Trump Just Can't Quit Afghanistan


Imagine being a U.S. citizen who believes that America should withdraw its troops from Afghanistan after nearly 18 years of increasingly pointless war. Shouldn't be too hard, since that describes 61 percent of Americans—and an eye-popping 69 percent of veterans—polled in October 2018 by YouGov.

But let's also stipulate that by some glitch in the time-space continuum you become president of the United States, and that in one of your first major post-election interviews you observe that "nothing is going well" in Afghanistan. Wouldn't you think those troops would be home more than two years after that?

This is where we find ourselves in the spring of 2019—with a president who accurately declares in his State of the Union address that "great nations do not fight endless wars," even while 14,000 of the troops under his command still suffer and inflict death more than 200 months (and 2,300 Americans killed) after U.S. forces first overthrew the Taliban government.

"We should leave Afghanistan immediately," Trump tweeted as far back as March 2013. "No more wasted lives." He was right then, and presumably still leans that way now. To invert the old Madeleine Albright quote, what's the point of these superb executive powers if you can't use them to withdraw troops?

"We have a president—the first president, really—to say that the war has long been over, there is no military solution, he's bringing the troops home," Sen. Rand Paul (R–Ky.) says. "The problem is that several of his advisers that he has appointed don't necessarily agree with him. So they either countermand his sentiments or talk him into delaying."

Former Trump chief of staff and Obama-administration chief of U.S. Southern Command John Kelly has basically admitted to the latter tactic, telling the Los Angeles Times in an interview last year that when he arrived at the White House in August 2017, Trump "was inclined to want to withdraw from Afghanistan." Instead, Kelly and others persuaded the draft-dodging president to add troops and wait for some mythical moment when conditions would allow for a drawdown.

That has been the default position of the American political class for three administrations now. Even though George W. Bush campaigned on a more "humble" foreign policy; even though Barack Obama won against both John McCain and Hillary Clinton while opposing the Iraq War; and even though Trump in his 2015 campaign announcement speech complained that "we spent $2 trillion in Iraq…we lost thousands of lives…and we have nothing," presidents once in office cannot bring themselves to face the truth about sunk costs.

"If there is no military solution, what is one more death going to do over there?" asks Paul, who in March with Sen. Tom Udall (D–N.M.) introduced the American Forces Going Home After Noble (AFGHAN) Service Act, which would pull out all U.S. troops within one year and euthanize the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force—the legal justification for the continued deployment of combat troops in the region. "It's a mess now, but it will be a mess when we come home, too. And we just need to acknowledge that our original mission was to go after those who plotted or attacked us on 9/11, and there's frankly none of them left."

As Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report made painfully clear upon arrival in April, Trump's more impulsive and erratic desires—to fire Mueller, for instance, or to have his staffers lie to Congress—are often thwarted by subordinates leery of their propriety and/or legality. In many of those cases, Americans (especially Trump himself, given the possible legal jeopardy) should be relieved that the president's wishes did not become commands.

But it's hard to envision an authority more constitutionally explicit than the executive's discretion over the military. The fact that Trump can announce a troop withdrawal from Syria in December and yet find himself, just four months later, agreeing to keep a presence of 1,000 there speaks to how difficult it is for a president to pull back America's military reach.

"When will we stop wasting our money on rebuilding Afghanistan?" citizen Donald Trump asked in 2011. It's still a good question. The military still doesn't have any good answers.

"If we're going to wait until there's nobody left with a suicide vest in the Middle East or around the world," Paul says, "we'll wait forever."

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106 responses to “Trump Just Can't Quit Afghanistan

  1. This is exactly the sort of thing that almost makes me start entertaining conspiracy theory crap about presidents and congress being just figureheads, and the real power working out of the public sight.

    It’s disgusting that we can never leave. These places are not the Hotel California, FFS.

    1. Inertia is a powerful motivator among well to do Americans. It’s like my friend’s baby mama’s response the last time I brought up Afghanistan to them. She said, “No one is trying to kill me.” Talk about your privileged White bitch.

      1. She’s not woke enough, or she would know that all males (and all corporations and the Trump administration and…) are trying to kill her.

      2. Then why wasn’t inertia a powerful motivator going in?

    2. No, nobody WANTS to put on the tinfoil hat and wear it the rest of his life, but there comes a time when the Shadow Government of the Power Elite becomes the most reasonable explanation. Those trying to mind-read Trump’s reversal on Afghanistan are making it too complicated. Trump has not withdrawn from Afghanistan because he has been told he may not by people to whom he cannot give orders.

      1. Jeez, people, give up the tinfoil hat nonsense. Does anyone here believe poor ignorant Donald Trump has a strategy to abandon? With or without hidden Illuminati forces twisting his arm? The man’s mind functions on the level of a child. Go watch a toddler and see how long he stays focused on on goal.

