Mark Esper has a euphemism for America’s wars in the Middle East: “mowing the lawn.” The Secretary of Defense used the term to describe U.S. military actions in Libya, where U.S. air forces are reported to have killed one-hundred fighters belonging to the ISIS terror group in September alone. But comparing perpetual warfighting to mowing the lawn is, to say the least, an inappropriate and misleading metaphor. Looking past innocuous descriptions over America’s sprawling military footprint ought to be an urgent task for those interested in reforming a failed and worsening foreign policy.
Nearly three years after he was elected President, the idea that Donald Trump is committed to a foreign policy of restraint, retrenchment, or isolationism can safely be put to rest. For while Trump has used his time in the Oval Office to slash U.S. participation in international organizations and turn back the tide of trade liberalization, he has nevertheless been more than eager to keep in place the most expensive, visible, and important aspect of America’s global role: its worldwide military presence and near-constant use of lethal force. So have advisers like Esper.