I did not vote for our current president, and I take exception to his ideas and his manner in too many ways to count. But occasionally, out of his barrage of verbiage, the man says something that I find myself sitting up and listening to. Something that gives me a scrap of exceedingly cautious hope. (The caution earned by the fact that little of what he says ever holds.)
Some of what I pay attention to is this:
President Trump admitted that his initial instinct was to pull our troops out of Afghanistan. Soon after, however, he announced a troop increase.
He talked about staving off “a major and uncontrollable arms race” and hinted at high-level talks with President Xi of China and President Putin of Russian, though those talks have yet to happen.
He called our defense spending, $716 billion this year, “crazy.” Then he proposed boosting it to $750 billion.
Now he talks about withdrawing our troops from Syria and Afghanistan, and as of this writing, he hasn’t yet backed down on that one. But what an uproar pushing him to back down from both sides of the aisle!
Clearly, as we proved in Vietnam, there is no good way to extricate ourselves from these kinds of military excursions. And it’s also clear that Trump has no plan for performing these withdrawals with a minimum of confusion and harm.
But let’s remember that Defense Secretary James Mattis, who resigned over Trump’s refusal to take his advice in this matter, had a nickname in the Marines. It was “Mad Dog.” Mad Dog once said about the U.S. war in Afghanistan, “It’s fun to shoot some people. You know, it’s a hell of a hoot.” This man, who is being referred to as “the only adult in the room,” also said, “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”
It’s just possible that the “adults in the room” have it wrong, entirely wrong. It’s possible that the entire “war on terror” we have been sold since 9/11 isn’t a war on terror at all, but multiple wars with a very different purpose.
Peter Ford, former British Ambassador to Syria, said, “Trump’s critics . . . will have the vapors about ‘losing ground to Russia,’ ‘making Iran’s day,’ and ‘abdicating influence,’ but their criticism is ill-founded. Contrary to their apparent belief, the U.S. does not have a God-given right to send its forces anywhere on the planet it deems fit. Withdrawal will see the U.S. in one respect at least follow the international rules-based system we are so fond of enjoining on others, and will therefore be a victory of sorts for upholders of international law.”
Do we know, do we want to know, that we have 170,000 troops stationed outside the U.S. in 150 countries? That’s more than 800 overseas bases. Then there are nearly 40,000 assigned to classified missions in undisclosed locations. And all these men and women are “fighting for our freedom”! Really?
Not my freedom I want to say, every time that phrase is trotted out. Is it yours?
It’s hard to find hope in a man like Donald Trump, and I can’t pretend I do. But few of our elected officials are as vulnerable to public approval as he is. Just think what could happen if we stood up together, you and I and everyone we know who longs for a different world, and said, loudly and repeatedly, “President Trump, you are right! Ignore the advisers taking you down a road we’ve been traveling far too long. Listen to your own first instincts. Listen to your country. WE WANT PEACE!”
Because we do, don’t we?