Is a ‘Win’ in Afghanistan Even Possible at This Point?

President Donald Trump addressed the nation Monday night to give an update on the conflict in Afghanistan that left many uneasy.

While he criticized President Barack Obama during his campaign for not pulling U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, Trump announced not only that U.S. military would remain in the region, but also that the number of troops deployed there would increase.

“My original instinct was to pull out. And historically, I like following my instincts,” Trump said. “But all my life I’ve heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office, in other words, when you’re President of the United States.”

On radio Tuesday, Glenn, Pat and Stu debated whether or not victory is possible in Afghanistan, which is the longest conflict in American history.

“I think it should have been over 15 years ago,” Glenn said, later adding that “the point of war is to win and then to stop future wars.”

Pat agreed that the U.S. should have left after dealing with the problem.

“Fight it all out. Do the ‘shock and awe’ that you promised, only really do it, and then get out,” he said.

Stu was the only one with an opposing viewpoint, saying that “how do we win?” may be the wrong question at this point since the conflict in Afghanistan simply isn’t comparable to a war like World War II.

STU: Maybe. I don't know.

GLENN: Yeah. Stu is on a different page than I am on this Afghanistan thing. I think it should have been over 15 years ago.

PAT: Me too.

Fighting to win, fight it all out. Do the shock and awe that you promised. Only, really do it, and then get out.

I hate what they're doing now. And that's -- that's the problem, is they're not going to fight this the right way. They're not -- we're not going to -- we don't fight wars to win anymore.

GLENN: This doesn't teach anybody anything, except they can bleed us to death. It doesn't teach anybody anything. You go in --

PAT: Yeah.

GLENN: The point of war is to win and then to stop future wars. So you go in and you fight it with everything you have and you take the breath away from the enemy until they say, "Okay. Okay. Okay. Okay. Okay. Stop. Stop. Stop." And then you stop and say to the whole world, "Don't do that to us. Don't try to bring down our buildings with our people in them, because we will do this again."

Now, you've paid the price, I think you've learned your lesson, we're moving on. Good luck to you. Leave us alone, and we will leave you alone.

That's the way you fight and win the war and the peace. How is this -- how is this going to -- what does a win look like, Stu?

STU: I'm coming to a point where I think that's the wrong question. And I know this is -- you know, I'm totally on the not mainstream of this room end of the audience. So I enter this completely knowing that.

GLENN: That's fine.

STU: But, you know, I don't know what a win looks like. I know what a win looked like in World War II. Right? World War II, we won. The Nazis are gone. We knocked them out. We won. Eighty million people died for that.

And while I -- I -- I'm really glad we won, which war would you rather have? A win in World War II or this, where we have lost 2,400 of our best people? And you can't not overstate how important that is. But it is different than 80 million.

PAT: Well, if you're going to compare the civilian casualties in enemy as well as ours, then you've got to make the death toll higher than that in Afghanistan. Because it's a lot higher than that.

STU: Yeah. Activist groups say about a million and a half.

PAT: Which in a country like Afghanistan, it's a lot of freaking people.

STU: It's really significant. I will say, that's an activist estimate that I don't believe. But still, it's hundreds of thousands likely.

PAT: Uh-huh.

STU: But, again, I mean, I don't know.

GLENN: So why are we killing them, again? Help me out.

STU: Well, look, if you -- I mean, this is -- we have 12 seconds here before we have to go to break so I don't think --

GLENN: That's why I asked you. So that way -- there's no way you can win. See --

STU: I kind of got that.

JEFFY: So wrong.

GLENN: -- this is what a win looks like.

STU: Really. This is it? Okay? I got it.

GLENN: Yes. You give? You give? Say uncle.

STU: Never!

This was one of the first homesteads in the area in the 1880's and was just begging to be brought back to its original glory — with a touch of modern. When we first purchased the property, it was full of old stuff without any running water, central heat or AC, so needless to say, we had a huge project ahead of us. It took some vision and a whole lot of trust, but the mess we started with seven years ago is now a place we hope the original owners would be proud of.

