News & Politics

Here's Why Trump's Explanation for Canceling the 'War Games' with South Korea Makes No Sense

"We're not going to play the war games anymore — do you know how expensive that is?"

Photo Credit: Fox News

President Donald Trump's claim that he wants to end the "war games" that the U.S. carries out with South Korea is highly suspicious.

He's made the claim about the war games, which refers to joint military exercises between the allied nations as a demonstration of their mutual commitment and as practice for any potential future conflicts, several times since his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. He made it again Tuesday night in an interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity.

"We made a lot of progress, tremendous amount of progress," he said, referring to the recent summit. "One of the things that I'm very happy about: We're not going to play the war games anymore — do you know how expensive that is? We're flying these massive bombers in for practice from Guam. I said, 'How far is Guam?' 'Six-and-a-half hours, sir.' I said that's a long way for a long way for a big bomber, times 20. And lots of other planes coming in."

He continued: "So we're not going to be doing, as long as we're negotiating in good faith."

Now, Trump lies a lot. But usually, when he lies, he does it with conviction — it sounds like he believes what he's saying. When Trump makes these claims, he doesn't even sound like he believes it.

The first signal that Trump isn't buying his own explanation is that he doesn't actually have a number for how much the war games cost. Trump loves touting big numbers, and if he were really concerned about how much money he was saving the country by ending the games, then why wouldn't he have someone come up with an estimate of the dollar figure saved?

Second, Trump came out with this decision about the war games after the summit all on his own. It wasn't a part of the agreement he signed with North Korea, and it seems he didn't even tell the military — or even the vice president — before he made the announcement. Had Trump really been looking to save a buck, wouldn't he have consulted with the military on his plans to cut back?

But that brings us to the third point, which is that it's just totally implausible that Trump would want to save money on the military. Trump, proposed a completely pointless and vain military parade — a certainly expensive endeavor which, unlike military exercises with South Korea, serves no national security or foreign policy objective.

And like most Republicans, Trump is on the record as being in favor of cutting almost any form of spending except military spending. Trump proposed a $716 billion Defense budget for 2019 — a 13 percent increase over 2017 levels, according to the Washington Post (which, it should be noted, many believe is far higher than is reasonable or necessary).

So how in the world is it plausible that Trump is looking to save money by cutting military exercises? It doesn't even pass the smell test.

And since ending the war games doesn't appear to be a critical part of an agreement with Kim Jong-un, it forces us to ask: Why did Trump make this announcement? And, if the above argument is right, why did he lie about his reasons for making it?

As Rachel Maddow pointed out Tuesday night, Trump seems to have first gotten the idea to end the war games from an interesting source: Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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Cody Fenwick is a reporter and editor. Follow him on Twitter @codytfenwick.