Last week President Trump delegated to Secretary of Defense James Mattis the authority to determine how many more troops to deploy into Afghanistan. Mattis has reportedly settled on 4,000. He claims that this will help end the stalemate in that war. He is wrong. This deployment will have no impact on the outcome of the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan, but more importantly, continues a troubling trend in U.S. foreign policy: The military move has no ties to a strategic outcome.
Astonishingly, the day before the increase in troop strength was announced by the White House, Mattis admitted in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee that the United States was in a “strategy-free time and we’re scrambling to put it together.” As should be clear by now, the problem isn’t the number of troops, but in the fact the military is being used, without a strategy, to solve a political problem. Until Washington comes to grips with this fundamental error, it is a virtual certainty that the use of force abroad will continue to fail in its attempt to accomplish strategic objectives. Let me explain why.
I can say with a high degree of confidence that Washington’s reliance on the military instrument to solve international problems has served to degrade national security.
Everything Americans see or read reinforces that U.S. troops are the most capable, lethal, and powerful in the world; they succeed everywhere they are sent. The unstated assumption, however, is that tactical success equals strategic success. If our troops accomplish their mission, the thinking goes, then the purpose of their mission must also be a success. But that is an incorrect assumption.
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