To restore something like this is really does take a village. It doesn't take much money to make it cozy inside, if like me you are willing to take time and gather things here and there from thrift shops and little antique shops in the middle of nowhere.

But finding the right craftsman is a different story.

Matt Jensen and his assistant Rob did this entire job from sketches I made. Because he built this in his off hours it took just over a year, but so worth the wait. It wasn't easy as it was 18"out of square. He had to build around that as the entire thing we felt would collapse. Matt just reinforced the structure and we love its imperfections.

Here are a few pictures of the process and the transformation from where we started to where we are now:

​How it was

It doesn't look like much yet, but just you wait and see!

By request a photo tour of the restored cabin. I start doing the interior design in earnest tomorrow after the show, but all of the construction guys are now done. So I mopped the floors, washed the sheets, some friends helped by washing the windows. And now the unofficial / official tour.

The Property

The views are absolutely stunning and completely peaceful.

The Hong Kong protesters flocking to the streets in opposition to the Chinese government have a new symbol to display their defiance: the Stars and Stripes. Upset over the looming threat to their freedom, the American flag symbolizes everything they cherish and are fighting to preserve.

But it seems our president isn't returning the love.

Trump recently doubled down on the United States' indifference to the conflict, after initially commenting that whatever happens is between Hong Kong and China alone. But he's wrong — what happens is crucial in spreading the liberal values that America wants to accompany us on the world stage. After all, "America First" doesn't mean merely focusing on our own domestic problems. It means supporting liberal democracy everywhere.

The protests have been raging on the streets since April, when the government of Hong Kong proposed an extradition bill that would have allowed them to send accused criminals to be tried in mainland China. Of course, when dealing with a communist regime, that's a terrifying prospect — and one that threatens the judicial independence of the city. Thankfully, the protesters succeeded in getting Hong Kong's leaders to suspend the bill from consideration. But everyone knew that the bill was a blatant attempt by the Chinese government to encroach on Hong Kong's autonomy. And now Hong Kong's people are demanding full-on democratic reforms to halt any similar moves in the future.

After a generation under the "one country, two systems" policy, the people of Hong Kong are accustomed to much greater political and economic freedom relative to the rest of China. For the protesters, it's about more than a single bill. Resisting Xi Jinping and the Communist Party means the survival of a liberal democracy within distance of China's totalitarian grasp — a goal that should be shared by the United States. Instead, President Trump has retreated to his administration's flawed "America First" mindset.

This is an ideal opportunity for the United States to assert our strength by supporting democratic values abroad. In his inaugural address, Trump said he wanted "friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world" while "understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their interests first." But at what point is respecting sovereignty enabling dictatorships? American interests are shaped by the principles of our founding: political freedom, free markets, and human rights. Conversely, the interests of China's Communist Party are the exact opposite. When these values come into conflict, as they have in Hong Kong, it's our responsibility to take a stand for freedom — even if those who need it aren't within our country's borders.

Of course, that's not a call for military action. Putting pressure on Hong Kong is a matter of rhetoric and positioning — vital tenets of effective diplomacy. When it comes to heavy-handed world powers, it's an approach that can really work. When the Solidarity movement began organizing against communism in Poland, President Reagan openly condemned the Soviet military's imposition of martial law. His administration's support for the pro-democracy movement helped the Polish people gain liberal reforms from the Soviet regime. Similarly, President Trump doesn't need to be overly cautious about retribution from Xi Jinping and the Chinese government. Open, strong support for democracy in Hong Kong not only advances America's governing principles, but also weakens China's brand of authoritarianism.

After creating a commission to study the role of human rights in U.S. foreign policy, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote last month that the principles of our Constitution are central "not only to Americans," but to the rest of the world. He was right — putting "America First" means being the first advocate for freedom across the globe. Nothing shows the strength of our country more than when, in crucial moments of their own history, other nations find inspiration in our flag.

Let's join the people of Hong Kong in their defiance of tyranny.

Matt Liles is a writer and Young Voices contributor from Austin, Texas.

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