Homer thought 10 years was an endless war

I recently picked up a cartoon (“graphic novel”) version of the Iliad to read with the kids. It struck me that Homer was using 10 years as the time at which a war could reasonably be considered “endless”.

We will observe the 19th anniversary of our Afghanistan War in 2020 (Trump says he will get our military out in 2020 (NBC), but if he has authority as Commander in Chief, why didn’t he do this in January 2017?)

Our Iraq war is entering its 17th year? Wikipedia claims that it ended in 2011, but we had at least 5,200 troops in Iraq at the end of 2019 (Al Jazeera). Can we say that we’re no longer at war if we still have soldiers in the country who are fighting? And what about the recent drone strike against Iranians at the Baghdad airport? Is that a new war against Iran or a continuation of the old war against Iraq?

Supposedly the modern world proceeds at a faster pace than did the Ancient world, yet it takes us longer to prosecute a war than Homer thought was conceivable.

Separately, what is the story with the drone strike that killed Qasem Soleimani? A typical post from a Facebook friend who had no idea who this guy was a week ago:

This morning we need a fear emoji. Karen Palmer writes: “Every national security expert I follow on Twitter — Democrat, Republican, military, civilian, you name it — is thunderstruck by this move. No conversation with Congress and no advance warning. This isn’t like the Bin Laden assassination — Bin Laden was a fugitive running an independent terror operation. Suleimani is a bad, bad guy, but he’s an appointed government official of the highest rank. There are bound to be serious repercussions, and nobody who will actually have to manage them had any idea this was coming. We should be very concerned for the safety of all the diplomats and military personnel in the region.”

On the one hand, Trump did this so it has to be bad. On the other hand, people say that this guy was our enemy (if we spend $1 trillion a year on a military, including veterans, why are any of our enemies still running around free?). On the third hand, almost everything that the U.S. has done militarily since World War II has backfired.

Readers: Was this a good or a bad idea?

Posted in War

20 thoughts on “Homer thought 10 years was an endless war

  1. US is still fighting wars in Somalia & other places the media isn’t allowed to cover. Clinton was in the same position as Trump, having an opportunity to kill Bin Laden but passing it up. No-one would say Clinton did the right thing. Then of course, every married couple is in a war.

    Let’s think instead about what US has today that it didn’t have 40 years ago when Carter lost 444 hostages to Iran. The venerable MQ-9 & its satellite network changed the world. Carter & Clinton simply couldn’t knock out a general at the push of a button like we take for granted. The key isn’t as much the airplane as much as the satellite network providing uninterrupted communication, wherever it is. No-one can afford a satellite network.

  2. I’m an ignorant Deplorable and I knew who Soleimani was. And I was surprised that we killed him. It’s a big, big shift.

    There are lots of questions here, I can’t begin to cover them all, but this one looks like it’s going to start a series of events that will last at least another decade. One of the biggest questions for me is whether we can count on our allies as Iran decides who to strike in retaliation. They all pretty much despise Trump, they didn’t want this fight. If a British Navy vessel gets blasted in the Strait of Hormuz, will the Brits stand firm with us, or will they turn and run? It looks like the French have already hoisted the white flag, and the Germans aren’t that far behind. It seems very likely that Iran could also strike our regional allies for the purpose of instilling enough terror to flip them to neutral, deny us airspace, deny us basing, give our people trouble, and so forth. Iran is a furiously angry, wounded beast at this point, and they have a big army, lots of soldiers, lots of missiles, and can cause a tremendous amount of mayhem, as we’ve seen.

    This is going to be the acid test of whether America and its allies have thought through the contingencies of escalation. The Iranians are going to strike back, that much is certain. If we hit them in the Strait of Hormuz, will Russia and China jump in to defend their new naval alliance partner? Will they take a shot at one of our aircraft carriers?

    It’s one thing to kill Iranian generals who are actively making big trouble in Baghdad, who are directly responsible for all that Soleimani had his hands on, but we will be in a completely different universe with the first Russian/Chinese casualty, and I expect Putin to offer his help defending the Ayatollah and his naval forces.

