Fear - Trump in the White House
Bob Woodward
Contributed by Larisa Brooke

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Chapter 15
Summary

Trump had been against the Afghanistan War for many years, expressing his concerns long before he announced his candidacy (Woodward 107). As usual, he uses his greatest tool of communication, Twitter, to show his opinions. To him, there was no benefit to the US being in Afghanistan. In fact, he thought that the government needed to withdraw the troops and build on improving America first before moving back (Woodward 107). However, Obama did not seem to have the same views as Trump since he continued supporting the war during his term. Following Trump broadcasting his opinions on the war, H. R. McMaster knows that he has a major confrontation to deal with in his near future. The US involvement in Afghanistan is not complete, however, it is already sixteen years since the first invasion (Woodward 109). Due to this, several questions arise, and it seems like there is a need for a compromise, an approach that Trump may object to since he wants the US to move out.

McMaster and other top officials are thinking of adding troops to the war. They are thinking about a political settlement in Afghanistan, but Priebus worries that all the ideas go against the president’s beliefs (Woodward 110). There are several questions that need answers if they are to convince Trump into supporting the war. Therefore, they avoid informing him and McMaster comes up with the R4 strategy; reinforce, realign, reconcile and regionalize (Woodward 111). Graham is shown to hold talks with Trump about the war, claiming that the war will never end, a battle between good and evil (Woodward 111). Nonetheless, he insists that it is under Trump’s leadership and mandate and it would not be good if another terrorist attack on US soil resulted from his leadership. Later, McMaster presents his R4s to Trump and as expected, Trump dismisses the strategy. Instead, the president opts to speak with the soldiers on the ground, and this makes him want to exit from the war even more than before (Woodward 113). Nonetheless, Trump seems to love the idea of a renegade operation, a campaign that the establishment is sure no one can win (Woodward 116).

Analysis

The author shows his readers the extent to which Trump is opposed to war. Trump is a free thinker who is never afraid of expressing his ideas. The war in Afghanistan is the main theme in this chapter. The President is against the war and he aims at making sure that the US troops pull out as soon as possible. Apart from American deaths, money is another issue that drives Trump. The president is a first and foremost a businessperson and he thinks in business terms. He can see that the US is spending a great deal of money on the war, and there are no substantial benefits from all the expenditure. The issue of Pakistan also arises due to it being a US ally although housing numerous members of the Taliban. Trump expects Pakistan to align itself with the US in the war against the Taliban, and the reluctance shown by the country angers the president.

McMaster and Graham understand the need for the continuation of the war and staying in Afghanistan since they think in political terms. Graham thinks that if the Taliban are not controlled there may be another atrocity like 9/11. On the other hand, McMaster is a soldier and he takes the war personally, staunchly supporting the idea of fighting for peace while making necessary efforts to protect the US and all its allies.

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