When George W. Bush entered office for the first term of his presidency, he had articulated a foreign policy offering humility in its approach toward other nations in the international community. President Bush’s position stood firmly against nation building and using the American military as the policemen of the world. The foreign policy he sought to implement was a gentlemen’s hat tip toward non-intervention.
Then 9/11 happened.
Following the events of 9/11 the administration of President Bush was thoroughly neo-conned. The liberal interventionism once considered to be imprudent and arrogant became the cornerstone of his approach toward international affairs. A foreign policy committed to humility transformed into militaristic adventures seeking to rid the world of evil. America has been paying the price in blood and treasure ever since this disastrous turn toward unilateral military hegemony in the Middle East.
President Obama was elected because he promised a path redirecting American foreign policy away from the disastrous Bush years. Promises of reversing course turned into an extension of the previous administration’s approach to international relations. President Obama’s administration increased drone strikes, increased troop levels in Afghanistan, intervened in Libya, supported the Saudi war in Yemen, continued to bomb numerous countries throughout the Middle East, supported “moderate rebels” looking to topple the Assad regime in Syria, and he ended his tenure by sending troops back into Iraq to fight against a power vacuum ISIS had filled. In addition to all of this, the Obama administration presided over an exponential expansion of the size and scope of the surveillance/security state that has its roots in the Bush II homeland security era. To his credit, however, President Obama was able to secure a deal with Iran that could prove positive for potential diplomatic options when dealing with Iranian regime in the future.
During the presidential election following Obama’s tenure in office, Donald Trump successfully exposed and countered the calamitous neocon cabal in both major parties who had dominated the parameters of debate concerning foreign policy. He vociferously attacked the interventionist policies that had found a cozy home in the Republican Party, and he relentlessly attacked President Bush for his inability to keep Americans safe prior to 9/11. Trump’s onslaught was so damaging to Bush republicanism that Jeb Bush eventually tucked tail and left the race.
Donald Trump had a clear message – America comes first when making foreign policy decisions. The clarity of this message resulted in a victory against a G.O.P. committed to unilateral global military hegemony, and it also garnered significant negative attention from the globalists looking to continually undermine independent nations.
Trump’s new opponent in the general election was Hillary Clinton. The policies of Mrs. Clinton were truly indiscernible from those already defeated neocon interventionists licking their wounds from their primary defeat. All Trump had to do was stick to his views and a clear choice would be strictly demarcated. If the American people were interested in intervening throughout the world in endless military adventures costing our nation trillions of dollars and thousands of lives, they had a clear choice with Mrs. Clinton.
Like President Bush and President Obama, Donald Trump offered a new direction in foreign policy against those candidates who were suggesting continued interventionism. It is also worth noting that if you want a losing message in foreign policy, follow the path of Al Gore, John McCain, and Hillary Clinton. American citizens want an America first approach to international affairs.
And like his predecessors, Donald Trump’s administration has been neo-conned.
Despite his forceful campaign rhetoric against intervention in Syria, President Trump has launched cruise missiles against targets in Syria. What President Trump chastised on the campaign trail he is now implementing as policy. The President’s actions are in direct contradiction of his America first message and are a betrayal of those who supported him despite enduring withering attack from his progressive opponents. Moreover, those who actively worked to ensure a Clinton victory are now singing the President’s praises. You can almost hear the globalists rubbing their hands together now that they have an opportunity to redirect the Trump administration away from an America first agenda. Senator McCain, Senator Graham, Senator Rubio, the neocons working for the Israel Lobby, evangelical Christian Zionists, the Saudis, and Israelis are all ecstatic over this intervention.
To be sure, the intervention is being justified as a humanitarian mission to prevent the use of chemical weapons against innocent civilians. This is always the justification, and it has led to nothing but increased human misery. Nobody denies that men, women, and children dying painful deaths due to chemical attacks is an egregious atrocity. However, what is worth being discussed in prudent fashion is the evidence being used to back the claims that Assad is actually the one using the weapons. The exact same narrative was used during President Obama’s tenure and it turned out to be vacuous.
There is much more to be said about the impact this decision will have for the Trump administration’s foreign policy moving forward. However, it is important to recognize the betrayal that has taken place with this decision regarding Syria. Moreover, it is important to recognize the pattern that has developed over the last three presidencies. Each President entering office has preached a message running contrary to the internationalist foreign policy measures of influential special interests groups. These interest groups include the military industrial complex and the Israel Lobby. The evidential trend developed over the last three presidencies indicate that these political power structures coupled with the increased supremacy of the deep state following 9/11 are who control the foreign policy levers.
Nationalism will have to wait for a new champion.
– Lucas G. Westman