The Myth of GOP Competence On National Security

In 2020, in Mike Pompeo’s words, the Taliban was represented by a “gentleman,” was “working diligently to reduce violence,” and was “sincere in wanting what’s good for the Afghan people.”

Many in the mainstream media have bought into the myth that somehow the GOP is better suited to keep America safe. In some circles, the GOP is considered the “daddy party” and the Democrats are deemed to be the “mommy party.” This outdated and erroneous talking point originated in the Democratic Party’s opposition to the Vietnam War in the 1970s and the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979–80.

This false talking point took a big hit during the George W. Bush Administration. This failed Administration ignored several warnings of an imminent Al Qaeda attack in the run up to 9/11 and allowed Osama Bin Laden to escape from Tora Bora in 2001. Moreover, the Iraq war turned out to be one of the biggest foreign policy blunders in U.S. history. The Iraq War ground on for over eight years and according to Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, will eventually cost U.S. taxpayers $3 trillion.

George W. Bush also blundered by expanding the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan from a terrorist hunting mission into a nation building project. Shortly after Bush significantly and unrealistically expanded the scope of the mission in Afghanistan, he starved it of resources by invading Iraq in 2003. By the time Bush left office in 2008, the U.S. was losing the Afghan War.

After his inauguration on January 20, 2009, President Obama took a very different and much more effective approach to national security issues. As a starting point, in early 2009, Obama directed the CIA to make the killing or capture of Bin Laden the top priority. It was, in other words, a major shift from the previous administration. Thanks to that change in priorities, Obama did in two and a half years what George W. Bush, despite all of his “dead or alive” big talk and swagger, couldn’t do in over seven years.

Bringing Bin Laden to justice wasn’t the only success of President Obama’s national security and foreign policies. What is seldom mentioned by Democrats and the mainstream press was that President Obama quietly compiled a list of significant achievements that made the U.S. more safe.

Obama withdrew all U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011 over the bitter opposition of the GOP. The GOP opposition to the Iraqi troop withdrawal tells me that they wanted to keep U.S. troops in Iraq on an indefinite basis over the opposition of the Iraqi government and people.

Perhaps Obama’s most significant accomplishment was the 2015 Iran nuclear deal which would have prevented that country from obtaining nuclear weapons for 15 years. This agreement had the most far reaching and aggressive verification measures of any nuclear agreement in history. According to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Iran remained in compliance with this agreement even after Obama left office.

One of the biggest disappointments of Obama’s foreign policy legacy was his inability to end the tragic civil war in Syria and stabilize that country. The 44th president resisted significant pressure from the GOP and the hawkish D.C. establishment to intervene militarily in Syria. (The one thing about the Middle East is it’s always a mess so everyone can always claim their way would’ve done better.)

Afghanistan didn’t turn out much better than Syria. During his first term, Obama increased the number of U.S. troops to 100,000 at the urging of the generals and over the opposition of then Vice President Joe Biden. The Afghan troop surge didn’t work. There were 9,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan by the time Obama left office.

In a 2014 interview, Obama had one clear idea about how to manage America’s global interests. In his own words, they centered on a single concept: “Don’t do stupid sh*t.” I think it’s safe to say that Obama accomplished this simple objective. Modern history has clearly demonstrated that it’s all too easy to get involved in a war and much harder to get out.

Trump took office with little interest in governing and no clear ideas about how to proceed except to tear up Obama’s achievements.

One of Trump’s first decisions was to to repudiate Obama’s 2015 nuclear deal with Iran over the objections of both his first Defense Secretary and National Security Adviser. This decision proved to be a disaster. (Since 2015, the Republicans had been promising us a “better deal” with Iran. Where is it?)

After Trump repudiated the 2015 Iran deal, the Mullahs breached the deal’s nuclear safeguards, and Iran increased its stockpile of enriched uranium by eight times! When Trump took office, Iran had 102kg of enriched uranium. That supply was increased to nearly 2.5 tons during the Trump years.

Trump’s comical attempts to rein in North Korea’s nuclear ambitions were equally disastrous. When Trump was president, North Korea developed an ICBM that could potentially reach all of the U.S. Kim Jong Un’s nuclear arsenal most likely expanded by about 15 warheads after his meetings with the former TV reality star. North Korea currently has 20 to 60 nuclear warheads. North Korea was a bigger threat in 2020 than when Obama left office.

Trump’s incompetence also created a mess for Biden to clean up in Afghanistan. The 2020 Doha agreement which required the withdrawal of all U.S. troops by May 2021 destabilized the country and laid the foundation for the swift collapse of the Afghan army.

According to former Trump Defense Secretary Mark Esper, the former TV reality star disrupted the negotiations with the Taliban by declaring his determination to pull out and making surprise announcements of troop withdrawals. Trump’s tweets and erratic behavior took away any leverage U.S. negotiators had with the Taliban.

Mark Esper recently said that he was concerned that “then-President Donald Trump undermined the U.S. 2020 agreement with the Taliban by pushing for US forces to leave Afghanistan without the Taliban meeting the conditions of the deal.”

One can draw a direct connection between Trump’s 2020 Doha agreement and the swift collapse of the Afghan Army in 2021. It caused the Afghan Army to sell their weapons to the Taliban and to cut and run. According to the Washington Post: “The Taliban capitalized on the uncertainty caused by the February 2020 agreement reached in Doha, Qatar, between the militant group and the United States calling for a full American withdrawal from Afghanistan..”

Former Trump National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster described the Doha agreement in scathing terms: “Our secretary of state (Mike Pompeo) signed a surrender agreement with the Taliban. This collapse goes back to the capitulation agreement of 2020. The Taliban didn’t defeat us. We defeated ourselves.”

When President Biden took office, he inherited a deeply flawed agreement that Trump negotiated with the Taliban — which left the Taliban in the strongest position militarily since 2001 and imposed a May 1, 2021 deadline on U.S. Forces.

There was no area in which Trump succeeded in foreign policy and left the U.S. in a safer position. By the time Trump left office, the U.S. reputation was in tatters and he left our enemies emboldened. Most of the world is glad that Biden is now the president but they shudder at the prospect of another Republican president.

If you want a competent and sane foreign policy, you have to vote for Democrats. It was no coincidence that Trump was the second consecutive Republican administration to lead the United States into disaster. This is the direct result of the GOP’s bankrupt governing philosophy that rejects science, expertise and government itself.

We need to make GOP incompetence the centerpiece of the 2022 campaign. The Republican Party is completely unfit to govern.

The Democrats are the party of the people, prosperity, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the ACA. We must never let the voters forget that.

The Republicans are the party of the rich, sabotage, mass unemployment, mass illness, mass death and violence.

The Republicans will always be the party of Donald Trump. We must never let the voters forget that. History matters. Now let’s get it done! We can do it!

I’m a trial lawyer, a Democratic activist and a sports fan.