Graham’s enthusiastic response to Trump’s Afghan plan

Trump still

I missed Trump’s speech last night because I was writing that post about Jack Van Loan — and was surprised when I went back downstairs to find that it was over. I thought I’d catch at least some of it.

But I’m familiar with the gist. And since I got this response from Lindsey Graham today, I’ll use that as a device to get into the subject:

Graham: “Gloves Are Off Inside Of Afghanistan”

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) last night on Fox News reacted to President Trump’s new Afghanistan strategy.

Ø  GRAHAM: “I think there will be a lot of bipartisan support in Congress for this new proposal. I’m proud. I’m relieved. I’m proud of the fact that President Trump made a national security decision, not a political decision. I’m proud of the fact that he listened to the generals. I’m most proud of the fact that he shows the will to stand up to radical Islam.”

Ø  GRAHAM: “We’re going to make our decisions based on conditions on the ground, not on the arbitrary passing of time. So hats off to President Trump for not becoming General Trump. Because General Obama was a real lousy general, and that’s part of the mess we’re inheriting…”

First, let me say that while I, too, disagreed with him on Afghanistan, I would take President Obama — or either Bush, Clinton or Reagan — back in a skinny minute if it meant getting rid of Trump. And I could really do without the silly red-meat stuff about “gloves are off” and “the will to stand up to radical Islam.” It’s silly, and undermines serious people’s ability to take him seriously. He’s a smart man; he can express himself more intelligently, however much he wants to repair relations with what is euphemistically called “the base.”

Next, I’ll shift gears and express my great relief that for once, Trump seems to have allowed himself to learn from experts rather than going with his gut. That’s a big step. We’d be in a lot better shape if he’d learn to listen to ALL experts, and not just the generals — although listening to generals is a fine start.

Finally, I agree with Graham and Trump that setting deadlines to leave Afghanistan is the worst of ideas.

My rule of thumb is this: If we send troops into a situation with a departure date in mind, we shouldn’t send the troops in at all. Nor should we set dates for departure after we send them in. That makes it almost impossible to achieve military objectives, whatever the objective. (“Hey, enemy, just hunker down and wait until this date, and you can take over!”)

And that’s about it, except to say again that it’s a relief to see Trump listening to people who actually know what they’re talking about, for once. Wherever we go from here in Afghanistan, this is far better than a commander-in-chief calling the shots on the basis of grossly ill-informed whim.

But my relief isn’t so enormous that I’m going to gush about it the way Graham did…

21 thoughts on “Graham’s enthusiastic response to Trump’s Afghan plan

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    By the way, another reason to like Trump’s decision:

    With Bannon back in charge, Breitbart is crushing Trump for his Afghanistan speech

    It’s officially on.

    Breitbart News, with former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon back in charge, is ripping mad at President Trump after Monday’s Afghanistan speech foreshadowed an increase in ground troops….

    It’s kind of nice to see Mr. “America First,” the guy responsible for the scuttling of TPP and our abandonment of the Paris Accord, wailing in the darkness, out of power…

  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    Here, by the way, is the most idiotic part of Trump’s speech, and since he knows better, Graham should have called him out on it:

    We are not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists.

    If you’re not going to engage in nation-building, then there’s no point in killing terrorists or doing anything at all to them for that matter — because you’re never going to kill them all, and they are going to come flooding back into a failed state the moment we leave.

    And Graham knows that as well as anyone. I know that he knows, because I used to listen to him talk at length about all the institution-building we needed to do in Iraq. And Iraq was much closer to being a modern state than Afghanistan has ever been (which is one reason why so many great nations have come to grief there).

    It’s one thing to try to encourage Trump to act like a normal president, as long as he’s in office. It’s another to fail to call him out when he says stuff like that…

  3. bud

    I know this will come as a great shock to everyone who reads Brad’s blog but I disagree with Trump, Lindsey and Brad on this. The one time when his instincts actually were right and he abandons them. I could recite the loooong history of failures by many nations to build Afghanistan. And make no mistake that’s exactly what Trump is proposing. (I agree with Brad on that point) Suffice it to say both W and Obama have both attempted this and both failed. So did the Russians. Our best strategy is to ignore the generals who ALWAYS want more troops and simply do like Trump proposed on the stump – withdraw the last 9000 troops.

  4. Bryan Caskey

    So we’re going to “win”. Okay, what does “winning” consist of? What are its necessary elemental parts? How do we plan to achieve this victory?

    Not setting arbitrary deadlines is a fundamental step, but it’s not a sufficient step. The problem with conditions based planning in Afghanistan is that the conditions are always terrible.

    If you can’t define winning in a way that is remotely connected to reality, then you probably shouldn’t be fighting the war. I’m skeptical that any real, lasting progress can be made with 4,000 troops.

    You can’t make Afghanistan not Afghanistan, unless you send 400k troops, declare martial law, wipe out all the mosques, schools, and build them again with 400k teachers who teach Western values and remake the entire place into…something else…which will take about a generation or two.

    We’re 16 years in. Sixteen. For comparison, Pearl Harbor was December 7, 1941. That would be like the US saying “Okay, i know it’s 1957 now, but we’re really going to get serious about WWII now.”

