By Bonnie Kristian
Two in three Americans are worried President Trump’s first four years in the White House will see the launch of another “major war,” new NBC News/Survey Monkey poll results released this week reveal. Unsurprisingly, this fear takes a distinctly partisan shape—fully 88 percent of Democrats expect Trump to plunge the country into a fresh large-scale conflict—but only four in 10 self-identified Republican and Republican-leaning respondents said the same. That’s not an insignificant number, and undoubtedly includes some Trump supporters, especially those whose enthusiasm is more kindled by his domestic agenda.
Given this widespread fear, two questions come to mind. First, are Americans right to be worried about this hypothetical new war? And second, are they right to be worried President Trump may bring it about?
The first question is a softball, and the answer is unquestionably yes. One only need cast a casual glance at what has passed for foreign policy for the last 16 years to know the United States cannot afford a major new conflict. America has already entangled herself in foreign conflicts at an alarming rate and must not add another to the list.
If the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are any guide, this would be a war of choice, waged without a strategic, attainable goal in mind and utterly unconnected from America’s vital national security interests. It would cost hundreds of billions of dollars in the short run—trillions in the long, as perpetual nation-building projects are built, bombed, and rebuilt—paid for by borrowed cash added to the tab of our children and grandchildren’s generations to repay.
It would claim too many lives of American soldiers plus local civilians, instigating a new wave of human migration as a new set of refugees seek to escape the warzone their homeland would become. And it would almost certainly become an exercise in futility and frustration, a suck on American resources, and distraction from American defense.
In short, Americans are more than right to worry about our country engaging in another major war. It would be unwise, unnecessary, and unaffordable in every sense of the word.
But to the extent that our government operates at a disconnect from the public it is supposed to represent, we must ask the second question, which is rather more difficult to answer. President Trump sounded welcome notes of foreign policy prudence on the campaign trail—but he also often embraced the very sort of militarism for which he rightly critiqued his opponents in the primary and general races alike.
Since taking office, Trump has at best maintained these mixed messages, to the point that some who hoped for a new shift toward restraint with Trump have already abandoned that hope. They may well be right—though, as one of those two in three Americans who fear a major new war, I pray not.
Still, even if Trump is inclined to undertake another reckless intervention, that decision is not his alone. Congress has proven itself habitually derelict in its foreign policy duty, yet it retains the constitutional authority to stop this hypothetical new war dead in its tracks.
With the public clearly ready for a new direction—and in James Mattis a defense secretary with a record of respect for the legislative branch—now, if ever, is the time for Congress to reassert its foreign policy power.
Two in three Americans are worried they’ll soon see the launch of another major war, and I wager even the other third aren’t exactly chomping at the bit for more military intervention. It’s time for Congress to step up and lay those fears to rest.
Bonnie Kristian is a fellow at Defense Priorities. She is a weekend editor at The Week and a columnist at Rare, and her writing has also appeared at Time Magazine, CNN, Politico, Relevant Magazine, The Hill, and The American Conservative, among other outlets.
This piece was originally published on March 7, 2017. Read more HERE.