Friday, May 10, 2019

H.R. McMaster says the public is fed a ‘war-weariness’ narrative that hurts US strategy

War in Afghanistan can be sustained, but the narrative of a war-weary American public is hurting that effort, former National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster said Wednesday.

Long wars are manageable when waged alongside allies, utilizing burden sharing, said McMaster, who now serves as chairman of the Center on Military and Political Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

“There’s this defeatist narrative that’s inaccurate, and doesn’t reflect what’s at stake and doesn’t reflect the actual situation,” McMaster said at a think tank forum in Washington, D.C.

The American public is not properly weighing costs when debating the military’s role in the Middle East, according to McMaster, who pointed to a recent town hall debate he watched.

“A young student stood up and said ‘all I’ve known my whole life is war,’” McMaster said. “Now, he’s never been to war, but he’s been subjected, I think, to this narrative of war-weariness.”

“The United States today has a smaller percentage of its military deployed overseas than it has had since 1950," he added.

Americans should view the war in Afghanistan as essentially an “insurance policy” against what could happen in the country, McMaster said, adding that the collapse of the U.S.-backed Afghan government would forfeit a region known as Khorasan to jihadi groups.

“If you think about the importance of the mission in Afghanistan, to protect what is fundamentally a transformed society, from the enemies that we’re facing — the Taliban and their al-Qaida allies — it is a cost that is sustainable," McMaster said.

While there is an important shift to focus on conventional military force in an era of great power competition, McMaster added that China and Russia shouldn’t be used as excuses to shirk tough challenges in the Middle East.

“I think what’s happening now is almost an exclusive focus in some places on the return of great power competition," he said. "It has become almost an emotional cathartic to get beyond the wars of unanticipated length and difficulty in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

McMaster also said that the term “nation-building” has created an unrealistic expectation of what the U.S. can do to shape another country, especially one like Afghanistan. But progress has been made there, he added, pointing to the arena of women’s rights and democratic voting.

“Afghanistan is not going to become Switzerland. It’s just not,” he said. “It can be Afghanistan, and it can be an Afghanistan like it was in the ’70s or like it was during this really short but brutal period of rule under the Taliban from 1996 to 2001." - Read More

H.R. McMaster says the public is fed a 'war-weariness' narrative that ...


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