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WWFTD- What would Franklin and Teddy Do? Leadership for the 21st Century Part IV

Rip Walsh is an Adjunct Professor at Long Island University who writes about U.S. History and Politics.

Foreign Affairs- Middle East Morass

CHAPTER THREE- FOREIGN AFFAIRS

MIDDLE EAST MORASS

Since 2001, the Middle East has been the primary flashpoint for American foreign policy. The United States suffered its worst terrorist attack, and afterwards sent thousands of soldiers and spent trillions of dollars in the region. For what purpose? That is harder to pinpoint. The U.S. never developed a comprehensive strategy concerning the Middle East, and what we wanted to accomplish there. We responded to 9/11 with our military might but possessed no concrete plan as to what to do if the fighting ended, which it never really did. There have been several feeble attempts at nation building whose success is still very much up in the air. We went in with guns blazing, but had no real understanding of the nations and groups we were dealing with, their cultures, history, and languages. We failed to fully acknowledge the centuries old conflict not only between Muslims and Jews, but among the different sects of Islam, the Sunnis and Shiites. Our failure was broad, but ultimate responsibility rests at the top, with the Commander-in-Chief.

GEORGE W. BUSH- 9/11, IRAQI WMD’S

9/11/2001 marked a turning point in U.S. and World History. Islamic terrorism, which had been gaining momentum since the 1970’s, burst into full prominence. The two World Trade Center buildings in New York City were taken down by hijacked planes, another one hit the Pentagon in Washington, the last crashed into a field in Pennsylvania after the passengers confronted the hijackers. George W. Bush had been president for some seven months when the disaster struck. Over 3,000 Americans lost their lives due to the missteps of our intelligence services and leadership at the top. George W. does not deserve all the blame for 9/11 as his predecessor, Bill Clinton, did not vigorously react to repeated warnings that the Islamic terrorist group, Al-Qaeda and its leader, Osama bin Laden, were planning to strike the United States.

The seeds of 9/11 stretch at least as far back as 1993, when Islamic terrorists bombed the World Trade Centers for the first time, less than one month into Clinton’s first term. The blast killed several people in the basement of one of the towers, but did not seriously damage the building. In 1997, two CNN reporters traveled to the mountains of Afghanistan to interview bin Laden in his cave hide-out. The Saudi born extremist emphatically declared war on the United States for its supposed offenses against Islam and the Middle East, and promised to attack the U.S. homeland. The Clinton Administration did not take the man seriously. The next year, 1998, two American embassies in Africa were hit by rockets, killing over 200 people, including 12 Americans. The U.S. responded with ineffective missile strikes against Al-Qaeda in Africa and Afghanistan. A suicide bomber would blast a hole in the side of the U.S. warship, Cole, in 2000, killing 17 sailors.

The actual lead-up to September 11, 2001 witnessed a break-down of our two main intelligence services, the FBI and CIA. Numerous Saudis enrolled in flight school in the U.S., but only remained in the course long enough to learn how to execute a take-off but dropped out before landings were taught. Lower level FBI agents supposedly discovered this anomaly and passed it on to mid-level operatives. Somewhere between the mid-level and upper reaches of the Bureau, this knowledge which might have saved thousands of American lives became lost in a pile of papers on a desk. After 9/11, 17 new national security agencies would be created, costing trillions of dollars. Maybe a better approach might have been to study the failures of the FBI and CIA prior to 9/11, and work to improve the functioning of these agencies, instead of adding numerous levels of new bureaucracy.

For President Bush himself, he rallied the nation after the attacks and sought to punish the perpetrators. This is when things went off the rails. December 8,1941was the last time a president, Franklin Roosevelt, asked Congress to declare war on an enemy that attacked the U.S., as prescribed in the Constitution. FDR fully mobilized the nation, marshalling its tremendous natural resources and manpower to crush the global threat of fascism. Everyone had to serve, from movie stars (Jimmy Stewart), famous athletes (Ted Williams), Hall of Fame football coaches (Tom Landry), Peanuts Comics creator (Charles Schulz) peanut farmers from Georgia (Jimmy Carter), the super-rich (John F. Kennedy), and 19 year olds from Connecticut (George H W Bush). A notable exception to serving would be future war enthusiast, president and conservative hero, Ronald Reagan. There was no sitting out the war in the Alabama National Guard or due to phantom bone spurs in your feet. World War II could be termed a true national effort and a triumph for the entire United States. By not calling on everyone, President Bush made it another “rich man’s war”, “poor man’s fight”, creating a gulf between our armed forces and the population that had repercussions when veterans began returning home.

