Each day President Trump is called many things by his rabid critics and ardent supporters as both sides attempt to define the man who has redefined our politics and our national discourse.
Since Trump’s election, scandal after scandal has flared up and faded away when scrutinized. The most recent scandal brought forth by anonymous sources and published by the Atlantic accuse Trump of saying outlandishly disrespectful things about the military and veterans. As a Gold Star husband who lost my wife under Trump’s command, I know firsthand that these accusations are exactly what we have come to expect: Another clickbait story high on emotions but light on facts.
Each time I met with Trump, he was compassionate, kind and cared deeply about Shannon and all the troops who were killed under his command. Beyond being kind to my grieving family and I, Trump’s leadership of the military shows it the utmost respect. Trump has used force when necessary while trying to get us out of our wars — this disruptive, results-oriented approach to leadership is why he has my support.
I understand that opinions on our 45th president widely vary — for some he is a savior, while to others he is a destroyer. Amid this heated debate, one thing is clear: Trump is a disruptor.
The question is, what did Trump disrupt and are we better for the disruption? Four years ago, our political landscape was less tumultuous because the two major parties seemed to agree on the major issues, not in their public rhetoric, but both establishment Democrats and Republicans seemed content with a declining U.S. economy, the rise of China, and wars that we couldn’t seem to win or end. The two parties were so similar and predictable there was almost a monarchical succession of candidates if no gifted politician emerged — with Obama out of the game, Hillary Clinton ascended to the top of the Democratic Party.
The Republicans seemed destined for the same fate until Trump crashed his way into the Republican Party. Trump kicked things off by criticizing the conventional thinking of both parties, not just going after the rival party. Trump used brutal honesty to point out how the status quo of his adopted Republican Party had shipped manufacturing jobs overseas, fought foolish ideological wars and refused to deal with China taking advantage of us at every turn. Trump said out loud what many Republicans and nonpolitically affiliated Americans were thinking: Why did we just have to accept what the establishment was offering us?
Trump’s blunt, brutal honesty spoke to me and millions of Americans. As Trump crashed his way onto the political scene, I was in Iraq serving on my ninth combat deployment as a Green Beret. Trump’s view of the war on terror accurately reflected the truth on the ground. I was in Iraq to help fight ISIS, with major limitations on how much combat power we could leverage against ISIS.
The Obama administration had reluctantly provided troops in Iraq and Syria to contain the spread of the terrorist group, so our commitment seemed very halfhearted, yet we were still deployed and in danger daily. For Obama, everything pertaining to Iraq was always done in this halfhearted fashion. With the original sin of the vote for the war free from his record, it was not something he wanted to waste time with.
Obama’s larger vision for the region was to cut a deal with Iran, even as they killed Americans during our withdrawal in 2011. Now that we were back in Iraq, Iran’s control of the region was on full display. We worked close to the same Shia militias who killed Americans just a few years before and known Iranian-backed, terrorist-occupied positions in Iraq’s government, the same government that we were supporting so it was not crushed by ISIS.
Trump sliced right through the self-inflicted mess in Iraq and Syria by saying what most Republicans couldn’t: the Iraq War was a foolish mistake, but ISIS needed to be defeated and we had to push back on Iran’s expansion in the region by withdrawing from the fool-hearted JCPOA.
Trump’s sober assessment of the problem and no-nonsense approach to these issues won me over. He was not being a partisan, he was advocating the most common-sense approach to problems that both parties had failed to solve because they got bogged down in their own ideological trappings.
Once Trump was in office, he made good on his promises. Trump allowed the commanders on the ground in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan to use the proper amount of force to defeat ISIS, he withdrew from the JCPOA and applied strict sanctions to Iran. When Iran chose to strike back by killing an American, Trump quickly struck back by killing Iran’s feared and fabled master terrorist Qassem Soleimani and his Iraqi deputy Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. By defeating ISIS and killing Suleimani, Trump showed that he would not hesitate to use decisive force when necessary.
