As Trump Expands Military Involvement, Supporters Wonder What Happened to "America First"
Yesterday, in a televised speech to the nation, the President outlined his plan for our continued and expanded involvement in Afghanistan and South Asia, a measure which will result in further troop deployments and more spending.
The address was the first time that the President has publicly contradicted his campaign promise to curb foreign military involvement, but supporters have been increasingly concerned over a rapid succession of military escalations during the first 6 months of his term. To date, Trump has quietly authorized an expansion of military operations in 6 countries: Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, and now Afghanistan.
The President acknowledged the validity of his previous stance, attempting to allay concerns that he had forgotten about his campaign rhetoric, lamenting: "The American people are weary of war without victory. Nowhere is this more evident than Afghanistan, the longest war in American history, 17 years. I share the American people’s frustration over a foreign policy that has spent too much time, energy, money and most importantly, lives." But the President explained that the oval office changed his perspective: "decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office, in other words when you are president of the United States."
For a bloc of voters hoping for a shakeup in Washington, including an end to costly foreign wars that take American resources and lives, the speech rings hollow. The President literally said that once he became part of Washington, his once-populist perspective changed. His Afghanistan and South Asia military strategy is nearly identical to that of Obama, and although he has made the much needed change to a condition-based withdrawal criteria rather than the time-based approach of Obama, supporters will likely see his posturing towards "victory" and the "killing of terrorists" as nothing more than exactly what Bush and Obama promised at the beginning of their attempts to control the volatile region.
His plan is not new, and one would be foolish to think the outcome will be any different. Antagonizing Pakistan as he did in his speech will not make them cooperate. Calling upon NATO allies for more funds is unlikely to turn up much either.
Trump's Afghanistan plan is not a shakeup, it is not a breath of fresh air; Trump's plan is to send more American soldiers into harms way, and spend more taxpayer dollars. Our military officials seem to believe that there is a benefit in continuing the longest war in American history, and maybe they're trying to play the long game. Well if another 17 years is all it takes, perhaps we're better off with a different approach.