        Newsflash : Trump has no foreign policy. With the possible exception of seeing trade as a zero-sum-game (something stupid enough to reside in his wheelhouse), he has no philosophy, no plans, no beliefs, no principles.

        Trump’s “foreign policy” is three things : Posturing, pandering, and tweets. Those three things do NOT provide a way to disengage from Afghanistan, therefore Trump does/says nothing consistent from one moment to the next. Status quo holds.

        More of a real-world explanation than crackpot conspiracy bullshit, eh?

        1. Disagree. Trump’s ‘posturing, pandering, and tweets’ are guided by a deeply held principle. That principle happens to be Enough about you. Let’s talk about me.

          That might seem to make it impossible for someone to figure out a way to engage him in making some decision about Afghanistan or anything else. But I’d argue that is just a failure of imagination. If someone in the policy class really wanted to withdraw from Afghanistan, the way to make that happen with this pres would be along the lines of Let’s have a giant military parade to you – our Dear Glorious Leader – right in front of the White House. Composed of all of those troops who have first-hand (though marginally) helped YOU to Make America Great Again in Afghanistan/Syria/Korea/etc and who really want be a small part of celebrating your accomplishments in that.

          He couldn’t resist that. And it would completely immunize him from those who think they can advise him that those troops shouldn’t be in a big parade for him but should instead be tromping around in boondocks places

        2. That’s your TDS talking. The President obviously has poor communication skills, but the idea that a man of Trump’s accomplishments could be an aimless, child-like simpleton is absurd. I’m old enough to remember a decade of hearing such nonsense about Ronald Reagan.

          1. What does it say about the Democrats that they couldn’t even beat a child like simpleton?

            1. They would say it’s not their fault that so many Americans are ignorant “deplorables”.

          2. “man of Trump’s accomplishments”

            What accomplishments? He launched a business career with tens of millions of daddy’s money, blew through it all & was refunded with tens of millions more, then blew all that. What finally rescued him was daddy dying and the resulting inheritance. Every estimate suggests he’d have made much more money just dumping his cash in a passive investment, which is surely one reason why so he’s afraid to come clean on his finances. He manged to bankrupt a bloody casino, for god’s sake. Trump launched a “university”, which was shut down as a grifter scam. He launched a “foundation”, which was shut down as a grifter scam. He’s plastered his name on every kind of shitty product imaginable, even while leaving a trail of bankruptcies, defaults, and stiffed bills in his wake.

            So tell us all : What accomplishments?

            Absent Fred Trump’s hundreds of millions, what “accomplishments” could DJT’s have managed? I bet he’d be working some three-card-monte on a street corner, because that’s all he’s amounted to even with daddy’s money : A two-bit huckster……

            1. More distorted TDS bullshit. You hate him. Just say that. All your vitriol just makes you sound ridiculous.

              1. Distorted how? The facts about Trump’s business career are well known…

                1. Do we really need to covert this again? Or do you just not understand this stuff? All your bullshit has been picked apart here dozens of times in the past. So I’m not inclined to waste my time doing it again because of your progtarded TDS.

                  More likely it just comes down to the fact that you hate him and will distort any aspect of his life to condemn him.

                  1. Distorted how? Everything about Trump’s business career above is a solid fact…..

          3. That’s true, except I wouldn’t even say he’s poor at communication. He was a TV figure for years, FFS, a regular talking head. (Same with Reagan.)

            Clearly he’s against the war, but just as clearly doesn’t make doing anything about it a priority. It’s the same with most people you ask their opinion about something. The difference is, they’re not in position to achieve their will, but Trump is CInCUS. Therefore he must feel he needs the cooperation of others on other things, so is willing to concede for now on this thing he has absolute control over. Like, I’ll keep forces in Afghanistan if you’ll vote with me on [something that’s marginal].

        3. For Trumo’s faults he’s definitely smarter than that shitbag Obama.

          1. A demented Circus monkey is smarter than Obummy!

      2. Yes, maybe been told by the same people who killed JFK for wanting out of Vietnam and JFK repeatedly told those close to him, he may be killed if he withdraws from Vietnam!

        “This war in Vietnam, it’s never off my mind, it haunts me day and night.
        The first thing I do when I’m re-elected, I’m going to get the Americans out of Vietnam.”

        President John Fitzgerald Kennedy to next-door neighbor Larry Newman
        in Hyannis Port, October 20, 1963.

  2. One of the major reasons I voted for Hillary Clinton was foreign policy. As the most qualified Presidential candidate ever, she would have made an excellent Commander in Chief. I’m fully confident she would have achieved total victory in Afghanistan.

    Unfortunately, Russia hacked the election and installed Drumpf. And it’s obviously in Russia’s interests for the US to be stuck in a quagmire.


