The president’s Afghanistan speech was direct and to the point.
All of America, at this point, is well familiar with the president’s oft-stated views on foreign policy. The Trump Doctrine essentially boils down to three points:
1. America should always be focused first and foremost on its own national security interests.
2. No nation-building.
These three points were hammered home repeatedly in his recent address to the nation on Afghanistan, as seen here with these excerpts from the speech (emphasis added):
“But we must also acknowledge the reality I am here to talk about tonight: that nearly 16 years after September 11th attacks, after the extraordinary sacrifice of blood and treasure, the American people are weary of war without victory. Nowhere is this more evident than with the war in Afghanistan, the longest war in American history — 17 years.
“I share the American people’s frustration. I also share their frustration over a foreign policy that has spent too much time, energy, money, and, most importantly, lives trying to rebuild countries in our own image, instead of pursuing our security interests above all other considerations. […]
“We are a partner and a friend, but we will not dictate to the Afghan people how to live, or how to govern their own complex society. We are not nation-building again — we are killing terrorists. […]
“Micromanagement from Washington, D.C., does not win battles; they are won in the field drawing upon the judgment and expertise of wartime commanders and frontline soldiers acting in real time, with real authority, and with a clear mission to defeat the enemy. […]
“America will work with the Afghan government as long as we see determination and progress. However, our commitment is not unlimited, and our support is not a blank check. […] Our patience is not unlimited. We will keep our eyes wide open.”
In short, this is drawing a line — a bright line — between, as it were, the policy that produced D-Day and the policy that produced Vietnam and (in the Obama era) the losses in Iraq.
There is reason for concern, and it was well expressed by my colleague Daniel Horowitz. To wit:
“The same generals who failed us in Afghanistan for a generation, the same generals who are more political and politically correct than politicians, the same generals who covered up Extortion 17, are now the foxes guarding the henhouse.”
Bingo. That is the caution for sure. History, however, and as always, provides an answer.
One of the lessons of running a winning war is to be found with Abraham Lincoln’s conduct of the Civil War. Lincoln, as with President Trump, came to office quickly confronting the need for a successful military strategy.