wasting soldiers is easy as long as most people dont care and dont notice. But when it is your daughter/cousin/ uncle/parent someone you know for a majority of the population it becomes a very serious matter.

I say this as an ex-army soldier. I will be honest and say that I didnt enjoy my time in the military very much, and forcing thousands and thousands of youth to go through it means a lot of pain and uncomfortable situation, I think the benefits would outweigh the sacrifices made to make this happen.

An alternate plan would it to be mandatory that family members of elected officials to serve in the military and in wars, personally. (Not just sit at a desk in DC pushing buttons) But there is so much corruption in those systems that the children would probably be protected one way or another.

What an unbelievably bad idea. Mandatory drafting is involuntary servitude, slavery. How about taking a non interventionist policy?

Citizenship has historically been defined by military service, in that you are not merely subject to the security apparatus of the state, but a part of it. Because you are a part of it, you have a say in it. It was the removal of the draft which necessarily removed the role of service from citizenship.

What do people who are not a part of the military care about non-intervention? There is a reason we viliify the draft-dodger who becomes a politician and sends others sons off to war.

Historically most ancient or medieval wars were fought by professional soldiers.

Here is a Wikipedia quote

"The persistent old belief that peasants and small farmers gathered to form a national army or fyrd is a strange delusion dreamt up by antiquarians in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth centuries to justify universal military conscription"

I support Rothbard's view on the issue: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i3TY5OhUJhw

Not what I'm referring to. I'm referring specifically to those who owned land and bore arms and were referred to as Citizens in Rome.

I find both the notions that conscription=slavery and that taxation=theft can only be held by someone who does not believe in any sort of duty or obligation to one's community, country, nation, or God, and that self-interest must necessarily be one's sole (or at least primary) motivating factor.

No, community and state are two different things. Surely I do not accept social contract theory. But I do not think we will reach a common ground arguing this issue.

>>Citizenship has historically been defined by military service, in that you are not merely subject to the security apparatus of the state, but a part of it.

I don't know where you got this idea. Most of the largest empires in history - Romans, Sassanids, Ottomans, British, you name it - had a professional warrior class. It wasn't all voluntary, but ideas like draft only applied to non-citizens.

Was referring to the Romans. Perhaps I'm exaggerating.

My point is that military service is a responsibility, not a chore foisted upon us. If it were, we would be subjects. But we are not subjects, we are citizens.

>>My point is that military service is a responsibility

Maybe when the country is being invaded. For offensive wars however I don’t know how you can argue this.

Is your country not sharing in the spoils? I'm not saying that offensive wars are moral, but it is in keeping with your duties to the group.

And certain offensive wars are for the common defense, usually against neighboring countries over scarce resources, or against other imperial powers.

What spoils? I think it would be rather difficult to claim that the general US population has come out on top as a result of Middle East adventurism over the past two decades.

> How about taking a non interventionist policy?

Well yea, that is what the parent comment explicitly advocates.

The problem is that US voters are insulated from the horrifying effects of war and thus are not inclined to avoid it.

Thus, the parent advocates achieving non-interventionist policy by giving Americans voters consequences through the draft.

So kind of roundabout, but such is often the only viable way in politics.

Rep. Chuck Rangel of NY even made this point in 2003 when he tried to push to get the draft reinstated as a protest of Iraq (Rangel was a Korean War vet; won a Bronze Star there).


Typical NYTimes to underline all the poor dead & wounded American soldiers and not a single word about innocent Iraqi and Afghani citizens, let alone the insane wave of refugees across the globe that America's aggression has helped cause.

Americans are simply not interested in the victims of their wars. It runs counter to every iota of American culture, to acknowledge the failures of their warrior-classes, alas.

But, you should know, the article did mention the casualties, at least glibly. "Many more Afghani's have died than were lost in the 9/11 attacks", is the only context the author can find, to appeal to his readers.

Its a sad state of affairs when the worlds greatest nation is populated with its worst cowards. Americans should have a War Channel that shows them what their military-industrial-pharmaceutical masters are doing around the world, 24-hours a day. Only then would the honour and pride demanded of American servants of its military be placed in the proper context.

> Its a sad state of affairs when the worlds greatest nation is populated with its worst cowards.

To be honest I don't see any evidence of Americans being bigger cowards than anybody else. Also eg European media does exactly the same sort of thing. I suspect it's pretty much a global phenomenon.

I had just hoped that, of all outlets, NYT could at some point grow past it's navel gazing self, given how relatively balanced their reporting is in many other fields.

Nobody wants to be confronted with their nations' real crimes, its true. But Americans have gone far beyond the point where they are able to confront the results of their out-of-control military-industrial-complex.