    Sure, there are the examples of Japan and Germany. However, both Japan and Germany were utterly and totally defeated, the entire governments were cast aside, and rebuilt in our image. We haven’t done that in Afghanistan. We never well. We don’t do that sort of thing anymore.

    1. bud

      We don’t do that sort of thing anymore.

      Nor SHOULD we. (I should give you the obligatory WWII non-sequitur admonishment but really, what’s the point)

      1. Bryan Caskey

        I was acknowledging that post WWII Japan and Germany were DIFFERENT.

        Take some advice a good lawyer once told me, when the judge is agreeing with you, stop talking as fast as you can.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          “stop talking as fast as you can”

          But in that regard, aren’t lawyers kind of like oil tankers? Doesn’t a lawyer need 10 or 15 miles of sea room to come to a full stop? 🙂

          And yeah, I understood that you were sort of making Bud’s argument for him, just from another frame of reference….

          1. Bryan Caskey

            Good lawyers are like the Ringle. You know, Jack’s Baltimore Clipper that is fast sailing and has outstanding weatherly qualities. We maneuver well when there’s little sea room, can change tempo, and can make great time.

      2. Brad Warthen Post author

        Yes, we should, whenever feasible.

        And Iraq was such an opportunity. we broke it, so we had an obligation to fix it — there should have been an army of public-affairs people going in right behind the combat troops.

        But Bush and Rumsfeld didn’t do that.

        Any of y’all ever read John Hersey’s A Bell for Adano? It tells the story of Major Victor Joppolo, a public-affairs officer in the U.S. Army — he had been a city official back in the States in civilian life — who is assigned to set up a new civil government in an Italian town that has recently been taken by the Allies.

        I read that when I was in high school, and since I read it at such a young age, it made an impression. And it caused me to take it for granted that the United States of America knew how to do this sort of thing, and understood that you MUST do this sort of thing, after you topple the government of a place.

        I was wrong. Bush and Rumsfeld didn’t know that. And so we had the mess than ensued after we took Baghdad…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          That, of course, was back when it was possible to assume that the people who rise to the top of our government understand the basics of governing and war and peace and diplomacy and leadership.

          I would, of course, never make that mistake today…

        2. bud

          Of course you were wrong about Iraq. But not in the way you have convinced yourself. There are 2 things you can always count on. (1) The neocon is always wrong and (2) the neocon will ALWAYS blame others, usually us liberals (the people who were actually right) for their being wrong. And somehow these people still manage to hold sway over military decisions.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      By the way… we got off on several tangents, but I want to pause and say I think there was a lot of sense in what Bryan said, overall.

      I’d elaborate, but I need to run to a meeting…

  5. Doug Ross

    In the movie War Machine on Netflix with Brad Pitt playing General McCrystal, he is at a briefing and says “If there are 10 insurgents and we kill 2, how many are left?” The answer he says is 20 because the two you killed have 6 friends each who were on the fence about joining the insurgents.

    Get out.. completely. Bring the troops home and let the Afghanis wipe themselves out.

    1. bud

      Doug, I think maybe that’s a bit too cynical. They may not wipe themselves out. We are serving as a sort of catalyst for this mess. Let’s give peace a chance and see what happens. The Lindsey’s of the world have had their way for decades and for decades his approach has failed. Let’s at least TRY something different.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        “The Lindsey’s of the world have had their way for decades…”

        What nonsense. Yesterday on the radio I heard Paul Ryan say a smart thing. He was citing something an expert on the situation had told him. He said we’ve never had a long-term strategy for Afghanistan. We’ve been there 16 years, and we’ve had 16 one-year strategies. And none of them has had enough time to prove itself.

        NOBODY has had his way for decades…

        1. bud

          Nonsense? Really? We went into Vietnam, Panama, Granada, Kosovo, Lebanon, Iraq – twice, Afghanistan, drone strikes everywhere. We spend what the next 8 nations spend on the military. Lindsey is batting a thousand. The result? Trillions in spending, thousand of troops killed and massive instability throughout the Middle East. Sadly Trump is continuing this folly.

  6. Mark Stewart

    If you are one of the 4,000, you officially drew the short straw.

    When I heard the line about killing terrorists being “the plan” vs nation-building as a basic tenant of how to extricate oneself from war, I knew Trump had once again shown his absolute ignorance.

    There is no end to senseless, mindless killing. All it does is diminish our standing as a nation of principled leadership. This is Trump’s peculiar talent; wrecking one’s way to an ignoble defeat.

    1. Claus2

      As President what would be your plan? You have two choices, to stay or to pull out. If you stay, you need to keep troop levels at an optimal level to carry out the plan. If you pull out, you admit defeat which strengthens the enemy’s standing… they just forced the most powerful military in the world out of the country. If you stay, what do you do… build schools and swimming pools or do you fight, if you fight do you keep taking out foot soldiers or go after the leaders? Trump is changing things, we’re now no longer telegraphing our moves and strategies like we have done in the past… from now on the enemy doesn’t know when, how or where we’ll strike.

      1. Mark Stewart

        WHat? Yes, Trump just did telegraph exactly what his “for consumption by his base” military “strategy” will be.

        It’s just not loose for a while longer; then disappear sometime down the road.


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