However, Trump’s strategy was far from being all about military might. Trump then pursued unconventional diplomacy with the Sunni Gulf states and the Israelis to form a regional alliance against Iran and ISIS.
Trump’s disruption was initially well received by the military. He enabled commanders on the ground to finally strike back against ISIS with the proper amount of force and, most notably, allowed us to finally avenge over 600 of our fallen comrades by killing Soleimani and al-Muhandis while sending Iran a clear message: We know where you are and we will hit you — Bush and Obama are not in charge anymore.
The second phase of Trump’s disruption, withdrawing us from the wars, has proven far more challenging. Mostly because the wars are deeply ingrained in the identity of the U.S. military — leaving the wars is like asking the DoD to cut off a body part. When Trump attempted to extract us from Syria once ISIS’s territorial caliphate was defeated, his secretary of defense, retired Gen. Jim Mattis, resigned in protest. This set off a series of high-profile resignations and a more private bureaucratic slow roll of Trump’s orders.
Each time Trump has made a breakthrough that could end these seemingly endless wars, his vocal detractors in the media and their silent supporters in government attempt to paint his basic desire to get us out as a threat to some norm that they cannot articulate.
Within the DoD, the desire to stay and decisively win these wars is mostly due to how much we have lost and how long we have fought for. If we leave now, the DoD has to face the hard question of “What was it all for?” That mentality is understandable. My instinct is to stay and try to fight it out for as long as it takes, despite the cost. I feel that way due to all that I gave to the fight, but this is where executive leadership comes in.
We need a leader who will ask what it’s all for and what does this effort and sacrifice get for the American people? If the gain is not clear, then it is simply time to go. Trump is the first post-9/11 president that we have had who can look at our wars this way because he is an outsider, he has no record to defend or ideology to support. This frees him up to look at our wars objectively and seek outside-the-box solutions to the problems the plagued the two previous presidents.
Trump’s disruption and successes resulted in most of the Republican Party rallying around him, ushering in room for new populist ideas and turning the Grand Old Party into a vibrant big tent. Unfortunately, the leaders of the Democratic Party have aggressively stamped out the voices of disruptors in their ranks, like Andrew Yang or Tulsi Gabbard, and opted for running a business-as-usual candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden. Biden being the consummate D.C. power-seeker that he is, has vowed to push the agenda of the most radical members of the left in an effort to gain their support and has chosen Kamala Harris as his running mate to show how serious he is about implementing the radical left’s agenda.
Biden and Harris’ strategy to beat Trump is far more dangerous than any typical political mudslinging. They opted to encourage radical elements rioting and looting major American cities for the past three months before making a halfhearted attempt at condemning violence. The Democrats were convinced that they could blame Trump for all the violence and did not think or care about the consequences for co-opting violent insurrectionists seeking to tear down our system.
In the Democrat’s inability to change or disrupt their own party, they allowed violent radicals to take charge. They are so desperate to make Trump look bad, they are willing to sacrifice their own constituents' safety in our major Democrat-run cities.
As we head to November the unrest on our streets and the building insurrection is hard to overlook. On one side is Trump, who has shown the ability to use force while suing for peace abroad and taking restrained steps to restore order at home.
On the other side is Biden, who can only point at Trump’s personal flaws, promising to restore an old, failed order while running cover for the radical left as they seek to destroy the foundations of our nation.
For me, the choice could not be clearer.
Joe Kent is a retired Army Special Forces chief warrant officer who served for over 20 years and completed 11 combat deployments. He is also a Gold Star husband. His wife, Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Shannon Kent, was killed in 2019 conducting special operations against ISIS in Syria.
Editor’s note: This is an Op-Ed and as such, the opinions expressed are those of the author. If you would like to respond, or have an editorial of your own you would like to submit, please contact Military Times managing editor Howard Altman, firstname.lastname@example.org.