Rick Perry wants U.S. troops home from Afghanistan
Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks to a soldier during a trip to Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2006. (Getty Images)
September 15th, 2011
12:20 PM ET

Rick Perry wants U.S. troops home from Afghanistan

Editor's Note: Dr. James M. Lindsay is a Senior Vice President at the Council on Foreign Relations and co-author of America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy. Visit his blog here and follow him on Twitter.

By James M. LindsayCFR.org

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.

Read: Perry chooses on Afghanistan.

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 nextGOP debate in Orlando on the 22nd to attack Perry for embracing “a very isolationist view of where the Republican Party should be headed”?

Read: Deficit reduction update.

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?

The views expressed in this article are solely those of James M. Lindsay.


soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. Onesmallvoice

    If Rick Perry wants our troops out of Afghanistan, then he's the man to vote for. This is quite a pleasant surprise since most Republicans support this useless and unnecessary war. The sooner we get out of Afghanistan, the better all the way around!!!

    September 15, 2011 at 2:06 pm | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      Goodness, do you support an opportunist? Rick Perry doesn't have much insights of international relations. His views on Afghanistan and the situation there share the same denominator – fickleness.

      September 15, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Reply
    • lisa2010

      if you've been following Perry, he changes his mind many times, depending on the group of people he speaking to. if he's speaking to the veterans he goes along with their agenda, but then when he speaks to another he changes his tone and words concerning the military...what would happen if he gets elected as president, what BS he's going to give to the american people... i've been following his campaign for a while, its more confusing.. i still haven't decided who i'm going to vote for..

      September 17, 2011 at 4:44 am | Reply
  2. fernace

    Perry wants the troops out of Afghanistan!? You don't say?? I know he's been busy with his campaign & all, but President Obama has already ordered an incrementary drawdown & some troops are already home! This is so indicative of the GOP-TP, whatever the president does they disagree, then announce they're gonna do the same thing, as if it was their idea! The American Jobs Act- too little, too late, cost too much, too idealistic, etc. & by the way we're gonna help citizens get jobs; it's called the United States of America Jobs Act! Lol! It would be funny, if it wasn't so sad!They don't seem to care that we're in an urgent situation where partisan politics has no place! Perry should roll up his sleeves & help aleviate the situation instead of sitting back & criticising, but as most Texans know, that's something you'll never see Perry do!!

    September 15, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Reply
  3. lisa2010

    yeah, whatever Obama does he tries to take the credit and puts it on his agenda as if when he becomes president.. stimulous package he said created zero jobs.. but 2 years ago he used the stimulous and created jobs with it which is the government jobs, but of course he'll take the credit for that too... so how will he create jobs when he becomes president with no stimulous package... mmmm that remains to be seen.. he hasn't laid out a jobs plan, just brag about how he created jobs in Texas...

    September 17, 2011 at 4:51 am | Reply

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