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Will Trump End the Endless Wars?

November 2, 2019 in Economics

By A. Trevor Thrall, John Glaser

A. Trevor Thrall and John Glaser

Donald Trump made headlines in 2016 when he stood on a debate stage with 16 other Republican candidates and called the war in Iraq “a horrible mistake.” More recently Trump decried America’s need to exit “endless wars” when he tweeted that the United States would withdraw 2,000 American troops from Syria.

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But despite Trump’s rhetoric, the reality is that Trump has done very little to pull the United States out of its endless wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria or elsewhere. His failure to do so tells us something about Trump’s preference for stagecraft over statecraft, but also about the powerful inertia of American foreign policy and the politics of national security.

Trump’s various attempts to exit endless wars have all followed a similar pattern. First, Trump tweets or tells the press that he plans to withdraw American troops, usually without consulting with his own advisers or putting in place an implementation plan.

Then, in the wake of Trump’s announcements, the Washington foreign policy establishment — and sometimes public opinion — reacts negatively to his announcement. Foreign policy experts and members of Congress take to the media to complain that any withdrawal would be a sign of weakness, would betray our allies and partners, and would lead to horrific consequences for America’s national security.

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Meanwhile, Trump’s advisers rush about behind the scenes madly trying to convince him to change course. This was certainly the case when Trump got out ahead of his special envoy to Afghanistan to declare a withdrawal in the midst of tense negotiations with the Taliban. And Trump in December 2018 abruptly called for a withdrawal from Syria, only to have that order entirely reversed by the bureaucracy after James Mattis, the secretary of defense at the time, resigned in …read more

Source: OP-EDS