The onset of the Cold War changed international politics, with the specter of nuclear annihilation sprouting innumerable “limited wars” throughout the world. The new reality also resulted in presidents accumulating almost unrestrained power to launch and maintain these conflicts. Perhaps a grave mistake and one the people need to rectify. The Founding Fathers mandated the president must go to Congress before entering a war so there might be considered and thoughtful discussion before sending young Americans into harm’s way. George W. Bush decided to continue the trend of his post-World War II predecessors and retaliate without Congressional approval first. We had been attacked as a nation, suffered heavy losses, with our homeland maybe under dire threat. The entire country needed to respond. President Bush did not call forth the full resources and personnel of the United States and reaped the same inconclusive rewards that marked all our limited wars since 1945. A spineless argument against declaring war became that Al-Qaeda was not a country but only an organization. The world changed, we had to change with it.

On October 7, 2001, a bombing campaign by the U.S. began against the Taliban-led Afghanistan as it was harboring Al-Qaeda and bin Laden. That would be followed by a land invasion on November 13, 2001, by U.S. and British forces that quickly drove the Taliban from power, but did not capture Osama. By the end of December, 2001, a transitional Afghan government had been established in Kabul, hopefully leading to a stable democracy. That same month, American troops almost captured bin Laden in the mountainous region of Tora Bora, but the elusive Al Qaeda leader slipped across the border into Pakistan. President Bush admitted publicly that bin Laden might have been taken if more troops were involved in the operation. Eighteen years later, the United States still has several thousand troops in Afghanistan. The Taliban remains a threat. The Afghan government we set up is shaky at best, supposedly riddled with corruption. The economy there is a wreck, with unemployment at 25% or higher, and most people still living in poverty. Afghanistan, however, does supply over 80% of the world’s heroin. We have lost over 2,000 soldiers fighting there, and spent trillions of dollars. To what gain? Not a whole lot.

Beginning in early 2002, President Bush’s attention seemed to turn toward Iraq, which he labelled as part of the Axis of Evil- North Korea, Iran, and Iraq. This focus eventually led to an invasion of Iraq in March of 2003, to oust dictator Saddam Hussein. The rationale for this second war in the Middle East would be a cesspool of misinformation and outright falsehoods. The Bush Administration tried to link Hussein to Al Qaeda and international Islamic terrorism, with no success, as no connection existed. When that fabrication failed to take hold, it became Iraq possessed WMD’s (Weapons of Mass Destruction- The Mushroom Cloud over Cleveland), another bold-faced lie. The president’s henchmen, V.P. Dick Cheney and Carl Rove, pushed the narrative hard, even convincing eminent and highly intelligent people like Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice that it was true. They were also willing to wreck people’s lives and careers, like CIA operative Valerie Plame and her husband, to sway the nation. The real motives for the Iraq invasion have been debated and speculated on ever since; finishing what his father started during the Gulf War or revenge for Hussein’s attempted assassination of the elder Bush. Like the first Iraq War, the second one featured heavy combat operations for only a short period of time. The capital, Baghdad, fell by April 9, 2003. Saddam Hussein would be captured and executed. On May 1, 2003, President Bush declared full scale combat operations over.

The conduct of the war would not be a shining moment for the United States. Reports filtered back from Iraq that our soldiers did not have the proper equipment to protect themselves from roadside bombs and IED’s. Private security companies such as Blackwater were unleashed against the people of Iraq, with basically no oversight. Tales of brutality against Iraqi prisoners emerged, like the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, with its infamous photo of detainees chained like dogs. Along with using Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as a holding place for the most important terrorists captured, the Bush Administration also created secret internment camps, known as Black Sites, in an estimated 25 countries around the globe. There, the CIA regularly tortured prisoners, including the employment of the controversial waterboarding technique. The fact that the use of this inhumane treatment was even debated seriously, displayed the moral compass of the Bush Administration had spun out of control. During Teddy Roosevelt’s time in office, the U.S. battled a rebel insurgency in our recently acquired colony, the Philippines. American troops used a form of water torture called the Water Cure on captured Filipinos. Roosevelt found out what was happening and took action. The U.S. general commanding in the province where the torture was most widely employed, got relieved by Roosevelt and went on trial before a military board. The board ruled the general had not overstepped his bounds, but Roosevelt intervened anyway and had the officer cashiered from the service. It is the ultimate responsibility of the Commander-in-Chief to make sure the U.S. military and our intelligence services are not committing crimes.

