The US Army is Profitable. No, Actually, It Is!

4,000,000,029,057. Keep in mind that quantity. It’s going to come back up once more later.

However let’s start with one other quantity totally: 145,000 — as in, 145,000 uniformed troopers striding down Washington’s Pennsylvania Avenue. That’s the variety of troops who marched down that very avenue in Might 1865 after america defeated the Accomplice States of America. Comparable legions of rifle-toting troops did the similar after World Warfare I ended with the defeat of Germany and its allies in 1918. And Sherman tanks rolling by means of the city canyons of midtown Manhattan? That adopted the conquer the Axis in 1945. That’s what profitable used to appear to be in America — star-spangled, soldier-clogged streets and victory parades.

Enthralled by a martial Bastille Day celebration whereas visiting French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris in July 2017, President Donald Trump referred to as for simply such a parade in Washington.  After its estimated value reportedly ballooned from $10 million to as a lot as $92 million, the American Legion weighed in. That veterans affiliation, which boasts 2.4 million members, issued an August assertion suggesting that the deliberate parade must be placed on maintain “till such time as we are able to have fun victory within the Warfare on Terrorism and produce our army house.” Quickly after, the president introduced that he had canceled the parade and blamed native Washington officers for driving up the prices (regardless that he was evidently by no means briefed by the Pentagon on what its price ticket may be).

The American Legion targeted on the fiscal irresponsibility of Trump’s proposed march, however its postponement ought to have raised an much more important query: What would “victory” within the warfare on terror even appear to be? What, actually, constitutes an American army victory on the planet at present? Would it not in any method resemble the tip of the Civil Warfare, or of the warfare to finish all wars, or of the warfare that made that moniker out of date? And right here’s one other query: Is victory a obligatory prerequisite for a army parade?

The best of these inquiries to resolve is the final one and the American Legion ought to already know the reply. Members of that veterans group performed key roles in a mammoth “We Assist Our Boys in Vietnam” parade in New York Metropolis in 1967 and in a 1973 parade in that very same metropolis honoring veterans of that warfare. Then, 10 years after the final US troops snuck out of South Vietnam — abandoning their allies and scrambling aboard helicopters as Saigon fell — the Massive Apple would host one more parade honoring Vietnam veterans, reportedly the largest such celebration within the metropolis’s historical past. So, fairly clearly, profitable a warfare isn’t a prerequisite for a profitable parade.

And that’s solely one among many classes the disastrous American Warfare in Vietnam nonetheless gives us. Extra salient maybe are people who spotlight the bounds of army may and harmful pressure on this planet or that concentrate on the power of North Vietnam, a “little fourth-rate” nation — to cite Henry Kissinger, the nationwide safety advisor of that second — to greatest a superpower that had beforehand (with a lot help) defeated Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan on the similar time. The Vietnam Warfare — and Kissinger — present a helpful lens by means of which to look at the remaining questions on victory and what it means at present, however extra on that later.

For the second, simply bear in mind: 4,000,000,029,057, Vietnam Warfare, Kissinger.

Peace in Our Time… or Some Time… or No Time

Now, let’s take a second to contemplate the ur-conflict of the warfare on terror, Afghanistan, the place the US started battling the Taliban in October 2001. America’s victory there got here with lightning velocity. The following yr, President George W. Bush introduced that the group had been “defeated.” In 2004, the commander-in-chief reported that the Taliban was “now not in existence.” But, someway, they had been. By 2011, Common David Petraeus, then commander of US forces in Afghanistan, claimed that his troops had “reversed the momentum of the Taliban.” Two years later, then-commander Common Joseph Dunford spoke of “the inevitability of our success” there.

Final August, President Trump unveiled his “Technique in Afghanistan and South Asia.” Its “core pillar” was “a shift from a time-based method to 1 primarily based on situations”; in different phrases, the “arbitrary timetables” for withdrawal of the Obama years had been out. “We are going to push onward to victory with energy in our hearts,” President Trump decreed. “America’s enemies must not ever know our plans or imagine they will wait us out.”

