A recent website scan of the House Foreign Affairs and Senate Foreign Relations Committees shows no hearings scheduled on the growing crisis in Venezuela and only boilerplate statements from committee leaders asking for more information from the administration or in support of President Trump’s actions.
At the very least, Americans should seriously debate NATO’s role in today’s world, moving beyond platitudes. NATO requires of America serious obligations—we’re talking about potentially risking nuclear war if one of NATO’s members were involved in a conflict. Above all, our policymakers need to put the American people and our troops first.
Letting the Afghan war “muddle along” has been a grievous mistake. Since 2002, roughly 2,500 American service-members and 4,000 American contractors have been killed in Afghanistan, including four just over Thanksgiving. As John Kerry asked the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1971, after returning from that other quagmire in Vietnam, “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”
U.S. withdrawal would not fix Afghanistan’s problems—and the violence that has plagued that country since long before American troops deployed in 2001 will continue for the foreseeable future. But it requires a break from reality to argue that staying put offers any plausible route to U.S.-orchestrated peace. Extending this generational conflict will only add to the list of unintended and unwanted consequences of years-long occupation. It will only increase the costs of Washington’s strategic foreign policy failure, mire us deeper in a futile nation-building project, and foster anger and chaos instead of the stability Afghanistan needs.
Unexpected federal spending must be an option for emergencies, but the consequences cannot be ignored. Instead of trying and failing to pursue immediate offsets, however, a more realistic approach would recoup those costs over several years. Congress could still address immediate challenges without losing sight of the big picture. That’s the balance the American people expect their public servants to strike on their behalf.
That is unfortunate because the initial push to draw down U.S. military intervention in Somalia was the right one. If Trump isn’t planning to draw down U.S. intervention in Somalia, he should be. Counter-terror in Somalia is a parochial issue which poses no existential threat to America, and there’s no reason for Washington to do Mogadishu’s job.
Syria was becoming a distraction to the great-power strategy the Trump administration should resource. By getting out of Syria, the U.S. nips further mission creep in the bud and refocuses the national security bureaucracy on the priorities that can impact America’s security and economic prosperity.
The White House ordered the Pentagon to pull all U.S. troops out from Syria immediately. President Donald Trump tweeted: “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump presidency,” a stance that immediately received pushback from more interventionist lawmakers. In addition to the decision to pull out of Syria, made last week, a senior Pentagon official also suggested that troop reductions in Afghanistan are also under discussion.
Trump is right to accept victory in Syria. By September, the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria had lost 99 percent of the territory its vaunted caliphate once held, according to a Pentagon inspector general’s report. With the last vestiges of ISIS territory in Syria falling to U.S.-backed forces in recent days, the goal that drew America into Syria is achieved.
It will be one of the many ironies of the Trump administration if the short-term seduction of a bit of free real estate undermines what might otherwise have turned out to be one of the administration’s few foreign-policy successes: the improvement of alliance burden sharing, an objective sought not only by this President, but by all of his predecessors.
When a project is so grossly mismanaged, that alone should raise strategic questions: Is this something we need to do? Is it crucial to U.S. security? Is it protecting vital U.S. interests and keeping Americans safe? Do the American people even want this done on their behalf? Don’t only ask whether the price for U.S. support of the Saudi war in Yemen was right; ask if it was right for the United States to be involved at all: Should we have refueled those bombers in the first place? Polling indicates most Americans say “no,” and with good reason.
The United States has remained the major military power and leader within NATO by an enormous margin. As a result, all European NATO armies, not just the Germans, have shortchanged common defense by free riding on American power. This defense welfare, funded by the American taxpayer, serves no one’s interests.
The U.S. would be able to pass on much of the cost of protecting Europe—in both blood and treasure—to Europeans themselves, who are already geopolitically situated to stand up for Western interests, in tandem with their American allies, in relation to Russia and non-state threats from Africa and the Middle East.