President Trump surprised some people recently when he announced that the United States would be withdrawing troops from Syria and Afghanistan. President Trump and I come from the Vietnam War generation and understand the mistakes that were made in those years. Good intentions gave way to mission creep. By the end of the Vietnam War, no one knew why we were there. Thousands died and for what? With a considerable amount of bitterness and frustration, we brought our soldiers home. For many years after the fighting in Vietnam ended, the American people continued to fight the aftermath of the war. Was it guilt or remorse, I do not know. It was a painful experience. As an example, it took several years of introspection before the American people finally came to the conclusion that a Vietnam War memorial was in order. President Trump is like many people who grew up during the Vietnam war who promised themselves to never let our politicians get us involved in a stupid foreign war ever again. Both Democratic and Republican politicians got the message. In a rare bipartisan agreement, both sides promised we would never get involved in a foreign war without a clear exit plan. We had learned our lesson or so we thought.
In the last twenty years, both the Republicans and the Democrats succumbed to the old ways. President G. W. Bush may have had good intentions in deploying soldiers in Afghanistan after 9/11 to pursue Osama bin Laden. In 2018 we have soldiers being deployed today who were not born when the initial fighting started. The time for a clear exit plan from Afghanistan has come and past. To the credit of the Obama administration, both President Obama and Vice-President Biden started the ball rolling at bringing our soldiers home. The problem is that the Obama administration screwed up the Iraq exit plan. The administration’s encouragement of the Arab Spring made a mess of the Middle East but in particular, Libya and Syria. With foreign policy disasters in Libya, Syria, and Iraq, the wind-down in Afghanistan was put on hold. We were so close and yet so far away!
What I did find surprising about President Trump’s announcement is that the only people applauding it are Libertarians and Trump supporters. The Syrian war is going to end soon and Bashar_al-Assad is going to run the Syrian government. President Obama’s argument for regime change in Syria is just not going to happen. The only question is what happens to the Kurds when the United States troops leave. I think the Kurds will do just fine. They are a battle-tested fighting force. The United States is not abandoning the Kurds as much as establishing a different relationship with them. There are solid foreign policy reasons why keeping the Kurds strong is in America’s best interest. Politically and militarily both Turkey and Iran have to come to grips with the Kurds. They are not going away and invading them will only embolden them. For the United States, the pullouts in Syria and Afghanistan are overdue. We may not get the pullouts right but if we learned from our mistakes in the Iraq pullout it will probably be close enough to claim success and move on. If our military industrial complex wants to endear itself with the American people, this would be the time to say we can cut our defense budget 5% like the domestic programs. That sounds like a win-win for the American people. We’re all in this together!