    1. OBL – more outrage.

      Women of color call out Dictionary.com’s ‘offensive’ definition of ‘black’: ‘This needs to change’


    2. Dude, come up with some new jokes. It’s the same tired old shit with you. Have you ever seen me repeat a SIV chicken joke? No, I try to come up with a new one each time.

    3. You mean the woman who lied about a grave humanitarian crisis in Libya, just so Qaddafi would be killed for wanting to create a Pan-African currency backed by gold? And in the process, Libya, a stable nation lies in ruins now! You mean the same woman along with Obummy who committed US War Crimes in Yemen, or who ran guns from Libya thru Turkey to ISIS in Syria?

  3. Why does Reason use draft dodger as an insult? Cheating on taxes and avoiding wars should be Reason Magazine’s default position. It is a cheap shot and destroys credibility.

    1. Right now, I bet someone on Reason staff is working on an article that’s critical of Trump for dropping the trade war with Mexico.

      That’s what TDS is all about.

    2. Welch has the TDS, real bad. He has to look good for the coastal elites.

    3. Especially since Matt Welch is an open, vocal, proud draft (registration) dodger himself.

    4. Maybe it wasn’t meant as a pejorative.

      1. FoE – maybe –

        but from the article .

        “Instead, Kelly and others persuaded the draft-dodging president to add troops and wait for some mythical moment when conditions would allow for a drawdown.”

        Why not omit ‘draft-dodging’ and just say ‘persuaded the president…’

        1. Maybe use “armchair warrior who has never shed a drop of blood or sweat in real or simulated combat” instead, but that’s rather long. So “draft-dodging” is shorter and sweeter, but still gets the point across.

          Draft-dodging is totally cool in my book, in the face of how our wars are endlessly stupid anyway. HOWEVER, after dodging the draft, do NOT be a hypocritical armchair warrior, and send other people into stupid, needless wars!!!

          “War- What is it good for?!?! Absolutely nothin’!” (Except for dick-measuring contests).

          1. Huh. How many wars has Trump started?

            1. How many wars has The Donald actually gotten us OUT of? WHY are we still in the ‘Stan? Besides The Donald’s war boner, I mean?

              1. God you’re tiresome. You just do t like him. It’s as simple as that. You will condemn him no matter what he does.

                1. Trump stops his stupid trade wars and tears down the walls and gives up his xenophobia? I will dance in the streets and sing his praises!

                  1. No, those are good things. Your ideas are moronic and will hurt this country.

                  2. “gives up his xenophobia”
                    what would happen if SQRLSY One ever learnt to apply an accusation of “xenophobia” correctly?
                    He and his prog pals seem to think it just means “furriners out!”.

        2. I do find people who have never enlisted at all complaining or talking bad about someone who *avoided conscription* – ie, avoided being enslaved by the state – to fight a colonial war to be really annoying.

    5. I could see that, except Matt never ran for Commander-in-Chief, as far as I can tell.

  4. The 2,300 Americans killed is the problem. In American culture (probably owing itself to the influence of Christianity), we give something like a religious reverence to American heroes who have volunteered for service for their country and died because of it. That means that there is nothing worse that can be said about a president than that he squandered the lives of American heroes–for nothing. Pulling us out of Afghanistan will always open up the president to the charge of squandering the lives of those 2,300 heroes if pulling us out means that the forces they died fighting against will return to power. Yeah, rational arguments that treat dead American heroes as “sunk costs” go out the window after the president has been to Normandy, attended the funeral of a hero or two in Arlington, and feels what it’s like to want to be reelected. They’re only human.

    If Trump is better than his predecessors in this regard, it’s because of his reluctance to enter new Afghanistans. So many of my fellow libertarians fail to understand that working with Putin in Syria and letting American defense contractors sell arms to the Saudis is the available alternative to U.S. invasions in places like Syria and Yemen. To whatever extent Trump’s reluctance to withdraw from places like Afghanistan represents a failure, he is head and shoulders above Democrats or other Republicans who would much rather invade Syria or Yemen than shake hands with vicious dictators like Putin or the Saudis. Trump seems to understand this important principle: The more American soldiers who die on foreign ground, the more difficult it becomes to leave unless their sacrifices made that country free.

    “You are going to be the proud owner of 25 million people. “You will own all their hopes, aspirations, and problems. You’ll own it all.”

    —-Colin Powell to George W. Bush citing the “Pottery Barn Rule”.

    There are 37 million people in Afghanistan, and if we can’t leave until either 1) We solve their problems for them, or 2) staying hurts worse than the realization that 2,300 heroes died for nothing, then there is no better reason to avoid invading another foreign country in the first place. Trump gets it. John McCain didn’t get it. Hillary Clinton didn’t get it. And there isn’t anything about the Green New Deal that makes me think that anyone in the Democratic field today is as reluctant as Donald Trump to use the coercive power of government to solve the problems of 37 million people. They can’t even seem to legalize marijuana in progressive strongholds like the states of New Jersey and New York. Using force to solve the world’s problems is what being a progressive is all about.

