Growing distrust between Europe and the US government has led European governments to renew their commitment to building an autonomous and common defense policy. The idea of building a European military is as old as the idea of European integration itself. But in 1954, France refused to vote in favor of the European Defense Community project it initiated.
This is why the idea of European defense had been abandoned until 1992. The Treaty of Maastricht has created a “Common Foreign and Security Policy” to help Europe to build its own military. But this project is no longer necessary to keep Europe secure.
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President Trump has been a wildcard president so far — easily irritable, unpredictable and often openly defying norms of governance. But, his foreign policy has largely continued the status quo.
Writing in the most recent issue of Foreign Affairs, Elliott Abrams, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, argues the Trump regime is “not a revolutionary administration.” In fact, he believes, “The broad lines of its policy fits easily within the last few decades […] his foreign policy has been remarkably unremarkable.” Everything from his cabinet appointments and his backtracking on NATO, to his attitude on China and his missile strike in Syria, points to an abandonment of his anti-establishment rhetoric from the campaign.
But there’s another trend at work in the Trump administration, too: decision-making at the Pentagon has been pushed further down the chain of command to Secretary of Defense James Mattis and the military commanders below him. In a break from liberal tradition, power is actually being shifted away from the president. This not only has bad practical consequences, but risks setting a precedent that could change the nature of our institutions. The military could end up as essentially an autonomous agent, setting policy without public debate. This means military actions would be free of any political accountability.
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President Donald Trump has been largely silent on the issue of the Afghanistan War, but top advisers are planning to recommend an increase in the number of troops stationed there. Currently, there are 8,400 troops present, and the proposal would increase that number by 3,000-5,000. In the aftermath of the attacks on September 11, 2001, large majorities agreed that the war in Afghanistan was not only justified, but necessary. In November 2001, 80 percent of people favored the invasion, and in early 2002, several months into the fighting, 93 percent believed it was the right decision to go to war. Only one member of Congress voted against it. A decade and a half later, with the conflict still ongoing, that number dropped to 54 percent, and those who believed it was a mistake had risen from single digits to 42 percent.
Whether or not a majority of people ever believe the conflict should never have happened, the evidence is clear. The Afghanistan War is a failure. It’s time to give up this fight once and for all, and bring everyone home. Re-escalating, as stalwart hawk Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham have advocated, will simply waste more blood and resources in a battle that can’t be won.
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