Still, I suppose you're right - its not as bad as the Australians, for example.

Crickey. I am onboard with your actual point, but consider painting the picture without such broad strokes. There are something like 320 million Americans, and their culture is an impressive mishmash of every other culture that the world has ever produced, held together by string and elbow grease. Give it a little respect, even if you do want to lay out a little of the realpolitik.

"Not supporting the troops" is a conversation ender up there with accusations of racism and sexism. But the issues there are much more complicated than no-one being interested.

I care not a fig for the constitution of a culture which allows the wanton and wilful destruction of civilisation without any recourse, responsibility, or indeed care in the world.

Americans, willing recipients of its treasures, have nevertheless let their military-industrial-pharmaceutical complex run rampant over the worlds "lesser nations" for far too long, and the mechanism by which they fail, as a culture, to take any responsibility for any of it is exactly as you describe.

There is no respect due to a people who allow innocents to be murdered in their name with no recourse, no justice.

Zero respect deserved.

There are between zero and very few that would be left to cast the first stone.

I'm definitely not trying to defend the stereotype of the standard wilfully ignorant US citizen, but I think the stereotype would be representative of most cultures who have had enough 'victories' (or been told they've had enough victories) that they feel they're deserving of their prizes.

To rearrange your wording slightly: I care not a fig for the constitution of a species which allows the wanton and wilful destruction of it's sustaining environment without any recourse, responsibility, or indeed care in the world.

Nighty night humanity.

Meh, more war justification. "But the other kids are doing it too" does not a morally authoritative position make.

If that's what you got from what I said, then I didn't explain myself well enough.

Your replies to other comments indicate, however, that you're more likely to take the inflammatory interpretation. Which I find most ironic given the message you seem to be trying to convey.

>There are between zero and very few that would be left to cast the first stone.

The "cast the first stone" rhetoric is a clue that you're not really convincible regarding war and its machinations.

There are plenty of countries who refuse to participate in the wanton destruction of the Middle East and illegal, criminal, unrestrained warfare. America and its allies are, alas, far too addicted to the economies of such to change any time soon. Not soon enough, anyway.

What culture hasn’t allowed for that?

The list of countries that are not invading others and destroying their civilisation is pretty long. You should educate yourself about the world.

We’re talking about cultures that allow innocents to be murdered in their name.

All cultures allow this. No culture has yet transcended it.

It’s fine not to respect humanity at its current level of development, but nationalism is hardly the solution.

America and its allies are wantonly killing innocents in the name of their war economy. This does not make for a strong moral position...

Why did USA get so up in arms with Korea, Vietnam War, etc but not USA's ongoing Afghanistan/(Iraq?) war?

Because after Vietnam, Americans were not allowed to see the results of their warfare on television. Were it possible to publish war-crimes evidence freely and without military oversight, Americans would have much less lust for the wars they have been conned into paying for ..

Presumably because of the military draft, which was abolished in the aftermath of the Vietnam war, IIRC.

I also suspect fatigue. For a lot of US citizens, the war has taken place a for a majority of their (our) life.

I always thought it odd how our media so heavily focused on the few hundred/thousand soldiers who died in an illegal invasion of iraq but not the hundreds of thousands of iraqi children who died. Is it bias or something else?

Also, the NYTimes is eerily quiet about the role it and the rest of the media played in pushing for the war in iraq. No censure, no penalties, no nothing when they lied to the american people.

I have a very simple proposal to insure success in any military campaign: just make all tours of duty accompanied tours, i.e. send families along with the servicemembers, from the highest ranks to the lowest, and also make deployment to a combat zone on the order of a decade or two, not a few months or a year.

I guarantee that any general staff whose wives & children are in the affected area and who will be there for the next decade will figure out how to pacify the region to the level of a Chicago or Detroit.

That argument is very poor because it assumes that (1) pacification has so far failed for lack of proper motivation of service members, and (2) bringing their families in possible harm's way will properly motivate them.

You haven't demonstrated (1) and it disregards movitations such as a desire for advancement (higher ranks), or not getting shot at (lower ranks), and (2) can have many outcomes (there are faster ways to get home for an individual than winning a war), the least probable of which is the outcome you "guaranteed".

You're merely appealing to emotion while simultaneously disregarding all other (and much more relevant) factors leading to a drawn-out war.

How is that different from colonization?

An army of conscripts has a similar effect. When not only the "expendables" of society are sent to fight and die, politicians and voters will think differently about sending the army.

How about ships and planes?

