It would be highly unwise for members of the alliance to discount what Trump has to say. While NATO is not at risk of extinction, it finds itself at a critical inflection point in its nearly 70-year history. Continuing with a business-as-usual is not an option.
Today, there may be as many as 4,000 U.S. boots on the ground in Syria. Airstrikes continue, and though they have slowed since last year’s peak, the Trump administration has now twice bombed regime targets. And while ISIS is all but vanquished, Syria’s civil war grows all the more complex. U.S. forces now find themselves dodging (with varying degrees of success) conflict with Russian and Iranian troops backing Assad while Turkish soldiers—our NATO allies—are fighting U.S.-backed Kurds. President Trump says he wants to bring American soldiers home, but his administration has spuriously boasted of authority to keep them in Syria indefinitely.
There are no guarantees in diplomacy, but talking with one’s adversaries is a demonstration of strength, flexibility, and responsibility—not weakness. To not take advantage of one of the most effective tools in the U.S. national security toolbox would be to squander it.
When it comes to North Korean denuclearization, members of Congress from both sides of the aisle distrust Kim Jong-un and President Trump to create a successful agreement, while others believe the United States should not stop short of removing Jong-un from power. Both are valid reasons for members to have concerns, but are not the justifications they should cite for carrying out their duties.
In other words, Americans understand that deterrence will continue to work and that continued diplomacy is the best course of action. Status quo is neither better nor worse, but war would be much worse.
In the end, anything that moves the ball toward peace on the Korean Peninsula and away from a preventative war is indeed a victory for America, Koreans, and the world.
Despite his recent pledges, Kim may never fully denuclearize, and Trump’s team would do well to accept that for now. To refuse to countenance that possibility sets up a false binary of denuclearization or war which will make fruitful conversation at this summit impossible.
America’s foreign policy needs to set priorities and focus on core interests: America’s security, our prosperity, and our way of life. Our economic, diplomatic, and military power needs to rebuild and reload—we need to get back to the basics. That means more-responsible defense contracts and reducing bureaucratic waste at the Pentagon, but it also means prioritizing where we place American troops.
More U.S. soldiers stationed throughout the world, in places such as Poland, the Baltics, or the Gulf, merely ensures that we will continue to be entangled as first-line troop providers to our allies and partners, regardless of our national interests. Our allies, too, will be disincentivized from seeking their own solutions, as long as they can continue to use American troops as cannon fodder for their security.
In the long run, China’s geoeconomic offensive across the Eurasian continent could threaten the very foundations of America’s post-WWII hegemony. Because of its narrow focus on the military balance of power in the Asia-Pacific, the U.S. has not yet developed the tools necessary to address that challenge. Adjusting to pursue a more realistic grand strategy would account for these realities and redirect resources to the appropriate means—a true “pivot to Asia.” This grand strategy would yield substantial short- and long-term benefits for the American people and the West.
Trump, a man who loves to make deals, may sooner or later realize that CVID is an unattainable goal and that his choices may come down to walking away or crafting an agreement that—while not perfect—is preferable to no deal at all.
Regime change in Iran would bring a host of consequences, many of them unknowable, but almost all of them negative for America and the region. There is one outcome we can be sure of, however: Occupying Iran would be the death of America’s all-volunteer military and necessitate a return to a draft.
In order to eliminate the avoidable deterioration of Washington’s ability to keep America safe from our national debt and military overstretch, policymakers must set defense priorities based on a realistic assessment of our security and prosperity—not by cleaning up Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy blunders in Yemen.
In the current environment, there is almost no possibility of increased “maximum pressure” through economic sanctions; support for any type of bloody-nose U.S. first-strike has largely evaporated, and the U.S.—not North Korea—appears the truculent negotiating partner.
Reform of U.S.-NATO engagement should entail a recognition that, particularly if the 2 percent goal is met, Europe is more than equipped for self-defense. The continent’s considerable might is a powerful deterrent against any plausible conventional threat, and a shrewd approach to diplomacy offers further insurance against attack. Large-scale, permanent U.S. presence and subsidy is not needed—or deserved—especially as Washington shifts attention to Asia.
