Above Photo: President Trump addresses nation on South Asia strategy
During his presidency, George Bush remarked that conducting American foreign policy was like playing chess in three dimensions.
Now President Trump, in what was his most lauded speech since he announced his run for president, has committed an unspecified number of new soldiers to the fight and the United States to a new strategy in Afghanistan.
Inevitably, his critics on the left and even some on the right questioned the wisdom of this, given that the sixteen-year Afghan campaign makes it America’s longest war and one that we’ve lost because roughly 50% of the country is now in the hands of our enemies.
Before commenting on Trump’s new chess move, let me discredit his critics’ gambit:
- The Afghan war is not the nation’s longest by a long shot. The Cold War, which was not cold, was our longest. It lasted from 1945, beginning at the close of World War II, until the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989. It comprised two theaters of war, Korea and Viet Nam, where over 100,000 American boys lost their lives.
- We can’t abandon our allies in the Afghan government and its loyalists to be slaughtered by the Taliban, ISIS, and al Qaeda if we are to continue to be trusted by our allies all around the world.
- We must not forget that the 9/11 plot was hatched in a terrorist-run Afghanistan. Allowing it to be again a Mecca for jihadists, a safe haven where they can train and plot is to risk an attack far greater and far costlier.
So, Trump has announced that he would not make the mistake of his “junior-varsity” predecessor and issue to the world a date certain when US troops would be withdrawn from Afghanistan. Rather we will stay until the battle is won. What does this mean? I think it means that we will stay in Afghanistan permanently, just as we have in Japan, Germany, and Korea. With a nuclear-armed Pakistan on its eastern border and a soon to be nuclear-armed Iran on its west, the neighborhood is simply too dangerous for the United States not to have a military presence.
In my second book, Lessons from Fallen Civilizations, Vol. II, I posit, with the rise of resurgent militant Islam, now allied with Iran, North Korea, Russia, and China, the US may be forced to look at and adopt portions of the Roman Empire’s model of conquest. By the late third century BC, it was perfected by the Roman General, Scipio, after his armies conquered Carthaginian Spain. Under the heading – The Roman System of Patronage, I write:
The system was multifaceted but the portion which applied to conquered peoples worked as follows: Upon their defeat, the commanding Roman general became their patron. He became those conquered peoples’ advocate upon his return to Rome. Immediately upon their surrender, warrior elites of the newly conquered were made to understand that the very same general who had defeated them would become their patron and benefactor. Their patron would use his power to advocate for them and ensure that they would get equal protection under Roman law, no matter which magistrate was ultimately assigned to be their provincial ruler.
As provincials, opportunities to share in the burgeoning wealth of the empire, and ultimately full citizenship, was afforded to them. It was a demanding system that necessitated sending embassies to Rome to maintain or renew contact should the patron die and jurisdiction pass to a son. A patron, out of honor and tradition, would advocate for his provincials’ public works projects such as the construction of roads, new ports facilities, military fortifications, and aqueducts. These projects produced wealth for the client provincials, lots of well-paying jobs, and a new phenomenon – a rapidly-expanding middle class. It was a peculiar, yet brilliant, system for assimilating new subjects very rapidly and eliciting from them almost instant loyalty.
Historians believe that the system grew out of the Romans’ keen interest in understanding the people they had come to rule.
In my book, I go on to point out that this Roman model was similar to the one headed up by General Mac Arthur in America’s occupation of Japan at the close of World War II. And I theorize that US foreign policy mavens may inevitably come to the realization that some portions of the Middle East may need to be permanently occupied. But that it could be done in a fashion where both sides win.
A US general in charge of Afghanistan (or Northern Iraq for that matter) would need to protect the safety of those indigenous citizenry working on infrastructure projects such as roads and bridges but also those internationals working for US- based firms conducting mining projects or natural gas explorations.
The question they should ask—Why wouldn’t the son of poor opium farmer in Afghanistan not want to work for a multinational energy company?
But unfortunately, any attempt by the US to make its occupation of foreign lands pay for itself will be met with outrage from not only international adversaries but from our own pacifist, vehemently anti-right left.
Therefore, it will require a president capable of playing chess in 3-D.