Reason Roundup

Trump Caves to Lindsey Graham; U.S. Troops To Stay the Neverending Course in Afghanistan

Plus: Scott Walker pisses off millennial vets, sexting without affirmative consent is illegal in Texas, and more...


A U.S.–Taliban deal will leave many American troops in Afghanistan. "Under the proposed deal, the initial withdrawal would include roughly 5,000 of the 14,000 U.S. troops in the country," The Washington Post reported Thursday. 

"We're going to keep a presence there," Trump told Fox News' Brian Kilmeade yesterday. "We're reducing that presence very substantially. We're not fighting a war over there. We're just policemen."  

But this comes after an announcement from Trump last December that the U.S. would be withdrawing 7,000 from Afghanistan within weeks. That didn't pan out. The new plan is the latest in what's becoming a Trumpian habit: promising a different path than his predecessors in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, only to cave to the more militaristic forces in his party and in the broader media/corporate/political establishment.

In this case, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R–S.C.) has been one of the harshest critics of Trump's impulses to pull back the U.S. presence in Afghanistan and the Middle East. "Graham, one of Trump's closest allies on Capitol Hill, has repeatedly warned the president not to trust the Taliban to control al-Qaeda and other militant groups in Afghanistan," notes the Post:

Some within the Trump administration have sent the same message. Trump has maintained that bringing U.S. troops home from Afghanistan is his long-term priority. On Sunday, Graham said Trump and his would-be 2020 Democratic presidential rivals are "all wrong" on the issue.

Graham—a security hysteric of epic proportions—also chastised Trump about Afghanistan in a Washington Post op-ed on Wednesday.

People in the Trump administration said earlier this month that the president still wants all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by 2020.

And so here "is where we find ourselves," as Matt Welch wrote in the July issue of Reason:

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.

Sen. Rand Paul (R–Ky.) thinks 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."

(See also: "Here Are 3 Bad Reasons Why We're Still in Afghanistan"; "Sens. Rand Paul, Tom Udall Introduce Bill to End the War in Afghanistan"; "Why Are We Still in Afghanistan?")

The American people are more in line with Paul's impulses than with those of forever-warmongers like Graham. As Lucy Steigerwald wrote here in January:

The long life of the Afghan war makes it hard to remember how popular it was when it began. As the fighting began, 80 percent of America supported it. Nobody in Congress except Rep. Barbara Lee (D–Calif.) was prescient enough to vote against the Authorization for Use of Military Force and its open-ended-enough-to-attack-a-dozen-more-countries wording. Not until 2014 did a majority of Americans begin to regret that the war ever started.

Now some polls suggest it's nearly as unpopular as the wildly unpopular ill-fated war in Iraq.

Speaking of both wars, people have been calling B.S. on Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker's recent attempt to slam Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.) Walker tweeted "How many members of the true Greatest Generation fought and died so @AOC and her generation could have the peace & prosperity they enjoy today?" This, critics note, makes light of millennial military service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And while Trump has been talking down these military misadventures, his actions don't always reflect the same. As Brian Doherty pointed out here last year, "if you're assessing how serious a peacenik Trump is prepared to be, you should contemplate some hard facts about Washington's longest-lasting active war: the U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan."

According to an interesting analysis that Niall McCarthy of Statista has done of Air Force Central Command data, 2018—the first full year that the Trump administration has run the Afghanistan coalition—saw in just its first nine months more bombs dropped on Afghanistan than any other year in the history of the war: 5,213. The entire year of 2010, the previous record, saw just 5,101.

The number of bombs dropped had declined to 947 in 2015; in 2016, it was 1,337. But after "Trump announced a new Afghan strategy last August and committed more troops to the country," McCarthy writes, "the number of bombs dropped by the U.S. coalition has surged dramatically."


Sexting illegal in Texas without affirmative consent. Texas is enacting a law making it illegal to text or direct message someone an unsolicited image of a "sexually explicit" nature. "Many people—especially women—get unwanted sexually explicit pictures by text or social media. It's disgusting. Now, it's illegal in Texas," wrote Republican Gov. Greg Abbott last Friday.

The law, which takes effect September 1, makes it illegal to send any sexually explicit imagery that "is not sent at the request of or with the express consent of the recipient." What could go wrong…? 


Elizabeth Warren's "economic patriotism" is just protectionism dressed up in a different phrase, writes J.D. Tuccille. We're already seeing the negative effects of this tendency in the Trump administration, with its "America First" economics.

"There's no reason to believe other countries will be more receptive to a hypothetical President Warren's foreigner-bashing and trade-tinkering just because she sticks a different brand name on bad policy," writes Tuccille. "Protectionism and nationalism would still draw retaliation."


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