The president additionally introduced that he was placing that warfare squarely within the palms of the army. “Micromanagement from Washington, D.C., doesn’t win battles,” he introduced. “They’re received within the subject drawing upon the judgment and experience of wartime commanders and frontline troopers appearing in actual time, with actual authority, and with a transparent mission to defeat the enemy.” The person on condition that authority was Common John Nicholson who had, actually, been operating the American warfare there since 2016. The final was jubilant and inside months agreed that the battle had “turned the nook” (one thing, by the way in which, that Obama-era Secretary of Protection Leon Panetta additionally claimed — in 2012).

In the present day, nearly 17 years after the warfare started, two years after Nicholson took the reins, one yr after Trump articulated his new plan, victory in any conventional sense is nowhere in sight. Regardless of spending round $900 billion in Afghanistan, because the Particular Inspector Common for Afghanistan Reconstruction decided earlier this yr, “between 2001 and 2017, US authorities efforts to stabilize insecure and contested areas in Afghanistan largely failed.” In accordance with a July 30, 2018, report by that very same inspector normal, the Taliban was by then contesting management of or managed about 44% of that nation, whereas Afghan authorities management and affect over districts had declined by about 16% since Nicholson’s predecessor, Common John Campbell, was in command.

And that was earlier than, final month, the Taliban launched a large-scale assault on a provincial capital, Ghazni, a strategically vital metropolis, and held it for 5 days, whereas taking management of a lot of the province itself. Lastly pushed from town, the Taliban promptly overran a army base in Baghlan Province throughout its withdrawal. And that was simply sooner or later after taking one other Afghan army base. In reality, for the earlier two months, the Taliban had overrun authorities checkpoints and outposts on a near-daily foundation. And remember the fact that the Taliban is now solely a fraction of the story. The US got down to defeat it and al-Qaeda in 2001. In the present day, Washington faces exponentially extra terror teams in Afghanistan — 21 in all, together with an imported franchise from the Iraq Warfare entrance, ISIS, that grew bigger throughout Nicholson’s tenure.

Given this seemingly dismal state of affairs, you may marvel what occurred to Nicholson. Was he cashiered? Fired, Apprentice-style? Quietly ushered out of Afghanistan in shame? Hardly. Just like the 15 US commanders who preceded him, the four-star normal merely rotated out and, at his closing press convention from the warfare zone late final month, was nothing if not upbeat.

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“I imagine the South Asia Technique is the proper method. And now we see that method delivering progress on reconciliation that we had not seen beforehand,” he introduced. “We’ve additionally seen a transparent development within the Taliban’s public statements, from their 14 February letter to the American folks to the current Eid al-Adha message, the place [Taliban leader] Emir Hibatullah acknowledged for the primary time that negotiations will, quote, ‘guarantee an finish to the warfare,’ finish quote.”

Within the occasion that you simply missed these statements from a chastened Taliban on the edge of begging for peace, let me quote from the opening of the latter missive, issued late final month:

“This yr Eid­ al­-Adha approaches us as our Jihadi wrestle in opposition to the American occupation is on the edge of victory as a result of assist of Allah Almighty. The infidel invading forces have misplaced all will of fight, their technique has failed, superior know-how and army gear rendered ineffective, [the] sedition and corruption­-sowing group defeated, and the boastful American generals have been compelled to bow to the Jihadic greatness of the Afghan nation.”

And people conciliatory statements of peace and reconciliation touted by Nicholson? The Taliban says that with the intention to finish “this lengthy warfare” the “lone possibility is to finish the occupation of Afghanistan and nothing extra.”

In June, the seventeenth American nominated to take command of the warfare, Lieutenant Common Scott Miller, appeared earlier than the Senate Armed Providers Committee the place Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) grilled him on what he would do in another way with the intention to deliver the battle to a conclusion. “I can not assure you a timeline or an finish date,” was Miller’s assured reply.

Did the senators then ship him packing? Hardly. He was, actually, simply confirmed and begins work this month. Neither is there any likelihood Congress will use its energy of the purse to finish the warfare. The 2019 funds request for US operations in Afghanistan — topping out at $46.3 billion — will definitely be accredited.


All of this seeming futility brings us again to the Vietnam Warfare, Kissinger, and that magic quantity, 4,000,000,029,057 — in addition to the query of what an American army victory would appear to be at present. It’d shock you, but it surely seems that profitable wars is nonetheless potential and, maybe much more stunning, the US army appears to be doing simply that.