President Bush may have been a bit premature when he announced “Mission Accomplished” in a speech after landing a jet himself on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003. Iraq descended into a bitter civil war between different Islamic factions, with the civilian population bearing the brunt of the mayhem. In 2007, George W. ordered a surge in U.S. troop levels to tamp down the violence, but the country could not be considered stable when Bush left office two years later. Democratic elections were held and a new government set-up, but the long term success of democracy in Iraq can still be debated. A big mistake George W. made was not having a definite strategy as to how and when American troops could be withdrawn from Iraq. A president who goes to war must have an idea on ending the war and its aftermath. Fairly early in World War II, Franklin Roosevelt declared the Allies would only accept the unconditional surrender of Germany, Italy, and Japan. He wanted to avoid the murky conclusion that marred the stopping of hostilities in World War I, which led to the second world conflict twenty years later. FDR also desired that a new international organization be in place before the war terminated. The first meeting of the United Nations, replacing the weak League of Nations (feeble as the U.S. never joined), was scheduled for April 25, 1945 in San Francisco, several weeks before Germany surrendered and several months before Japan did. Roosevelt died before he could attend it. The Middle East mess George W. Bush started would be dumped on his successor, President Barack Obama. Maybe he might have better luck.

BARACK OBAMA- WHY CAN’T WE BE FRIENDS?

The direction of foreign affairs under President Barack Obama harkened back to the administration of Jimmy Carter in the late 1970’s. Carter attempted to put a new brighter face on our dealings with other nations after the nightmare of the Vietnam War finally ended in 1975. America would no longer support tyrannical dictators just because they were anti-communist. He tried to forbid any more aid to the rightist Contras battling the leftist Sandinistas in Nicaragua. Carter’s efforts were derailed by hyperinflation (high unemployment and high inflation together) in the U.S. and the take-over of the American Embassy in Teheran, Iran during 1979. That the United States desired better relations with the world, did not mean decades old animosities and grievances toward America suddenly disappeared or formerly hostile countries now wanted to be allies. A lesson President Obama would learn as well.

Upon taking office, Obama announced that by August 31, 210, our combat mission in Iraq would end and the troops bought home. Applaud able idea, but unilaterally declaring a war to be finished may not work if the enemy views the situation differently. That is what happened in Iraq. President Obama began the drawdown of American forces, just as a new more violent and nasty radical Islamic sect, known as Isis, started to rise in northwest Iraq and northeast Syria. Unlike Al-Qaeda, Isis sought to establish a territorial homeland, a Muslim caliphate in that region of Iraq and Syria it could conquer, which at its height was quite a bit.

A silly dispute arose back in the U.S. between the Obama Administration and conservative News like Fox, concerning what the actual name of the group was, Isis or Isil, the latter somehow less offensive to Muslims. Nonsense which distracted from the important goal of defeating this monstrous group. An organization that beheaded people on live camera and forced women into virtual slavery. By 2015, around 4,500 U.S. soldiers needed to stay in Iraq. Obama became the second president in a row to state a war had finished when it remained far from it. TR and FDR were always well grounded in reality, as a president must always be. Recently, the desire to keep ahead of the 24 -hour news cycle has presidents tossing out overly optimistic sound bites in contradiction to actual events, something that comes back to bite them in short order. The threat of Isis lasted into the Trump Administration.

