Trump campaigned on the promise that he would seize power from globalist usurpers in Washington, D.C., and return it to the people, spending their tax dollars rebuilding America rather than investing blood and treasure in faraway war zones. Among populists, this project was sold as a return to “America First” thinking. Intellectuals in the orbit of the Claremont Institute saw it as part of an effort to rein in the administrative state. But eight months into Trump’s presidency, his administration has effectively abandoned “America First,” empowered the administrative state by ceding decision-making to generals, and undermined a basic means of democratic accountability by hiding what it is doing from the public.
In his speech unveiling his plan for Afghanistan, Trump declared, “We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities. Conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables, will guide our strategy from now on.” As John M. Donnelly observed, “In framing the issue this way, Trump conflated three things that are distinctly different: disclosing military plans; announcing deadlines for withdrawal; and informing Americans how many of their family members will be sent into harm’s way.”