The War Issue: Avoiding the Topic & War Fatigue


We had around 75 responses to the question last week that we posed to Daily Pnut readers as to why the United States still has troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. Manyreaders felt that war makes for a good business for a small few and the economic power of the military industrial complex (referenced twelve times altogether) was a major reason for our presence. Others feel that the wars have become background noise and it is altogether too easy to forget that we even have troops overseas (for example: oh what were we doing in Benghazi and Niger?). And some readers believe the end of the draft (referenced twenty times altogether) heavily contributes to the civil-military divide in our nation. You can read all of the responses here.

The editor of Daily Pnut has deployed twice as an active duty officer to Iraq and agrees with many of the assessments and gone on record about these issues. I’ve published that it’s way too easy to go to war because we have outsourced a significant amount of our military efforts. And we have a major civil-military divide and that has resulted in a United States populace more distracted on Kim Kardashian’s instagram postings than what if any our strategy is on Afghanistan and Iraq. Even in 2009, I wondered when will it end? Unfortunately, I’m no more optimistic today than I was in 2009 that we have a clear exit strategy. America’s greatest long term strategic and military threat are not terrorists but China’s military(and now also the Russians). Land wars in Asia are bottomless pits that we should have learned by now that we should avoid. And digital threats are where today’s wars over data and information are being fought, and the US as a whole is poorly prepared to address cyber threats.

It’s almost shocking that there has been no commission proposed or completed to assess what has America’s military achieved (or not) over the past 16 plus years. Many Americans, historians, readers, and writers have all written about America’s “Unwinding” but these narratives and studies often focus exclusively on domestic concerns. What doesn’t get enough coverage is the interplay between domestic and international. And how the (perceived and real) unwinding domestically is also leading to a corrosive unwinding of our international efforts (military & diplomatic), prestige, and standing.

It’s clear that Americans are tired of these conflicts. Both Obama and Trump campaigned that they would end our overseas conflicts but both wars continue. Our never ending wars (or you could also say “The Forever War”) are a great example of the power of the status quo and inertia.


Shinzo Abe Coasts To Victory In Japan’s General Election: In a general election characterized by a fragmented opposition and a hard-line stance against North Korea, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) cruised to an easy victory, retaining a two-thirds “supermajority” in Japan’s lower house. Abe will likely be emboldened to propose a constitutional change to lift the defense-only role of the Japanese Self Defense Forces, but opposition contends that could lead to involvement in US-led wars abroad. Though his personal approval rating dipped over the summer amid cronyism scandals, Abe’s platform is popular among the voting public, and his proposal to raise consumption tax from 8% to 10% will likely meet little resistance. The Constitutional Democratic Party (CDP) and the Party of Hope, both recently formed, are poised to be the main opposition to the LDP after the Democratic Party imploded last month. Only approximately 54% of eligible voters participated, 1% more than the record low set in 2014.

Former US President Carter Won’t Criticize Trump, Would Talk To Kim: Jimmy Carter, US president from 1977-1981, said he was willing to travel to North Korea in an attempt to soften tensions between Washington and Pyongyang. Carter was soft on criticism of President Trump, refusing to blame him solely for damage to America’s global image, and agreed that the media has been harder on Trump than previous presidents.

Carter successfully orchestrated an accord in 1994 to ease unresolved tension left over from the Korean War’s end in 1953. He returned to North Korea in 2010 to negotiate the release of an American, and made another trip in 2011. In May, he told National Security Adviser HR McMaster he was “available if they ever needed me.” When asked about visiting North Korea again, he reiterated “I would go, yes.” Trump has relied on China to help rein in Pyongyang, but Carter said “we greatly overestimate China’s influence on North Korea. Particularly on Kim.” The North Korean leader has “never, so far as I know, been to China. And they have no relationship.


Chinese Olympic Team Whistleblower – Did Chinese Olympians use Steroids or Turtle Blood?:  A 79 year old former doctor for the Chinese Olympic team, now seeking political asylum in Germany, says during the 1980s and 1990s more than 10,000 of the country’s athletes in all sports were given illegal performance-enhancing drugs, including medal winners in all major competitions. Xue Yinxian claims “anyone who took doping substances was seen to be defending the country,” and “anyone who spoke against the system now sits in jail.”

Dr. Xue fled China after speaking out against doping in 2012. She worked Chinese national teams from the 1970s onward. “At first, the youth-age group teams used the substances – the youngest were 11 years old,” she said. “If you refused to dope, you had to leave the team. I couldn’t do anything about it.” When she refused to use a banned substance on a gymnast at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games, she was dismissed from working with the national team. She said athletes were repeatedly tested until they came back negative with no traces of anything illegal in their systems. Then they were given a call sign – “Grandma is home” for example – and sent on to international competitions.

Last February, athletes who had broken 66 national and world records and were linked to controversial Chinese track coach Ma Junren, said they had been forced to take performance-enhancing drugs. Ma always claimed his athletes’ success was due to hard training at high altitude in Tibet, turtle blood, and caterpillar fungus.


Tillerson To Shia-Backed Militias – ‘Thanks, Now Go Home’: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has advised non-state actors in Iraq that have helped battle ISIS that now is the time to go home as the fight is nearing its end. Foreign fighters, backed by Iran, have played a crucial role in the fight against ISIS, but their presence increases the influence Iran has on the rebuilding of the communities in Iraq, and this is something the US would like the minimize. Though his message is softer, Tillerson is echoing the more confrontational theme of President Trump, who wants a stronger approach in dealing with Iran. Although they aided immensely in the Iraqi government’s reclamation of Kurdish and ISIS-held territory, the Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) have also been accused of torturing and killing Iraqi Sunni civilians. Tillerson would like to see them either integrate as members of the Iraqi military or go home, eliminating an unemployed, armed, foreign backed influence from integrating into the population.

New England Estuary Conference Highlighting Climate Change Won’t Be Hearing From EPA Scientists: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has forbidden three agency scientists from speaking at a conference in Rhode Island. The conference is designed to draw attention to the health of Narragansett Bay, the largest estuary in New England and a key to the region’s tourism and fishing industries. These scientists contributed substantial material to a 400-page report to be issued on Monday. Among the findings are that climate change is affecting air and water temperatures, precipitation, sea level and fish in and around the estuary.

The EPA operates a $26 million National Estuary Program, approximately $600,000 goes to the Narragansett Bay Estuary. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s 2018 budget eliminates the program. Pruitt says he does not believe human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are primarily responsible for the warming of the planet, and he has curtailed agency employees from speaking publicly and conducting work on climate change. The EPA recently removed many occurrences of the phrase “climate change” from its website. Pruitt told Time Magazine last week he planned to assemble a team of independent scientists to challenge established climate science because it has not yet been subject to “a robust, meaningful debate.”

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