On the final Memorial Day weekend of the Obama administration, the soon to be astonishingly young ex-Commander-in-Chief has some recent successes to savor on the security front. But, as usual, he has to worry that his message isn't getting through a cacophonous environment and wonder if any of his geopolitical initiatives would survive the election of the present media culture's ultimate Frankenstein monster.
And we all -- well, those of us who think about world politics -- have to wonder if what we know squares with what is really going on in the largely secret Long War being conducted in our name throughout the past two presidencies.
The Obama administration was thrilled to announce that it succeeded in killing Mullah Mansour, the leader of the Afghan Taliban, while he returned to his home in Pakistan after reportedly receiving medical treatment in Iran. The Taliban under Mansour had succeeded in repeatedly embarrassing the US-led effort in Afghanistan with tenacious and audacious shows of striking power and deep influence over vast swathes of the Central Asian failed state. And Mansour had proved to be an intractable element when it came to Obama's desire to negotiate an end to the Afghan War, now the longest running in American history.
But Mansour's successor, reactionary religious scholar Mullah Akhundzada, seems, if anything, even more intransigent and dyed-in-the-wool religionist as the man we just killed. Will he be intimidated into following our lead by the drone strike death of his predecessor?
If there's one thing we have learned by now -- a fact quite knowable before all this to those with any familiarity with Afghanistan -- it's that Afghans don't get intimidated. If they weren't intimidated by the utter ruthlessness of Russian force in the heyday of the Soviet empire, the prospect of premature martyrdom at the hands of our highly sanitized and secretive technological war machine probably won't suffice.
The Obama administration chortled a bit at how the unilateral decapitation strike revealed erstwhile ally Pakistan's culpability in the jihadist crusade. But, more than a decade after Pakistani leaders took billions in aid from the Bush/Cheney administration and established jihadist safe havens in the bargain, we're still largely dependent on the good offices of Pakistan. And the strike also showed that our supposed new moderate friends in Iran are actually playing ball with the Taliban movement they helped to bring down, at least for a while, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. That ain't progress, folks, that's regression.
This in turn cast another of the administration's accomplishments on the radical Islamist conflict front -- credible gains in pushing back the boundaries of the Islamic State -- into ironic relief. For the early signs of success for US-backed Iraqi forces moving against Isis-controlled Fallujah are accompanied by the reality of heavy Iranian involvement in the effort. It would seem, once again, that we toppled Saddam only to turn over what Iraqi government there is to the very players that Saddam kept in check.
The purpose of Memorial Day is to reflect on the sacrifices of the past and present and to consider the future. Once again, it is clear that we badly need to examine and assess our far-flung interventions against radical Islam, many if not most of which are conducted in secrecy.
What are we actually accomplishing? It's hard to say.
There's certainly no good reason to assume that the secret wars of the post-9/11 era have gone much better than our mostly disastrous public wars.
Also looming large this Memorial Day is the increasingly possible presidency of one Donald J. Trump. If you think that the would-be New World Order has long since devolved into New World Chaos, and it has, just consider what would happen under the pathologically dishonest and erratic, deeply arrogant and profoundly shallow neo-fascist bully boy.
Just in recent days, Trump has repeatedly agreed to and reneged on a debate with Bernie Sanders, vowed to destroy the hard-won global climate change accord and pursue a backward-looking energy policy that would cook the planet, declared that obviously drought-ridden California has no drought, and opined that little old Oakland -- which is about to host Game 7 of the NBA Western Conference Finals -- may be the "most dangerous place" in the world. Has this guy ever gotten beyond his monied confines?
Trump, who falsely claimed he opposed the invasion of Iraq yet gets away with it in this deeply dysfunctional ADD media culture, was a chickenhawk Vietnam War draft dodger. He says he "feels like" a veteran because his father sent the difficult teenage boy Donald to military school.
Trump is a buffoonish charlatan who knows nothing of the world politics and military affairs discussed here. Yet he is shrewd and endlessly manipulative, the most dangerous sort of coward: A man always driven to appear "tough" and in command even when he clearly has no idea what he is talking about.
He trashed a genuine hero, John McCain, last summer and got away with it. Now he's swept to the Republican presidential nomination, something only a few of us thought would happen.
He feels emboldened. We should feel afraid.
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