Hope or Despair?: A Bit of Both in 2019

These are tumultuous, ambiguous, and trying times for the United States. The nation enters 2019 carrying both the baggage of ongoing wars and the vague hope for a new path in foreign affairs.

On the one hand, America’s military remains mired in undeclared wars in several countries across the globe. Our servicemen inhabit hundreds of bases and our generals and admirals still divide up the world into regional fiefdoms like the Roman proconsuls of old. U.S. drones are flying, observing, killing. Special operators, spies, and contractors destabilize sovereign nations and entire regions.

Soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines are still dying in combat in countries whose names few Americans can pronounce. And, more disturbingly – if oft-forgotten – tens of thousands of (mostly) brown folks, often civilians, continue to die at the hands of Uncles Sam’s war-machine. In just one horrifying example, U.S. support for Saudi war crimes has starved upwards of 85,000 Yemeni children. All the while, most citizens yawn. But not in the rest of the world. There, poll after credible poll demonstrates that the United States is seen as the greatest threat to global peace.

That’s just the external damage, the symptoms of American rot projected across the seas. Our military-industrial-congressional complex churns along whilst generating record profits, squeezed from the blood of soldiers and civilians alike. Canonized and over-adulated generals – one thinks of "Mad dog" Mattis – swing through the revolving door from managing death to managing millions in cash. Americans’ civil liberties are still under threat from militarized soldier-cops and an Orwellian domestic surveillance apparatus.

Reading the above summary would normally be enough, and would serve as proof positive that now, more than ever. The people need exposure to critical viewpoints rarely available in the mainstream media. I could end this plea here and credibly encourage the reader to donate to Antiwar.com, to support the articulate voices in the wilderness that Americans need to hear. After all, few publications so courageously tackle the genuine challenges of the day and the existential threats to this ostensible republic. But there is something else this time, this year.

See, on the other hand, the United States has a president who appears to recognize at least some of the folly inherent in America’s forever wars. Sure, he is coarse, flawed, and inconsistent – heck, this author has critiqued most of his policies for more than two years now. Still, in recent weeks he’s shown some capacity, and greater intent, to buck the militarist mainstream atop the Beltway and the Big Three media outlets. He has called for total withdrawal from a misguided, aimless, and only dubiously legal Syrian civil war. He has expressed interest in halving the number of U.S. troops still fighting America’s longest, and least winnable, war in Afghanistan. In an ever so brief moment of clarity, he actually tweeted that defense spending was "crazy," and called for arms control talks with China and Russia. In the process he even drove out the last of his generals’ triumvirate – Jim Mattis – who apparently could countenance dead Yemeni babies, but drew the line at modest de-escalation in the Middle East. Wow.

Then again, Washington is Washington. The fight is far from over. President Trump has already seemed to backtrack on the immediacy and speed of the Syria and Afghanistan withdrawals. He quickly retracted his tweet about "crazy" defense spending. Nonetheless there’s hope here, just a little, but certainly more than we’d have in a Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush administration. The current president is difficult to predict, but one thing seems certain: he craves popular adulation. For that reason, intelligent, credentialed authors and columnists need to seize this moment, press the issues we all care about, and encourage a shift in the dialogue away from the interventionist cabal in D.C. and back to the grassroots.

The shift won’t begin on MSNBC or Fox News. It won’t unfold on the pages of the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times. No, the battleground – for better or worse – will be on the net, on Facebook, Twitter, and powerful alternative analysis sites like Antiwar.com. It is here that I have found a home for my voice, my values, and, I hope, the ideals of this republic. But real commentary and real conversation – such as we have at Antiwar.com – cannot continue without you, the reader, and, we hope, the contributor.

This quarter Antiwar.com has a record $40,000 in dedicated matching funds available for your donations. Your contribution doubles the moment you make it! Please consider supporting this site and our work to break down the warfare state and present sensible foreign policy options for our nation.

The fight is now and it is real. We’ll remember this moment, I suspect, and where we stood when the chips were down.

Thank you,

Major Daniel A. Sjursen
U.S. Army, soon-to-be-retired, and a vet of hopeless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
But most of all, a citizen author.

Major Danny Sjursen, an Antiwar.com regular, is a US Army officer and former history instructor at West Point. He served tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has written a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, Ghost Riders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge. He lives with his wife and four sons in Lawrence, Kansas. Follow him on Twitter at @SkepticalVet and check out his new podcast “Fortress on a Hill,” co-hosted with fellow vet Chris ‘Henri’ Henrikson.

[Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author, expressed in an unofficial capacity, and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.]

Copyright 2018 Danny Sjursen