By Avery Lawrence
Since the election last November, there have been numerous opportunities for the Democratic Party and its well-paid talking heads to capitalize on the Trump administration’s many missteps. Upon the announcement of a troop surge consisting of 3,000 more soldiers deploying to Afghanistan, I didn’t see many figures, either sitting politicians or paid centrist voices, bringing up any real opposition to such a plan. Instead, it was the usual “Trump did it so it must be bad” game plan. Sure, there were some who said that the plan won’t do anything to combat ISIS’ growing presence in the country known as the ‘Graveyard of Empires’.
The good news, at least, is that I am not the only one who has noticed the lack of any foresight. What is clear, however, is that the notion that the Democrats have no idea what they’re doing regarding foreign policy is alive and well. And on top of that, there is nothing in the “on deck” circle waiting to change minds. There are some prominent Democrats who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, like Tulsi Gabbard, Jason Kander, Ruben Gallego, and Tammy Duckworth, to name a few. So, it’s not like there aren’t experienced leaders in a position to broadcast the concerns of veterans and their families. These are the types of people with the tools and personal experience that we need more of sitting in elected positions at all levels of government. Utilize them! The minority party has no excuse to be caught without a paddle when it comes to foreign policy. What I wanted and was hoping to see was the argument that since we as a nation are struggling enough as it is to take care of our warfighters, wounded both mentally and physically, our elected officials shouldn’t even be contemplating a surge. I agree with Allison Jaslow, an executive director for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), in that we often forget or don’t acknowledge the impact of our foreign policy on our military and their families. Given the known issues within the VA healthcare system, can we truly afford to send more of our men and women into an unwinnable war?
America needs leaders who aren’t afraid to not only publicly acknowledge mistakes, but actively work to fix them.
For too long our leaders have believed that you can defeat an ideology with brute force, but you can’t. It isn’t possible. For every enemy we kill with a drone strike, we create a handful more extremists who want revenge on the government that killed his or her family. For every time the President or his ilk spew the rhetoric they do towards the Muslim community, we increase the temperature of the pot of water that is already nearly boiling over. Tensions are high, making our service members even more vulnerable. At one point, we nearly brought the Taliban to the negotiating table, and that’s what we should try and accomplish again. What separates the Taliban from a group like ISIS is that the Taliban really only cares about Afghanistan. They don’t have the resources to launch attacks overseas and from my experience, lack the motivation as well. The Taliban has been fighting against ISIS in small pockets of the continually war torn nation for at least a year. Which means that the U.S. and the Taliban share a common enemy, and that should be a good and convenient first step towards diplomacy. I’m not saying this kind of action would be easy, because it wouldn’t. It’s a complicated nation with a complicated history. In fact, Max Fisher and Amanda Taub go over many drawbacks of any potential solution in their piece. Myself and anyone who has spent time there would tell you the same. I’ve dealt with some of these fighters first hand while conducting route clearance, and for some there is a legitimate hatred of America and what it is supposed to stand for. The good news is that not all of them share that same sentiment. For many of the same reasons young people join gangs, young people join these violent extremist groups in other countries. It’s a way to make ends-meet and to feel supported with a sense of purpose.
America needs leaders who aren’t afraid to not only publicly acknowledge mistakes, but actively work to fix them. The constant changing of the mission in Afghanistan has been a mistake and a detriment to the morale of our forces. It’s time for a credible plan to amend that mistake, which ideally will allow us to focus less resources abroad that would enable us to fix what ails us here at home, which the Trump presidency I hope, by now, has proven that there is much to work on amongst ourselves. A move to a more proactive style of government instead of the reactive style America’s citizens have been subjected to since the Cold War. So, Mr. President and members of Congress who dabble in the stock market, isn’t the sign of a good investor knowing when to cut your losses?
Avery Lawrence is a U.S. Army veteran who served in Afghanistan as a 12B, combat engineer, and spent four years on active duty. At age 4, he was taken in by his aunt and uncle, the latter of which served for 30 years in the U.S. Army. Growing up as an Army brat allowed him to gain an appreciation of American history and see the country from a unique lens. Avery recently started his senior year of college in Arizona where he is majoring in political science, with a minor in anthropology.