Trump, Troop Withdrawals, and Winning the 2020 Election

Good news: President Trump is withdrawing troops from Syria and Afghanistan. While the President’s stated reason for the Syrian withdrawal – that Isis is totally defeated in the region – is dubious, it’s hard to tell how the presence of a couple of thousand U.S. troops is either needed or desirable for counter-terror operations there. In Afghanistan, Trump has ordered the withdrawal of seven thousand US troops, or roughly half the force there. One can only hope he’ll withdraw the remaining troops by the end of 2019.

Trump’s moves are consistent with his campaign promises about ending costly troop deployments and wasteful overseas wars. Despite this, he’s being castigated by Republicans and Democrats for putting America at risk by leaving Syria and preparing to leave Afghanistan. Ostensibly, the US has two major political parties, but they often act together as a single war party. Trump knows this and is unafraid (so far) to confront them.

Indeed, it’s possible Trump won in 2016 because he outspokenly denounced the waste of America’s wars. Evidence suggests that pro-Trump sentiment in rural areas especially was driven in part by people who agreed with his antiwar critique: by people who’d either served in these wars or whose sons/daughters had served.

Compare this to the Clintons and mainstream Democrats (and Republicans), who’ve worked hard to suppress antiwar forces, the McGovernite wing of the party, so to speak. Recall that it was Hillary the Hawk who warmly and proudly embraced Henry Kissinger in 2016, and look where that got her.

Adding further intrigue and disruption is Secretary of Defense James Mattis’s announcement of his resignation, effective in February 2019. I never thought Mattis was the right candidate to serve as America’s civilian Secretary of Defense; Trump apparently sees him as too conventional in outlook (almost a Democrat, Trump has said). Mattis has disagreed with Trump’s boorish treatment of America’s allies, especially of NATO, and there’s no doubt that Trump has been crude, rude, and socially unacceptable, as we used to say as teenagers. But that is Trump’s prerogative. The Americans who elected him, after all, knew they weren’t getting a glad-handing soft-talking diplomat.

Finally, Trump is still fighting for five billion dollars to extend the wall along the southern border with Mexico. He’s threatening to shutdown the government for a very long time and (at least partially) to own the blame. It’s a waste of money, of course, though $5 billion is a drop in the bucket when you consider the Pentagon’s budget of roughly $716 billion.

I’m a huge Trump critic (I was very critical of Obama as well), but I give him credit for taking unpopular stances even as he tries to honor campaign promises. Pulling ground troops out of Syria and Afghanistan is the right thing to do. The wall is a ridiculous boondoggle, but even here, Trump is willing to fight for it. Would that Democratic leadership show similar resolve over issues like affordable health care, a living wage, and climate change.

Bring the troops home, Mister President. End the wars and reinvest in America. If you do these things, it’s likely you’ll be reelected in 2020. It pains me to write that, because I’m no fan of Trump’s mendacity and greed, among his many other faults, but I think it’s true.

William J. Astore is a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF). He taught history for fifteen years at military and civilian schools and blogs at Bracing Views. He can be reached at Reprinted from Bracing Views with the author’s permission.

5 thoughts on “Trump, Troop Withdrawals, and Winning the 2020 Election”

  1. Trump being somehow “anti-war” is the most laughable notion. He’s anti-other-people’s wars he would prefer to have his own. If there are fewer over there and he wins 2020 they’ll be shipping right out somewhere else, you can count on it.

    “The Americans who elected him, after all, knew they weren’t getting a glad-handing soft-talking diplomat” Nah, just another sleazy draft-dodger like all the others.

    “Would that Democratic leadership show similar resolve over issues like affordable health care, a living wage, and climate change.” Americans don’t want a leadership that’s resolute about that stuff they want sleazy draft-dodgers who’ll kick the people they don’t like for them. And always ready to heap praise on a goon who doesn’t fuck it up for once in their life with the same vehemence they condemn a saint to the gallows who makes a single error.

  2. It’s only good news if, a) it actually happens on a permanent basis. b) it doesn’t result in the privatization of that conflict. c) it doesn’t result in an attack on Iran or some other country.

    I’m hopeful yet cautious until I see for sure he’s actually not just reading a script and playing his part in the drama that is US foreign policy.

    This is just too convenient for me not to be suspicious, but if it turns out to be Trump actually bucking the system then he deserves credit for doing so.

    The shitshow has to end somehow, and Trump is just an unvarnished version of the elite scum that actually run the show so he may be able to embarrass and discredit them enough to make it happen. My advice to him would be to stay away from all windows and stay out of Dallas for quite some time.

    Who knows ?

  3. Is he pulling out of Syria and Afganistan just to replace those failed wars with two of his own choice in Iran and Venezuela? Never trust a Trump.

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