    1. You really don’t think the US is in Afghanistan to ‘solve their problems.’ do you?

      ” In American culture (probably owing itself to the influence of Christianity), we give something like a religious reverence to American heroes who have volunteered for service for their country and died because of it.”

      It’s more lip service than reverence. “Thank you for your service,” has become a joke in popular culture. And vets are increasingly viewed with suspicion and pity, not reverence.

      1. “You really don’t think the US is in Afghanistan to ‘solve their problems.’ do you?”

        You don’t really believe that’s what I said, do you?

        1. “You don’t really believe that’s what I said, do you?”

          You did say that. Whether you are willing to defend it is up to you. Incredibly you also seem to think that Americans are in Afghanistan to ‘make them free.’ And that Trump is somehow unique in his willingness to toady up to dictators.

          1. I’d say your reading comprehension is atrocious, but this kind of misreading is so consistent with you, I suspect you’re willfully misreading other people’s comments–just because you’re bored or something.

            That’s giving you the benefit of the doubt. The most likely alternative explanation is that you’re an idiot.

            “There are 37 million people in Afghanistan, and if we can’t leave until either 1) We solve their problems for them, or 2) staying hurts worse than the realization that 2,300 heroes died for nothing, then there is no better reason to avoid invading another foreign country in the first place.”

            —-Ken Shultz

            If we can’t leave until one of those conditions are met, that doesn’t mean I think that we’re still trying to solve the political problems of 37 million people.

            Incidentally, this wouldn’t be the first time we’ve felt compelled to go through the motions despite the inability and lack of desire to accomplish the necessary conditions to win public support for a full withdrawal. We’re hardly the first to suffer from that problem either. Have you ever read “Shooting an Elephant”? Occupying Burma, colonies in Africa, counties like Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq–that’s the easy part. it’s the getting out that’s hard.

            Am I to believe that you’ve never read the word “quagmire” or understood what it meant? Are you trying to convince people that you’re a fucking retard? Are you a troll?

            1. “I’d say your reading comprehension is atrocious,”

              Yours isn’t so hot either. I framed my comment in the form of a question: “You really don’t think the US is in Afghanistan to ‘solve their problems.’ do you?” I really don’t know what you think. That’s why I ask the question, to clarify. That’s really not your idea of giving me the benefit of the doubt, is it? Calling me an idiot and a troll for asking a question.

              “Incidentally, this wouldn’t be the first time we’ve felt compelled to go through the motions despite the inability and lack of desire to accomplish the necessary conditions to win public support for a full withdrawal.”

              Are you fucking serious? You honestly think that Trump and other assholes are reluctant to pull troops out of Afghanistan because they feel they ‘haven’t the full support of the American people?” Stick to parroting FOX and CNN. It’s more conventional, I know.

              ” it’s the getting out that’s hard. ”

              I agree. but the idea that it’s American public support for the war that keeps it going is ludicrous.

              1. I think what he meant was public support for withdrawal may be lacking. Especially since the left and other like Reason will rip him apart for it. Probably saying that at least Obama wasn’t afraid to stick it out or some such bullshit.

                Not the same as public support for our ongoing presence there.

                1. You think the president might be concerned about what voters think ahead of a reelection campaign?

                  You have to prove that beyond a reasonable doubt. Either that or mtruman is being willfully obtuse.

                  We don’t even have to assume that presidents are that reptilian. Nobody wants to be the president that squandered American lives, and as long as they’re fighting, in a lot of people’s minds, they haven’t lost until the president pulls out–and then it becomes his fault that we didn’t win. It was the same problem with the GM stock Obama bought under TARP. As long as he didn’t sell it, the American taxpayers wouldn’t take a loss, amirite? It’s a common misconception–and presidents are subject to it, too. It’s even easier to fall under that delusion when you’re looking at American soldiers who died for the cause you’re abandoning. Only a psychopath wouldn’t be at least susceptible to that.

                  Obama faced the same pressure and would be more widely condemned for causing the rise of ISIS if he’d pulled our troops out of Iraq completely.

                  Mtruman is simply being willfully obtuse. This is his shtick: willfully misread what other people say and then argue with them on some obviously misread point. When that fails, go to the wall over something stupid. He’s basically a troll. He may not know it and then again he might. There are plenty of trolls who don’t know they’re trolls.

                  Sometimes they’re just people who like engaging with other people smarter than themselves because it makes them feel smart or because they’re bored. Whatever the explanation, Mtruman can’t seem to read a standard sentence without finding some bizarre interpretation that isn’t there, wasn’t intended, and he thinks shouldn’t be taken to its “n”th degree. And this isn’t the first time. It’s his SOP.

                  1. That makes pretty good sense.

                    1. It doesn’t. Ken talks about ‘abandoning the cause.’ There is no cause. Except perhaps the ’cause’ FOX or CNN conjures up to justify the war in Afghanistan.