In Afghanistan, President Obama faced a severely worsening situation upon taking the reins, and actually needed to increase troop levels 30,000 from 75,000 to 105,000. At the same time, he again proclaimed withdrawal of American forces would begin 18 months after the initial surge. To add to the misery, Obama had to fire his general commanding in Afghanistan, Stanley McChrystal, for criticizing his administration in a magazine article. By October 2015, President Obama declared the U.S. would retain soldiers in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future. Barack cannot be faulted for the disasters in both countries he inherited from his predecessor. He might, however, be questioned on premature pronouncements of the conflicts’ conclusions, falsely raising hopes and expectations. “December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy” Tell the American people the truth, they can handle it. The problem here was that our government never provided a satisfactory rationale for why we were fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

President Obama began the process of attempting to have better relations with Arab nations by delivering a speech at Cairo University, Egypt in 2009. Again, not a terrible initiative, but one which ran smack into the realities of the Arab Spring revolts of 2011. People across the Arab World rose up, demanding democratic reforms in their autocratic nations. The Obama Administration signaled its support for the movements, but the complications of promoting democracy in a region where no history of popular rule existed, and tyrants trying to retain power, greatly hindered Obama’s efforts. Syria is a case in point. Its dictator, Bashar al-Assad, cracked down violently on groups protesting against his regime. Barack at numerous speeches, gearing up for his 2012 re-election bid, pronounced “Assad must go”, over and over. A sentiment undoubtedly shared by most of the world, except Assad himself and his primary backer, Vladimir Putin of Russia. The U.S. sent small arms and ammunition to assist the Syrian rebels, while Putin supplied Assad with tanks, artillery and fighter jets. The Syrian strongman also employed poisonous gas against his own people, drawing a line in the sand response from Obama. “If you do that again”, face the consequences, except he did do it again, without much reaction from the United States. It is perhaps best not to say anything if you are not going to follow through on your promise. If Teddy Roosevelt said he was going to do something, it would be done, one could count on that. Needless to say, 9 years later, Assad has not gone, while the people of Syria have endured continual misery.

In Libya, murky objectives by the U.S. led to the loss of American lives. Obama supported the ouster of long-time Libyan dictator Muammar al- Gaddafi but similar to President Bush in Iraq had no plan for after Gaddafi’s overthrow. Rival groups within the country were battling for control. The Obama Administration sent an ambassador, Chris Stevens, to Libya to establish a consulate there, not a full-fledged embassy. With the upheaval going on all around him, Stevens notified Washington and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that the situation was extremely unstable and dangerous, while requesting more security. The extra security would not be provided before the consulate came under attack on September 11, 2012, resulting in the deaths of Ambassador Stevens and 3 other Americans. The response to the assault would not be the Obama Administration at its finest.

Perhaps the big error made by Obama and his team would be trying to get the facts about the case to match the narrative they had created concerning the Middle East- a new and improved U.S. foreign policy championing freedom. Susan Rice, then U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., made the rounds of the Sunday morning news talk shows, pitching the line that the attack had been a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Muslim video circulating on the Internet; an unproven assertion. President Obama also pushed this version during several interviews he gave at the time. In fact, the Obama Administration at first did not know the real reason for the assault, so why not just say that to the American people. “We have not ascertained yet the actual cause of the attack, but are investigating.” It turns out, the storming of the consulate had been well-planned in advance, not a knee-jerk response to a video. By attempting to get ahead of the story with unsubstantiated rumors, the Obama Administration opened itself to some very unnecessary criticism. Franklin Roosevelt could not fudge the news on Pearl Harbor and did not try. In war, bad things and defeats happen. A president needs to acknowledge the losses suffered, learn from them, and keep moving forward.

The Iran Nuclear Deal of 2015 might be called the pinnacle of the new foreign policy approach championed by President Obama. The motivation behind it was totally commendable, slowing or stopping Iran’s march toward acquiring nuclear weapons. The terms, however, maybe did not fully the embrace the realities of the situation and were open to debate. Freeing up $150 billion in frozen Iranian assets from the U.S. and the lifting of sanctions, in return for a 10- year halt on the development of nukes by the Iranians, might be considered a good or bad deal depending on your point of view. President Obama and his supporters hailed it as a triumph, his critics as a sell-out. Trying to take a dispassionate view, getting any nation to stop its pursuit of atomic weapons is a positive step. 10 years, however, in the long history of conflict in the Middle East is not even a blink of the eye. The arguments for and against the agreement became pointless when President Trump reneged on the deal upon taking office in 2017. Was it working? Once more, different people give contrary opinions.

