Last Tuesday night President Trump told Congress and the country, “As a candidate for President, I pledged a new approach. Great nations do not fight endless wars.” He’s dead right. Even the winners do not come out of long wars well. Ask our British cousins what winning both world wars – much longer wars for them than for us – got them. Regardless of how cheap our fruitless campaigns to reform the Greater Middle East appear to be, they are chipping away at American power, virtue, and solvency.
Trump might have added that “War is the health of the state,” as the Progressive essayist Randolph Bourne wrote in the midst of World War I (Progressives get things right on occasion). Looking around today’s Long War America, its surveillance state never stronger, its police departments boasting hand-me-down armored vehicles, and its Department of Defense the largest provider of childcare in the land, it is safe to say that Bourne understated the case.
One can and should question Trump’s commitment to restraint, retrenchment, and realism. We still have troops in Syria and Afghanistan, and the President’s foreign policy team keeps adding more votaries of the disastrous Bush agenda. Trump asks the right questions, questions that Washington’s foreign policy echo chamber invariably seeks to ignore or de-legitimize. But thus far he has provided few satisfactory answers.
And yet, Trump can confidently ask the majority of Americans who are sick of foolish foreign wars: where else are you going to go? To a Democratic Party that, in sync with its media cheerleaders, is embracing Sisyphean Forever War and flaying heretics like Tulsi Gabbard? Almost overnight, the Democrats have become the War Party. Polling, or a few minutes with CNN, confirms this. As erratic a foreign policy president as Trump has been, his opponents appear ready to allow him to ask that hoary political question with a straight face.