On warships, where will the family live? Will we have extra cabins on them for people's family? The extra load on the ship's sustainability seems like it would significantly increase costs and/or reduce the amount of time between resupplying. I think that's unworkable.

Likewise aircraft. Preumably people's family don't get in the plane with the crew, so they stay at the airfield accomodation? That's often quite some way away from the danger, so it seems that it would just be a big expense and inconvenience with no other effect.

In these cases and with land forces, of course, the family woudn't want to be there, so they'd have to be rounded up and arrested and effectively imprisoned. What a legal nightmare that is! Need some big changes to the law to make that possible. Wouldn't be surprised if it required changes to the US constitution too. Running prisons of US citizens in Iraq and Afghanistan seems ridiculous. I suppose if the choice was running these prisons or just not invading, maybe the invasion never would have happened.

I guarantee that any general staff whose wives & children are in the affected area and who will be there for the next decade will figure out how to pacify the region to the level of a Chicago or Detroit.

Do you have any evidence behind your guarantee? You seem to be saying that the general staff just didn't try hard enough, and that they'd try harder if their family was there. I'm sure they would feel more motivated, but being super-motivated isn't exactly a guarantee of success.

Isn't that a bit like saying that the Settlements brought peace to Israel/Palestine?

I've got a better idea: 24 Hour War Channel.

Every victim gets a time slot.

What if I told you war was not about making peace.

What would "winning" these wars even look like? There is no answer to that because these are not wars that are meant to be won. How can you win something when you don't even know what winning means? These are simulacra wars unlike a war like WW2. Every war America has fought after WW2 has been a simulacra war, not intended to be won but intended to advance random political goals at the expense of our soldiers lives. It's as if America is stuck in a loop, relieving WW2 over and over again but without any actual enemies or wars to fight. Thus we create simulacra wars, wars that shouldn't exist, wars for profit and politics. No one in their right mind could possibly believe these wars are making us safer or whatever the propaganda du jour is. A lot of people just simply can't grasp the idea that they are being duped and lied to by their government, sent to die for nothing. I hope that tuition money is worth the ptsd or the lost limbs because people fighting these wars sure as hell aren't doing anything good for the rest of us Americans. That's why we have the constant "support the troops" bullshit at football games and everywhere else. If there was really a threat, if there was a real necessary war, that bullshit would be unnecessary. Men willingly volunteered to fight in WW2. Today, you couldn't have a draft without mass upheaval, protests, and resistance. I'd rather go to prison, my ultimate nightmare, than fight in these simulacra wars for others' profit. If there was a draft, I'd rather protest by shooting my commanding officers and die than fight in a bullshit war. Clearly though, there won't be a draft but about 1% of the US population is either so desperate for money or delusional that they are willing to fight these staged, unwinnable, simulacra wars. And so on and on they will continue.

Wars are always fought to advance political goals. I agree that in that case, the goals are shitty.

Yes, I should have specified shitty, niche political goals not in the interest of the country or its people.

On one matter there can be no argument: The policies that sent these men and women abroad, with their emphasis on military action and their visions of reordering nations and cultures, have not succeeded. It is beyond honest dispute that the wars did not achieve what their organizers promised, no matter the party in power or the generals in command. Astonishingly expensive, strategically incoherent, sold by a shifting slate of senior officers and politicians and editorial-page hawks, the wars have continued in varied forms and under different rationales each and every year since passenger jets struck the World Trade Center in 2001. They continue today without an end in sight, reauthorized in Pentagon budgets almost as if distant war is a presumed government action.

Except for the mention of the World Trade Center, this could be a telling of the US involvement in Vietnam.

Back then, it was the highly dubious Domino Theory that hawks waved around to browbeat anyone suggesting that such a war was un-winnable, morally indefensible, or just plain hair-brained.

Today it's the equally dubious umbrella of Terrorism.

Having recently watched Ken Burns' Vietnam documentary, it seems nearly impossible to understand the thinking of the war's supporters. Unless, that is, you replace the word "Communism" with "Terrorism."

The parallels are striking.

I just finished reading Neil Sheehan's A Bright Shining Lie, which is a story of Vietnam told through the lens of the experience of one particular American officer, and later civilian consultant: John Paul Vann. I heartily recommend the book - winner of the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, and authored by someone who was on the ground in Vietnam on and off during the war.

The book was published in 1988, so any parallels that are evident to Afghanistan and Iraq are not the backseat driving of the author.

One parallel, out of many, is that Vann many times lamented the lack of devotion the South Vietnamese Army had to the cause of Vietnamese independence. They largely wanted to avoid actual combat and profit off the American military machine by selling services, re-selling war materiel, accepting bribes for the other side, etc. And Vann said many times in the book that if he himself was a young Vietnamese, he would join the NVA (the North Vietnamese Army). And further, that he admired the grit and devotion the NVA had to the cause of independence.

