The Hot Wars
"In 2017, Afghanistan saw a mini-surge of roughly 4,000 additional U.S. troops (with more to come), a major spike in air strikes, and an onslaught of munitions of all sorts, including MOAB (the mother of all bombs), the never-before-used largest non-nuclear bomb in the U.S. arsenal, as well as precision weapons fired by B-52s against suspected Taliban drug laboratories. By the Air Force’s own count, 4,361 weapons were “released” in Afghanistan in 2017 compared to 1,337 in 2016. Despite this commitment of warriors and weapons, the Afghan war remains — according to American commanders putting the best possible light on the situation — “stalemated,” with that country’s capital Kabul currently under siege."
Turkey versus Syrian Kurds
"Along the Syrian-Turkish border a new conflict seems to be heating up between American-backed Kurdish forces and NATO ally Turkey."
War on ISIS
"U.S.-led coalition forces have launched more than 10,000 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria since Donald Trump became president, unleashing 39,577 weapons in 2017. (The figure for 2016 was 30,743.) The “caliphate” is now gone and ISIS deflated but not defeated, since you can’t extinguish an ideology solely with bombs. "
"Yet another strife-riven country, Yemen, witnessed a sixfold increase in U.S. airstrikes against al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula (from 21 in 2016 to more than 131 in 2017). "
In Somalia, which has also seen a rise in such strikes against al-Shabaab militants, U.S. forces on the ground have reached numbers not seen since the Black Hawk Down incident of 1993.
In each of these countries, there are yet more ruins, yet more civilian casualties, and yet more displaced people. And we have not got to Ukraine, North Korea or the South China Sea, all potential flashpoints for NATO or the US.
Meanwhile, a network of 800 military bases spread across 172 countries helps enable US wars and interventions. By the count of the Pentagon, at the end of the last fiscal year about 291,000 personnel (including reserves and Department of Defense civilians) were deployed in 183 countries worldwide, which is the functional definition of a military uncontained.
Yet, none of the above operations are principal focus of American National Security Policy, as enunciated in December. That sees the world as a zero-sum game with rivals Russia and China. What is good for the China and Russia is bad for America, and vice versa. The notion of common interest in peace has taken a lower priority.
But the President seldom mentions Russia and China in this sense. In fact, Trump passed on an opportunity to impose sanctions on Russia for its subversion of the US political process.
National Security has been outsourced completely to the military, as well as the the current wars. The only conflict in which Trump has a tweeting interest is the one against ISIS, which plays well to his brand and his base. Otherwise, Afghanistan got a fleeting mention in his State of the Union speech. Burgeoning conflicts in Occupied Palestine, Kurdistan and Lebanon (where 2 million Syrian refugees have destabilised politics) were ignored. The QATAR - Saudi squabble is still unresolved.
US troop increases in the Middle East and their increased aggression were passed over the President.
Trump also promises to spend even more on the American military, including on a new generation of nuclear weapons. With an Administration and a Congressional Majority who have blown out the Federal Deficit with tax cuts for the wealthy, it is clear that the money for this can only come from Welfare, Medicare and other programmes.
Rhetoric and Reality
In his presidential campaign, Trump was presented as a shrewd businessman who could cast a sharp eye over America's overseas military and aid commitments. "Re-balancing" is a necessity for America, if it is not to destroy itself by overstretch.
Trump's focus, if he could be said to have one, is on ISIS and Islam, mainly in regard to immigration. Preventing ISIS assaults within the US is important of course, but ISIS as a strategic threat ranks far, far below Russia and China, according to Trump's own signed-off National Security Policy.
It is excellent to report that the fears that Trump would engage in a precipitate withdrawal of American forces did not happen. But the needed review and re-balancing has not happened either. In his attitude to the military, Trump has all the appearances of a indulgent sugar-daddy. He has ticked the box "All of the Above" when it comes to choosing where America will be heavily involved and what its long-term objectives are.
As the French statesman, Georges Clemenceau said: "War is too important to be left to generals". The State Department has been decimated of its senior diplomats, and Rex Tillerson reduced to anonymity. The US does not even have an Ambassador to South Korea. The proposed individual was canned for saying that attacking North Korea was not a good idea.
There is a terrible incoherence at the heart of American foreign and military policy, and its name is Trump.