Afghanistan: Trump and Change

By Noah La Vie | USA

TRUMP HAS CHANGED THE GAME — again. President Trump’s speech in Arlington, Virginia on the 21st of August rocked the house and for more than one reason. With Steve Bannon, one of Trump’s key influences toward less foreign engagement, out the immediate effects are becoming clear and they beg questions that must be answered. Will the plan rolled out by Trump be effective? What key factor led to Trump’s departure on this key issue from his campaign rhetoric? Did this issue lead to Bannon’s firing? Does this go for or against Trump’s base? Finally, what is the biggest change here from the last administration?

A hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum… for terrorists.

– President Donald J. Trump

President Trump says that in sending more troops, in giving more command to the Secretary of Defense ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis, and involving us in Afghanistan and Pakistan we, in his words, “create the conditions for a political process to achieve a lasting peace.” Will his plan be effective? In short? Yes. In Iraq, we learned that pulling out too quickly does create a space that must be filled, a power vacuum. Sadly terrorists are often what fill that hole. That’s just with the troops we have there, is sending more troops effective? Yes. The President has accurately assessed that as his mission is no longer nation-building but rather terrorist fighting this will require more soldiers. Aside from this, the moving down of the responsibility for these troops to the Secretary of Defense is huge. It allows more freedom for movement, puts the forces in the capable hands of SOD Mattis. The Former General should put these new, fresh troops to good use and hopefully, this will lead to an expedited Afghan War. One not focused on the nation but rather the mission.

The soldier understands what we as a nation too often forget, that a wound inflicted upon a single member of our community is a wound inflicted upon us all.

– President Donald J. Trump

This overseas action is clearly a departure for President Trump who has notoriously stated that getting out of Afghanistan would be a huge goal for his administration and this writer does not see that goal being untended too, merely the route to that goal’s completion changed. A close reading of the transcript of President Trump’s speech will also yield one key detail that hints at the ideological idea behind this change, Trump hits on an old hurt being forgotten and left untended. He says it in three different ways, “a hurt…” “…a wound…” “…an injustice.” He references a forgotten injury Americans has suffered, something that lessened in our experience over time.

When one part of America hurts, we all hurt. And when one citizen suffers an injustice, we all suffer together.

– President Donald J. Trump

President Trump has been very clear on one thing through debates, through time, through interviews, through his businesses, through his presidency: 9/11 is not forgotten to President Trump. From his response to the idea of “New York Values” to his ground zero statements Trump has always favored action against terrorism, against those who tore, what Trump sees as his, Manhattan apart. This is not a departure for Trump, it’s a reaffirming for him. Before he landed behind the desk of Presidency, Trump’s exposure to the war in Afghanistan was that it has been a war of Nation-building. Now he sees a way to reestablish the original mission of the War in Afghanistan. He sees a way to help heal the wound inflicted on American Soil. This is markedly not a change in ideology for Trump, no matter the departure of Bannon or the anger of Breitbart. This is Trump staying true to himself, and his motivations.

People make too much of the idea that [President Trump] is some kind of blank slate that advisers can push one way or the other

– Matt Schlapp

Bannon would have clearly departed with Trump on the issue of Afghanistan if Trump’s position was that the United States should become involved more. Trump and Bannon have been at odds for months with Bannon often recounting that he felt like a staffer rather than a peer. His firing on Thursday, a day before the dramatic shift in Trump’s policy toward Afghanistan, feels too close to be coincidence and coming after the Charlottesville protests would have been two key issues that Trump and Bannon disagreed on. Is this the issue that broke the camel’s back? We have no way of knowing, but we can reasonably say Trump and Bannon differed drastically on this subject and Trump would not have been partial to Bannon considering his core motivation.

Republicans and those who voted for Trump in 2016 are the only groups in which more people say they support a troop increase than oppose it.

Fox News, June 2017

One might assume that because this is such a drastic change from his Campaign Rhetoric, even if not from his motivations and ideology, that his base would be upset by such a shift but truly the opposite is the case. While most supporters of the 45th President believe that an American First ideology is a forward thinking, economic, and nationalistic approach to making America Great Again, Republicans also don’t like terrorists. So while they may also have abated on the issue of foreign intervention, they are still upset, some even angry, about the terrorist attacks still being carried out around the world. President Trump’s choice to send more troops, reportedly four thousand, will resonate with his base.

We are not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists.

– President Donald J. Trump

This resonance is primarily because of the biggest shift in President Trump’s focus. As stated repeatedly Trump is not nation-building anymore. “Why build a foreign nation when our own nation is suffering?” Trump’s ideology believes. He believes we are to be in Afghanistan to defeat terrorists. This is a huge departure from Obama Administration where Obama had schools and roads built for Afghans, something Trump has taken issue with before. The biggest departure, however, is how this War will be handled. Under Bush and Obama, the war was handled at the Presidential level completely, often down to micromanaging. Trump has cut that issue off at the head by giving troop leadership and strategy to Secretary of Defense Mattis. This huge departure will most likely take the form of faster troop movements, fewer Trump authorized bombs (like MOABs) falling, and more intuitive, precise bombings carried out by Mattis and Co.

This all comes down to one statement by President Trump, “Many of those who have fought and died in Afghanistan enlisted in the months after Sept. 11, 2001. They volunteered for a simple reason: They loved America, and they were determined to protect her.” Trump believes this rededication of the mission in Afghanistan, the restructuring of American leadership around the issue, and the deployment of American Trumps will finally fulfill the goal that those who enlist hope to accomplish: That they will make America safe again.


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