- - Friday, May 5, 2017


President Donald Trump inherited a 15-year-old unwinnable, unconstitutional war in Afghanistan. At its high-water mark, the war was hemorrhaging dollars at a staggering rate of $128 billion per annum, or more than $300 million per day.  

President Trump can rid himself of this Afghan albatross by following the U.S. Constitution that he has taken an oath to uphold and defend.  Its Declare War Clause (Article I, section 8, clause 11) fastens on Members of Congress exclusive responsibility for deciding on war or peace. A highly risk-averse talking shop, Congress has never and will never declare the United States a co-belligerent with our puppet Afghan government in its wars against the Afghan Taliban, al Qaeda, or the Islamic State (ISIL or ISIS). All three are infinitesimal existential threats to the United States. An American has a greater risk of dying from a falling vending machine.

Every participant in the drafting, debating and ratifying of the Constitution celebrated its sacralization of peace unless Congress voted to declare war.  In 1805, President Thomas Jefferson explained in a Message to Congress: “Considering that Congress alone is constitutionally invested with the power of changing our condition from peace to war, I have thought it my duty to await their authority for using force in any degree which could be avoided.”

Since World War II, however, the Declare War Clause has been uniformly flouted by the President with congressional complicity so that the President may wear the extra-constitutional title of World Leader.  But recidivism in violating the Clause does not exculpate lawlessness.  The U.S. Supreme Court, for example, held five decades of legislative vetoes unconstitutional in violation of the separation of powers in Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Chadha (1983).

As required by his constitutional oath, President Trump should inform Congress that absent a declaration of war against the Afghan puppet government’s enemies within 30 days, he will withdraw all American troops, trainers, or advisors deployed in Afghanistan and cease all other military support for the Afghan armed forces.

Depend upon it.  Congress will do nothing.  It did nothing in 2013 when President Barack Obama sought congressional authority for war against Syria.  It refused to declare war against Serbia in 1999 over Kosovo.  In 227 years, Congress has declared war in only five conflicts, and only in cases of actual or perceived aggression against territory of the United States, i.e., in self-defense. 

Congress would gain nothing by declaring war against the Afghan puppet government’s enemies.  Congressional powers are eclipsed by the Executive Branch in times of war.  Members get no commemorative monuments or obelisks by voting for war.  Taxes must be raised or money borrowed to fund the war effort.  Moreover, war runs contrary to the hyper-cautious and procrastinating legislative personality.

Additionally, the Afghan war is as unwinnable as was Vietnam.  After 16 years, there is no light at the end of the tunnel. We have no definition of victory beyond, “We’ll know it when we see it.”  Our Afghan puppet government is corrupt, inept, tribal, sectarian, brutal, and unpopular.  Ghost soldiers fill the ranks of the Afghan armed forces.  Opium production is soaring.  Elections are earmarked by massive fraud.  The loyalties of Afghans are parochial, not national.  They unite only when foreigners invade.  They rebuffed the British Empire three times, for example, and defeated the Soviet invasion of 1979.

Russia and China are supporting the Afghan Taliban to weaken the United States.  They supported North Vietnam in the Vietnam War for the same reason.

The hopelessness of our Afghanistan war was highlighted by an April 27, 2017, column in The Washington Post, “Four steps to winning peace in Afghanistan,” authored by former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley and U.S. Institute of Peace gurus Andrew Wilder and Scott Warden.  Their four-point strategy is as delusional as the World War II admiral’s plan to destroy Nazi submarine fleet by boiling the oceans to force the vessels to surface.   Step one is to kill all Islamic State and al Qaeda elements in Afghanistan by doing the same thing we have been doing for sixteen years without result.  It shares a pedigree with Gen. William Westmoreland’s request for 200,000 more troops in Vietnam on the heels of North Vietnam’s Tet Offensive.  Step two is to purge the Afghan government of corruption, which would cause its immediate collapse or defection to the highest bidder.  The C.I.A. kept President Hamid Karzai in line by periodically delivering bundles of cash while he was simultaneously mulcting Iran of lesser sums.  Step three is to develop a peace process that makes Afghans Canadians, i.e., they all concurrently decide to turn their swords into plowshares and make war no more.  Step four is to convince all of Afghanistan’s scorpion neighbors—Iran, Pakistan, Russia, India, and China — to subordinate their conflicting national interests to make Afghanistan stable, i.e., to stop acting like nation-states.  In sum, the Hadley-Wilder-Warden peace plan is the very definition of utopian.     

Afghanistan is not worth the bones of a single American soldier.  The departure of our armed forces will not put the United States at risk.  We departed Vietnam without inciting aggression against us.  Ditto for our departures from Subic Bay Naval Base and Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines.  We returned the Panama Canal Zone and the Panama Canal to Panama without triggering an attack.  President Ronald Reagan withdrew American marines from Lebanon in 1984 without undermining our defenses.

If President Trump ended our involvement in the Afghanistan war, he would deserve a Nobel Peace Prize, unlike President Obama’s 2009 Nobel, which made a mockery of peace.  

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