Barack Obama would be praised by some, condemned by others for his relations with Israel. His detractors believed he was too pro-Palestinian, while his admirers thought he took the right approach with the Israelis, holding them more accountable for new building construction in the heavily Palestinian West Bank. Overall, Obama learned what every president since the founding of Israel in 1948 has, a solution to the Jewish-Palestinian troubles will not come from the U.S., but must arise from the two opposing groups themselves. Close to home, Barack opened up relations with Cuba, a move long overdue as that tiny nation has not posed a threat to the United States since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

The Asian Pivot became a catch phrase during Obama’s two terms, improving relations with countries in the region in anticipation of their greater importance during the future. One example will display that in foreign affairs, patience and looking to the long term is key, not jumping the gun for the easy 30 second clip on the evening news. Burma or Myanmar has been ruled by a military dictatorship since 1962. Starting in the 1990’s, they have tried to present a better face to the world in an effort to increase foreign investment in the poverty-stricken nation. In 2011, President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton paid a brief visit to Burma (six hours), met with opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and praised the governmental reforms taking place. The U.S. soon lifted sanctions against Burma. A closer examination of conditions there might have quickly revealed the military permitted elections and supposed democratic reforms as a sop to the world, but no real change took place. The military still runs the country with an iron fist. Obama, however, could say he was the first president to visit there.

It is only fitting that a discussion of foreign policy under Barack Obama conclude with the assassination of Osama bin Laden in 2011. The slippery Al-Qaeda leader and mastermind of 9/11 had eluded our grasp in Afghanistan during 2001, and crossed the border into Pakistan. For part of the next 10 years, bin Laden would be hidden in the city of Abbottabad, which is home to Pakistan’s military academy and many of its senior generals. It stretches belief to assert that the leaders of Pakistan did not know he was there. The U.S. gave $25 billion to Pakistan to assist in his capture and they were helping to hide him the whole time. An exclamation point on our dysfunctional Middle East policy for the last 20 years. The actual operation to kill bin Laden is hard to term as anything else but an assassination. From events, it seems we might have captured the terrorist leader, not shoot him, other men, and unarmed women present as well. The United States should be about justice, not revenge. It is difficult to say there had been much improvement in the Middle East when President Obama left office. Fighting went on in Afghanistan and Iraq, while the Iran Nuclear Deal stood on a precarious perch. Next up, the Donald.

DONALD TRUMP- AMERICA FIRST AND LAST

During his inaugural speech on January 20, 2017, Donald Trump made it clear that in foreign policy and all other areas, his priority would be American interests, as he saw them, first, last and always. Such a declaration was not likely to endear the U.S. to other nations, and Trump’s actions as president have not promoted good relations with countries around the globe. The next president will have to work hard to re-establish friendships that Mr. Trump damaged or ignored. A fact that did not seem to bother the Donald in the least. One of his first targets became NATO, our Cold War era alliance with Western European nations against the Soviet Union. The organization’s importance has diminished, but with Putin’s Russia acting aggressively, is still needed. How effective his browbeating of the economically strapped members was, is still an unanswered question.

Upon taking office, Trump quickly placed a travel ban on citizens from several Muslim countries, fulfilling a campaign pledge, but whose practicality was not clear, except to incite charges of prejudice and racism against Islam. Challenged in court, the prohibition would be upheld by the Supreme Court, after some revisions were made to it. To please his supporters, the Donald also withdrew the U.S. from the trans-Pacific Partner Trade negotiations, pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change that President Obama signed us onto in 2016, and as mentioned last section, reneged on the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal. Coherent foreign policy actions or just lashing out in all directions to promote his America first ideology? Perhaps the only one to know is Donald Trump.

