WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump opened his State of the Union message with a salute to the members of the military who launched D-Day 75 years ago this June, three of whom were in the House gallery as guests to watch the speech.
And then, for the remainder of the more than 90-minute speech, barely mentioned the military again.
With some members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff sitting in a front row, Trump talked of how ISIS has been largely defeated in the territory it once held and how U.S. efforts in Afghanistan had brought the Taliban to the peace table.
“Great nations do not fight endless wars,” the president said at one point.
“Today, we have liberated virtually all of that territory from the grip of these bloodthirsty monsters,” Trump said during the State of the Union speech Tuesday night. “Now, as we work with our allies to destroy the remnants of ISIS, it is time to give our brave warriors in Syria a warm welcome home.”
Trump hinted that he would go through with his earlier vow to cut the troop size in Afghanistan, where there are now about 15,500 troops.
“I have also accelerated our negotiations to reach, if possible, a political settlement in Afghanistan,” the president said. “In Afghanistan, my administration is holding constructive talks with a number of Afghan groups, including the Taliban. As we make progress in these negotiations, we will be able to reduce our troop presence and focus on counter-terrorism.”
Trump cautioned that “We do not know whether we will achieve an agreement — but we do know that after two decades of war, the hour has come to at least try for peace.”
The remarks were perfunctory — much like the standard saber-saber-tailing at Iran, analysts said.
“It was about what was expected, although we thought he would maybe go on a little more about the wars,” Benjamin Friedman, policy director the Defense Priorities, told TMN in an interview.
Defense Priorities is a defense and foreign policy think tank.
The president boasted about large increases in spending by NATO allies, using numbers that sounded larger than what actually is being spent and promised.
He also said how he was sending more troops to the U.S.-Mexico border to stop “the onslaught” of refugees heading north. He did not vow to declare a national emergency to get money to build a wall along that border, but did restate why he thought the wall was critical.
Trump did not outline plans for the next defense budget, as some thought he would announce.
For the most part, the military members seated in the front row were stoic-faced and did not applaud.
“In his State of Union address tonight, President Trump reaffirmed his unwavering commitment to support our troops and to protect American national security interests at home and abroad,” Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said in a statement. He attended the speech in the House chamber.
“Under President Trump’s leadership, we are focused on the full implementation of the National Defense Strategy: increasing lethality, strengthening alliances and partnerships, and reforming the way we do business,” he said.