Indeed, one could fill a page of further comments on the parallels: asymmetric tactics, politically powerful generals who lied about prospects for winning, presidents who kicked the can down the road, inability to win "hearts and minds", blaming the press when bad news gets out, ease of bombing versus difficulty of holding territory, "nation-building", installation of American-backed Vietnamese leaders (often emigres) who have no credibility in the country...

It is actually quite humbling. We should have known better.

Who started the Vietnam war?

I don't think it does have a single simple cause.

You could argue:

- It was the French colonizing the country and imposing a nasty explotative regime

- The French for refusing to decolonize the country post WW2 and fightning (and losing) a war to retain their colony

- The US for refusing to help Ho Chi Minh when asked

- The US for helping the French

- The corrupt and brutal South Vietnamese regime propped up by the US

- The brutal North Vietnam regime encouraged by the Soviets and Chinese to fight a proxy war against the West

- The US for escalating after the Gulf of Tonkin incident

Well, I realised that my question wasn't very precise, still thank you for taking the time to answer it.

The US or the French, depending on when you think the conflict started.

The French in the mid 19th century.

The domino thing wasn't that crazy. China, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia. Then what? Philippines? Thailand?

Of course, the right answer was that we couldn't take on all of those burdens, not even one, really, not for long. But in the aftermath of WWII, I think it's not surprising that this wasn't understood.

> But in the aftermath of WWII, I think it's not surprising that this wasn't understood.

Then what's our excuse this time?

>Then what's our excuse this time?

There's money in them-thar hills (of Afghanistan). War money: your nation can't survive without it.

> War money: your nation can't survive without it.

Especially when most of the money, and all the future interest on the new public debt, comes from the domestic taxpayer. Imagine all the trouble the average citizen would cause if they could spend their own money on scientific pursuits, entrepreneurship and educating their children instead of debt service. It would practically be a revolution in the making.

As to Afghanistan? I don't know. It made sense to go in to fetch Bin Laden, but not to do any nation-building.

Did it though? At the end of the day he’s just another bad guy.

Think about all the people there who view the US poorly because of our actions there.

Not sure killing one person really makes up for that.

Ignoring even that, in the end when he was caught/executed, it was in Pakistan by a small team of operatives.

So in hindsight, why was there an army in Afghanistan? 15/19 of the terrorists involved were former Saudi nationals, so it isn't like the Afghans were obviously churning out radicals.

Whole thing was bizarre.

Even more bizarre when you consider the reports that Pakistan was taking money from the US, giving some of it to the Taliban who then used it to fight the US.

Why the US public isn't angry at Saudi Arabia and Pakistan is a mystery to me.

The U.S. public was and is angry about all that. However, the U.S. government can't really do anything about them. Afghanistan did have bin Laden, so that was a reason to go there: to get him. Staying there for decades, however, was not necessary, and not really justifiable, especially given that the nation-building part of the project hasn't panned out.

Why have jail for any crimes then too, right? Criminals won't think well of the justice system if we have jail, so they'll commit more crimes to spite us. Right?

Be serious. Deterrence may or may not always work, but it works enough of the time. Even when it doesn't work, the alternative (leaving them alone) almost certainly wouldn't work either. People who do these awful things don't need new grievances -- all the old ones will suffice for them.

> It made sense to go in to fetch Bin Laden, but not to do any nation-building.

Yeah, a US policy of destructive interference in Afghanistan without stabilization after the immediate aim is acheived has never had any serious adverse long-term consequences that would militate against that.

(Neither, I suppose, in your world, has the same thing in Iraq caused problems with merely completely botched stabilization ignoring everything we've ever learned about that topic instead of no stabilization at all.)

The U.S. has no patience for nation-building. Like it or not, that's the truth. That leaves us with three options in cases like 9/11:

     - do nothing
     - go in, do what you can to get the bad guys and deter future attachs
     - go in and attempt nation-building for as long as the public will stand it, then skip town
The third option is the one we always try. It also always fails. Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq. Intervention in the Balkans did work in the 90s, but we didn't occupy, so that wasn't a long-term nation-building warfare effort. Somalia we abandoned early on in the 90s -- there was no reason to be there, much less stay, and President Clinton was smart enough to figure that out. The three biggies went badly. Vietnam and Iraq would have gone better with more patience, but I can't blame the American public for not having that much patience. In any case, the limited patience (regarding war) of the American public is a fact.

