Well Christmas is over.
A portion of the U.S. government is shut down though not enough to ensure that our elected representatives go unpaid, all because our petulant boy President hasn’t yet got funding for his wall.
The Federal Reserve raised interest rates by 0.25% and Trump immediately inquired whether or not he had the authority to fire the Fed Chairman. Apparently he doesn’t.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost a trillion – that’s trillion dollars in virtual money in December (the worst month since the great depression) and had the worst Christmas Eve in its history. The month isn’t over yet.
Trump blamed the Fed rather than the shockwaves created by his inquiry to fire the independent Fed Chairman.
General Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis, Secretary of Defense, submitted his resignation in a letter to petulant Trump over his decision to leave Syria. The letter took shots at the President over his policies so the Trumpster told him to leave effective January 1. A former Boeing executive (currently #2 at Defense) will take over pro-tem. The new guy supports the Space Force (I wonder why?) and apparently is very good at following orders.
Leave it to the left to pin their hopes on the oddest things. In particular, seeming to find post-Trump solace in the strange combination of the two-year-old Mueller investigation and the good judgment of certain Trump appointees, the proverbial “adults in the room.”
Remember that crew?
It once included Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former ExxonMobil CEO, and a trio of active and retired generals — so much for civilian control of the military — including Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. Until his sudden resignation, Mattis was (just barely) the last man standing. Still, for all these months, many Americans had counted on them to all but save the nation from an unpredictable president. They were the ones supposedly responsible for helming (or perhaps hemming in) the wayward ship of state when it came to foreign and national security policy.
“Too bad it was all such a fantasy. As Donald Trump wraps up his second year in the Oval Office, despite sudden moves in Syria and Afghanistan, the United States remains entrenched in a set of military interventions across significant parts of the world. Worse yet, what those adults guided the president toward was yet more bombing, the establishment of yet more bases, and the funding of yet more oversized Pentagon budgets.”
General Mattis, who presumably doesn’t want to leave Syria had no problem sending 6,000 soldiers to the border with Mexico to “ensure” we weren’t invaded by Guatemalan refugees and he did so without a peep. He was fired by Obama for his obsession with Iran.
Mattis’ obsession with Iran is understandable – Marine Corp Generals have not forgotten the Beirut bombing during the Reagan Administration.
Over the holiday Trump tweeted that “Saudi A will rebuild Syria!” a week after the Republican Senate rebuked the Crown Prince and the Saudis over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
And so he sat alone and isolated in the White House this holiday facing a treacherous 2019. Just about everything he has touched in the last decade is under investigation = his businesses, his charity, his campaign finance committee, his inaugural committee.
And the Dems are not yet in charge in the House.
Meanwhile he lacks a graceful exit from the bind he has gotten himself into over the Mexican wall.
This nation has been at war now for 17 years in Afghanistan. Yesterday there was another suicide bomber and an 8 hour attack on an Afghan government compound. For all the years and blood spend the war doesn’t seem to have accomplished much, We overran the country in two weeks and have been mired there ever since.
In Syria, President Assad remains firmly in power. He has won his war and there will be no regime change. The only group now in danger are the Kurds, opposed by the Iraqis, the Syrians and of course the Turks. Again, the Kurds will fail to get their own nation.
Meanwhile we have been following the same old playbook.
While George W. Bush favored a “go-big” option of regime change, massive military occupation, and armed nation-building, Barack Obama preferred expanded drone strikes, increased military advisory missions, and — in the case of Libya — regime-changing which has left the country in chaos. In Trump’s first two years in office, the U.S. military seemed to merge aspects of the losing strategies of both of those presidents.
“If Trump’s gut instinct was to skip future “dumb” Iraq-style wars, “pull out” of Afghanistan, and avoid regional conflict with Russia, his grown-up advisers pushed him in exactly the opposite direction. They chose instead what might be called the more strategy: more bombing, more troops, more drone strikes, more defense spending, more advisors, more everything. And if a war seemed to be failing anyway, the answer came straight from that very playbook, as in Afghanistan in 2017: a “surge” and the need for yet more time. As a result, America’s longest-ever war grew longer still with no end faintly in sight.”
