By Katie Kieffer
“A big, fat mistake,” is how presidential candidate Donald Trump characterized the invasion of Iraq. Today, President Trump insists: “the destructive cycle of intervention and chaos must finally come to an end.”
Will President Trump keep his promises to prioritize “America first” over policing the world?
A strong man is not strong because he uses his power in the form of violence—but because he conditions his body and mind. Such strength—accessible yet not necessarily ever utilized—is, as Ronald Reagan said, a deterrence against evil and a means of fostering goodwill.
Let’s look at what President Trump is doing well—and could do better—to keep his word on war, and achieve peace through strength.
This Memorial Day, as we honor our countries’ fallen, ask yourself what we gained—or stand to gain—from retaining and sending thousands of troops to fight desperate battles in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.
2,216 American soldiers died in Afghanistan and 20,000 more were wounded in action since 2001. 4,411 Americans died and 31,954 more were maimed in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Today, 8,400 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan and the Pentagon is pressuring the Trump administration to send an additional 3,000-to-5,000 troops into this hotbed of chaos. In addition, 900 U.S. troops are now stationed in Syria.
Gen. John Nicholson confirmed to the Associated Press that—in 350 U.S. special operations missions in Afghanistan in 2016—fewer than 50 members or leaders of al-Qaida were killed. It seems we should be wiping out the enemy at a faster rate to justify asking our elite special operations forces to engage in a high-risk operation on virtually every day of the calendar year.
Last week, 22-year-old American Army Ranger Etienne J. Murphy was killed in Syria. He leaves behind his wife of three years and their two children. How many more children are we willing to permanently tear from their fathers in the name of war? Have we gained enough to justify such costs?
Poke a man with a stick—prepare to be hit back. Poke a man’s innocent child with a stick—prepare for war.
In addition to losing American lives, every time the U.S. launches an airstrike in the name of defeating terror, we’ve also slowly but surely created enemies of the local civilians. The U.S. government will admit to definitely being responsible for 352 civilian casualties in Syria and Iraq due to U.S. airstrikes. But non-profit watch groups like Airwars believe the number of civilian casualties in Syria, Iraq and Libya due to U.S. airstrikes is over 3,000.
Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens lost his life in the Trump administration’s first counterterrorism operation—a nighttime raid in southwestern Yemen. In the same raid, an eight-year-old girl was killed. Immediately, President Trump was called a baby killer—despite the fact that the raid was planned by the Obama administration and failed due to mistakes on the ground that Trump couldn’t have foreseen.
But the SEAL Team 6 raid illustrates that U.S. airstrikes often mean a loss of innocent lives and an onslaught of anti-American hatred. Indeed, earlier this month, when the U.S. hit pro-Syrian forces, both Russia and Syrian officials immediately reacted strongly—accusing the U.S. of “illegitimate” and “unlawful” aggression.
Could we gain more goodwill by growing a strong military; securing our secrets; and strengthening our diplomatic relations—than jumping at every “opportunity” to take out an Islamic terrorist? “Peace through strength” is—after all—a strategy of deterrence.
President Trump deserves credit for asking other countries to pony up and pay their share of their own countries’ defense budgets.
Speaking to NATO allies in Brussels last week, President Trump said: “Over the last eight years, the United States spent more on defense than all NATO countries combined. If all NATO members had spent just 2 percent of GDP on defense last year, we would have had another $119 billion for our collective defense… We have to make up for the many years lost.”
Thank you, Mr. President, for having the courage to ask our allies to pull their own weight when it comes to defense. We can’t afford to police the world. The monetary cost is high, and human cost is even higher.
Pray for and think about the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country—and the thousands more who survived, but suffer with the daily hardship of living with PTSD or without a limb. Pray for the young children who are growing up without a father or a mother.
As my grandmother, a WWII nurse and the wife of a WWII Marine once wisely said: “The man who says we should go to war is the man at home sitting in his chair.”