> That leaves us with three options in cases like 9/11:

There are no other cases like 9/11, except maybe Pearl Harbor.

The third option worked pretty well there.

> The third option is the one we always try. It also always fails. Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq.

Vietnam was actually an example of the second option failing. While there was some effort at nation-building, it was as a means to defeating the “bad guys” (the so-called “hearts and minds” campaign), not rebuilding after taking care of the “bad guys”.

The third option also isn't what we tried in Afghanistan in the 1980s. It was more the second: get the Russians out, and don't worry about what happens after. There's a pretty direct line from that to the development of al-Qaeda (though the US option-2 intervention in the Middle East in response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait also contributed. Notably, the idea that “the third option is what we always try” is completely false.)

> Intervention in the Balkans did work in the 90s, but we didn't occupy

The US was deeply involved in post-conflict peacekeeping and nation-building in the Balkans. In fact, it was still involved in that well into the time of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

> > That leaves us with three options in cases like 9/11:

> There are no other cases like 9/11, except maybe Pearl Harbor.

> The third option worked pretty well there.

That was total war, with existential threats all around. 9/11 did not lead to total war.

> Vietnam was actually an example of the second option failing. While there was some effort at nation-building, it was as a means to defeating the “bad guys” (the so-called “hearts and minds” campaign), not rebuilding after taking care of the “bad guys”.

A distinction without much difference. Also true of Iraq (we engaged in nation-building both, for its own sake and to help pacify the place). We didn't stay very long after pacifying Iraq, and some would argue we never did pacify it.

> > Intervention in the Balkans did work in the 90s, but we didn't occupy

> The US was deeply involved in post-conflict peacekeeping and nation-building in the Balkans. In fact, it was still involved in that well into the time of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

Yeah, but there once the Serbians lost, and once a deal was reached with Russia, there was no source of further conflict, and this all happened fairly early on after U.S. intervention began, so the American public's patience was never tried, and we did not occupy either. That's not the case in Afghanistan.

If anything the Balkans experience shows when we can nation-build: when the conflict ends decisively. (We didn't end the conflict. The Croats and Bosnians did, with our help, yes, but they did the heavy fighting.)

> Also true of Iraq (we engaged in nation-building both, for its own sake and to help pacify the place)

No, in Vietnam the nation-building effort was a strategy to defeat the original enemy we intervened to defeat; pure option-2 get the bad guy.

In Iraq, the completely bungled attempt at nation-building was an attempt to acheive a new objective that followed defeat of the original targeted enemy (part of that, sure, was targeting the enemies that emerged in the power vacuum created when we defeated the original target and disbanded the military and security services—a mistake we did not make in the post-WWII occupations and which was immediately and roundly denounced by experts across the political spectrum when it was done in Iraq—but just because it was defeating an enemy doesn't change that it was not part of the original “get the bad guy” effort.)

It wasn't crazy but if you go by the Ken Burns documentary series it was also wrong. America abandoned its principles to support French colonialism, ironically for fear that France would otherwise ally with the Soviets and thus pushed the Viet Minh firmly into the communist camp. The Viet Minh were Vietnamese nationalists first and foremost and showed no appetite for exporting communism post the Vietnam war.

Everyone seems to also forget the then recent success of the Korean war. At risk of confusing what was known then and what is known now, well, look at NK vs SK today. Vietnam under socialist control turned out to be not anywhere as extreme but it would have been hard to guess that right during China's "great leap forward". Of course, things didn't turn out as well for neighboring Cambodia.

Well the US history in Cambodia is as messy as the one in Vietnam. I don’t recall all the details but the Khmer Rouge was not inevitable without US intervention.

> Vietnam under socialist control turned out to be not anywhere as extreme

Not as extreme as North Korea? No, but even the Soviet Union wasn't as extreme as North Korea. The subjugation of South Vietnam under North Vietnam was pretty brutal though — the Boat People didn't spring from nothing.

I remember working with a Boat People on my first job. He was a cool guy, but we never talked about Vietnam.

>The domino thing wasn't that crazy.

I wonder if that implies that the world should've gone full communist. That the attempts to stop that was just delaying the inevitable, even though the delay seems very successful right now.

I wonder if socialism would've ended up as authoritarian as it did if it hadn't been fought like it was.

The less authoritarian states, such as Allende's Chile, did not end up surviving for long. Can't help but wonder if there is a survivorship bias, wherein only the most vicious and brutal communist states could survive external interference.

>The less authoritarian states, such as Allende's Chile, did not end up surviving for long.

