Most often, war is used as a simple solution to a misunderstood problem. Those who fight our wars are brave. But those politicians who send our troops to war are simpletons. Their decision to go to war is too often like a solution adopted by the proverbial pack of dogs who get annoyed with cars.

They first invade the roadway and give chase. When a dog finally captures a car, it barks. That is a secret dog code signaling “victory.” But, as the “captured” car pulls away, the dog’s teeth are locked onto the car’s tailpipe. The canine is overcome with confusion. “What can I do with this car now?”

The story always ends in tragedy. The car speeds away and the dog hangs on. The dog dies from carbon monoxide poisoning, and the traffic problem becomes worse than ever.

With very few exceptions, that story is a parable describing America’s adventures in war. It proves that President Donald Trump, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and a broken clock are right twice a day. In fact, it chimed twice when the President announced America’s pullbacks from Syria and Afghanistan.

President Trump finally broke ranks with “neo-cons” like John Bolton, Lindsay Graham and the late Sen. John McCain. He decided that taxpayers in Carthage, North Carolina, should not pay to colonize and bring Jeffersonian Democracy to parts of the world that still worship barbarism.

The president properly became impatient. Warriors like soon-to-be former Defense Secretary Mattis conquered nations quickly. But once a war was won, once a country like Afghanistan was subdued, it was left for civilian leaders like President Trump to ask, “What do I do with Afghanistan now?”

The answer of the neo-cons like Bolton and Graham was a perpetual occupation and an effective colonization. Beyond money, the price was about 10 dead or dismembered service members each month “for forever.” And, as such, President Trump properly rejected the cost.

Some say that the Afghanistan conflict was America’s longest war. They forget America’s experience in the Philippines. Our Afghanistan and Syrian conflicts are closer to that conflict.

The Philippines was a prize from the often forgotten Spanish-American War of 1898. The resulting treaty awarded those islands to the United States. But what the nation actually got was an anti-American, often anti-Islamic, irregular war. It was only interrupted by the Japanese invasion of World War II. It only really ended when the United States capitulated and granted the Philippines its independence in 1946.

We did not know what to do with the Philippines in 1898, and we do not know what to do with Afghanistan and Syria now. The same could be said of our recent excursions into Iraq and Libya, and our less recent excursion into Lebanon.

For two years, President Trump lost his way. He campaigned for but did not fully implement a policy of “America First.” It was a terrible policy when first advocated by Charles Lindbergh and others who wanted to ignore Hitler’s march through Europe. But today, Syria, still ruled by a despot, is not ruled by Hitler. Afghanistan is the same ungovernable mess that caused the British to withdraw in 1918 and the Russians to withdraw in 1989.

Some say we must learn from our experience from World War II and be proactive. Actually, we must learn from our experiences elsewhere, declare victory and pull out.

Every politician must ask whether the occupation of a foreign country benefits the taxpayers of both Pinehurst and Peoria. To the extent that there is little or no benefit, then America must withdraw from overseas and require that any fighting be done by those local warriors who should care.

The United States has never embraced a role as a colonial power. Americans, perhaps influenced by the ideology of Woodrow Wilson, never felt comfortable creating or ruling an extraterritorial empire. Like World War I, wars were supposed to be finite and fought for a specific purpose. Once the war was won, the troops were returned home.

The Vietnam War was described by songwriter Pete Seeger as a “Big Muddy” river.

The deeper you go the more likely you are to drown. In Afghanistan and Syria, President Trump believes we are “waist deep” and wants to get out. The neo-cons say, “Move on.”

It’s time to go home.

Contact Robert M. Levy at

(5) comments

Peyton Cook

I have a different take on the United States and armed conflict. First, I am a retired Air Force officer, and I grew up in the Air Force. I also taught Military History at the Air Force Academy. Armed conflict has been at part of the human experience since the beginning. There have been individuals, groups, and nations which have waged war for various reasons: territory, economic, political, cultural, and religious (the worst). This nation has only resorted to war when attacked first or when it is in our national interests to do so. It takes at least two sides to have conflict which does not end until one is completely defeated or both decide to end conflict. Our only colonial endeavor was a result of the Spanish-American War. Yes, there were problems in the Philippines initially, but ended with peace until attacked by Japan. The current conflict was forced on the world by a radical interpretation of Islam. It is unconventional warfare waged by an army which does not wear uniforms, represents no nation, and disdains the rules of war. It is in our national interest to defeat radical Islam. This is a religious conflict and could last a very long time.The United States has borne most of the burden because the other Western, democratic nations have lived under the safety military umbrella since World War II and they have not lived up to the NATO minimum expenditure for national defense. This conflict has lasted seventeen years with no end in sight. There have been some missteps along the way, and there have been military casualties and billions spent. The deployments have been many and long. I do not agree that the United States should completely pull out of the Middle East. That has already been done in both Afghanistan and Iraq when the Tailban and Al Qaddafi looked to be defeated. This resulted in the resurrection of the Taliban in Afghanistan and ite rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. We need to have a presence in both made up of Special Forces and air power to assist the indigenous forces defeat terrorism. This worked very well in Afghanistan in 2002. Pressure has to be exerted against Pakistan and Iran to cease supporting and harboring terrorists. Finally, pressure should be exerted on the other Western nations for manpower an financial support.

Kent Misegades

Trump's America First is all about trade negotiations and has little to do with the mililtary or isolationists like Lindbergh - who BTW quickly after Pearl Harbor worked tirelessly and largely secretly to aid military aviation. This included combat missions which he was forbidden to do, but did them anyway. Like many Conservatives, Trump has for decades questioned why we send our military to clean up others' messes. Democrats generally get us into wars - WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Syria and Libya are examples. Leaders like Trump get us out. With Neo-cons in decline and true conservatives and libertarians on the rise, there is a real chance that we'll bring the military home for good. It would only be correct then to lower the cost of military. It is disturbing to me that local active military people have told me their main reason for joining was for the generous government benefits. With our crushing $21T national debt and shocking $210T in unfunded liabilities to government pensioners, something has to change or we become another Weimar Republic. There can be no sacred cows when it comes to taxpayer spending.

Dan Roman

Democrats got us into WWI & WWII etc?
Why do I hear the strains of "Deutschland uber Alles" playing softly in the background?

Kent Misegades

I used to think the same Dan. Then I read
‘A Century of War: Lincoln, Wilson & Roosevelt’, by Judge John Denson. Pretty sobering. All those wars and the millions of lives they cost humanity could have been avoided. It always takes two to tangle.

Mark Hayes

What is disturbing, sections of this letter. Recruitment is at it's lowest level in years, due in part to the low unemployment rate, and lack of those being suitable or fit for Military service. " It is disturbing to me that local active Military people have told me, ( Kent Misegades ) their main reason for joining was the generous government benefits. ). Let me set you straight on that, the benefits do not come without a cost, and the cost to many is never compensated enough. The government falls short on providing for Veterans, proof of that can be validated by the number of non-government funding programs that are " required to assist " Veterans and their families. Serving in the Military is no longer a requirement, we should appreciate those that do so willingly, without them we would not find our freedom as it exist today.

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