Delivering on his promise will prove extremely difficult—but so may the consequences of not doing so.
Earlier this week, the Trump administration announced plans to bring home half of the 5,000 U.S. troops still stationed in Afghanistan, as well as 500 of the 3,000 servicemembers now based in Iraq. The promise, on which the administration pledged to make good by Jan. 15, was unpopular among military brass and defense experts, but it handed an unexpected gift to President-elect Joe Biden.
The reason? Throughout this year’s campaign, Biden vowed repeatedly to end America’s “forever wars”; now President Donald Trump has suddenly moved the country 3,000 bodies closer to that goal. But Biden will soon face a much larger, and tougher, problem: How will he deliver on the rest of his pledge when he finally takes office? At this point, his odds of succeeding don’t look very good.Trending Articles
To see why, you first have to define what the term “forever” or “endless” war actually means. The answer turns out to be surprisingly hard to pin down. That slipperiness explains why virtually every Democratic presidential candidate in this year’s race, and Republican candidate Trump before them, were able to embrace the idea. You know that if Elizabeth Warren and Trump can agree on a policy, it’s got to be pretty vague.
To his credit, Biden has at least tried to articulate what exactly he means. His biggest, and easiest, priority is avoiding more large-scale combat operations such as in Afghanistan, Iraq, or Libya. That should be eminently doable: After all, no major wars loom on the horizon. The one possible exception is Iran—but even Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the cabinet’s uber-hawk on the issue, reportedly argued against Trump’s idea of launching strikes on Iran’s main nuclear complex last week.