Tag Archives: Donald Trump

Congress Should Just Say No to Trump’s Afghanistan Surge

SANGIN, Afghanistan - American and British sol...
SANGIN, Afghanistan – American and British soldiers take a tactical pause during a combat patrol in the Sangin District area of Helmand Province April 10 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With the US occupation of Afghanistan well into its sixteenth year and the country no closer to becoming a stable democracy than it was in late 2001, Antiwar.com reports that this isn’t an “all options are on the table” scenario.

President Donald Trump seems to have rejected the idea of withdrawing US troops and ending the war. Instead, he intends to become the third president in a row to roll the dice on a “surge” — that is, to send in more troops (the initial estimate is anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 more in addition to the current 8,400) and hope for the best.

That idea has never worked before and it’s not going to magically start working now. If Trump can’t bring himself to put an end to America’s Afghanistan misadventure, Congress should force him to do so by either repealing its “Authorization for the Use of Military Force” or using its power of the purse to cut off funding for military operations in Afghanistan.

The US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan has been nothing but epic fail from the very beginning.

First, it was quite likely unnecessary. After the 9/11 attacks — carried out by terrorists from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Lebanon — president George W. Bush demanded that Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers hand over Saudi national Osama bin Laden. The Taliban offered to remand him to a third, neutral country upon the presentation of evidence, even though they were under no obligation to do so in the absence of an extradition treaty. Rather than proffer the requested evidence, Bush chose war.

Secondly, instead of invading, finding, and capturing or killing bin Laden and coming home, the troops were set to play at the game of “nation-building.” While they toppled the Taliban regime and began setting up what they hoped would become a western-style democracy instead of immediately going after bin Laden in the caves of Tora Bora, he and his compatriots made their escape over the border into Pakistan. It was nearly another decade before bin Laden was hunted down and assassinated.

Finally, even after it became clear that the forces which denied the Soviets victory in a decade-long war from 1979-89 could and would do the same versus US forces, first Bush and then Barack Obama just kept doubling down, pouring American blood and treasure by the gallon into soil from which peace and democracy refused to sprout. Trump apparently wants to go down in history as Afghanistan failmaster number three.

The US occupation will never achieve its purported goals. If Afghanistan is going to change, it will be the Afghans who change it. They’re not interested in being told how to live by Russians, by Americans, or by anyone else. Can’t say as I blame them.

This column is dedicated to the memory of R. Lee Wrights (1958-2017)

Note: The original version of this column claimed that the Taliban offered to hand Osama bin Laden over to the US on presentation of evidence implicating him in the 9/11 attacks. In fact, the Taliban’s offer was to hand bin Laden over to a “third party” country. Thanks to Jacob Hornberger for the correction.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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Trump’s Security Tab: A Good Case for Separation of Church and State

Photo of President Bush with Secret Service Ag...
Photo of President Bush with Secret Service Agents, Presidential Limousine and Air Force One. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Palm Beach County, Florida Commissioner Dave Kerner wants to tax a resort. Nothing unusual about that — politicians love to mug tourists in the name of “economic development” —  except that the resort in question is Mar-a-Lago, US president Donald Trump’s private club and preferred getaway spot when he tires of the White House.

Kerner complains that Trump’s visits cost the county government $60,000 a day in police overtime and other expenses and wants to turn the resort into a “special taxing district” to claw back that money.

Business owners at the local airport have complaints as well. The Secret Service shuts them down whenever Trump’s in the neighborhood, costing them thousands. A new tax doesn’t address those complaints. What’s really needed is some good old-fashioned separation of church and state.

Every time a president goes anywhere, a giant, expensive, purpose-built security apparatus goes with him. And when he gets there, entire city governments drop whatever they’re doing to shut down the streets and ensure that the Divine Presence remains undisturbed by the presence and activities of mere mortals.

The national media issues breathless breaking news reports, followed by endless updates, whenever some idiot climbs over the White House fence and profanes the sacred grass of the North Lawn with the soles of his unconsecrated shoes.

Treating presidents and former presidents as God-Kings at taxpayer expense violates the First Amendment’s establishment clause. It’s ceremonial observance of an official state religion, a religion the Libertarian Party’s Statement of Principles calls “The Cult of The Omnipotent State.”

In theory, the president is just a mere citizen, the guy we elected to do a particular job.

Why should he be entitled to any more personal security at taxpayer expense than you or me?

Why should the highways that we all pay for be closed to us whenever he happens to want to barge through with his motorcade?

Why should people with plans to fly — commercially or privately — be held up for hours or days just because that plane landing over there happens to be Air Force One?

No reason at all, unless you’re of a religious bent.

Instead of enacting a new tax on Mar-a-Lago, Palm Beach County’s government should inform Donald Trump that there will be no special police accommodations for his presence, and tell the Secret Service that attempts to shut down the airport will earn them free accommodations at the county’s correctional facility.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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Budgets, Taxes, Deficits and Debt; or, Mulvaney Versus the Math

English: South Carolina State Senator Mick Mul...
South Carolina State Senator (now director of the US Office of Management and Budget) Mick Mulvaney speaking in front of a crowd in Newberry, SC, in August of 2010 during his run for the U.S. House of Representatives. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“What you see in this budget is exactly what the president ran on,” US Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “Good Morning America” in late February.

The president’s overall budget proposal is still under wraps and hasn’t been sent to Congress yet, but Mulvaney was making the media rounds to flack for its first big component: A $54 billion increase in military spending.

Mulvaney’s claim is true as far as it goes. Donald Trump ran for president on a promise to “rebuild” the most expensive war machine in the world, a “defense” establishment that hasn’t missed a meal since World War Two and that, if cut by 90%, would still be the first or second largest in the world (depending on what China spends from year to year).

Mulvaney didn’t look very happy about it. I don’t blame him. As Stephanopoulos pointed out, Trump made a few other promises, too — and those promises represent an insoluble math problem for the numbers guy.

On one hand, in addition to the increased defense spending, Trump wants a $1 trillion infrastructure program and he’s pledged not to touch Social Security or Medicare spending.

On the other hand, he’s promised to cut taxes.

Even if his hands weren’t so famously small, they’d have trouble holding on to both sets of promises while juggling two more in the air: He’s promised to reduce the federal government’s annual spending deficit and pay down its gigantic debt.

Yes, the “Laffer Curve” predicts the possibility of increased government revenues from general economic growth after tax cuts,  but those numbers still just don’t add up. It’s not possible to spend more, and tax less, and pay down crippling debt, and bring a runaway budget into balance.

Unless Trump and Republicans in Congress are willing to buckle down and get serious about spending cuts (if you’re not serious about cutting military spending, you’re not serious about cutting spending) Mulvaney’s real job for the next four years won’t be balancing budgets, it  will be making excuses.

Fortunately for Trump, he has considerable relevant business experience that he can bring to bear on the problem.

Unfortunately for the rest of us, that experience is in the casino industry where, no fewer than four times, he spent enterprises into insolvency then left his partners holding the bankruptcy bag.

I predict that his presidency will bring that number to five.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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