Wasn't Allende's Chile pretty much brought down by external forces, i.e. CIA? Calling it survivorship bias is a bit premature if the said countries are antagonised by the most powerful nation on the planet :)

No. The U.S. was definitely for Pinochet's coup, but on the ground it was all Pinochet. (If anything, Pinochet was less bloody than others because of U.S. pressure.)

As evidenced by the fact that the most successful modern socialist states are in Europe, I believe this is the case. Those who could make their social welfare programs coexist with aggressive Western attitudes have thrived.


As far as I can see, there are two countries in Europe on that list: Portugal and Greece.

If you use a definition of socialism that excludes the notion of a mixed system, yes. I would say that precisely that is the form of authoritarian socialism that doesn’t work.

Which states in Europe do you think are socialist?

I think if you use a broad enough definition of socialist, you'd have most of Europe. In France the socialist party was in power until last year, for example.

By such a definition then the U.S. is socialist too, just a bit less. Good news socialists!

Consider Venezuela. There was no civil war there (unlike Russia immediately after the October revolution, and unlike China before and after WWII). There was no foreign power intervention (unlike Korea, Vietnam). Yet Venezuela is authoritarian.

(There's also Nazi Germany. The Nazis were socialists, really, and they also had no civil war and no foreign power intervention, and that ended pretty badly too.)

I think the answer to your question is: yes, yes, of course it would have.

Now, you might point to post-war Western European socialism, but there we have a number of stabilizing factors (e.g., NATO, U.S. troops on the ground) limiting the freedom of socialist politicians to be as extreme as they might want to. As a result, post-war Western European socialism mostly means just high taxes and large welfare states.

Generally, socialism outside post-war Western Europe ends badly. There have been left-wing presidents in Brazil and others where it didn't end badly, but they didn't impose socialism -- they ruled more like Western European social democrats, not like Chavez, Castro, or Maduro.

My thoughts are that since Vietnam the neocons have continually pushed for one 'do over' after another to prove that 'war works'[1]. So every neocon war is a war unto itself. The worst thing is because the motivation for war is ideological, failure can't be accepted rationally. Some small success is motivation for a bigger war. Failure motivation to double down.

[1] As opposed to what every disinterest person knows, that war is terrible, impossible to control and casts long dark shadows into the future.

It's fascinating to see this in the NYT, the paper that served as GW Bush's propaganda wing for selling the lies that persuaded the US public to support the second Iraq war.

Although the nytimes has always served as a mouthpiece for the current administration (this is how they get such good access, this is why they have remained on friendly terms with the Trump admin despite their mainly liberal readership), they have always run the occasional piece of real interest contrary to the official narrative (i.e. real journalism).

For example during the Obama administration (which increased the use of drone & missile attacks globally) they posted this inditement of the assassination without trial of a teenage American citizen:


>For example during the Obama administration (which increased the use of drone & missile attacks globally) they posted this inditement of the assassination without trial of a teenage American citizen:

Though notably, they called the act a "targeted killing," as calling it an assassination would be accusing them of war crimes. Even the conclusion only condemns the killing of American's without trial, not bombing suspected terrorists without worrying about nearby people.

Domino Theory is interesting because it implies a strategic success condition. USA achieve their strategic aim if (a) the Vietnam domino doesn't fall. OR (b) the Vietnam domino falls gently and doesn't knock the next one over.

During the course of the Vietnam war, the communism revolution in China lost it mojo, and the impetus to spreading revolution throughout Asia declined. Viewed as a delaying-action/fighting-retreat the US involvement in Vietnam went on long enough to achieve its strategic aim.

That is the most horrible thing I have read in a long time, and what's so horrible is that it might be some truth to that. Or at least that it could be seen as truthful and right by the people making the decisions at the time.

So we should've just let ISIS take over Iraq and Syria ?

"Please respond to the strongest plausible interpretation of what someone says, not a weaker one that's easier to criticize."


Also, the comment takes a significant step further into political flamewar. Can you please not do that on HN?

The US did let ISIS take over large swaths of Iraq and Syria during Obama's presidency. The lack of action of the US is directly correlated to the rise of ISIS, the prolonged Syrian civil war with its disastrous consequences. It was years and many beheadings before the US decided to do anything about it and really the Russians have done most of the work as well. I really like Obama as a person but his middle east strategy was a disaster.

If anything the Russians are proving that you can intervene and be successful if you actually have any sort of coherent strategy and the right allies on the ground. They are the ones bringing an end to this bloody affair (with a lot more blood but still).

EDIT: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_Syrian_Civil_W...

So for 3.5 years the US tested the "let's stay out of it and see what happens" strategy (for the most part). What happend? 6 million people internally displaced, 5 million refugees outside Syria, 500,000 people dead. Iran, Russia, Hezbollah, Assad emerge as winners. Well, that really worked out. Not to say they wouldn't have messed it up by intervening but this bad? Hard to imagine.

