How easy is it for you to make a decision? What if you’re the president of the United States? Do you think, with all the authority invested in that office, deciding what to do would be a snap? Wrong. Even with the best brains in the nation able and willing to give you advice, making the tough decisions is very complex.
President Donald Trump seems to be learning how tough his job is as he goes. He has remarked a number of times how hard it is.
Recently, Trump made a major decision about what to do with our 16-year war in Afghanistan. He had three options, none of them good.
He could pull out all our military in Afghanistan and let whatever happens occur with the subsequent bloodbath. Afghanistan would again become a safe haven for terrorist groups to plot attacks on the United States and our allies as it was before 9/11.
The second option would be to ramp up the war and return to 150,000 NATO forces fighting the Taliban, with blood and treasure flowing freely. Victory would still not be possible and Americans, growing weary of the endless war, would begin to protest. The longer the war continued the less likely the chance of Trump winning re-election in 2020.
The third option which Trump has chosen for now is the middle path between the two above choices: increase the number of U.S. soldiers by 3,900, bringing the number of American soldiers in the country to about 12,000. This choice would only keep the Taliban at bay, with no victory in sight. It’s likely my grandchildren would die before we extract ourselves from that quagmire.
We have 60,000 military personnel protecting Europe and 30,000 defending South Korea. American forces have been in Europe since 1942. That’s 75 years! They’ve been in South Korea since 1950, totaling 67 years. There is no end in sight for withdrawal from either place.
If Trump decides to fulfill his promise to bring “fire and fury” down upon the North Korean government, that would require even more complex and taxing decisions to win that conflict without bringing in the Chinese as they did in the Korean conflict of the 1950s. The casualty rates would number in the millions.
Trump noted that before he sat in the Oval Office chair, he strongly advocated getting out of Afghanistan. He heaped strong and vicious criticism on both presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Being in that seat has caused him to reconsider.
Although Trump is the most powerful man in the world, his power is still limited. He has not been able to come up with an easy solution for national healthcare, or immigration, or even filling the 100 or so ambassadorial positions in the U.S. State Department needed to fully staff all our embassies around the world.
The irony is that Republicans control all three branches of government, which should make decision-making much easier. It hasn’t. In fact, both Congress and the Court have thwarted the president’s ability to act.
The lesson to be learned from these complex problems is that decision-making is often merely a series of bad, very bad, or horrible choices. This fact of life should give all of us pause when we consider our own issues. That’s probably why those in power often find ways to pass the decisions on to others or to avoid making decisions at all, hoping time will solve them, which it sometimes does.
Trump is learning the lesson that being a billionaire businessman controlling myriad companies has only peripheral transfer-of-training potential for the president of the United States. The greater the power the greater the potential there is for damage and loss. Be grateful for the little power that you, the readers of this column, possess. Your lives are usually easier as a result, although you might disagree. Why anyone would want to be president is a mystery to me.