Guest Opinion: Trump fails to show military prowess

St, Louis Post-Dispatch
Oct. 21
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The U.S.-backed effort by Iraqi forces to retake the city of Mosul marks the most aggressive and risky offensive yet to defeat Islamic State terrorists. GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump belittles U.S. military planning as amateurish, as if he knows better.

In Wednesday’s debate, Trump reiterated his assertion that World War II Generals George S. Patton and Douglas MacArthur would be “spinning in their graves” at the “stupidity” of announcing a U.S.-backed military offensive to retake Iraq’s second largest city.

The fall of Mosul in June 2014 was a stunning defeat for Iraq’s government. About 30,000 Iraqi troops in Mosul crumbled and fled as a force of around 1,500 Islamic State fighters advanced. The fighters needed less than a week to gain full control of the city.

Had Trump actually studied those events, he would have been accurate in channeling the disgust of Patton and MacArthur at the Iraqi forces’ embarrassing display. Patton, who garnered worldwide infamy for slapping a shell-shocked U.S. soldier in the face, would have found 30,000 slap-worthy faces among the Iraqi soldiers who abandoned their posts and handed thousands of tons of U.S.-supplied munitions and equipment to the enemy.

Iraq’s government had been adamant until Mosul’s fall in asserting its sovereignty and rejecting U.S. military support. But now there is no denying that the Baghdad government needs help.

Since the Obama administration got serious about fighting back, Islamic State forces have dwindled and now occupy less than half the Iraqi and Syrian territory they previously held. The group asserts that seized territory is still part of a resurgent Islamic caliphate. Without territory, the caliphate cannot exist.

For Trump to complain about the United States broadcasting its intentions regarding this offensive is absurd on its face. There has never been any question that the Islamic State had to be defeated and that Mosul had to be retaken. To make it happen, Iraqi authorities had to muster forces from disparate groups, including Kurdish peshmerga fighters and Iran-allied Shiite militiamen incorporated into the regular army.

No one claimed it would be pretty. All that was required was that the force be effective.

What would Patton and MacArthur have done? We checked newspaper front pages from the days and weeks well in advance of major World War II offensives, and the generals were famous for their braggadocio.

Trump's dilettant approach to foreign affairs ignores other considerations, such as letting non-combatants and fighters with weak commitments to the cause leave what will soon become a war zone.

They made little secret of their plans for bold military offensives. They knew, as generals know today, that multiple divisions of tanks, artillery and troops cannot maneuver in secret across hundreds of miles of terrain. The enemy already knows it’s coming.

Would Patton and MacArthur be spinning in their graves? Probably. But only at the thought of someone as unqualified as Trump aspiring to become commander in chief.