A failure to shift the burden to those who should bear it would suck even more U.S. attention and resources into a part of the world that has seen too much over the last decade and a half. Time for Washington to focus more on our middle class than the Middle East.
We will continue to defend our homeland and citizens from terrorist attacks from wherever they originate around the world—whether Afghanistan, ungoverned territories in Pakistan, Africa, or anywhere else—with robust intelligence, surveillance, and global reconnaissance assets in close coordination between CIA, FBI, and local law enforcement. Perpetuating the permanent failure of 17 years of troops on the ground in Afghanistan, however, must come to an end.
The United States, Russia, Iran, Turkey, Israel, the Assad regime, the remnants of ISIS, and various militias and terrorist organizations—sometimes distinguishable, but often not—are all in battle. The longer Washington maintains its reckless and unnecessary military intervention, the more likely a direct clash with Iran or Russia becomes.
The U.S. is still the most powerful country on the planet, but it can only keep that title if its power is not overextended. The United States is prosperous, but it cannot afford to forget about what’s most important: seeking mutually beneficial engagement with all nations when necessary, setting realistic defense priorities that elevate the safety of the American people, defending our way of life and promoting our economic prosperity above an obsession with the “liberal order.”
Deterrence and non-interference would be an improvement over aimless sanctions, recognizing the escalation cycles and incentives at play. Sanctions cannot bend Russia to America's will, but deterrence and a calculation by Washington not to back itself—or Moscow—into a corner can prevent the situation from getting worse.
The United States should not invade Iran, and we are by no means bound on course toward intervention. But the Trump team must be more careful here. No more half-facts and mixed messages. No more feckless suggestions that absolutely everything is on the table to force Tehran to bend to Washington’s will. No more use of sanctions as a universal tool of statecraft, a lazy and callous substitute for diplomacy. And certainly no more talk of regime change, which more than anything else is guaranteed to keep Iran away from the negotiating table Trump says he wants.
A longer route to peace is not ideal, but as long as North and South Korea stay friendly, nuclear warheads won’t fly. Peace is possible, and Korean-led diplomacy—not endless sanctions, and certainly not preventive war—is the best way to attain it.
In short, an indefinite U.S. military presence in Syria would be an endeavor with zero strategic benefit for America. It would, however, be costly and unnecessary, both in terms of the U.S. taxpayer funds expended to maintain and resupply that presence and to the safety of the troops themselves. U.S. soldiers and marines should be used to prevent bad guys from killing Americans—not to referee the region’s civil and proxy conflicts.
The way Egypt is behaving, it is simply a bad deal for Washington to continue to ritualistically open its wallet without thinking about the return on investment. Foreign assistance should be earned, not treated as an unquestioned entitlement. Above all, Washington’s generosity must serve the interests of the United States, and benefit the American people—especially the taxpayers who fund it.
An uninformed public leads to erratic and uninformed policies. Congress possesses the authority to rebalance a scale between the executive and legislative branches that has tilted heavily in favor of the executive for decades. For the health and vibrancy of the American republic, lawmakers better start using it.
As Mattis and Nicholson have realized, there is no military victory to be had in Afghanistan. Diplomacy and political solutions are the best options. The U.S. military is by far the most powerful in the world, and it can do many things well. Yet nation-building Afghanistan is not one of them. Internal political problems will not be wiped away by an external military force.
Yes, terrorism making use of modern technologies can cause harm to a number of people, but claiming that any instances of terrorism in the world are a threat to our civilization is a historically inaccurate exaggeration. This type of rhetoric gives practitioners of terrorism precisely what they want—an image and influence that outsizes their actual size and capability.
Overcoming 70 years of mistrust is bound to be a fitful, decades-long process. But doing so is essential to forging a durable peace on the Korean peninsula. For that reason, the United States should throw its full support behind the burgeoning DPRK-ROK dialogue—even if that means putting denuclearization on the back burner.