trump-8.21.17

President Donald Trump, who detailed the new Afghanistan strategy to the American public, vows that America is not in the business of nation-building any longer.

Donald Trump’s Monday night speech on the new strategy for the Afghanistan war was very much a turnaround in character for a guy who championed getting out of “failing” wars on the campaign trail.

The speech featured a more humble Trump, who acknowledged, as his predecessors have, that the foreign situation is much tougher when you’re actually in office. The speech itself hit several of what you might call more “neocon” notes. Driving home the idea of American strength and patriotism through might, the president promised an increase of troops to Afghanistan while also vowing that America was no longer in the nation-building business.

One of the more interesting aspects of the speech, however, was Trump’s targeting of Pakistan through his words. He referenced the nation by name several times, referred to its harboring of known terrorists and backing of terrorist groups, and noted that it was a nuclear power. Interestingly, he also seemed to align himself with India, Pakistan’s biggest rival, in the course of the speech.

The Afghanistan “strategy” isn’t necessarily new. An increase of troops and the promise to base withdrawal on situation on the ground and not pre-determined timetables is an idea that’s been around since Barack Obama announced those timetables in the first place. What the speech did offer that was new was a military-guided rationale that leads me to believe that James Mattis in particular (along with the other generals who work for his administration) had a major role in drafting the speech.

And that is a good thing. Trump has not handled military speeches particularly well, more or less blowing his rhetorical wad on North Korea and Venezuela. However, this speech showed that there is an end-game and it is sorta kinda spelled out. Which is totally new for this administration.