America’s military-first policies that are currently at play in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, and elsewhere in the region will neither bring the conflicts to an end, stability to the region, nor will these policies safeguard American interests. As has has been the case for virtually the past 16 years, the almost-certain outcome is that U.S. national security interests will continue to be eroded. A new direction in American foreign policy, however, can reverse these negative trends.
“Before rushing ahead,” Bacevich persuasively argues, Trump must “take stock. After all, in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere, U.S. troops have made considerable sacrifices. The Pentagon has expended stupendous sums. Yet when it comes to promised results—disorder curbed, democracy promoted, human rights advanced, terrorism suppressed—the United States has precious little to show.” Trump seemed to grasp this when he questioned, and now he must learn to remember it in his answers, too.
The dialogue between Washington and Baghdad should remain open, and if the Iraqi government requires additional American assistance in the future (which they likely will), the Trump administration shouldn’t dismiss the request out of hand. Yet after 14years of being intimately involved in the circular maze that is Iraqi affairs, Americans have learned a hard lesson: it is Iraqis, not the United States, that will determine whether Iraq succeeds or fails.
Whether direct Trump-Kim talks are the wisest course is subject to debate, but Washington must trade saber-rattling for conversation with Pyongyang. That is a critical step in the right direction. The alternative—to continue to the current cycle of escalation without any dialogue—is a dangerous game, making ever more probable the “major, major conflict” no party of this dispute ought to want. That is a road of grave miscalculation and catastrophic result, but it is a road we do not have to take.
China’s growing power has generated considerable angst within the United States and its allies, who fear an expansionist China might seek to upend the regional order. However, the more interesting, often ignored story in Chinese foreign policy is one of economic institution building. China very much wants a say in the global order reflective of its size and wealth– and prefers to achieve this through economic, not military means. To this end, it is attempting to reshape the global economic system through trade and investment partnerships, development institutions, and foreign aid.
The battle for Mosul is all but completed, and any question about the strategic significance of the battle’s conclusion has yet to be answered by our military leaders. That being so, it is time to start asking the difficult questions, such as why the current Administration—which ran and won on the promise to change American foreign policy—continues to follow the path of its two previous predecessors in embarking on tactical combat missions that do not contribute to U.S. national security nor the accomplishment of strategic objectives?
For retaining the separation of powers necessary for good governance, to ensure that the Administration considers the will of the American people before making war-and-peace decisions, and to reinstate the necessity of Congress fulfilling its constitutional obligations, the actions of Rep. Jones, Banks, and Sen. Young must be acted upon. It is time Congressional leaders put the interests of their parties aside and for the good of the nation, engage in a full and open debate on the use of force throughout the Middle East.
The U.S. has an opportunity to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue peacefully. Either it gets resolved, or the United States will have to get used to a Kim regime with a nuclear weapons arsenal. President Trump cannot let this opportunity pass him by.
Ultimately, President Trump needs to understand that navigating a way forward with regard to North Korea will be complicated. There are no easy solutions. Just hard and imperfect choices. He is right to say that “something will have to be done” about North Korea. But Twitter is not how it will get done.
China certainly aspires to have a greater role in the world, commensurate with its size, economy, and the fact that “China used to be the great country in the world for most of civilized history.” However, for the moment, it is content to prioritize its own needs, much as an ascending United States did during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Focusing on growth, development, and poverty relief domestically, China has left others to address wider global challenges. So far at least, it is a strategy that seems to be working.
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.