Trump’s foreign policy travails actually began before he took office. Allegations of wide-spread Russian interference in the 2016 election claimed Trump’s campaign encouraged and may have even colluded with Russia to secure his election. How many times during his first year in office did you hear Trump say, “No conspiracy, no collusion with Russia.” Robert Mueller’s long and controversial investigation into the matter failed to clear the air, finding that the Russians did interfere in the election but there was not enough evidence to press charges of criminal conspiracy or collusion against Trump’s team. Your tax dollars hard at work. Two years to conclude we think he is guilty but we do not believe it would hold up in court. The Donald would not escape an Impeachment probe started by the House of Representatives over Trump’s alleged solicitation of Ukraine help to uncover dirt on former vice-president, Joe Biden. The Democrat controlled House voted to impeach, only to have the Republican led Senate acquit the president on all charges. The knowledge that he was only the third president to undergo the impeachment process embarrassed the Donald not in the least, as he stood defiant throughout the whole dog and pony show. That the country as a whole received absolutely no benefit from these distractions also did not register in the White House.

Trump worked hard to repair relations with Israel that he believed had been damaged during Obama’s Administration. He moved the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. A switch hailed by the Israelis, not so much by the Palestinians. The Donald also helped Israel to normalize relations with several Muslim nations in the Middle East and Africa, including Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, and Sudan. While Trump touted the agreements as historic, the main motive for the Arab nations was to counter Iran’s influence in the region, as for Sudan, it was an attempt to shed its image as a pariah in world affairs. The autocratic regimes in the Middle East have traditionally hesitated to seek better ties with Israel as a protest against the Jews’ treatment of the Palestinians. That consideration appears to have weakened over time, in addition to strengthening the tyrants at home by wooing American support.

President Trump has sought the friendship of rulers deemed strong men, such as Netanyahu of Israel, Putin of Russia, Mohammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, and Kim Jung Un of North Korea. He believed building personal relationships with these leaders might assist the United States in foreign affairs. To others, it comes across as the President of the U.S. groveling to thugs around the globe. There is some justification for that feeling as Trump has met with Jung Un three times, after each conference, proclaiming what a good guy the North Korean dictator happens to be. The Donald conveniently forgot that this is a man who had his own brother murdered at the Kuala Lumpur Airport in Malaysia, and whose security guards beat a young American student into a coma for taking a poster off a wall. The student eventually died. Of equal importance, none of Trump’s interactions with the tyrant have resulted in any progress on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, as they continue to test ever more powerful missiles.

Besides removing the U.S. from the nuclear deal with Iran upon taking office, Trump authorized the assassination of Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani at Baghdad Airport on January 3, 2020. The U.S. justified the killing due to Soleimani’s leadership of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, who supposedly carry out Iran’s terrorist activities in other nations. Iran responded with an airstrike against American forces at Al Asad airbase in Iraq, which did not kill any soldiers, but inflicted over 100 traumatic brain injuries, something which the Trump Administration denied at first. It is safe to say that the United States would not be happy if another country assassinated an opponent on the ground at Reagan International Airport in Washington. How did Trump do in Afghanistan and Iraq?

President Trump asserted many times while running for office and after entering the presidency, that he wanted to bring all of our troops home from these senseless foreign wars. It has not happened. The threat of Isis slowed down the withdrawal of forces during Obama’s terms, and the same was true of Trump. A bruising battle for the re-capture of the northwest Iraqi city of Mosul finally ended in 2017, whereupon the Donald declared 100% victory over Isis. In 2020, however, he had to announce that American armor and heavy weapons were returning to Iraq to defend our remaining troops there and to guard the important oil fields from Isis. Trump also struck an agreement with the Iraqi government to reduce troop levels to 3,000 by September, 2020, with the goal of having all the soldiers home by Christmas. Taking into account that Covid-19 has turned everything upside down, complete withdrawal by the end of 2020 of American forces in Iraq was probably not in the cards, despite the Donald’s declarations to the contrary.

The same could be said of Afghanistan. Trump has been reducing our troop strength there, it being about 5,000 soldiers at the start of 2020. The president has said he wants to get the number down to about 2,500 by early 2021. In February, 2020, the U.S. signed a deal with the Taliban to remove all American forces within 14 months if the opposition group to the Afghan government keeps the peace. We will see what happens. Violence has decreased since then against U.S. troops but remains high toward Afghani security forces. Almost 20 years, thousands of American deaths, trillions of dollars spent, and we have had 3 presidents who have been unable to extricate us from these two countries. One might be forgiven for believing maybe we should have not gotten involved there in the first place, as we possessed no idea what we were really doing and how to get out. Perhaps the next president might have the answer. Then again, our record in the Middle East weighs heavily against success.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

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