National Security & Defense

Trump Was Right to Acknowledge His Flip-Flop on Afghanistan

Lost in the details of Donald Trump’s address last night was one extremely notable point: the fact that the president admitted he had changed his mind on the issue of American military involvement abroad.

Trump has long been known for routinely flip-flopping from one side of any given debate to another, but to date he has shown little-to-no ability to acknowledge when he changes positions, let alone to explain the reason for those shifts.

Last night was a completely different story. Here’s the key excerpt from his remarks:

I share the American people’s frustration. I also share their frustration over a foreign policy that has spent too much time, energy, money — and most importantly, lives — trying to rebuild countries in our own image instead of pursuing our security interests above all other considerations.

That is why shortly after my inauguration, I directed Secretary of Defense Mattis and my national security team to undertake a comprehensive review of all strategic options in Afghanistan and South Asia. My original instinct was to pull out. And historically, I like following my instincts.

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.

At the end of that study, Trump settled on the strategy that he outlined yesterday evening, a near-complete reversal of his previous strong stance against U.S. foreign intervention. In fact, several articles on Breitbart slammed the president for his decision. “Trump’s ‘America First’ Base Unhappy with Flip-Flop Afghanistan Speech,” one headline read last night. Another piece questioned whether Trump’s Afghanistan policy is “that different from Obama’s.”

Leaving aside the merits of the administration’s new Afghanistan strategy, it was remarkable to see the president openly discuss the process by which he had changed his mind on a stance that had been so central to his signature “America First” outlook. He ought to be commended. Explaining himself like this in the future would be an excellent means of winning back the trust of Americans who are concerned about his unpredictability and who are unsure of where he stands on any given issue.

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