Trump Gives Afghanistan What it Needs: True Leadership

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The sad truth about being the President of the United States is that sometimes you have to make decisions that will disappoint a significant portion of your base. Sometimes – often, even – you have to make decisions that go against your core beliefs about how things should be.

But that is ultimately what leadership on the global scale is all about. It’s easy for pundits, pacifists, and non-interventionists to sit back from their safe perches and blast Trump for sending more troops into Afghanistan; none of us have to live with the consequences of pulling out. No one is going to come pounding on Rand Paul or Steve Bannon’s door demanding answers when ISIS turns the country into a brand new safe haven for their caliphate.

Trump’s speech on Monday night is being characterized as a “flip-flop,” even though it’s nothing of the kind. Or, if it is, it is a “flip-flop” that the voters knew about long before they went to the polls in November. Trump said during the Republican primaries that he believed we should remain in Afghanistan. And while that did clash with his earlier statements about the war, voters cannot claim that they were misled by Candidate Trump. Even if they could claim such a thing, we can’t pretend like it’s a bad thing for a president to change his mind after getting an insider’s view of the facts as they stand. When it comes to foreign policy, Americans must put a certain amount of trust in the White House; we simply don’t have all the information as civilians.

Now, does that mean we’re super excited about the president’s plan? How could we be? It is our long-expressed desire to see the U.S. extract itself from these Middle Eastern hellholes, where so many American troops have been killed and maimed for purposes that appear, at best, to be esoteric in their returns. But this is the war Trump inherited, like it or not. And we saw in Iraq the pitfalls of pulling out early. Did we really spend 16 years, 2,000 lives, and untold trillions of dollars just to let terrorists take over in the end? Come on.

There is considerable doubt in foreign policy circles as to whether or not the war in Afghanistan is truly “winnable.” Clearly, Trump’s military advisers believe that it is at least salvageable. That may be, at the moment, the best we can hope for.