Tuesday, August 22, 2017


Yesterday President Trump unveiled his new South Asian strategy. His performance was lackluster as he was reigned in by the teleprompter. Besides, he was obliged--yet again--to go counter to the former statements of then-candidate Trump.  Of course the address was almost as much about himself than about Afghanistan.

He went for a qualitative approach, avoiding a numeric calculus both on timing and numbers. New is that he gave his generals more autonomy in making decisions without having to pass through all the cumbersome channels of command. President Obama was criticized for micro-managing the war effort and for curtailing the acceptable rules of engagement. Trump spoke against any form of nation-building and in favor of an "Afghan for Afghans" outcome. Sooner or later the Talibans have to come to the negotiating table and be part of a government.

New also is his direct criticism of Pakistan which is in marked contrast with how he sees India's role in South Asia. This will be consequential for these two nuclear powers, put on positive and negative "warning", and for China and Russia who will not be content to be mere onlookers. These geo-political tremors might very well further complicate and enlarge a problem which looks unwinnable for all but this uninformed president. That his more mature entourage of mostly military went into such a mares nest is questionable.

Trump returned to his favorite burden-sharing Leitmotiv and indulged in some appeal for tolerance (after his outrageous post-Charlottesville performance) which convinced nobody.

He was supposed to be an anti-interventionist--if he could be credited with being anything--but had to swallow this pill.  Since conviction is not his trademark, he will get over it.  Still, those words have consequences and might come back to the White House to roost. 

He is heading for Phoenix and his adoring base might give him an opening for another gaffe he might not resist.

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