Having been a governor, I really try to give elected officials a chance to succeed. For the good of the nation, I even hope Donald Trump succeeds in making us safer, more prosperous and more free.
And while I disagreed with much of what Donald Trump said during last year’s campaign, and disagree with much of what he has said since, I was hopeful that he meant it when he expressed a healthy skepticism about U.S. interventions abroad.
Specifically, it was heartening to hear him ask about our war in Afghanistan: “We’ve been there for now close to 17 years, and I want to find out why we’ve been there for 17 years, how it’s going and what we should do in terms of additional ideas.”
Those are questions that should be asked and answered.
Nearly 17 years later, we are still there
I’ve said for a long time that sending our military into Afghanistan after 9/11 to find and destroy the Al-Qaeda masterminds of the murderous attacks on America was appropriate. We were attacked, and responded.
But within months, we had uprooted Al-Qaeda and their Taliban hosts. Yet, nearly 17 years later, we are still there. Like the Soviet Union before us, albeit for very different reasons, we attempted to occupy and transform a country that has defied transformation for hundreds of years.
More than 2,000 American military and intelligence personnel have died in Afghanistan since 2001. It’s now the longest war in U.S. history. That’s a heavy and tragic price to pay for a failed attempt at nation-building.
That’s why, like many Americans, I hoped President Trump meant it during the campaign when he suggested we should bring our troops home from Afghanistan.
Sending more troops into the Afghanistan morass
Monday night, he disappointed us. Not only are we not bringing our troops home, but we are sending more into the Afghanistan morass. It appears the President has been dragged through the looking glass into buying the argument that, if we “abandon” Afghanistan, it will once again become a sanctuary for Al-Qaeda, ISIS and other violent extremists who would do us harm.
That argument is tempting if we are only looking at Afghanistan. But we’re not.
Where do we draw a line? Al-Qaeda has individual cells in an estimated 100 nations, including right here in America. Al-Qaeda operates in Yemen, Sudan, Indonesia, Libya, the Philippines, Syria, and several more. Are we to occupy and transform all of them?
Of course not. It’s not possible, and even if it were, we can’t afford it.
Three Presidents have now presided over the War in Afghanistan, and tragically, it is difficult to claim that we – or the Afghan people – are today safer as result. Seventeen years, hundreds of billions of dollars, and most important, thousands of American casualties would suggest that thrusting even more time, money and lives into the chaos that is Afghanistan cannot be expected to achieve a different outcome.
Unfortunately, it appears Donald Trump’s famed “nationalism” has abandoned him in the one policy area where it makes sense.
(President Donald Trump greets military leaders before his speech on Afghanistan at the Fort Myer military base on August 21 in Arlington, Virginia, by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.)