In this case, however, the generals who advise him -- both retired and active duty -- have spent the last few months insisting that no, he doesn't get to do what his instincts tell him to do. Not this time, not on this subject.
If you do walk away, they told him, you will become the president who lost the Afghan War. Trump doesn't like that idea.
If you do walk away, they added, you also will be repeating Barack Obama's "hasty withdrawal" in Iraq. They know Trump doesn't like that idea either.
Besides, the generals told him, we have devised this dramatically new approach toward Afghanistan, a strategy that nobody else had thought of before. It wouldn't be "nation-building," which Trump despises, but instead would integrate "all instruments of American power -- diplomatic, economic, and military -- toward a successful outcome."
In other words, it would be nation-building. In fact, the strategy laid out by Trump on Monday night is pretty much just a repackaging of the strategy of the previous 16 years, a course that has left us no closer to a self-sustaining pro-Western government in Afghanistan than when we started.
Don't get me wrong: I'm glad that those generals are there, serving their country in its time of need. Every American should be glad that James Mattis, H.R. McMaster and John Kelly are sucking it up and going to work under this president. By virtue of the stars on their military uniforms and the battles that they've seen, they have a natural call upon Trump's respect enjoyed by almost no one else in Washington.
However, if you take your foreign policy advice almost solely from military leaders, you are going to get military-centric solutions. By training and nature, military leaders are always going to tell you that with some more time and resources, they can turn this thing around. Even when they can't.