EDIT2: I also understand as a non-american that it's a lot to ask of the US to take care of the world. But if it doesn't, who will? What happens in the rest of the world ends up impacting the entire world, including the US. Maybe I'm too naive though :(

Not caring too much about massacring civilians is also a key part of Russia's recipe in Syria. And furthermore it is a little soon to be declaring victory for them there.

What exactly would your strategy have been for a US intervention in Syria? Which local faction would you have supported? Would you have been willing to risk a hot war with Russia and Iran? When get involved in a war you don't get to say at the outset how far you go with it.

There was a point, early on, where it was basically Assad against everyone, including half his army (with the other half unsure). At that point a small push would have toppled Assad. I'd have pushed. This was before the foreign fighters, before ISIS (for those most part). Syria was a secular, fairly uniform, fairly peaceful, and fairly organized society. Very different story than Iraq. So that's one option. Another option would have been to threaten Assad and force him to come to some sort of agreement with the demonstrators. This was all before Russia and Iran got involved. Russia got involved when Assad was virtually days away from losing the civil war.

ISIS was created by the destabilization of those countries. There are plenty of easy to find links about this, so forgive me for not citing sources.

Also, given the nature of the activities, it's difficult to find authoritative sources, but I believe there were some WikiLeaks that had diplomatic cables discussing this.

Also if you read Syrian and Russian news, and the Syrians are certainly highly motivated to defeat ISIS as it's trying to take over their country, and the Russians are highly motivated to protect their ally, they both say the US has seemingly been helping ISIS as much as fighting it.

...the US has seemingly been helping ISIS as much as fighting it.

Yeah it's amazing that after all the "moderate rebels" have left (if they ever existed in the first place), and we've kept flooding the area with weapons and ammunition, ISIS has ended up with lots of USA weapons and ammunition.

Ok, but when are you "starting the clock", if not now, then how long ago? 10 years? 20? 30?

Most of the instability in the Middle East can be traced directly to the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916. Our current strategy is like fighting fire with gasoline, because the people we are fighting have a better understanding of history than we do.


It goes back well before then to the Ottoman domination of the region and probably a few thousand years before that. Sykes-Picot was just a change of management. The area has been dominated by outsiders for most of recorded history.

> have a better understanding of history than we do

Considering the level of literacy in the Middle-East, I doubt that's true. And I wouldn't call what they know history, but rather propaganda.

You don't start the clock anywhere, you should always consider the context that led to things happening.

ISIS didn't exist in 2003 when the USA invaded Iraq.

ISIS was formed due to the power vacuum left after the USA withdrew from Iraq, largely by the former officer corps of Saddam's Iraqi Army, who had been left disenfranchised after the policy of de-Ba'athification [1] of the Iraqi government, replacing a vaguely competent government with a completely incompetent government.

ISIS was a problem of the USA's own creation, just like the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and the current Iranian regime.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De-Ba%27athification

Shouldn't the URSS be responsible for the creation of the Taliban? Al-Qaeda was financed by Saudi Arabia and the current Iranina regime is the result of a revolution against the American-supported previous regime. Still the US made all those problems worse, but can't hold the full blame for their creation.

You're right, it's not solely the fault of the USA. It's a very complicated situation.

I was just alluding to the fact that the USA is fighting the Taliban in the 2010s, when in the 1980s they were funding them.

Obviously if the USSR didn't invade Afghanistan, we might not be in this situation either.

The underlying problem is comfortable war. It's comfortable for us - we give up nothing, there is no draft, no extra tax, no rationing. Even the soldiers live in relative comfort at base, with air conditioning, plentiful food, computer games, etc.

We should choose, as a society, to make war uncomfortable for us. It is the moral choice. We should have a draft, which puts the children of the wealthy and powerful at risk. We should have extra taxes, and ideally there should be rationing.

Then see the popularity of diplomacy rise.

> We should have a draft, which puts the children of the wealthy and powerful at risk

If you're wealthy its super easy to avoid going to war, it doesn't matter which country we talk about. Bribe physician to have some made-up condition (ie Trump), or get drafted but end up doing some safe job on military base back home/outside of any real danger (i think Bush jr).

Wars are fought by poor under-educated classes (thats where drafting/hiring is aimed at), smart person sees how pathetic the causes are, how incompetent political and military leadership is, and how stupid it would be to lose life or health for no good reason (and very probably introduce hefty chunk of evil into this world).