    Finally, I expect Iran to start taking a lot of shots at Israel. Bang boom.

    Then if the Iraqi parliament votes to oust all the American soldiers and personnel from the country, what do we do? Say the Parliament is Iran’s puppet and fly in another 5,000 troops? We’re in for a long, messy haul here. All of Trump’s words about getting out of the Middle East are history now.

    “On the floor of Jove’s palace there stand two urns, the one filled with evil gifts, and the other with good ones. He for whom Jove the lord of thunder mixes the gifts he sends, will meet now with good and now with evil fortune; but he to whom Jove sends none but evil gifts will be pointed at by the finger of scorn, the hand of famine will pursue him to the ends of the world, and he will go up and down the face of the earth, respected neither by gods nor men.” – Iliad, 24:527

    • Oh, noes!
      If Iran attacks Israel it’s surely Trump’s fault. And of course, every Israeli know Ayatollahs would NEVER think of doing this if not for the Orange Man. Because he is an anti-Semite, you know.

      And what would the US do now that The Divine Iranian Forces put our diplomats and our military in the crosshairs (no, scratch that: that was supposed to be the Trumpenfuhrer.). And how would the Iranians retaliate? Hm… something like incite a militia to storm our embassy? Or maybe shell the Green Zone? Or maybe shoot a US military drone or two. Or–I know, I know–nuclear-tipped speedboats attacking a US carrier battle group in the Gulf!

      And what will Putin do? Will he start World War III because he loves the religion of peace and despises the Orange Man.. Like what they did in Syria when the USAF wiped out a whole company of Russian mercenaries: https://www.thedailybeast.com/did-the-us-really-kill-200-russians-in-syriaor-just-a-few

      But of course, Putin is an idiot, and Trump is an idiot, and Netanyahu is an idiot, while all political geniuses write for the Salons and the Voxes.

  3. Well, spending these $Trillions keeps the money out of the hands of the Socialists who would just waste it!

  4. Assassination is a Complicated Profession!

    Soleimani was successful in getting the Kurdish and Shia to fight against ISIS, but he was playing for team Iran, so he had to be killed. Or maybe Trump is playing “wag the dog”? Most likely the real reason could be something complicated in the middle east power struggle. Who has to most to gain by his assassination? Who will loose by his assassination? Now we are dealing with the usual, “death to America, death to Israel” chants (they really need a better chant writer), but at 62 years of age, Soleimani was getting old and maybe a little soft, so now there is room for more radical blood at the top. At this moment there are probably candidates getting ready for a blood soaked power struggle. Grab the popcorn, this will get interesting.

    As for the US industrial military complex, everybody in the US should know by now that a $1 trillion budget is just not enough, and a $2 trillion budget will be required, so get ready to work hard and pay more taxes. The enemies of the US will be never eliminated and will be encouraged to grow to support the military industrial complex growth. Without an enemy, the industrial military complex does not need to exist.

    “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.” – Eisenhower

  5. I don’t know anything special about Soleimani, or Iran in general. But blowing this guy up strikes me as a bad thing for a few reasons:

    1) The idea that we blew this guy up because he was a bad guy planning bad things seems like total BS. Surely he had a room full of deputies who are equally able to fill the bad guy doing bad things role. If there were actually imminent plans that needed to be stopped, killing the boss seems like a poor way to stop them; even a mediocre successor would be able to move forward with existing plans. I would probably be more supportive of the action if I heard some reasonable explanation for it.

    Note that Iran has an army with a formal command and control infrastructure, which makes this different from bin Laden and Al-Qaeda.

    2) To the extent that I understood the US strategy towards Iran, I thought the idea was to make the populace miserable with sanctions so that they demanded a change from leadership. This move seems to be the end of that idea. I don’t think I understand what the new strategy is.

