Small Wars Journal

Trump Scolds U.S. Generals on Afghanistan

U.S. President Donald Trump has criticized U.S. generals for not defeating the Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan after 19 years of involvement. Speaking to reporters at a Cabinet meeting Wednesday, Trump said the generals were given "all the money they wanted" and "didn't do such a great job in Afghanistan." The president questioned justification for the expense in a country thousands of miles away from the United States.


Bill M:

Note that, as per your thoughts below, the Soviets/the communists -- if they had won the Old Cold War -- and whenever and wherever in the world that they chose to thereafter --  could have said that: 

a.  THEY were invading, intervening, interfering in the outlying states and societies of the world; this:

b.  So as to "cure" the common problems (for example: "terrorism") which typically emanate from "weak, failed, failing states;" these such common problems:

c.  Typically stemming from states and societies who had not, as yet, been adequately organized, ordered and oriented more along (in this case) Soviet/communists political, economic, social and value lines.

(Indeed, should we not agree that, if the Soviets/the communists has won the Old Cold War, then this is [a]  EXACTLY what we would have expected the Soviets/the communists to do; herein, the U.S./the West hoping that they [the Soviets/the communists] -- re: these such initiatives -- would run into [b] EXACTLY the same type problems that the U.S./the West has run into post-the Old Cold War?)   

Bottom Line Thought -- Based on the Above:

As Morgenthau notes below, for both the the Soviets/the communists and the U.S./the West,

a.  IT IS NOT such things as "terrorism" that actually drives their/our interventionist and/or nation-building trains.  Rather, in both such cases, 

b.  It is our expansionist ideologies that drive their/our such "trains."   

(Ideologies which tell us, since at least the beginning of the Old Cold War, that such thing as "Westphalian sovereignty" no long exists -- no longer applies -- this, specifically because it stands in their/our "expansionist" way?)

Hans Morgenthau, 1967, "To Intervene or Not to Intervene:"

"... the Cold War has not only been a conflict between two world powers but also a contest between two secular religions. And like the religious wars of the seventeenth century, the war between communism and democracy does not respect national boundaries. It finds enemies and allies in all countries, opposing the one and supporting the other regardless of the niceties of international law.  Here is the dynamic force which has led the two superpowers to intervene all over the globe, sometimes surreptitiously, sometimes openly, sometimes with the accepted methods of diplomatic pressure and propaganda, sometimes with the frowned upon instruments of covert subversion and open force."…


Bill C.  You are mis-characterizing why we are there, which is very much to fight terrorists and prevent another 9/11 attack. We are not there based on expansionism and transformation, but unfortunately, the ways and means we pursued going after terrorists defaulted to the failed concept of nation building.  To clarify we're not there to nation build, we're conducting nation building to fight terrorism. I don't think this approach works, and as you pointed out has only made the situation worse.  The Taliban were not popular with the Afghan people when our military first went in, they were happy to be liberated from these thugs. What a different a few years make.  Because we conflated nation building with counterterrorism and treating the insurgents as terrorists, etc. we made a mess and actually created the conditions for extremism to spread.  The Generals are partly to blame, but the real fault lies with our policy makers. 

Bill C.

Fri, 01/04/2019 - 11:22am

As noted in recent articles -- such as the one that I provide immediately below -- President Trump appears to not understand:

a.  Why the Soviets/the communists were in Afghanistan in the 1980's.  Nor does he appear to understand:

b.  Why the U.S./the West has been in Afghanistan (et al.) since the 2000s.    

As to my item "a" above (Trump's lack of understanding as to Soviet/communist involvement in Afghanistan in the 1980s), consider the following: 


"The reason Russia was in, in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia. They were right to be there. The problem is it was a tough fight. And literally they went bankrupt. They went into being called Russia again as opposed to the Soviet Union," he (Trump) added.

The Soviet Union, which was comprised of Russia and several now independent Eastern European and Asian nations, did in fact invade Afghanistan amid Cold War tensions with the US.

    But Trump's assertion that Russia was "right to be there" conflicts with the fact that the US strongly opposed the invasion and supported the guerrilla insurgency that ultimately forced the Soviets to leave in 1988.

    His claim that the incursion was a response to "terrorists going into Russia" also diverges with what the US believed, that it was part of the Soviet effort to spread communism.

    END QUOTE  (Item in parenthesis above is mine.)

    As to my item "b" above (Trumps lack of understanding as to U.S./Western involvement in Afghanistan since the 2000s), note that the reason that we have been in Afghanistan since 9/11; this, likewise, would seem to have:

    a.  Much less to do with terrorism and

    b.  Much more to do with "expansionism,"  to wit: the mission to spread one's own, unusual and unique, political, economic, social and value model throughout the world.   

    One could argue that -- much like the U.S./the West post-the Old Cold War -- the Soviets/the communists during the Old Cold War believed that:

    a.  The best path for dealing with the problems of the world; this was to:

    b.  Invade, intervene, interfere, etc.; this, so as to:

    c.  "Transform" the "outlying" states and societies of the world more along one's own -- unusual and unique -- political, economic, social and value lines.

    But this such thinking, of course, fails to acknowledge that it is indeed:

    a.  Exactly these such "expansionist" missions and activities that are, in fact,

    b.  The "root cause" of these such continuing conflicts. 

    Bottom Line Thought -- Based on the Above: 

    If my characterization of the conflicts above (the Afghans v. the Soviets/the communists in the 1980s; the Afghans v. the U.S./the West since the 2000s) is correct.

    Then might one say that "failure" -- in both such cases -- has:

    a.  Much less to do with what "generals" can do or provide.  And

    b.  Much more to do with what Soviet/communist -- and/or the U.S./the West -- political, economic, social and value models can provide.

    (This such "deficiency," thus, not being something that "generals," per se, can either [a] be blamed for and/or [b] hope to overcome?)