      2. The suggestion that presidents are reluctant to withdraw troops from a place like Vietnam, Afghanistan, or Iraq–for fear of being accused of squandering American lives–is so real that anyone who doubts it is either being willfully obtuse or just an idiot. So long as we keep fighting, the war isn’t lost in a lot of Americans’ minds. Just because it’s a sunk costs fallacy doesn’t mean people aren’t susceptible to it. It turns out that irrational people get to vote, too. Why do you need this explained to you twice?

        1. “The suggestion that presidents are reluctant to withdraw troops from a place like Vietnam, Afghanistan, or Iraq–for fear of being accused of squandering American lives–is so real that anyone who doubts it is either being willfully obtuse or just an idiot.”

          Nixon hesitated pulling out from Vietnam because of the difficulty of finding a formula for ‘peace with honour’ with the communists. It had nothing to do with squandering American lives. The US soldiers were increasingly on the sidelines during the Nixon years of the fighting and the army was on the verge of mutiny and collapse. The idea that Nixon continued the war out of some ludicrous sense of loyalty to dead soldiers sounds like some FOX and or CNN parroting.

          1. “Nixon hesitated pulling out from Vietnam because of the difficulty of finding a formula for ‘peace with honour’ with the communists. It had nothing to do with squandering American lives.”

            So, you’re doubling down on willfully obtuse then?

            Why would anyone interact with you after you’ve persuaded them that you’re being willfully obtuse?

            1. “So, you’re doubling down on willfully obtuse then?”

              I disagree that fear of squandering American lives prevents presidents from entering or withdrawing from conflicts like Afghanistan. Trump is on record decrying the waste of lives and resources gratuitously spent in Afghanistan. It’s willfully obtuse to suggest that Trump has decided to reverse himself on the issue, actually increasing troop levels.

      3. Christianity doesn’t lionize the founders who survived. It is sort of like how Jews who died in the Holocaust are the only Jews most progressives admire.

        1. I don’t think a lot of people appreciate how much of an influence Christianity has had on our culture–including the culture of non-Christians.

          When an atheist, gay rights activist says that he should be treated the way we would want to be treated if we were him, that assumption and our susceptibility to it did not spring ex nihilo from the void.

          Jesus sacrificed himself for others. Fire fighters running up the stairs of the World Trade Center to save more people–even as the building came crashing down on top of them sacrificed themselves for others, too. It’s hard not to see Pat Tillman through that lens–even though he was an atheist. Our ideas about heroes are still heavily influenced by Christianity.

          Showing disrespect to people who are putting themselves in harm’s way for the sake of others is a bad thing. Disregarding the sacrifices of those who died “fighting for our freedom” is terrible in the popular conception. I saw a slogan the other day that said, “The best way to thank us for our service is to be the kind of American worth fighting for”. I don’t know whether the guy who wrote that was a Christian, but striving to be the kind of person that was worth Jesus’ sacrifice is certainly a Christian notion.

          This is why Trump was bound to win the kneeling during the national anthem debate. This is why people got upset about the Ground Zero mosque. People’s sacrifice for others is how the things they fought for become sacred in our culture. Being aware of that and avoiding quagmires like landmines we can see ahead of time is an important qualification for president.

          If we don’t want to don’t want to be able to leave until we solve the problems of 30 million Venezuelans for them (which may not be possible), I can think of a great way to avoid that. The easiest way to put America on the hook for the freedom and prosperity of the Venezuelan people is to let American soldiers die for it. Hell, it might take more than that! We’re still in Germany, Japan, and South Korea–and Germany, Japan, and South Korea are about as prosperous and free as can be expected.

          1. “I don’t think a lot of people appreciate how much of an influence Christianity has had on our culture–including the culture of non-Christians“

            There is no such thing as the culture of non Christians.

            There is hardly a distinct culture of Christians. There are many other people in the world who are not Christian yet they do not define a culture.

            A Coptic Christian from Ethiopia differs from an Ethiopian Jew in belief yet they share certain cultural and historical background. Both of which differ greatly in that from the Methodist minister in Ohio.

            1. Christianity has had similar impacts on all the cultures it has influenced–the differences between Catholic, Protestant, and other varieties in various countries notwithstanding.

              A survey of Western literature from the Mesopotamians all the way down to the Enlightenment has great examples of the changes–especially in its depiction of heroes. Heroes may have avenged the people they loved in the past, before Christianity was introduced, but they didn’t make sacrifices for others. Coming out the other end, you can’t be a hero unless you were sacrificing for someone else. And that’s from Christian North Africa all the way to Iceland. Ever read the transitional stuff like “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”?

