Afghanistan

More Drones, More Bombs, More Deaths—Our Machine of Military Intervention Grinds On

A soldier died in Afghanistan over the Thanksgiving holiday. Why are we still there?

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Military funeral
Zhang Jun Xinhua News Agency/Newscom

Previous presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama ordered deadly drone strikes in countries where military action is formally authorized and in countries where it is not, and President Donald Trump doesn't seem to be interested in stopping.

Spencer Ackerman of The Daily Beast has crunched the numbers. For the first two years of Trump's administration, the military has increased the number of drone strikes in countries America is technically not at war in: Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia. Trump's administration has launched 238 strikes in those places since 2017. During his first two years, the Obama administration launched 186. (As always when talking about secret drone strikes, these figures should be considered estimates.)

In particular, we saw a huge jump in drone strikes in Yemen—relevant given that America's interventions in that country are so heavily tied with Washington's relationship with Saudi Arabia. There is some good news, though: Drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen are now dropping again as we approach the end of 2018. The surge may have been a temporary spike, not a "new normal."

One reason drone strikes increased is that the rules have been loosened up: Now drone strikes are allowed when there's a "reasonable certainty" of hitting a particular senior terrorist rather than the "near certainty" previously required. As a result, there have been 35 drone strikes in Somalia in 2017, more than the 33 that took place there during Obama's entire term.

Trump's team has continued the trend of declaring anybody killed an enemy combatant unless independent sources raise enough of a stink. The administration isn't even bothering to even give us the extremely undercounted tally of civilians killed by drones that the Obama administration half-heartedly put out during the final two years of his administration.

Meanwhile, in countries where military strikes are actually authorized by Congress, like Afghanistan, the bombs are falling like rain. In Trump's first year as president, we bombed Afghanistan more than ever. As Reason's Brian Doherty noted earlier in this month, this tactic is intended to minimize our troops' direct military contact in the country. We've seen more military strikes but fewer actual flights.

But we're still risking military lives in Afghanistan without any evidence that we're making anything better over there. On Saturday, Sgt. Leandro A.S. Jasso, 25, of Leavenworth, Washington, was killed in the Helmand Province, apparently after getting shot. The details are thin and his death is still under investigation. We do know that this was Jasso's third deployment to Afghanistan after enlisting in 2012. That means he was barely of legal age when he joined the Army and yet had been sent to a war zone three times by the time he hit 25.

As Doherty thoroughly documented in Reason's August/September issue, our involvement in that country has become an incubator of costly boondoggles and dangerous corruption, not the "reconstruction" being sold to us.

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9 responses to “More Drones, More Bombs, More Deaths—Our Machine of Military Intervention Grinds On

  1. I’m still annoyed that Justin Raimondo keeps praising Trump. I hear endlessly about his non-interventionist rhetoric, but I never see him actually diminish U.S. involvement in the Middle East.

    If the LP candidate in 2020 doesn’t run on a platform of bringing home every damn soldier, then the whole party should be dissolved. To quote The Doors: “The time to hesitate is through.”

  2. Good of Shacford to give his usual objective analysis where our president is concerned. No bias at all.

    /end Sarc

  3. Q. “A soldier died in Afghanistan over the Thanksgiving holiday. Why are we still there?”
    A. “our involvement in that country has become an incubator of costly boondoggles and dangerous corruption”

    1. You forgot to add the studious silence from our major media sources for 8 years for some unknown reason.

      1. subsumed under corruption, although not part of the linked article…

  4. An overlooked fact is that young men are entranced by war & often volunteer for it. I volunteered for “door gunner” to finish out my enlistment.

  5. Trump’s administration has launched 238 strikes in those places since 2017. During his first two years, the Obama administration launched 186. (As always when talking about secret drone strikes, these figures should be considered estimates.)
    Apparently we don’t actually fucking know, but professional “Resistance” pundit, Spencer Ackerman of The Daily Beast, assures us he “Crunched the Numbers” and Adolph Drumpf blew up more people than the Lightbringer.

    So evenhanded.

  6. Some banker needs a bigger boat.

  7. “Why are ‘we’ still there?”
    Better: Why is the military/industrial/political complex still there?
    This volutaryist is not there in any way shape or form. I disavow support for the coercive political paradigm that is seen in every gov. I won’t take responsibility for the initiation of violence, threats, and fraud that most others call “a necessary evil”. It’s not necessary. That’s a political assumption that can’t be proven. It exists out of ignorance and willful blindness of its victims.
    War will end when coercion is denounced by 10-15% as immoral. So will socialism. It will be replaced by a non-violent economic system, capitalism.

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