Democrats are quite upset about President Trump’s decision to ramp up the war in Afghanistan — and I’m upset about it too, but I just have to ask: Do they remember that their own nominee had the most hawkish foreign-policy record in the race?
Now, I really can’t say enough about how much I disagree with President Trump’s decision to remain involved and to send up to 4,000 more troops into this disastrous war. After 16 years, somewhere between hundreds of billions and even trillions of dollars — and thousands of American military (plus tens of thousands of civilian) lives lost — and the U.S.-backed government controls less than 60 percent of the country’s territory. Candidate Trump was right: It’s time to get out, and I’m disappointed to see that he seems to have changed his mind.
“Disappointed,” by the way, does not mean that I’m surprised. After all, Donald Trump is far from the first person to act more hawkish in the Oval Office than he did on the trail. Remember candidate versus President Obama? During the 2008 campaign, his supporters drove around with bumper stickers that spelled his name with a peace symbol instead of an “O,” only for him to immediately send 30,000 more troops into Afghanistan as soon as he was in office. Truly, it seems as if it’s nothing more than a pipe dream to hold out hope that any president, “traditional politician” or not, would ever be able to stand up to the military-industrial complex once landing in office.
It would be bad enough if Democrats were simply criticizing President Trump’s hypocrisy on this issue. Yes, if someone is criticizing only Trump’s hypocrisy, and did not criticize President Obama’s, then that, of course, makes that person a hypocrite himself. But unfortunately, criticizing President Trump’s “evolution” on this issue isn’t even the most obnoxious thing those on the left are doing right now: Some Democrats are expressing horror at his decision to ramp up involvement on its face, when their own candidate, who they themselves championed, was a war-drum-beating neoliberal who would have brought us anything but peace.
Make no mistake: The selection of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee does not suggest that the party wanted to move away from Bush–Obama interventionism. Rather, it suggests the opposite. Remember those 30,000 troops that President Obama sent overseas? Clinton initially wanted 40,000. She was instrumental in pressuring President Obama to go to war in Libya, and she spearheaded the disastrous regime-change effort there (to be fair, Donald Trump had supported the regime change as well). One of her biggest foreign-policy influences was Iraq-surge-architect General Jack Keane — who made a name for himself by continually calling for greater military intervention in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan — and Keane has since reported that Clinton once told him she had made a mistake in not pushing for that surge. She continually supported much greater military involvement in Syria than Barack Obama did; the list goes on and on.
The person whom Democrats chose to represent their party in 2016 is about as well-documented of a hawk as they come, and now we’re seeing some on the left posturing as if their party champions diplomacy and peace. Senator Jeff Merkley (D., Ore.) was critical of President Trump’s “intention to bolster military action in Afghanistan,” slamming his decision to “put additional U.S. troops on the ground” because “it is long past time that we work toward strategies to wind down our operations.” Representative Ro Khan (D., Calif.) tweeted: “Democrats should be clear and bold: We are for withdrawal.” Khan’s sentiment seemed to extend to party leadership; House minority leader Nancy Pelosi actually had the nerve to release a statement saying, “We have wasted an enormous amount of blood and treasure in Afghanistan” and “let’s get out!”
A President Hillary Clinton absolutely would not have decided to end the Afghan War.
To be fair, as an article in Vox points out, not every Democrat went so far as to criticize the plan because of their opposition to increased or continued involvement. Some, like Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.), stuck to simply criticizing the plan’s lack of details, while others have stayed completely silent. But seeing Democratic politicians such as Pelosi suddenly pretending to be concerned about a politician choosing military intervention — just because it’s politically convenient — is nothing short of maddening. A President Hillary Clinton absolutely would not have decided to end the Afghan War. Nothing in her record even remotely suggests that she would have, and Pelosi and others damn well know that’s true.
It is correct, of course, that we do need to get out — but it’s absolutely laughable for these Democrats to be acting as though they are somehow the answer to our intervention exhaustion. They had the chance, after all, to present their answer to foreign-policy problems with their 2016 nomination, and the answer they chose came beating the drums of war . . . all while they stood confidently behind her.
– Katherine Timpf is a reporter for National Review Online.