    3) A week ago one of the things I admired most about Trump was his apparent preference to use America’s economic might instead of its military might. I would have said that Trump was unique among presidents in my lifetime in this regard. I thought this could be an important part of his legacy. But his latest actions seem to be a repudiation of the idea. I guess we are back to solving problems by dropping bombs and firing cruise missiles.

    • > I don’t think I understand what the new strategy is.

      Neither do they. There is no strategy as such because this President’s idea of strategy is acting on impulse and creating chaos. There isn’t any deeper thinking, because he’s incapable of it. They are dusting off old target lists, making up the strategy as they go along, hoping for the best and speechifying. Next week is going to be very interesting, we’re going to see this in action.

  6. > …if we spend $1 trillion a year on a military, including veterans, why are any of our enemies still running around free?

    Because our entire society including military contracting is an incompetent, corrupt scrap heap that has been infiltrated by criminals and our enemies?

    Philip, you really don’t want to know the ins and outs of military contracting and how completely debased and corrupt it actually is. Neither does the military want to know, because they more they probe, the more they discover shell companies manufacturing components for things like the torpedoes in our nuclear submarines out of pinball machine parts in Turkey.

    “The problem could be far bigger, since the GAO’s study wasn’t intended to gauge its scope…“I don’t think anybody really knows the extent of the problem,” said Robert Burton, a former top government procurement attorney now at Crowell & Moring. “I do know that some of these folks have become quite proficient at disguising ownership.” How much do they pay these guys to say profound things like that?

    The Pentagon spends $350 billion a year and they don’t have any good mechanisms for detecting fraud and shell companies.

    ““Not only might you have sanctioned parties doing contracting work, but enemies of the U.S. getting access to our funds, our equipment, our sites and our personnel,” says Greg Lisa, a Hogan Lovells lawyer who worked at the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. “That’s frightening.”…”For foreign adversaries like China, Russia or Iran, shell companies could be a point of entry into the Pentagon’s procurement system.”

    Could be! Wow! I wonder how they figured it out?


    We’re ready for war with all the shoddy components our taxpayers have paid our enemies to build!

  7. We don’t know that “almost everything” the US has done militarily has “backfired” since we don’t know what the counterfactual is. The wars in Asia likely limited the spread of Communism and the efforts in the middle-east seem to have interrupted efforts to fly planes into large buildings in US cities with large loses of US lives. Both sound like successful efforts to me. War and military efforts are part of the natural condition of humanity. Take a look at Hebrew scripture when you are finished with Homer.

    • “interrupted efforts to fly planes into large buildings in US cities with large loses of US lives. ”

      Locking the cockpits achieved this. How would a far away war protect domestic airliners?

  8. Soleimani had it coming and assassinating him is damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

    Yes, Soleimani was an Iranian major general, a major figure and had a close relationship to Ayatollah. However, he was not running a conventional war like other generals of a country do and was given the green light to do so using his so called Quds Force. Thus, he is a fair target like it or not.

    Will this start WWIII or corner our allies or prolong existing wars or start new wars? No, this won’t change anything much at all because the war on terror is now the standard of what a war used to be thanks to evolving of technology and for our planet getting smaller.

    As a side note, there were several demonstrations over the weekend, even here in Boston, demanding peace not war. This begs the question: wouldn’t their message be more effective if they demonstrated it in front of the Iranian embassy? And aren’t they too late to demonstrate now given this war has been going on for so long now?

    • You don’t see the assassination of a foreign leader on a diplomatic mission as an escalation?

    • An assassination of a foreign military commander is unacceptable: we should’ve impeached him instead. Please don’t kill us all!

    • Yes, I see a huge problem in assassination a high ranking foreign military leader. I was out there demonstrating against it when the same was being done against Hitler and his generals.

    • George: so you view Iran as equivalent to Nazi Germany, yet you’re not signing up to fight them. Yep sounds about right.

    • Still waiting for pundits to call a drone attack on Soleimani a 21st century Pearl Harbor.
      Because, you know…. Trumpenfuhrer.

  9. The Reconquista of Spain took 781 years to remove the Moors. Why not another 620 years in Iraq/Iran/Afghanistan?

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