              The Norse traditions are especially interesting that way because some of their greatest works were put to paper when both the “old religion” and the “new religion” were being practiced simultaneously. There’s Jesus [Baldr], Odin’s perfect son, being killed at the instigation of Lucifer [Loki] (what a sacrifice!)–only to be resurrected after Armageddon [Ragnarok] to rule the newly created world. There’s Odin sacrificing himself to himself by hanging himself on a tree.

              Christians and non-Christians within the same culture are all influenced by that culture, and Christianity has had a profound influence on the culture of the west, generally, and on the United States, particularly.

              An American Christmas may be different from Christmas elsewhere in the Christian world, but non-Christians put a star on top of their pagan-ass tree to celebrate it and watch Miracle on 34th Street anyway. Do you believe? I’ve had Muslim coworkers participate in Secret Santa. I’ve known Jews who keep a “Hanukkah bush” at home. Because Christians from different countries are different from each other doesn’t mean that they haven’t all been influenced by Christianity. No one can escape being influence by immersion in a culture.

            2. Is everyone here going to pick on minutiae of what Ken writes? You understand what he means, don’t you?

            3. “There is no such thing as the culture of non Christians”
              I imagine he was referring to stick-up-the-bum American secularists, who most definitely have a culture.

    2. I’ve also noticed how Libya is out of the American news, because the nation started to collapse when Clinton was secretary of state. The press wants Benghazi to be forgotten, so you don’t hear about the ongoing civil war in Libya unless you are outside the states. This weekend I heard a report about it. It looks like our allies are fighting a proxy war in Libya:

      Any US military involvement, however, would likely be resisted by Trump, who is keen to extricate the country from foreign military entanglements.

      “If you are a gut politician, would you want to change Libya from being Hillary’s mess to your mess? He is thinking: don’t embrace the mess,” Winer said.

      Haftar’s forces remain a potent threat to the government of national accord, led by the UN-backed prime minister, Fayez al-Sarraj. Attempts to strike a ceasefire between both sides, which each lay claim to ruling the country, have so far failed, and regional powers backing Haftar and Sarraj appear more intransigent than ever.

      Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia have all taken a stake in Haftar, a former officer in Muammar Gaddafi’s military, while Qatar and Turkey have lined up behind Sarraj. US support for Haftar was thought to have been a potential game-changer.

      1. The reason it was so easy to pull our ground troops out of Libya is because we didn’t put troops on the ground in Libya. In fact, we ended up regretting sending the ambassador there.

        There are interrelated investment ideas that are important here. One of them is the aforementioned sunk costs fallacy, where you can’t recover lost funds by throwing good money after bad. An investment isn’t worth what you initially paid for it. It’s worth whatever the market will pay for it now. The investments you’re considering to make into a failing enterprise now need to be evaluated on the basis of conditions now–not what you paid for it in the past. The second one is the idea that you don’t make your money on the way out of an investment. You make your money on the way in. Wal*Mart, for instance, doesn’t buy at market prices in China, whatever they are, and then mark them up for sale in the United States. If they did that, they’d sometimes make bad investments–if American consumers weren’t willing to pay those prices for that item. The way Wal*Mart operates is that they watch what Americans are willing to pay for something, and then they invest in products that cost less than that. In other words, they make a profit when they buy something below market.

        Risk works that way, too, and whether to invade a foreign country is an excellent example of that. The time to consider whether the risk is worth it is before you invade. You don’t just buy something at market and expect that the investment is going to pay off somewhere down the road.

        I guess that’s the way I see Trump. No, he’s not about to unplug the bad investments we made in the past–because he might well pay for that in November of 2020 if he did. However, being unwilling to make bad investments now is a good thing. It probably makes him better than anyone else in the race–even on the Democrat side. The left has no problem using force to spread freedom and prosperity. They just don’t want the president who does it to have any financial interest or speak with a drawl.

  5. Didn’t he take major flack for wanting to leave Syria?

    Wouldn’t surprise me if he unilaterally declares leaving Afgannystan and the left and mainstream liberal press go all nuts on him screaming ‘irresponsible and impulsive action!’


    1. Yes, they will. So it is now a political decision that will wait until about 5 minutes after Trump wins re-election. The Left and much of the Right would go apeshit if Trump pulled out this year and next year Christanne Amanpour and Wolf Blitzer and Company are filling the airwaves with images of Talibans slaughtering any Afghans who refuse to bend a knee. Let’s just hope that no American sons and daughters die between now and when Realpolitik gets the U.S. out of that hellhole.

    2. Yes, whatever Trump does, the democrats and their media lap dogs are against.

    3. “Didn’t he take major flack for wanting to leave Syria?”

      Yes. I think some people on TV were criticizing him. It was awful. Lucky he came to his senses.

  6. Trump is not gonna Cut and Run!

  7. I watch these presidents, on the left and on the right, saying that we need to get out of blah, blah, blah. And then they get into office and don’t get out of blah, blah, blah.

    And I wonder.

    Is this because there’s something we don’t know?

