More of the Same: Cato Scholars Weigh in on Afghanistan

Last night President Trump informed the nation that he is escalating America’s war in Afghanistan. That means that our longest war will continue for at least four more years, and likely longer. It also means that more Americans will be sent across the globe to fight – and die – in the pursuit of unclear objectives, and in a conflict that is not vital to U.S. national security.

But Trump assured Americans that he had the strategy for “winning.” While specifics about the new strategy are sketchy, it seems to be more of the same, and more of the same will not improve reality in Afghanistan; it may, in fact, make things worse. At this point, one could be forgiven for seeing America’s efforts in Afghanistan as a sign of insanity: doing the same, but expecting different results.

Cato’s Trevor Thrall and Erik Goepner note that Trump’s strategy is “only a slightly more muscular version of the policy he inherited from Obama. …[but] remains a much less forceful version of Obama’s surge.”

They also point out that Trump’s rhetoric, “like that of previous administrations, makes it sound as though this is America’s war to win or lose. …However, the U.S. has very little control over how the Afghan government will govern or how the Afghan security forces will fight. America, therefore, has little power to affect the outcome of Afghanistan’s civil war.” 

In fairness, it’s difficult to envision a strategy that would. But that is an argument to end America’s involvement in Afghanistan’s civil war, not for more of the same. Trump chose the latter, in part, because it is the easier political decision than withdrawal.

Christopher Preble notes that: 

Few presidents are criticized for using military force. More often, they are hit for not intervening often enough. Or trying hard enough. Or long enough. Withdrawal without victory is a particularly odious sin.

Therefore, when Donald Trump was presented with an opportunity to redirect U.S. attention and resources, he ignored both the reasonable and well-considered suggestions to withdraw, as well as the foolish and quixotic proposals. Instead, he chose to kick the can down the road. 

Cato scholars had much more to say following the president’s primetime address to the nation, including several articles detailing the many false assumptions that undergird Trump’s rationale for escalating the war. They also addressed the false promises the president made to the nation.

You can read the articles in full by clicking on the links below:

Trump Goes from Afghanistan War Skeptic to True Believer by Christopher Preble

The Slim Chances That President Trump’s Afghanistan Policy Will Succeed: Let’s Look Honestly at Recent History by Trevor Thrall and Erik Goepner

‘New Strategy,’ Same Results by Trevor Thrall and Erik Goepner

Afghanistan Is President Donald Trump’s War Now: Fighting Without Purpose Or End by Doug Bandow