Hovering over it all is the critical question, one that hasn’t been answered by the foreign policy elite with any detail: what is the U.S. still doing in Afghanistan? What is our strategic end goal? After 17 years, how long do we plan to stay?
South Korea has an investment in solving this problem which the United States does not share. Even given North Korea’s recent advances in ballistic technology, there is no world in which the Kim regime can pose an existential threat to America. South Korea does not boast the same security: Seoul’s metro area of 25 million is a mere 35 miles from the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating the two countries, which means a war in which Kim believes he has nothing left to lose could mean unspeakable carnage for the South.
We should always favor engagement over bravado, especially with nuclear armed countries. Russia is an adversary, but that doesn’t mean we can’t talk to Russia, and even work with Russia on areas of shared interest. The American people should wonder why so many of their politicians don’t seem to agree.
Adopting territorial taxation for individual Americans is good policy. It would bring U.S. tax laws in line with global standards. It would simplify legal compliance for overseas Americans and reduce obstacles to their aspirations to serve others. Most importantly, it would enhance U.S. influence and prosperity while enriching Americans wherever they live.
Americans in particular should also never forget that Turkey or any other member country being included in NATO puts the U.S. on the hook for their defense. How many in the U.S. would be willing to send troops to wage war—or even risk nuclear war—over Turkey? These questions are rarely asked, but should be asked, and asked first.
Russia is a country that needs to be told not to mess with American elections again. It is also one that the United States needs to grudgingly live with because it has nuclear weapons.Any fantasies of U.S.-imposed regime change in Moscow or fears that Putin is Hitler are out of touch with reality and ignore history. It is possible to warn off Moscow from harming U.S. interests while also concluding that relations with Russia must not deteriorate further. The catch is having a Congress and President who will work together to make this a priority..
A prospective agreement such as this would not be a panacea. .But as experts on the Hermit Kingdom often say, North Korea is the land of lousy options. It is the Trump administration’s job to find the least lousy in the bunch. The U.S. can either do the same thing it has been doing for over a quarter-century while expecting a different result, or it can accept the current state of affairs and attempt to make the best of an unenviable situation.
The first step toward a more secure, more prosperous, more fair world is to keep track of which allies are living up to their obligations and which are not. The U.S. government must serve American interests. And instead of living at U.S. taxpayer expense, our allies must rediscover the virtues of self-government.
The crucial thing to understand during Paul’s tour this week and when future U.S.-Russian visits hopefully develop is that talking is not weak. Diplomacy is not the opposite of toughness. It is the result of a clear-eyed understanding that foreign relations are painted in shades of gray, that negotiating with reprehensible people and regimes is often the least bad option. In this case, it is our difficult but imperative route away from war.
The Beltway elite need to make better arguments before we mess with the status quo and put American men and women in harm’s way to fight what, at best, looks like the continuation of the 1,400 year-old struggle between Shia and Sunni Muslims. At worst, this looks like a conflict with at least four different sides that could lead to World War III.
Alliances may not be purely transactional arrangements, but they also cannot be devoid of strategic logic. Macedonia clearly cannot offer more than a symbolic contribution to NATO’s collective defense. In return, this small, landlocked country can potentially call on the military might of the United States and most of Europe through NATO’s Article 5.
Montenegro is hardly under threat. Its primary reason for joining NATO had more to do with wanting to be a member of the European Union (EU) than its need for greater security. Montenegro applied to join the EU in 2009 and has been in negotiations with the European Commission since 2012. Montenegro’s former prime minister (and former president) Milo Dukanović claimed that NATO membership was “one more important step towards Montenegro's full membership in the European Union.” But Montenegro’s candidacy for membership in the EU—which is about trade and economics—is not a compelling reason for the U.S. to be committed to defend a tiny country over 5,000 miles away.
The only way this permanent failure ends is if President Trump shows the willingness he has sometimes demonstrated in showing the courage to push back against the Washington establishment. He must ignore the status quo that holds our security hostage, end the war, and redeploy our troops. Without that resolve, we can count on continued failure in Afghanistan. With it, American security will be strengthened and readiness improved.
We’ve spent 17 years systematically proving there is no external military solution that can impose security on Afghanistan. Under Democratic or Republican leadership, with a small or large force on the ground, using tightly targeted strikes or the MOAB—it doesn’t matter. The only possible resolution is a political one. Diplomacy, unencumbered by the illusion that military power can solve Afghanistan’s political problems, is the only viable way forward.
As capable as our military is of causing the suffering Trump has in mind, there is no realistic scenario in which inflicting it could be justified or even remotely advantageous to American interests. Wherever Trump’s motives here may fall on the scale of self-serving to sincere, reckless tweets must not be permitted to escalate into another reckless war.