James M. Lindsay

The Water's Edge

Lindsay analyzes the politics shaping U.S. foreign policy and the sustainability of American power.

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Rick Perry Wants U.S. Troops Home from Afghanistan

by James M. Lindsay
September 15, 2011

Texas Governor Rick Perry takes the stage prior to the CNN/Tea Party Republican presidential candidates debate in Tampa, Florida, September 12, 2011. REUTERS/Scott Audette

Texas Governor Rick Perry takes the stage before the CNN/Tea Party Republican presidential debate in Tampa on September 12, 2011. (Scott Audette/courtesy Reuters)

Time magazine got Rick Perry to sit down for an interview. The conversation goes as you might expect. The Texas Governor defends calling Social Security a “Ponzi scheme,” sidesteps the question of how he would change the program by saying that “the idea that we’re going to write a Social Security reform plan today is a bit of a stretch from my perspective,” and repeats his claim that Obama is a socialist. (The latter claim rests on a definition of socialism that you won’t find in the dictionary, namely, “when all the answers emanate from Washington…that is, on its face, socialism.”)

But what caught my eye was what Perry said about what should happen next in Afghanistan:

I think we need to try to move our men and women home as soon as we can. Not just in Afghanistan, but in Iraq as well. And we’ve got to continually reassess our objectives. We need to make strategic decisions based on consultation with our military leaders on the ground, rather than just some arbitrary political promises.

Our objective should be clear. We’ve got to support the Afghan national security forces as they transition into the role of being the stable and appropriate force to sustain that country. Our overall objective has to be to serve that process and to drive out those who would do harm to our country. I think we’ve done that in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have substantial ways to continue to put the pressure on the bad guys, if you will, and I don’t think keeping a large force of United States uniform military in Afghanistan for a long period of time is particularly in the interest of the U.S., or for that matter, in Afghani interest.

Perry’s answer leaves some room for interpretation. Most important, he does not say how fast U.S. troops should leave Afghanistan. And while he endorses troop drawdowns in Afghanistan and Iraq, he takes a shot at the White House for doing just that. At least, that’s how I interpret his comment that he would not make his decisions based on “some arbitrary political promises.”

The thrust of Perry’s answer, however, is that he opposes a sustained military commitment in Afghanistan. So Sen. Lindsey Graham will continue to remain “disappointed” in the GOP front-runner. Which raises two questions: Is Senator Graham so disappointed that he will back another candidate in the critical South Carolina presidential primary? Will Rick Santorum use the next GOP debate in Orlando on the 22nd to attack Perry for embracing “a very isolationist view of where the Republican Party should be headed”?

The “isolationist” charge probably won’t hurt Perry’s nomination chances. Most voters will likely scoff at the claim given that he reminds so many of them of George W. Bush, one of our most interventionist presidents. Even if voters decide that Perry wants to do less abroad, they probably won’t care and may even like it. Domestic issues are driving the presidential debate, and the public is suffering from intervention fatigue.

What do you think?

Post a Comment 3 Comments

  • Posted by Tony

    I believe Perry has some valid points, regarding entitlement program, he is absolutely has a good argument. .That must be revised drastically, otherwise it will bleed us to death,
    Regarding our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq: he is correct. A ninth grader can figure out, how those wars impacted our economy and the debt ,
    Imagine, if those budgets were expended domestically, on Base or other public projects, I would bet you, it would have reduced the unemployment rate a lot less than current rate and allow more students to be educated and well fed,
    Well, it’s time to get a new change,

  • Posted by Matt

    It could have been worse a lone wolf sniper could have shot the US Ambassador to the Stan in the head.

  • Posted by John

    I think Rick Perry will say anything that he thinks will get him elected. Candidates know that the people want troops to come home, but that vacuum will have to be filled. I’m not sure which committees Mr. Perry sits on or what his clearance level is but his vague comments suggest that he doesn’t really know how things work. If a candidate is going to suggest bringing troops home I want to hear him say how he plans to increase foreign aid. I want to hear him say how he is going to support a WOG approach to future conflict including the expansion of expeditionary DoS capabilities. Mr. Perry is a politician pandering to his particular demographic. These problems are too complex to fix with a campaign speech. We need to hear real strategy not rhetoric.

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