President Obama announced Thursday that the present deployment of 9,800 U.S. troops would remain in Afghanistan throughout the remainder of his term as president. The president cited the “safe haven” narrative to justify changing his former plan to withdraw from the war-torn nation in 2016.
“As commander in chief, I will not allow Afghanistan to be used as a safe haven for terrorists to attack our nation again,” Obama said. “Afghan forces are still not as strong as they need to be.”
A few days earlier, U.S. Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley told Morning Joe, “I think Afghanistan, as long as we stick with them, and we continue with the current program, and continue to resource that appropriately, I think Afghanistan will turn out ok.” When asked what “Ok” means, Milley gave substantively the same answer.
This is important, because it attempts to establish that U.S. military operations in the Middle East are somehow protecting the lives, liberty or property of American taxpayers. Supposedly, having “safe haven” camps to train and “radicalize” new terrorists is an essential element in the ongoing jihad against the United States.
It’s a convenient story, but it isn’t remotely true. That terrorists need to be “radicalized” in overseas camps before they’ll commit terrorist attacks in America wasproven demonstrably false by the Tsarnaev brothers in 2012. U.S. authorities tried desperately to establish the elder Tsarnaev had joined a militant group in Dagestan before plotting to kill innocent people in Boston, but failed. It turned out he had been radicalized right here in the USA.
That there are terrorists who seek to inflict harm on Americans is not in dispute. But who they are, how they’re organized, what motivates them and how effective conventional military tactics are in fighting them definitely is.
If you’re feeling outrageously generous and decide to give the government the benefit of the doubt on the Middle East, there is still the rest of the world to deal with. Why are 38,015 American troops still stationed in Germany? Why are 49,030 still in Japan and 29,041 still in Korea?
This is where supporters of the American empire start talking gibberish. They serve up empty slogans about America being “exceptional” and having a “special mission on the world stage.” We’re told that when America pulls back from “engagement” (i.e. bombing and invading) in any particular region, other countries will “fill the void.”
How are American taxpayers harmed if Germany, France and England “fill the void” left by demobilization of American troops in Europe? The troops were initially deployed as occupiers after WWII and remained during the Cold War as a deterrent to the Soviet Union.
Both the Nazis and the Soviets are long gone. That Putin represents the same kind of threat to Europe as Stalin or Khrushchev, based solely on Putin’s efforts to protect to Russia’s only two warm water ports, in Crimea and Syria, is patently absurd. Even if it weren’t, why are American taxpayers financially responsible to deter him?
American troops have been deployed almost as long in South Korea, supposedly protecting one of the richest countries in the world from one of the poorest. Why?
There seems even less reason for American troops to remain in Japan, where they were stationed to occupy the Japanese Empire following its surrender to the United States in 1945. Seventy years later, they’re still there. Why?
One justification given for the deployments in Japan are to “contain China.” Putting aside that the government is failing miserably at doing so, what benefit would American taxpayers derive from containing China if it could be done? What theoretical harm comes to them if China is not contained?
Once the ridiculous arguments are disposed of for how these military operations actually benefit the people who pay for them, proponents typically fall back on appeals to Americans’ generosity. Because they are lucky enough to live in the richest, most powerful nation in the world, they are somehow obligated to go broke defending every other. This begs the question:
How did American taxpayers become financially responsible for the liberty and security of every soul on the planet and when will this responsibility end?
Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.