Tuesday, July 11, 2017

NY Times -- Trump Aides Turned to Businessmen for Afghan War Advice

Americans are told that wars are waged to preserve our freedoms. It’s a lie. They are not. Wars are waged for economic reasons related to protecting America’s national interest. Meaning vital economic resources: resources necessary to maintain our economy and to ensure their availability in the future. Wars are for the contractors or private military companies who provide armed combat and security services. War is for war profiteers who produce and sell weapons, machinery, vehicles, aircraft, electronics and other goods to countries at war.

Through lobbying and campaign contributions the war industry has significant political influence. In the promotion of war, in 2010 the war industry spent $144 million on lobbying and donated over $22.6 million to congressional candidates.

So it should not be surprising that “President Trump’s advisers recruited two businessmen who profited from military contracting to devise alternatives to the Pentagon’s plan to send thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan, reflecting the Trump administration’s struggle to define its strategy for dealing with a war now 16 years old.

Erik D. Prince, a founder of the private security firm Blackwater Worldwide, and Stephen A. Feinberg, a billionaire financier who owns the giant military contractor DynCorp International, have discussed their proposals to rely on contractors instead of American troops in Afghanistan with both Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s chief strategist, and Jared Kushner, his senior adviser and son-in-law, according to people briefed on the conversations.

On Saturday morning, Mr. Bannon sought out Defense Secretary Jim Mattis at the Pentagon to try to get a hearing for their ideas, an American official said. Mr. Mattis listened politely but declined to include the outside strategies in a review of Afghanistan policy that he is leading, along with the national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster.

The highly unusual meeting dramatizes the divide between Mr. Trump’s generals and his political staff over Afghanistan, the lengths to which his aides will go to give their boss more options for dealing with it and the readiness of this White House to turn to business people for help with diplomatic and military problems.

Soliciting the views of Mr. Prince and Mr. Feinberg certainly qualifies as out-of-the-box thinking in a process dominated by military leaders in the Pentagon and the National Security Council. But it also raises a host of ethical issues, not least that both men could profit from their recommendations.

“The conflict of interest in this is transparent,” said Sean McFate, a professor at Georgetown University who wrote a book about the growth of private armies, The Modern Mercenary. Most of these contractors are not even American, so there is also a lot of moral hazard.

Erik D. Prince
in 2014. He was a founder 
of the private security firm Blackwater Worldwide

 © Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg 

By Mark Landler, Eric Schmitt And Michael R. Gordon