While I have my qualms about yet another ride into Afghanistan, plus I am not thrilled with the state of civil-military relations in the US that got us this decision, I must say that the speech started so badly that it probably colored my reaction to the rest. Trump started by talking about how the US military was a model for the rest of American society. This rubbed me the wrong way in three ways different dimensions: the military as authoritarian entity, Trump's sudden love for "unity", and Trump's own loyalties.
Yes, the US military is more multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multi-religious, more heterogeneous than pretty much any other employer or institution in the US. My year in the Pentagon made that clear to me--no university I worked at before or since had as much diversity among its staff as the US military. Admirable? Absolutely. But it is also an autocracy---that there is a chain of command and people follow orders. It is not a democratic society. So, there is only so much American society can and should imitate from the US armed forces. Calling on America to be more like the US military is also very scary when the speaker is someone who has been destroying the norms of American democracy since he started running for President.
Which gets us to the second problem: Trump calling for unity and love among all is galling because he has based his campaign and then his presidency on division. Day one of the campaign? Calling Mexicans rapists. He continues to refer to immigrants as animals. Trump hired a team of white supremacists--Bannon may be gone, but Sessions is still Attorney General and Stephen Miller is still somewhere in the White House--so spare me any faked remorse since Charlottesville. If he were sincere, he'd be pushing Sessions and Kris Kobach to drop the #voterfraudfraud campaign. As Dana Carvey as George HW Bush would say: not gonna happen.
Worst of all: Trump harped on the theme of loyalty. This is wrong in so many ways, but the one I will focus on here is this: who has Trump shown loyalty to? Most of all: Vladimir Putin. He has refused to criticize the Russian leader even when Putin sanctions the US embassy in Moscow. Other than that and nepotism for his family, it is not clear that Trump has been loyal to anyone ever.
So, yeah, with that start, I was already on edge. But Trump is good at that. I am sure this part of the speech was partly designed to appeal to his base (since he is mostly the President of his base and not so much the rest of us)--to make them feel better about the Afghanistan policy that contradicted his promises to them.
Anyhow, when Trump talks about loyalty, I scoff. When he says Americans should be more like the US military, I worry.