President Trump’s remarks to U.S. forces in Iraq last week featured what can now be called his political boilerplate: a wealth of bizarre, seemingly ad-libbed tangents; a healthy dose of braggadocio; and a declaration that America’s past misadventures have made us the “suckers” of the world.
But while the speech is similar in appearance if not in substance to those of the president’s campaign rallies, there is at least one difference between the two: Trump’s declaration of putting America first is now finally backed by reality. With his decision Dec. 20 to withdraw 2,000 troops from Syria, then a day later to remove 7,000 from Afghanistan, Trump has finally incensed the bipartisan war consensus.
Defense Secretary James Mattis has resigned in protest, and the usual suspects of the news media and the Democratic Party have leaped to his defense – flanked by the dying breed of Republican neocons like Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio. Such are the backward, wretched ethics of the ruling class: Only when a war ends, not when one begins, are they perturbed in the slightest.
No more should be expected from the same gang of butchers that invaded Afghanistan on a vengeful whim, occupied Iraq on a pack of lies, turned Libya into a failed state and pushed Yemen well past the brink of famine. Yet now that gang claims the moral authority to call Trump’s drawdown of two wars a grave threat to global stability. One nearly laughs at the hypocrisy.
What have 17 years of war done for global stability?
In Afghanistan, the Taliban control more territory today than at any point since 2001. The group is increasingly aligned with al-Qaeda’s Haqqani network and increasingly reliant on terrorist strategies for its success. From the Sahel to Southeast Asia, ISIS outposts continue to pop up even as the caliphate is defeated in Syria and Iraq. Along with al-Qaeda, ISIS’s ranks give the global jihadist movement four times the following it had on 9/11. Meanwhile, Iran amasses ever-greater regional power as we fight both for and against its enemies in Iraq, Syria and Yemen.
With results like these, who can say our strategy has been a success? Who can see the 15,000 Americans who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11 and tell their families we aren’t “suckers” for trying to bring enlightenment to that wayward region of the world?
Who can see the $6 trillion we’ve spent, then tell the despondent masses of Appalachia and the Rust Belt we aren’t “suckers” for spilling blood and treasure in the graveyard of empires?
Who can see the alliances we’ve forged with the very regimes that financed al-Qaeda and ISIS, then tell the survivors of terror from Fort Hood to Orlando we aren’t “suckers” for indulging the fantasy that we can rule over the entire world?
And who can see the commitments we’ve made to defend the borders of Syria, Jordan, Israel and Iraq, then tell families on our own southern border we aren’t “suckers” for prioritizing foreign interests above our own?
For all his flaws – and they are many – President Trump gets at least one thing right: The terror wars have made us suckers, and it’s well past time we let peace break out.