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Trump should use the State of the Union to end the Afghanistan war

We’ve spent trillions of dollars on years of war. And for what?

February 5, 2019

5:13 PM

5 February 2019

5:13 PM

Excited speculation is mounting in Washington tonight as rumors circulate that President Trump may use his State of the Union to announce a state of emergency to secure the funding Congress has denied his border wall with Mexico. But Trump has a historic, monumental opportunity to give the American people a more significant lasting legacy – not a wall, but a permanent end to America’s policy of forever-war.

Afghanistan is now the longest war in US history, yet Sen. Mitch McConnell deemed it necessary to move against what he called a ‘precipitous withdrawal’ from Afghanistan and Syria this week. ‘How do you leave precipitously after 17 years?’ asked Sen. Rand Paul. ‘We are no longer fighting anyone who attacked us on 9/11.’

Considering that Congress has repeatedly abandoned its Constitutional duty to declare war, it is painfully ironic that that the only time it rouses itself from slumber on the issue, it is to vote in favor of a resolution to censure the President for his efforts to bring the troops home.

Nothing unites Washington’s left and right like support for the country’s vast military-industrial complex and its scores of lobbyists. Veteran journalist Bob Woodward’s book Fear: Trump in the White House outlines the chaos that erupted within the White House when Trump attempted to deliver on his campaign promise to bring the troops home. His staff even went so far as to undermine and undercut him, removing papers from his desk in an effort to get him to ‘forget’ the proposal.

Yet this is one campaign promise that Trump should not forget.

We’ve spent at least $2.4 trillion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report from October 2007 that estimated the cost through 2017. That’s not the full freight, however. We financed the wars on borrowed money, so the actual price tag of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria is somewhere closer to $3.6 trillion, according to a Brown University study.

That price tag also doesn’t take into account the huge physical, emotional, and psychological toll that these wars have exacted from our military families. And for what? Perhaps the most frustrating reality of these wars is how little the United States has to show for them. Many of the regions we entered are still hot beds of chaos and terrorism.

Another obvious advantage to using the State of the Union to promote an end to these wars: the people want it. Trump’s decision to withdraw US trips from Syria and reduce the country’s military presence in Afghanistan is hugely popular with the American people. According to a new Harvard CAPS/Harris poll published by The Hill, a majority of Americans support US withdrawal from Afghanistan and Syria.

That stands in contrast with Trump’s (quite literally in this case) divisive policy on immigration and the building of a barrier wall with Mexico, which as many as 60 percent of those polled don’t want.

Vice President Mike Pence told a cheering crowd last week that ‘all options are on the table’ when it comes to Venezuela. That follows John Bolton’s memo about 5,000 troops to Colombia. As things in Latin America appear to approach boiling point, it makes sense to negotiate a pullback from Syria and Afghanistan.

Gathering storm clouds are ahead.  North Korean missile sites ‘remain intact;’ Russia and Iran continue an online disinformation campaign that weaponizes social media, Russia plans to build new missile systems after our withdrawal from the INF missile treaty, and continues to abuse our judicial system and its federal discovery process in efforts to punish its enemies. It is clear that we have entered a period of reckoning on the foreign policy front.

A White House memo circulated today said that the theme of the State of the Union tonight will be ‘Choosing Greatness’ and that the president wants to appeal to Americans’ aspirations. He will offer a policy agenda that will appeal to both parties, the memo said.

Want an easy way to do that, Mr President? Fulfill your campaign promise to end the wars.

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