Trump should absolutely seek a comprehensive deal. Bringing peace to the peninsula is good for our allies in the region, all Koreans, and the U.S. However the overriding objective for the United States must not be obtaining some specific negotiated deal, but the prevention of war and the preservation of American security and prosperity.
Pompeo committed the U.S. to escalating tensions with Iran with the hope Tehran will yield—even though it has not done so after 40-plus years of pressure. We can say with certainty this approach will not make Americans safer, nor will it bring the Middle East closer to stability, the Iranian people closer to liberty, or the Trump administration closer to its stated foreign policy aims. The path forward cannot be unrealistic, unilateral ultimatums and barely concealed threat of invasion, as Pompeo proposed. That path leads to generational war at a price of blood and treasure the United States need not, and should not, pay.
Whether or not one thinks Europe’s welfare state is advantageous to society-at-large is not the issue. Very simply, U.S. taxpayers shouldn’t be subsidizing European largess. America’s budget deficit—the amount our federal government spends in excess of what it takes in per year—is fast approaching $1 trillion with no end in sight. This level of overspending is unprecedented outside of a recession.
Now that he has withdrawn the U.S. from the JCPOA, President Trump must remember that most important of campaign promises: beware of pointless, endless regime change campaigns that degrade America’s economic wealth and strain America’s armed forces. To lose sight of this principle would be an extreme violation of the most significant commitment Trump made to the American people as a presidential candidate.
The solution is not preventive war. The U.S. can deter North Korea indefinitely which makes force unnecessary. Why sacrifice 7 million lives to prevent a North Korean attack that’s unlikely to happen anyway? The United States coexists with the Russia and China, and it can learn to do so with North Korea if the summit fails.
If we let events take their course naturally, Iran’s desire for regional influence will continue to be checked by the ambitions of other regional powers, while internal pressures may eventually produce a government more favorable toward us, all without any American military action.
President Trump has defined his foreign policy as “principled realism,” a welcome shift in direction from the hawkish liberal internationalism and neoconservatism of the past. Jettisoning a nuclear deal that is working, despite the problems buried in the text, would run counter to the realism embedded in the Trump administration’s national security doctrine. And it may very well put the United States in the position of fighting a fourth war in the Middle East, a possibility the American people are neither prepared for or supportive of.
So if the summit meeting between Trump and Kim Jong-un isn’t fruitful and doesn’t result in denuclearization, we need to understand that military action should not be and does not need to be the logical next step.
The president’s instincts have been right before—and he should have followed them.
Shortly after Trump’s inauguration, he said he was going to make good on a campaign promise to destroy the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), and substantially increased the number of U.S. combat troops, trainers, and air controllers in Syria.
If there is one lesson Congress should have learned in nearly two decades since the 2001 AUMF, it is that a sunset, or cut-off date, is an essential component in dealing with asymmetrical warfare and enemies.
Both sides in this civil war have spilled much innocent blood; there are no good guys in this fight. That’s why U.S. foreign policy should be guided by a realistic grand strategy, not knee-jerk responses to developments on the ground. Bashar al-Assad is a brutal thug, but deepening U.S. involvement in Syria’s civil war would undermine U.S. security.
The most prudent path is the one already announced by the president: to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria’s civil war and use the United States’ unparalleled diplomatic power to pursue a viable detente in Syria. Sometimes there are no good military options, and we must opt for the least bad policy on the table.
President Trump is mulling an end to the U.S. military intervention in Syria’s civil war, commenting Thursday that U.S. troops would exit the country “very soon,” letting “the other people take care of it now.” With the Islamic State deprived of the vast majority of its land and status—the terrorist group now controls just 5 percent of the Syrian territory it had conquered at its peak—and regional powers like Russia, Turkey, and Iran invested in preventing an ISIS reprise, Trump has recognized the rationale for U.S. occupation grows increasingly thin.
Serious leadership and thoughtful initiative is needed to put our nation’s defense on a sustainable and fiscally responsible foundation, or we will be doing a disservice to ourselves and to the men and women who defend our country.
To inform citizens, thought leaders, and policy makers of the importance of a strong, dynamic military—used more judiciously to protect America's narrowly defined national interests—and promote a realistic grand strategy prioritizing restraint, diplomacy, and free trade to ensure American security.