The Truth Eats Alone
“If you give me your time, you’ll know more about the conflict in Afghanistan by the end of the show than any other show will give you today.” That was Buck’s solemn vow to his audience to lead off Friday’s show, and he honored it with the third deep dive of the week into important international hot zones. (Previous entrants were Syria on Wednesday and North Korea on Thursday.)
Having served at the CIA desk in Afghanistan during his time as an analyst, Buck felt it necessary to cut through the “big-bomb” fascination and offer some sobering assessments of the on-the-ground situation in the “forgotten war,” as well as concerns about the administration, which he focused on at the beginning.
“There’s a question I’d like to pose: Is the truth valued in media?” asked Buck. “Or more accurately, is the truth popular? The answer to that is often no.”
“There are some individuals in conservative media that were true believers all along in Trumpism. They saw this as a necessary corrective for the purpose of not allowing Hillary in power. In good faith they were willing to defend everything Trump did and said.”
“But since Trump has become president, I’ve been hoping there would be more willingness within the GOP and conservatism to be critical of the Trump orthodoxy. The truth is, stuff is in flux. Advisors are coming and going. And there are a lot of people in the media business who want to ignore that, who are disingenuous, who talk down to their audience and are unwilling to give up on the populism.”
“I have not yet seen the shift from those who are in position to have influence to try and steer the president in a direction that is in line with the promises he made when he was on the campaign.”
The Realities of Afghanistan
Turning to the war, Buck discussed how “the Trump administration is willing to enforce red lines, is willing to act, and won’t take things lying down.”
“In Afghanistan specifically, there’s a celebratory note about the dropping of the bomb. But the situation in Afghanistan is not good, and it’s time to start asking some hard questions.”
“Here’s the reality of what’s going on in Afghanistan,” Buck said. “ISIS is a small body that we have to worry about. The Taliban is the real problem. We are 16 years into this war, and a clear majority, close to 70%, of casualties, occurred under Obama. We surged and withdrew, we told them we’re going to draw down by this date. We’re down to 8800 soldiers.”
“The story in Afghanistan is a very discouraging one,” summarized Buck. “From a pure terrain perspective, the Taliban claims to be in the best position they’ve been in since 2001. Our side is pretty well in agreement on those numbers.
The Long War (Journal)
To shore up his assessments, Buck brought on Bill Roggio, editor of the Long War Journal, and a Senior Fellow for the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
“Look, we’re losing in Afghanistan,” Roggio said. “The Taliban controls more territory today than any time after 9/11. ISIS is gaining a foothold. That just tells you how bad things are.”
The two men broke down a map provided by the Long War Journal.
“A lot of places where you see Taliban control are in the South, along the Af-Pak border,” observed Buck. “But then you see a surge of contested provinces up through the center of Afghanistan towards Kabul. That’s something different.”
“Of the 400 districts in Afghanistan, the Taliban controls well over 200 of them, and that might even be conservative,” said Roggio. “Landmass-wise, they are in control of at least a third of the country. And these remote areas matter. They’ve laid siege to six different provincial capitals–think of them like state capitals.”
“The Taliban has every reason to lie about what’s happening in these districts,” Roggio said. “And they’re not.”
Buck and Roggio then discussed the influences of two rogue actors on the situation in Afghanistan: Russia and Iran.
On Russia, Roggio said, “Russia is very concerned about the Islamic State in Afghanistan. So what they’ve done is they’re playing a game where they’re trying to arm local groups as a bulwark against the Islamic State. They’re trying to prepare for the collapse of Afghanistan and buy off local actors.”
And on Iran: “The Iranians have been supporting local Taliban elements in the West. They are thought to have provided some surface-to-air missiles that took down a British plane. Iran’s vested interest is in the drug trade and in payback against us.”
Daily Caller Delivers Answers on Bannon
Buck then took a call from Kaitlan Collins, White House Correspondent for the Daily Caller, to fill his listeners in on rumors of Steve Bannon’s alienation and other storylines.
First, the two discussed the news that the Trump administration will not be releasing visitor logs.
“These logs are known by reporters to be imperfect,” said Collins. “Visitors who didn’t show up would still be in the logs. But people are staying the Trump administration is not being transparent enough to the public.”
“Why is the Trump administration changing this?” Buck asked.
“They say there are grave national security risks and privacy concerns, that the president has a right to see people and not disclose it. The Obama administration maintained the right to take names off the list so they wouldn’t show up.”
“I don’t know why the administration doesn’t go with ‘We’ll publish names unless we don’t want to,'” sighed Buck.
He then asked about the “palace intrigue” storyline involving the ascendance of Gary Cohn and the waning power of Steve Bannon.
“Trump sees him as a dealmaker,” Collins said, referring to Cohn. “And since he sees himself as a dealmaker, he respects that. Cohn has established himself in the White House, he has the president’s ear on things. The concern is that his nickname is Carbon Tax Gary, that he is on the Establishment side, not on the side that got Trump in the White House.”
Buck asked about the possibility of Bannon’s departure. “Any additions? Personal analyses?”
“I don’t think it’s a good idea to pick a fight with the president’s son in law,” Collins said. “I think that’s what Bannon did. I don’t think he’ll exit, but I do think his influence is waning.”
Buck then took a few calls from listeners, including a few attempts to stump him for Action Movie Quote Friday (going 3/5 by our count). He then turned to a piece (since removed from the internet, though it can be found here) written by the editorial board at Wellesley that seemed to be advocating for physical retaliation against so-called purveyors of “hate speech.”
“They pulled it down, and shouldn’t have, they should have just left it up, because we would have lost interest in a day or two,” Buck joked.
He then read from it, guffawing through such goofy lines as “We have all said problematic claims the origins of which were ingrained in us by our biased society,” before concluding it was part of “a collective feminist insanity.”
“The bottom line up front is that they believe hostility is warranted if they don’t like our speech. What gives them the right to decide what speech, I don’t know.”
“I’m very consistent on this,” Buck continued. “I was against hate crime legislation, I’m against hate speech legislation. This stuff leads to favoritism and creates inequalities before the law. It’s a very Marxist way of administering justice.”