“Remember when the “adults in the room” were reputed to be outside the box thinkers? Secretary Mattis was initially hailed as such an avid reader and devoted student of military history that he was dubbed the “warrior monk.” H.R. McMaster was similarly hailed for having written a book critical of U.S. strategy in Vietnam. Washington was similarly convinced that if anyone could bring order to the Trump administration, it would be the ever-responsible John Kelly.”
Instead, in Syria we are more mired than ever occupying the east portions of Syria, supporting Kurdish rebels, threatened by NATO ally Turkey with invasion to crush the Kurds and occasionally exchanging fire with Russian troops along the Euphrates neutral zone. Russian and American aircraft have come dangerously close to each other while flying sorties.
In Afghanistan, surges have resulted in the possibility of actually losing the war as the Taliban now controls more territory than ever and government troop losses are at a level considered “unsustainable.”
The adults in the room couldn’t countenance détente with Iran for even a moment and now with Pompeo and Bolton in command we are moving toward regime change in that country.
“Mattis closed his eyes to the Saudi murder of a journalist as well as their unspeakable war and humanitarian disaster in Yemen. . Indeed, despite the recent murder and dismemberment of Washington Post columnist and Saudi citizen Jamal Khashoggi in that country’s embassy in Istanbul, Turkey, and the Senate’s increasing disenchantment with the war in Yemen, Mattis remained a vocal supporter of the Saudis. Just before the Senate recently voted to pull U.S. military assistance for the Saudi war, he joined Pompeo in urging that chamber not to abandon Riyadh. In addition, key senators called Mattis’s testimony “misleading” because he “downplayed” the Saudi crown prince’s role in the murder, ignoring the conclusion of the CIA that the prince was indeed “complicit” in it.”
Elsewhere, matters are hardly more encouraging. At a global level, the grown-ups have neither tempered the president’s more bizarre policies nor offered a humbler, more modest military approach themselves. The result, as the country enters 2019, is an increasingly militarized planet. Mattis’s own National Defense Strategy (NDS), released in January 2018, represents a blatant giveaway to the domestic arms industry, envisioning as it does a world eternally on the brink of Great Power war.
“Mattis’s “2-2-1 policy” had the Pentagon ramping up for potential fights with two “big” adversaries (China and Russia), two “medium” opponents (Iran and North Korea), and one “sustained” challenge (conflicts and terrorism across the Greater Middle East). Few have asked whether such a strategy is faintly sustainable, even with a military budget that dwarfs that of any other power on the planet.”
If it were up to those adults, the United States would be ringing in this New Year with yet another copious serving of militarism. It still may.
Meanwhile the scientific opinions on climate change as well as a Pentagon report on climate change as a national security risk have been poo-pooed by the President as well as the adults in the room.
So as you can see it is hard to lament the departure of the “adults” whose policies have brought us endless war – we have changed Presidents but the policies really have remained the same.
All of the departed adults will find ample work in the military-industrial defense industry. Working for Trump merely polished their credentials and resumes. Trump’s original adults in the room set the table for endless war. Their replacements clearly intended to devour plentiful helpings of the same dishes.
What me worry? Certainly not for myself but for my children and grandson.
On a sadder note, three days before Christmas my brother-in-law whom I have known for 55 years had a massive brain hemorrhage in the parking lot of a chain department store. He was found in his car unconscious and rushed to hospital. He has been in a coma and on a respirator since. He is 88 years old. The prognosis for recovery is not good.
I saw him the Sunday before. Every few weeks I would pickup donuts and visit with him, sharing coffee and a cigar out on his lanai, shooting the breeze.
He and I met in 1963, married two sisters and we had many a laugh over the years about how we both had similar “crosses to bear” and “someone had to do it.”
Our wives’ oldest brother has also lived here many years – and we are, quite unusually, three widowers. He is 80 and I am the youngest at 76. The joke now is “What did you guys do to your wives?”
In 55 years not a single unkind word has passed between us.
And so I will be in and out the blogosphere in the near future.
Best wishes for 2019.