There has been a lot of speculation among antiwar activists that Trump may have favored a less interventionist foreign policy. And that much of the criticism of his Russian connections was coming from the national security establishment, aka, the Deep State. Although the "deep state" phrase may have been captured by the far right. (See Greg Grandin, What Is the Deep State? The Nation 02/17/2017 on the concept.)
But that speculation has never been convincing. And it may have contributed to a kind of dogmatic skepticism toward any and all aspects of the Trump-Russia scandal on the part of critics of bipartisan hawkishness. To the extent that Trump's foreign policy pronouncements during the campaign were coherent at all, it was pretty obvious that while he may have been uncomfortable with formal allinaces like NATO, his basic perspective was one of reflective militarism.
Bennett and Bierman observe that Trump's announcement Monday of a new military escalation in Afghanistan "marked a shift to a much more traditional Republican foreign policy." But reading it as a return to "normalcy" or Trump finally becoming "Presidential" or whatever is mostly wishful thinking. Bennett and Bierman point out that "during his 2016 presidential campaign [Trump] largely avoided the subject, speaking more often about the need to win wars, while disdaining efforts at nation-building abroad."
And in any case, war in Afghanistan polls is more popular among his base than among the general public:
In a December 2014 poll by ABC and the Washington Post, for example, respondents by 56% to 38% said that “considering all the costs to the United States versus the benefits,” the war had “not been worth fighting.”Democrats were more likely to view the Afghanistan War as the "good war," in contrast to the disastrous Iraq War.
Within his own party, however, Trump’s previous skepticism was not so widely shared. Liberals and Democrats were the most likely to doubt the usefulness of American involvement in the war. Among Republicans, opinion was the mirror image of the national view — 56% said the war had been worth fighting and 38% said it had not been.
Despite the skepticism, however, a majority of those surveyed at that time supported keeping 10,000 U.S. service members in Afghanistan to train and assist that country’s security forces. That figure is not far from the approximately 12,400 U.S. troops that will be in the country under Trump’s proposal. [my emphasis]
But Democrats any Congress never expressed enough serious criticism of Obama's Afghanistan policy, a largely failed policy which Obama handed off to Trump with thousands of US troops still in Afghanistan. And Trump is now proceeding to make it worse. With a justification that barely constitutes a figleaf:
The troop increase in Afghanistan is supposed to create more time for training Afghan forces and bolstering Afghan government institutions. Yet the administration is ill-equipped for the enhanced mission: The State Department has not filled key senior positions that would be in charge of handling the Afghanistan and Pakistan portfolios. Trump still has no U.S. ambassador in Kabul, the Afghan capital.But it does present a test for the Democrats. Will they push to end the intervention in Afghanistan? Or try to attack Trump for not being hawkish enough?
“No amount of denial, exaggeration and obfuscation by State and USAID can substitute for a concerted effort to deal with the civil side of the war,” Anthony Cordesman, a former civilian advisor on past Afghanistan strategy reviews, said in a new report for the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Put bluntly, half a strategy is not better than none.” [my emphasis]