That is a mistake, and this redoubled commitment to endless war should be immediately reversed. U.S. military intervention in Somalia is exacerbating political instability without contributing to the security of the American or Somali people. This is not our fight, and we should stop fighting it.
Like all countries, the United States lives in a world with finite resources. We are still the wealthiest, most secure country on the planet. Rather than compounding our fiscal challenges by papering over them with even more borrowing and spending, the federal government should rethink U.S. grand strategy. We should abandon peripheral missions and focus on strengthening our nation and our military.
America had an enduring interest in ensuring that the Continent not fall under the domination of a single, capable, hostile power: That could pose a serious threat to America. The Truman administration was clear on this point: The main purpose of stationing American military forces in Europe in the early 1950s was to stay long enough to right the balance of power, not to stay forever.
If President Trump was serious about transitioning the U.S. out of endless wars, he would end the war in Afghanistan and pull out all U.S. forces. The United States can protect our people, defend the homeland, and snuff out transnational terrorists without stationing American soldiers in Afghanistan forever. Anything less is more of the same and will only prolong an extravagantly expensive and utterly discredited strategy.
So little has changed in eight years that Paul and Udall this week introduced legislation which nearly could be copied verbatim from their 2011 push for withdrawal because it’s up against the same stale commitment to permanent intervention. The 2019 American Forces Going Home After Noble (AFGHAN) Service Act has updated numbers—higher counts of U.S. troops killed or wounded in Afghanistan, and a larger tally of borrowed tax dollars spent and often wasted—but its core demand of a quick and responsible exit from the longest war in U.S. history is unaltered.
This push for U.S.-orchestrated regime change is no surprise coming from Rubio, but regardless of its source, the proposal should be given no quarter. This is a humanitarian crisis, not a security threat. American military might is not the solution to Venezuela’s woes, and even calling for this sort of intervention may exacerbate an already horrifying situation.
With President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un two weeks away from their second summit in eight months, many journalists, pundits, and experts have focused on the question of what nuclear concessions the U.S. will secure. But there is a bigger story for those willing to see it: After nearly seven decades of mutual distrust, the U.S. and North Korea could find a way to coexist peacefully. In the grand scheme of things, this is the objective that will determine whether current diplomacy can be labeled as a success.
Only naivete could deny the possibility of some ISIS resurgence or evolution in the wake of U.S. departure from Syria. That should go without saying. But since the possibility has been raised, it should be seen as an indictment of our existing strategy and an impetus to change course. It certainly does not justify prolonging U.S. entanglement in Syria’s civil war.
Despite what the Trump administration says, Saudi Arabia is not an
ally. When national security interests coincide, Washington should
cooperate with the Saudis as it would with any country that shares
similar goals. But when those interests diverge, Washington should
show the courage to go its own way. American leaders must make it
clear that United States support is not an entitlement.
Apologists for NATO point out that European defense budgets have increased, though spending remains wholly inadequate. The American people, whose sons and daughters are already pledged to defend 27 European nations an ocean away, deserve an explanation for why their country remains the anchor and the banker of an alliance that can’t fight.
It is not Washington’s responsibility to serve as Kabul’s long-term security protector - nor is such a policy politically, economically, or militarily sustainable. The Afghans need to solve their own political and social problems. This could take years, if it ever happens. The American people don’t want to wait years for the troops to come home - they want them home now.
The president rightly decried the ludicrous suggestion from some Senate Republicans that ending U.S. intervention in Afghanistan and Syria would be “precipitous,” listing in compelling terms the high price in blood and treasure these lengthy – and in many ways futile – conflicts have exacted. But elsewhere in his State of the Union speech, Trump’s message was rather more muddled. We’re leaving these endless wars, the president said – but we’re staying, too, and we just might escalate again, including against new targets like Iran
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.