Some conservatives – particularly those who tend to use Breitbart as their primary source of news – are calling President Trump’s “flip-flop” on Afghanistan a betrayal of his base. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Before we get into the meat of the matter, let’s take a moment to acknowledge what’s going on at Breitbart. Nothing against the site – it has been on the vanguard of the populist conservative movement for a long time, and it will (hopefully) continue to be an important force in the war against fake, mainstream news for years to come.
But we have to be honest about what has happened here. Steve Bannon is back, and he has come back with a personal agenda. That agenda surely will dovetail in some ways with the overall principles of Trump’s base, but we can’t assume that it always will. Bannon is out for revenge. So we need to remember to take everything we hear from that crowd…if not necessarily with a grain of salt, at least with an extra dose of careful scrutiny.
Okay, with that out of the way, let’s discuss the Afghanistan speech. It was a good one. Trump was forthright and honest about how his views have evolved on the subject, and that’s more honesty than you usually get out of an American politician – especially one in the White House.
“My original instinct was to pull out — and, historically, I like following my instincts,” Trump said. “But all my life I’ve heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office; in other words, when you’re President of the United States. So I studied Afghanistan in great detail and from every conceivable angle. After many meetings, over many months, we held our final meeting last Friday at Camp David, with my Cabinet and generals, to complete our strategy.”
The Breitbartians are treating this as though Trump has been co-opted by the evil globalists. The McMasters. The Kushners. The conspirators under every couch in the White House. In other words, the guys who didn’t get along with Steve Bannon. Come on. It’s just…it’s a little too transparent, guys.
A fairer way to view this would be to acknowledge that a real estate magnate from New York City does not know everything there is to know about the war in Afghanistan. We would be dismally shocked if his views DIDN’T change after months of national security briefings. How could it be otherwise? He is privy to more classified information than anyone in America at this point; if you don’t think that should change his opinion, then you are severely limited in your critical thinking skills.
Does that mean he made the right decision? Does that mean we SHOULD be sending more troops into Afghanistan? Well, that’s another question. And it’s one we won’t really know the answer to for some time. But we highly doubt that the RIGHT decision on Afghanistan is to simply yank all of our troops home and watch as the Islamic State and the Taliban set up shop for a generation to come. The last time Islamists took over that country, it culminated in the 9/11 attacks. Let’s learn from history, shall we?
Trump’s isolationist fans will not be happy with this shift, but it’s not the president’s job to play to his base 24/7. His job is to BE the president. And he proved Monday night that he’s up to that task.