Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Taking the War Cap Seriously

A while back, I posted how we ought to think about American wars as like the salary caps in the NFL and NBA: that at some point, there is a limit of how much you can be doing (paying in the metaphor) at one time.  The basic idea is that the US can only fight so many wars at a time.  Remember when people thought Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan were stupid for opening up multi-front wars?

It is not so much that fighting in multiple theaters opens up the US to attack from multiple directions but that the US does not have infinite numbers of soldiers, sailors, pilots, ships, planes and, yes, dollars, not to mention officials to run many wars at once.  Right now, the US is fighting wars of varying sizes in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan (the drone war is still a thing, right?), and some others that I am probably forgetting.  None of these are at the levels of the simultaneous campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq that quite nearly broke the US Army.  The costs of that particular situation, two wars at once, are still being felt today in terms of readiness (how many planes and ships are crashing these days?) and will be felt for the next seventy years in terms of costs for taking care of those served and were wounded.  The question is not whether the US spent a trillion dollars but how many trillions thus far and how many left to spend. 

Yet the Trump administration seems to be moving towards not just one more war but two.  The new Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, has issued a list of demands for Iran that kind of resemble the ultimatum given to Serbia before World War I--a list designed to be rejected (h/t to Ben Dennison).  We knew Pompeo to be a hawk on Iran, we knew Bolton to be one as well.  Given that the Iran deal is better than what we could possibly expect for a NK deal, their idea of "fixing the deal" seems incredibly insincere and actually a step towards war,  And, yes, this war would be harder than Iraq--a much bigger population, much greater spaces for the US military to cover, more support for the government the more the US tries to impose itself, and on and on.  Low hanging fruit this is not.  Yet, if the US had to have a new war, I would prefer a war with Iran than one with North Korea.

Yes, the diplomacy pre-summit is turning into a shitshow.  All of the traits of the Trump administration are in full display: a lack of seriousness and preparation, Trump being baited by tweets and by meetings that are as substantial as tweets, the influence of warmongers (NK is not the only ones who feel repugnance towards Bolton), and on and on.  Robert Kelly explained this all very well in a series of tweets and then another one--Moon, South Korea's President has been desperately seeking a way of out of war, which led to this moment of hope and then wildly inflated expectations over de-nuking, and now Trump feeling betrayed.  Which means war is back to being in play in a big way.

The US military is not ready for either an Iran war or a North Korea war.  Either one would disrupt the global economy with oil skyrocketing in price if there is another war involving the Persian Gulf and the destruction of one of the 11 or so biggest economies in the world and maybe the third if Japan gets hit hard if the latter war happens.  The American people are not ready either as either would produce more casualties than they have grown to expect.  A war with North Korea would kill more Americans in the first days than all of the troops lost in combat since Vietnam.  Oh, and the civilian casualties will be unlike anything the US has experienced since .... I have no idea.

Either of these words would explode the deficit even further than the misbegotten tax cut, and each one would wreak such damage as to make us forget that the US is already involved in a half dozen wars (or more).  So, not only are we already above the war cap, this government is contemplating adding one or two super-expensive yet unproductive stars to our team of wars (I am thinking of the Washington football team's free agents, but I will take nominations for other disasters).

All of this is awful and going to get even more so.  Good thing the GOP is getting what it wanted (more bad SCOTUS decisions) when it sold its soul and sold out the country.  All I know is that I wish we could fire the general manager, the coach, and the entire staff of this team.  Alas, it ain't gonna happen.

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