    Because that seems far more likely than Democrats and Republicans agreeing.

    1. We know, but we don’t want to say it out loud because we don’t want to face it—the President does not have the final word on the activities of our armed forces.

  8. “Is this because there’s something we don’t know? ”

    We all know that Afghanistan is the world’s greatest producer of heroin. What we don’t know is how much of a skim do our warlord friends over there dole out to our politicians over here.

    1. What we don’t know is how much of a skim do our warlord friends over there dole out to our politicians over here.
      Where do our politicians report it on their tax returns?

      1. (A secret line called the smack-kick-back pay-back reverse accrual debenture bond smack-back, on your IRS return).

        That’s why Trump won’t reveal his tax returns!!!

        Whoa, yuns Dudes have fingered it out, while it has always escaped me!!!

  9. Far be it from me to defend a politician…but…

    I suspect there are several, if not many, corners that the US has backed itself into over the past 19 years. Corners that, if a withdraw were to happen today, would embarrass said politicians, discredit US foreign policy and likely lead current “allies” to reconsider their “pro” US positions.

    The US can’t get out of those corners without betraying commitments it has made and getting copious amounts of egg on its face. So we stay and kill and be killed. Ain’t politics grand?

    I don’t disagree, Matt, a 19 year war is an abomination, but saying “just leave” is an oversimplification.

    1. “The US can’t get out of those corners without betraying commitments it has made and getting copious amounts of egg on its face.”

      Every US administration since W. Bush has been conniving with al Qaeda and ISIS. Trump makes a point of questioning his own intelligence community assessments in favour of Putin or Saudi. Egg on the face has never stopped a US president from pursuing bad policy.

  10. an eye-popping 69 percent of veterans…Instead, Kelly and others persuaded the draft-dodging president to add troops and wait for some mythical moment when conditions would allow for a drawdown.

    This really has become a problem since Eisenhower who said both I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity
    and Some day there is going to be a man sitting in my present chair who has not been raised in the military services and who will have little understanding of where slashes in their estimates can be made with little or no damage. If that should happen while we still have the state of tension that now exists in the world, I shudder to think of what could happen in this country

    For the next couple of decades, we elected Prez who had some combat service to some degree or another but never really at a command level so never really enough to know when to bypass the stars/planners/wonks to talk to the grunts directly. And for the last generation or so, not even that combat service.

    The American voter really does suck at the notion of thinking of Prez elections as a screening system to select a CinC.

    1. In fact looking back at history, the link between Prez military experience and our interventionism in war and foreign policy is striking. Up until Teddy Roosevelt, military experience of some sort was the norm for that job – only the two Adams, Van Buren and Cleveland didn’t have it and most of the rest also had command experience. And while we were certainly warlike in our own neighborhood then, we were almost completely uninvolved in attempting to project that power.

      Since Taft/Wilson, the norm has been no experience at all and only Truman/Eisenhower had command experience. And yet the 20th century is correctly viewed as the US projecting power everywhere and always and perpetually.

      1. I don’t know how much difference it makes. Of recent presidents since JFK all of them I think, except Trump and Clinton have at least put on a uniform at some point.

        That democrat Buttegieg is pushing his naval intel creds now. OK with me. Reagan made training films in the army. You put people where they can be most useful.

        Interesting how many have been navy or navy reserves. I know it has been historically an elite branch. Higher levels of education and all that. The navy has also been the first line in projecting power.

        1. Your point about navy is important. They generally do not see actual combat up close and personal with some rare exceptions (JFK, Bush1, McCain) and those exceptions are mostly about trying to evade capture as an individual not going in to engage as a team. They do not command those who see war up close and personal. They do project force – where they rely on very expensive technology to ‘see’ the impact. The combo makes them far more vulnerable to the wheedling of MIC re spending more and far less interested in restraining them re engaging more.

          I certainly don’t mean to dismiss navy/air service – but the experience is as opposite as you can get from what Eisenhower was really talking about and still be military experience. And I find it interesting that JFK was in fact the first Prez whose military experience was Navy – and all the Prez since with military experience (x Reagan whose ‘experience’ was nothing). All Prez before Eisenhower with military experience were Army or state militia.

          1. As a proxy for Eisenhower’s first quote – what are the rates of PTSD by branch of service? afaik, those statistics are not available for the US. But if I were to guess – army and marines would be far higher than navy or air. Those stats are available for UK – which isn’t anywhere near as ‘engaged in perma-combat’ as the US – and support that guess.

            I can’t see how that sort of experience wouldn’t have a permanent impact on someone. I’ve never known any combat veteran where that experience wasn’t one of the major shaping experiences of their life. And that difference by branch delivers a very personal experience as to the longer-term costs of war beyond just the victory stuff.

          2. I would not denigrate Reagan, what he did was not nothing.

            He was just most useful in doing something that needed to be done.

