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The incentives for endless war


Joe Biden, at immense political cost, ended the 20-year war in Afghanistan. He has also drastically reduced drone airstrikes. This is a quite remarkable record, and you’d like to think that people focused on opposing American militarism would have his back against the relentless attacks of the Blob.

The problem is that people like Jeremy Scahill are as committed to Everyone Is The Same narratives as Ron Fournier himself:

There isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between what Biden is doing and what Bernie would be doing on foreign policy had he won the nomination, and his reward is a dumber-than-a-bag-of-dead-hawks piece in The Intercept implying that he’s just George W. Bush redux. Consider this paragraph:

This reflexive bipartisan militarism stands in stark opposition to the Democratic Party’s sweeping and fallacious rhetoric that the bad face of the U.S. emerges only when Republicans seize executive power — and that the sole remedy is electing Democrats. Civilian victims of Barack Obama’s drone strikes might have another view. Before Trump, according to Democratic doctrine, the evils of U.S. policy originated with George W. Bush and his “co-president” Dick Cheney. Yet under both Trump and Bush, the rhetoric from many Democrats was pathologically disconnected from their support for ever-expanding militarist and surveillance policies.

It’s not just that you would have no idea from this graf that the use of drone strikes got much worse under Trump, it’s that the story stops in January 2021! Electing a Democratic president has, in fact, led to a dramatic reduction in drone warfare, but “both parties are the same” is his only note and he’s going to keep playing it. (He quietly mentions the reduction way, way down in the piece, but then turns to a small number of drone strikes to ridiculously imply that nothing has really changed.)

And while he has to mention the war in Afghanistan, you won’t be surprised to learn that he assigns most of the credit to Trump:

It is not difficult to imagine a plausible alternative scenario in which Biden kept small teams of CIA and JSOC operators inside Afghanistan for years to come, as he proposed in 2009 when he was vice president and argued against the surge. The option to keep a few thousand troops was being pushed by military officials as well as some influential Democratic senators. That could have laid the groundwork for episodic surges of conventional forces, as happened after Obama withdrew from Iraq. Biden clearly did not want to face the prospect of taking ownership of an utterly failed 20-year-old war that was always going to end with the Taliban in power. While he deserves credit for staying the course on withdrawal, it was Trump who put that policy into motion.

Sorry, but this is total bullshit. Setting a target for withdrawal is the easy part, and everything about Trump’s actual performance in office suggests he would have folded like a 25-cent card table as soon as the pushback from the Blob started. Trump had 4 years to end the war and didn’t. Biden ended the war, Biden got the fierce pushback, Biden gets (from the perspective of the war’s opponents) the credit for it. But the really remarkable thing is Scahill’s implication that the politically expedient choice was to leave Afghanistan. This is just Alice In Wonderland stuff. Not only is Biden being denied his due credit for making an extremely difficult but correct choice, Scahill is denying that it was even a difficult choice at all.

And here we see how the media as a whole is so wired for endless war. While the mainstream press savaged Biden for withdrawing, many alleged opponents of the war are coming up with silly, convoluted reasons why Biden doesn’t deserve credit for it. This kind of “everybody is equally bad” analysis from the ostensible left likes to see itself as tough-minded. But it’s actually puerile and above all counterprodictuve. If you’re equally likely to get a speeding ticket whether you speed or not, why would you stop speeding?

The Blob is going its best to ensure that presidents don’t cross it lest their popularity be permanently damaged. Scahill is just assisting with their dirty work while pretending to oppose them, which is in some ways even worse.

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