By Ray Starmann
JOE SCARBOROUGH: “Have we wasted too much money over the past decade fighting wars? Has that been one of the biggest?”–
Trump – “Well, I’ll tell you what, I don’t mind fighting, but you have got to win and number one, we don’t win wars, we just fight, we just fight. It’s like a big — like you’re vomiting, just fight, fight, fight.
We don’t win anything. I mean, if you’re going to fight, you win and you get back to rebuilding the country. We don’t win. It’s really a terrible thing. I mean, our country used to win all the time. We don’t win at all anymore.”
Flashback to the immortal words of General George S. Patton, Jr…
“Americans love a winner. Americans will not tolerate a loser. Americans despise cowards. Americans play to win all of the time. I wouldn’t give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed. That’s why Americans have never lost nor will ever lose a war; for the very idea of losing is hateful to an American.”
Patton died months after the conclusion of hostilities in Europe, a death that was in itself the subject of much controversy. What would old Blood and Guts think of the conduct of US wars since World War II? In fact, what would old Blood and Guts think of the US military today?
When one thinks of the blood, sweat, courage and ultimate sacrifices that Americans have made in conflicts from Korea to Afghanistan, it is almost unfathomable. As Douglas MacArthur stated about the travails of the American soldier (and US servicemen in all branches), they have “drained deep the chalice of courage.”
That being said, since the Korean War, which was labeled a Police Action, the United States of America, the greatest country on earth is 1 for 5, with our only victory being in the Gulf War in 1991.
Korea – The US and UN forces fought the North Koreans and the Chinese to a standstill for three years on the Korean Peninsula from 1950 to 1953. In command of all UN forces, General MacArthur sought to wage full scale war against the Chinese and North Koreans, including possible use of atomic weapons. MacArthur was eventually relieved by President Truman who consistently tied MacArthur’s hands out of fear that any rash actions might somehow trigger World War III. The result: 36,000 Americans killed in action and a cease fire still in place today. The war was a proverbial draw.
Vietnam – With President Kennedy’s death, LBJ and the Pentagon had a green light to move into Vietnam. US involvement in Vietnam lasted from 1959 to 1975. We had first entered Southeast Asia under the guise of halting the spread of communism and in fear of the Domino Theory. The war soon became a mismanaged fiasco of incrementalization, presidential micro-managing of bombing targets and ridiculous rules of engagement. While the US lost the will to fight and sued for peace, the US military never lost one major skirmish, firefight or battle in the war. If the nation would have had the resolve, we could have won that war in a matter of months. Instead, the war dragged on with vacillating strategies, a decline in American prestige worldwide and 58,000 deaths.
Gulf War I – Why was the 1991 Gulf War a success when the other wars since WWII haven’t been? Gulf War I was a bright shining moment in US history where everything came together towards victory. The US military was well trained and superbly motivated and well-equipped. The commander in chief, Bush 41, had served in WWII and knew how to manage without tying the hands of the military. More importantly, the military’s senior leaders had all served in Vietnam and all vowed to never fight a war with one hand tied behind their backs. They had guts and cared about the troops. The US military threw everything they had into the fight and won quickly in 44 days of bombing and 100 Hours of a blazing desert blitzkrieg that resulted in an overwhelming victory that Americans would soon harken back to after the second Iraq War began.
Iraq – Was the Iraq War a tie or a loss; what was it? It certainly wasn’t a true victory. While we did vanquish Saddam’s Army during the initial invasion, the US became engulfed in a gradual insurgency with various factions that all had one underlying goal – kill Americans and make us leave the country. Yes, we toppled Saddam, but that unleashed a power vacuum in the country that led to the rise of ISIS and the strengthening of Iran. Whether there were WMD’s still left in Iraq by 2003 will be the subject of debate for centuries. At the end of the day, the invasion of Iraq wasn’t a strategic necessity. Saddam had nothing to do with 9-11. Furthermore, the invasion force was too small and while it was sufficient to destroy the Iraqi Armed Forces, it wasn’t big enough to secure the country. The butcher’s bill for conquering Iraq and its vast oil fields: 4,800 U.S. soldiers killed and over 33,000 seriously wounded, many with brain injuries. Estimates of Iraqi dead run from 112,000 to over one million. The Pentagon knows, but won’t release the figures.
Afghanistan – “The War in Afghanistan is the period in which the United States invaded Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks. Supported initially by close allies, they were later joined by NATO beginning in 2003. It followed the Afghan Civil War’s 1996–2001 phase. Its public aims were to dismantle al-Qaeda and to deny it a safe base of operations in Afghanistan by removing the Taliban from power. Key allies, including the United Kingdom, supported the U.S. from the start to the end of the phase. This phase of the War is the longest war in United States history.”
The War in Afghanistan was initially successful in combined US and Northern Alliance conventional operations against the Taliban. But, the Taliban quickly reorganized and began an insurgency against the occupying US forces. The war has now dragged on for nearly 15 years, with 2200 US military personnel killed in action. The Taliban is still fighting and a clear US victory is hard to imagine in any context.
War on ISIS – The US war on ISIS is anything but a war. The US led air campaign is anything but an air campaign. President Obama refuses to take the fight to ISIS in any way, shape or form. Therefore, until a new administration takes power in January of 2017, ISIS will grow in strength across the world. There has rarely been a US led military effort that was so feckless.
It’s high time the United States redefine victory in war. By not redefining victory, by not putting all our strength and might behind these wars, they can linger on forever and they are.
Victory is destroying the enemy and winning the war. To secure victory, the US must fight wars with massive military might. We must adhere to the Powell Doctrine and the lessons of Gulf War I. The nation should avoid conflict if it can. But, if we must fight, the US must have a strategic interest that forces our involvement. And, by God, if we’re going to be in a war, we must throw in everything we have and fight to win!
The only victors in these half-hearted, perpetual wars are the military industrial complex. Everyone else is a loser; the innocent civilians who die, the soldiers who are killed and wounded and who must bear the burden of fighting endless conflicts for the most obtuse of reasons.
The nation has been able to wage endless war in the 21st Century because there is no military draft. No draft equals war ad infinitum. Average Americans don’t care. Why should they? They have no vested interest in the military. If some poor bastard wants to volunteer to hump a rucksack and be a pop up target for Uncle Sam, that’s all well and dandy. The average American could care less.
Trump is right. America used to win wars. It’s high time we start winning again.