Episode 133: The Art of Fake-Ending Wars

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"Yemen war: Joe Biden ends support for operations in foreign policy reset," reports the BBC. "Trump: US will be out of Afghanistan by Christmas 2020," cheered Military Times. "Trump Orders Withdrawal of U.S. Troops From Northern Syria," the New York Times told us. For decades, the United States has very often appeared to have "ended" wars that do not, in fact, end at all. Open-ended jargon like "residual counter terror forces," "Vietnamization," "military advisors," along with deliberately ambiguous timetables, process criticisms––all are used to confuse the average media consumer. America's politicians know the American public broadly dislikes war and empire––and thus wants to see it restrained––but these same politicians don't really want to end wars so they have a frequent PR problem: How do you make it look like you’re ending a war or occupation without really doing so? To solve this conundrum, American political leaders have perfected the art of fake-ending a war. Which is to say, announcing a war is going to end, typically around election time, only to––once the headlines make a big splash––backtrack, obfuscate, claim the "situation on the ground has changed" or the military involvement will only be in a "limited" or "defensive" capacity, shuffle troops around or find other thin pretexts to continue the war or occupation. In this episode, we discuss the United States' history of fake-ending wars, who these pronouncements are meant to please, why troops levels are often impossible to know, and why so many of our so-called "wars" are not really wars at all, but military occupations that are never really meant to end. Our guest is Shireen Al-Adeimi, assistant professor at Michigan State University.

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