            You are bringing a conscript army up from nothing. Training films were needed. He was very good in that. Even now recruiters and trainers are highly valued.

            Look, the mathematicians at Bletchley Park, without them who knows?

  11. the American Forces Going Home After Noble (AFGHAN) Service Act

    What?! Not “the Glorious Triumphant Forces Overseas (GTFO) Act”?!

  12. But let’s also stipulate that by some glitch in the time-space continuum you become president of the United States, and that in one of your first major post-election interviews you observe that “nothing is going well” in Afghanistan. Wouldn’t you think those troops would be home more than two years after that?

    Not necessarily. But that’s me or anybody not named Donald Trump you’re talking about, and most of us have the humility to know the limitations of our expertise and would tend to give some weight to the opinions of the experts. Trump, of course, knows more about the military than the generals (he said that very thing)and has no need to listen to the advice of anybody other than his very good brain, so it is indeed a puzzle as to why we are still in Afghanistan.

    1. Yeah man, agreed…

      Did y’all know that about 1 in 10 men in certain areas of Asia, have the “Y” chromosome of Genghis Khan? And 1 in 200 planet-wide? Use this search-string in quotes?
      “1 in 200 men direct descendants of Genghis Khan”

      WHY is this relevant, you ask?

      Well, ’cause The Donald has “the winning gene”, and wants to out-do this low-brow Genghis dude!! The Donald-breeding/cloning farms “over there” (in Afghanistanistanistanistan) are gonna fire up soon, I’m a tellin ‘ ya!!!

      If’n ye do NOT believe me about the superiority of “The Donald’s” genes, look at the following quotes from that same Donald?

      Quotes from The Donald in the “Anti Gravity” column in August 2017 “Scientific American” magazine follow?
      “I have great genes and all that stuff, which I’m a believer in”,
      “God helped me by giving me a certain brain”,
      “I have a very, very high aptitude”,
      “Maybe it’s just something you have. You know, you have the winning gene.”

      Google the quotes, they are real…

  13. OT – in case you thought OBL was kidding:

    “Women Aren’t The Only People Who Get Abortions

    “Transgender men and other gender-nonconforming folks get abortions, too. But no one’s discussing how the recent abortion bans will affect them.”


    1. I’m transgendering from male to female so I can have a baby since I can’t find a woman to impregnate. I’ve always wanted a son so I can teach him the ropes on how to be a man.

      1. I can top that one! I can’t get any pussy, so I am getting a species-change operation to become a pussy-cat! In the footsteps of Dennis Aver, Stalking Cat! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stalking_Cat

        I am not sure how I can force my insurance to cover my species-change operation, so I do await your suggestions…

        1. I am not sure how I can force my insurance to cover my species-change operation, so I do await your suggestions…
          For the insurance, use the qualifier ‘I identify.’ Some people may think I look like a ‘man,’ but I’m a ‘woman,’ because ‘I identify as a woman,’ or whatever you want.
          If the insurance company balks at any cost, sue them for sexual discrimination, or something of the sort.

          This article has some tips
          – Why I Identify As Non-Binary
          Gender is a human experience, and human experiences cannot be reduced to simplistic, reductive structures.


    2. Uh… err… ummm… what?

      1. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2019/05/16/pregnant-transgender-man-births-stillborn-baby-hospital-missed-labor-signs/3692201002/
        Nurse mistakes pregnant transgender man as obese. Then, the man births a stillborn baby

        Just Google it, more cases like this are out there, with successful births, etc. …

        1. I have to wonder what effect male hormones would have on a pregnancy.

  14. The War in Afghanistan is just a business proposition. Hundreds of billions of the taxpayers’ monies find new owners from Boeing workers to the poor bastard (nowadays male or female) grunt on the ground. Eisenhower wasn’t mistaken in his warning about the military-industrial complex.

    1. Heroin is a major source of dark income for the intelligence establishment.

      1. That, too. The Rhett Butlers of the world flock to mayhem: there’s a fast buck to be made in such circumstances.

      2. Yet none of it finds its way to US markets. Odd that.

        1. “Yet none of it finds its way to US markets.”

          Much goes to Iran.

  15. “Trump can’t just quit Afghanistan”
    Why not?
    Do like we did in Vietnam. Say we won, and throw all the equipment into the sea, and get on the planes.

    1. I agree here and actually Trump is the President to do it!


    2. Trump has publicly mentioned about leaving Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria.

      Congress freaked out every time.
      Trump Wants to Leave the Middle East. He’s Not Getting His Wish.
      [The Atlantic for the Lefty view]

      1. Where in that article does it show that Congress freaked out?

        Dems questioned whether the military moves towards Iran were appropriate.

  16. […] Trump Just Can’t Quit Afghanistan — Matt Welch, Reason| […]

  17. […] Trump Just Can’t Quit Afghanistan — Matt Welch, Reason| […]

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