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Our Assessment The Reason Our Solution

An Honest Evaluation


Rethinking American foreign policy is not solely an exercise of predicting future requirements and planning for what could be. It also requires an honest assessment of current priorities, positioning, and policies. National defense, the primary function of government, is best served by being truthful with ourselves about our goals and limitations and requiring our elected leaders to own their responsibilities.


American troops are in harm’s way under policies that are outdated, misguided, and arguably detrimental to America’s future safety and prosperity. This is especially true in our current military engagements in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. But there is a better way.


An objective assessment of our nearly 20-year-long military engagement in Afghanistan – which Americans, including military veterans, overwhelmingly support ending – and our increasingly ambiguous missions in Iraq and Syria – another conflict of which Americans are increasingly skeptical – would show we have lost sight of our objectives in these countries. America would best be served by viewing these situations for what they are, responding accordingly, and not attempting to force an outcome that history shows will never come to bear.


A strong military is central to a strong national defense, but it should be one component of foreign policy, along with a robust employment of diplomacy, and used as a last resort to protect American lives and objectives.

Just as great nations do not fight endless wars, they also do not fight wars in which they have no business fighting.

The $6,400,000,000,000 Question


Following the September 11th terrorist attacks, our country was clearly justified in seeking out and bringing justice to those who perpetrated or aided those heinous acts. Congress took swift action by authorizing the president “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.”

Almost two decades later—more years than the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, and the Korean War combined—troops are still in Afghanistan and elsewhere under the same original authorization, fighting against enemies that weren’t foreseen in 2001, and despite achieving our original objective of severely punishing 9/11’s perpetrators.


The Cost of War Project at Brown University estimates that total spending on post-9/11 wars exceeds $6.4 trillion. In addition to direct spending on hostilities, this figure includes the indirect costs placed on the American taxpayers’ shoulders from veterans’ care and interest on the money we borrowed to fund our operations in the Middle East. Our focused objective of preventing another 9/11 from occurring by decimating its perpetrators, however, is now in the rearview mirror.


"The al-Qa'ida threat to the United States and its allies and partners has decreased, and the few remaining al-Qa'ida core members are focused on their own survival." -Pentagon report on security in Afghanistan, Dec. 2018


"Yes, we have decimated core Al Qaeda." -Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Nov. 2012


"Over the past 15 years, we have decimated al Qaeda's leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan." -National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Apr. 2012


Following 9/11, the United States was justified in passing the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) to eliminate the threat from Al Qaeda and punish the Taliban in Afghanistan. Since then, however, Congress has abdicated its constitutional responsibilities around war and peace, repeatedly forgoing important debate or votes on when, where, or why American troops are sent into harm’s way. This refusal to properly address matters of war and peace has resulted in a series of endless and expanding wars that are not beneficial to our nation’s safety and security nor supported by a majority of Americans.

Despite the disengaged approach of the past two decades, authorizing the use of military force and the declaration of war is one of Congress’ most important constitutional powers. A Congress actively engaged in foreign policy would bring a renewed sense of accountability to what has become an almost singular authority concentrated in the executive branch.

It’s time for Congress to once again begin reasserting its Article I role in authorizing the use of military force and to ensure our country fights only the wars necessary to keep us safe. This duty should include repealing outdated Authorizations for the Use of Military Force that are no longer relevant to modern conflicts.


In Afghanistan, al Qaeda has been crippled and the Taliban severely punished. Our credibility is not enhanced by devoting more lives and capital toward an end that has already been achieved.

Similarly, keeping ourselves in the middle of a Syrian civil war only serves to exacerbate the internal conflict while also potentially heightening tensions with other actors engaged in the region. And though we have destroyed the physical presence of the Islamic State in the country, little more can be done, if anything, to eliminate every single Islamist radical in the country.

It is important to note, withdrawing military personnel from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria does not mean ignoring these countries—counterterror missions can be effectively prosecuted without a permanent troop presence in these theaters.

A Responsible And Principled Solution


There is a better way to achieve our goals on the global stage: one that relies on realism—viewing the world and its constraints objectively as they are, not what we would idealistically like the world to be—and restraint—only using military power abroad when it is absolutely necessary and cost-effective—to advance our vital national interests.


We need not and cannot ignore legitimate threats to our security around the world. Withdrawing from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria doesn’t mean that we can’t or shouldn’t maintain an ability to counter situations that may arise. Not doing so would be irresponsible and dangerous.

But maintaining our presence in these countries puts American lives at risk, wastes valuable taxpayer dollars, and saps valuable human and material resources from confronting more immediate and persistent threats to American security and prosperity.

American security interests can be protected by strengthening the long-term economic stability of our country, maintaining a strong military able to deter adversaries’ actions before they happen, committing ourselves to the deliberate deployment of Americans abroad, and a vigorous defense of our nation if attacked or threatened.

Anything short of a full withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria is not only irresponsible, it ignores the principles on which we have become the greatest country in the world.

In rethinking American foreign policy we must be honest and real when considering what constitutes a threat to our vital interests. Further, we should also employ restraint when determining how, when, and where a military presence is necessary to protect and secure those vital interests.

As the greatest nation in the world, America shouldn’t fight endless wars.

Let’s rethink American foreign policy.