You can get all the adrenaline thrill doing extreme sports (and much more), you can get paid better elsewhere and it must be kinda hard to strike the patriotic tune when country being attacked by your government is half across the globe, never set a military foot on US soil nor threatened it in any way

Even though the weird Qanon movement is delusional on the particulars, when it comes to pointing out the obvious betrayal of regular folk by cabals of elites milking the system for their benefit is strikingly on point.

pavlov 4 months ago [flagged]

Hitler also had a point that the Treaty of Versailles was unfair to Germany. Neither Qanon nor Hitler deserve to be absolved of their dangerous lies this way.

I agree on this prosaic point, people/entities should not be absolved of their dangerous lies.

What I see as striking about the foundation of Qanon, is that their setup for the conspiracy theory, involves an almost leftist condemnation of the existing power structure in the US. And I agree with the general thrust of their diagnosis. This condemnation of some vary obvious problems in the US is actually kind of rare in the “mainstream media.” It’s strking a chord with many ordinary people.

On the particulars, as to who is behind the grand “conspiracy” and who is working for our salvation, they are completely off the rails. I was just surprised that their introductory propaganda didn’t sound as crazy as I expected.

mmjaa 4 months ago [flagged]

Comparing Qanon to Hitler is such a sad and tragic way to run from the truth.

Bringing up insane conspiracy theories on Hacker News is what is actually sad and tragic.




Many more where that came from. There is a case to made that the US wouldn't even be in Iraq if not for the undying support of the Bush administration's agenda, by none other than the New York Times.

If you are a soldier and find other reasons to fight rather than for the person next to you, then I wonder if you're fit to fight at all.

You know what I'll say? I won't say a goddamn word. Why? They won't understand. They won't understand why we do it. They won't understand that it's about the men next to you, and that's it. That's all it is.

This is a really odd idea. I get that individually, in a given moment that might be why, but there has to be a reason. The military doesn't just stochastically find itself in other countries shooting people and getting shot at.

The military certainly recruits using lofty external motivations like "defending the nation" and "making the world a better place". Apparently it's not viewed as a problem, that all such high-minded bullshit is forgotten soon enough in war zones. There must be some mid-level officers who realize that this is the reason why they never win any of the wars they fight. Their men, as you say, have no other reasons to fight. In contrast, their opponents are fighting for their families, communities, and religion in addition to their comrades in arms.

I can well imagine that lofty ideals like defending democracy "for queen & country" quickly go out of the window when bullets starts whizzing past your head.

But what motivates people to sign up, go through months of training & travel to far off foreign lands to fight? Without those motivations, the desire to defend the 'person next to you' would only manifest when your homeland was under threat of invasion.

I imagine some people like being soldiers.

The best thing you could do for the men next to you is take them home.

Or you could just not become a soldier and go to begin with--then there won't be a person next to you who needs you to fight for them. But hey, why introduce logic and reason into the situation when everyone clearly wants to keep them out?

Sorry but that makes no sense from a policy point of view.

Read up on how the WW2 US Army was recruited, trained, and sent into battle. To the degree possible, squads were kept together from boot camp to build up 'unit cohesion' based on sticking up for each other. Most people don't fight for abstract principles, they fight to stand up for their friends, and/or to not look bad in front of their friends. It's bad policy to ignore that.

Soldiers don't make policy.

And yet I find the answer to "Why did you sign up?" to be "To defend the guy next to me!" an odd statement.

Should no one be a soldier in peacetime? Because logically, if the hypothetical guy next to you isn't getting hypothetically shot at...

It isn't why people sign up; it's why they continue to fight after the reasons they signed up have become destroyed in them.

And the same forces, including the NY Times, are currently trying to push us into a war with Russia.

Also "National Emergency" without end and without oversight. The National Emergencies Act [0] allows the President to declare emergency powers, but it must be renewed annually, and he must give a report to Congress on how much has spent on the emergency and the status.

Bush declared a national emergency after 9/11, and renewed it every year. Obama did the same. Trump the same. No reports to Congress. Congress has never asked for a report. Nothing but "the threat continues". [1]

More recently Trump used it as a way to force retired Air Force pilots back into active duty.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Emergencies_Act [1] https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/politics/2017/09/14/perm...

With this anniversary, prospective recruits born after the terrorist attacks of 2001 will be old enough to enlist.

All else aside, that just ain’t right.

Apologies for the tangent, however I just noticed that up to 150% zoom in Chrome the pictures will maintain their size while the text grows. That's pretty cool.

I mean, it seems obvious and I've never had to deal with this(does it rely on em or screen percentage sizing?!), but the way the Times formats the article seems to play particularly well with zoom.

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