President Donald Trump, already an enemy to neocons who see the spread of democracy around the world as part and parcel of America’s political missions, nonetheless doubled down on his vow to bring home more U.S. military members from endless overseas engagements.
Expect the frownie faces from within his own Republican ranks.
Trump’s announcement virtually guarantees that only the likes of Sen. Rand Paul and Sen. Rand Paul’s anti-globalist supporters will stand by their White House man.
“I inherited a total mess in Syria and Afghanistan, the “Endless Wars’ of unlimited spending and death,” Trump wrote on Twitter.
He went on: “It is now time to start coming home and, after many years, spending our money wisely.”
By that, he meant the estimated $50 billion U.S. taxpayers spend each year on Afghanistan — and in exchange for what? That’s what Trump wants to know.
“Certain people must get smart!” he said.
Trump’s intent to bring home U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan has been met by criticism from within his intel and military ranks — particularly from those no longer tied to the administration, like Jim Mattis and John Kelly, former defense secretary and former chief of staff, respectively.
But here’s the thing: George Washington himself warned in his farewell address that the then-new nation ought to be careful when it comes to getting involved in foreign affairs, especially those involvements that lead to allied commitments.
“It is our true policy,” Washington said, “to steer clear of permanent alliance with any portion of the foreign world.”
Something to keep in mind before committing any U.S. troops to foreign fights, yes? That — and a clear mission and exit strategy, something that’s far too easy for political powers-who-be to do without these days.
And while Syria and Afghanistan aren’t exactly permanent operations and don’t create permanent alliances with any other nation in the world, the latter, at least, is tottering perilously close to the line. America’s war in Afghanistan has been ongoing since 2001.
“The United States’ Perpetual War in Afghanistan,” is how Foreign Affairs dubbed in, back in August of 2018.
Trump, by announcing withdrawals in December and by standing by that decision this week, is simply recognizing the utter irrationality of putting more U.S. troops in harms’ way for reasons that are largely unclear — for reasons that are masked as peacekeeping, and security details, and monitoring and oversight, and training of the locals, but that carry big consequences for Americans.
Republicans in the Senate under the leadership of Mitch McConnell may express opposition to troop withdrawal. But once again, Trump has the pulse of his base.
Headlines like this — “‘Friendly Fire’ May Have Killed 2 U.S. Soldiers in Afghanistan Raid,” from mid-2017, and “3 American service members killed in Afghanistan,” from late 2018 — don’t generate goodwill among the American people.
Neither do broken campaign promises. (Which is why Democrats are waiting to pounce.)
“Trump defends Syria troop withdrawal as ‘doing what I said I was going to do,’” the Hill wrote in a headline in December.
Quite right. There’s no surprise with his drawdowns.
There may be anger from neocons, deep staters and those who want to constantly expand America’s presence on a more permanent basis at select spots overseas. There may be feigned outrage from Democrats who would love to turn a broken campaign promise into a political plus. But there can’t be a surprise.
Trump’s truly only doing what he vowed on the campaign trail. And that’s something his base, his voters, his military constituents, will respect.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @ckchumley.