Let me clarify.

In Vietnam, that army aimed to “out-guerrilla the guerrilla.” It by no means did and america suffered a crushing defeat. Henry Kissinger — who presided over the past years of that battle as nationwide safety advisor after which secretary of state — offered his personal concise take on one of many core tenets of uneven warfare: “The standard military loses if it doesn’t win. The guerrilla wins if he doesn’t lose.” Maybe as a result of that eternally well-regarded however hapless statesman articulated it, that components was sure — like a lot else he touched — to crash and burn.

On this century, america has discovered a method to flip Kissinger’s martial maxim on its head and so rewrite the axioms of armed battle. This redefinition may be proved by a easy equation:

0 + 1,000,000,000,000 + 17 +17 + 23,744 + 3,000,000,000,000 + 5 + 5,200 + 74 = 4,000,000,029,057

Expressed in another way, america has not received a significant battle since 1945; has a trillion-dollar nationwide safety funds; has had 17 army commanders within the final 17 years in Afghanistan, a rustic affected by 23,744 “safety incidents” (essentially the most ever recorded) in 2017 alone; has spent round $3 trillion, totally on that warfare and the remainder of the warfare on terror, together with the continuing battle in Iraq, which then-defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld swore, in 2002, could be over in solely “5 days or 5 weeks or 5 months,” however the place roughly 5,000 US troops stay at present; and but 74% of the American folks nonetheless categorical excessive confidence within the US army.

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Let the maths and the implications wash over you for a second. Such a calculus definitively disproves the notion that “the traditional military loses if it doesn’t win.” It additionally helps reply the query of victory within the warfare on terror. It seems that the US army, whose funds and affect in Washington have solely grown in these years, now wins just by not dropping — a multi-trillion-dollar typical military held to the requirements of success as soon as utilized solely to under-armed, under-funded guerilla teams.

Not like within the Vietnam Warfare years, three presidents and the Pentagon, unbothered by fiscal constraints, substantive congressional opposition, or a big antiwar motion, have been successfully pursuing this technique, which requires nothing greater than a gentle provide of troops, contractors, and different assorted camp followers; an infinite parade of Senate-sanctioned commanders; and an annual outlay of tons of of billions of {dollars}. By these requirements, Donald Trump’s open-ended, timetable-free “Technique in Afghanistan and South Asia” could show to be the winningest warfare plan ever. As he described it:

“Any further, victory could have a transparent definition: attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing al-Qaeda, stopping the Taliban from taking up Afghanistan, and stopping mass terror assaults in opposition to America earlier than they emerge.”

Take into consideration that for a second. Victory’s definition begins with “attacking our enemies” and ends with the prevention of potential terror assaults. Let me reiterate: “victory” is outlined as “attacking our enemies.” Below President Trump’s technique, it appears, each time the US bombs or shells or shoots at a member of a type of 20-plus terror teams in Afghanistan, the US is profitable or, maybe, has received. And this technique just isn’t particularly Afghan-centric. It might probably simply be utilized to American warzones within the Center East and Africa — wherever, actually.

A long time after the tip of the Vietnam Warfare, the US army has lastly solved the conundrum of tips on how to “out-guerrilla the guerrilla.” And it couldn’t have been less complicated. You simply undertake the identical definition of victory. Consequently, a standard military — a minimum of the US army — now loses provided that it stops preventing. As long as unaccountable commanders wage benchmark-free wars with out congressional constraint, america merely can not lose. You’ll be able to’t argue with the maths. Name it the rule of 4,000,000,029,057.

That calculus and that sum additionally show, fairly clearly, that America’s beleaguered commander-in-chief has gotten a uncooked deal on his victory parade. With apologies to the American Legion, the US army is now — beneath the brand new guidelines of warfare — triumphant and deserves the kind of celebration proposed by President Trump. After nearly 20 years of warfare, the armed forces have lowered the bar for victory to the extent of their enemy, the Taliban. What was as soon as the mark of failure for a standard military is now the benchmark for achievement. It’s a outstanding feat and deserving, on the very least, of livid flag-waving, ticker tape, and all of the age-old trappings of victory. [TomDispatchfirst published this article.]

The views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially replicate Truthful Observer’s editorial coverage.