For me, one of President Trump’s more memorable lines from his inaugural was the following:
We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow.
It was memorable because, should it be carried out to the fullest, a substantive change in American foreign policy was afoot. From the onset of the Spanish-American War of 1898, the United States had embraced a policy of interventionism, which forever changed its character as a nation.
Back then, rebels fighting for Cuban independence from Spain provided the impetus for the United States to try it hand at interventionism. President Grover Cleveland at first declared the US neutral to the events in Cuba, but the 1896 election of President William McKinley came with a platform of endorsing Cuban independence and democracy for Cuba. From there, the calls for intervention grew, greatly aided by the yellow journalism of William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, whose papers regularly painted a picture of the Spanish as barbarians to prime the American mind for war.
The sinking of the USS Maine under dubious circumstances further inflamed tensions. Ultimately the US declared war on Spain in April 1898 (even after Spain had pledged to grant the Cubans their freedom), kicking off what would be nearly 120 years of American foreign adventures, interventions and imperialist plays.
Even after all of that time, war continues to be a racket. As General Smedley Butler wrote so many years ago, the end result of war is massive profits for a select few, earned on the back of the death, maiming, and psychological trauma suffered by others, not to mention the physical destruction of civilizational landscapes built over the generations.
All that has changed are the names involved. Where it was once Presidents McKinley and Wilson sending poor American youth to fight, ultimately enriching the Du Ponts and US Steels of the world, today it is the Presidents Bush, Clinton and Obama sending poor American youth to fight wars ultimately enriching the Lockheed Martins, BAE Systems and Raytheons.
Where once the civilian population had the fortitude, national spirit and more importantly the savings to both buy war bonds and endure the necessary shortages and rationing that war brought about, today’s Americans view war more apathetically. To the extent we can draw ourselves away from our smartphones, Starbucks and celebrity gossip, the constant nature of our military adventures across the globe seem barely there. It is like the hum of a radiator – loud enough to be noticeable, and yet easily relegated to background noise as time goes on.
Perhaps this is by design. Some level of constant war means constant defense contracts, which means hundreds of billions in annual revenue. All the while the general horrors of war are kept from the public writ large, save for the families of the dead, maimed and wounded.
The public had been generally accepting of this low level of constant war mainly because there was no direct, up-front cost. The government was not getting the money for wars from its citizens as it did in the past – it was borrowing from foreigners or merely printing the money. This meant that the public never had much skin in the game. There have been no rations during recent wartime as there were in the past – in fact the opposite has happened. The American public indulged further in decadence as war persisted in the background, with McMansions, expensive vacations and SUVs – also purchased on credit – satiating the need for instant gratification.
To be sure, there has been protest against war all along the way, but these protests have been nothing the government couldn’t swat aside, or simply ignore so as to fulfill its wishes.
As time has gone on, however, the anti-war cries have grown ever louder and have become more widespread. This is, in a sense, owing to the downsides of the credit-fueled decadence of the last few decades. The financial crisis of 2008, in particular, shone a light on the folly of an economy resting its foundation on debt backed consumption. In the aftermath that collapse, the government decided to bail out the banks and other holders of assets obtained at sky high valuations, while the general population saw foreclosures, layoffs, and home and 401k nest eggs sliced in half.
After the asset holders were made whole thanks to the government and the Federal Reserve, they were made better than whole in the asset price rally that occurred. This did little for the man in the street, who still dealt with a tough job market, a rising cost of living, an increased need to take on debt to put children through college, and spiraling healthcare costs.
On top of this, the government didn’t seem to be taking care of the basics. To take a flight, for example, meant traversing over highways riddled with potholes, bridges which were crumbling, through tunnels which were last upgraded half a century ago, only to arrive at decrepit airports not worthy of a country which is meant to be the greatest on earth.
All of this meant that President Trump’s repeated declaration on the campaign trail that we could have rebuilt the United States twice with the trillions wasted in the Middle East was that much more powerful. After years of feeling duped over a much touted economic recovery that didn’t feel like one, the American electorate as a whole finally started to wonder why exactly so much of their future was being pissed away in Middle East deserts when to date almost nothing of value had been gained.
To the contrary, in fact, much had been lost. The utter mess that has come of Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Sudan, Egypt (initially) and now Syria has led to a refugee crisis which has not yet touched the US in the same way it has Europe, but remains concerning given the decline in quality of life which has resulted in the Old World.
With Trump’s candidacy, the United States’ fetish for backing Jihadist ‘rebels’ to depose of secular Muslim dictators under the guise of a Wilson-esque desire to make the Middle East suddenly primed for a tsunami of Anglo-democracy finally became exposed for what it was – the Millennial iteration of that age old Racket. The only people who benefited were the aforementioned defense contractors, and the globalist ideologues who supported filling their coffers to supply the war efforts.
In taking the stance that the Middle East adventurism of the past was a waste of time and we should aim to soothe rather than inflame relations with Russia, Trump stood in contrast to not only Hillary Clinton, but the majority of his own party, represented by the likes of John McCain, Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham. Beyond that, the rest of the foreign policy establishment of think tanks and media punditry, all of whom sang the globalist war hymn with gusto, were all taken aback by Trump.
With Trump’s November 8th win, many of his most ardent supporters thought that the game had changed with respect to foreign policy. So when word of a chemical attack in Syria, followed a day later by tough talk and accusations from US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, followed by similar talk that afternoon by Trump at a press conference flanked by the King of Jordan, followed the next day by a strike of 59 Tomahawk missiles into Syria, Trump’s supporters were naturally unnerved.
And rightly so, for this was clearly an action which suggested that the new boss was the same as the old boss.
Doubly concerning was the outpouring of unbridled joy coming from the aforementioned globalist foreign policy establishment at the increasing developments. On the night of the strikes, Marco Rubio did the rounds on television and couldn’t hide his glee. The night before, John McCain was on Fox News, speaking with increasing excitement about what the next steps should be, understanding that Trump had signaled for more hawkishness in response to the chemical attack.
Hillary Clinton, speaking at a public event, expressed her wishes for Syrian bombing in response to the chemical attack. Lindsey Graham spoke of the need for 5000-7000 troops to be deployed immediately. Brian Williams of MSNBC was ebullient as he watched video of the missiles being fired, using the word ‘beautiful’ in his description of the events three times in 30 seconds.
The immediate aftermath of the strikes saw both Fareed Zakaria and Reagan/Bush era Neocon Elliott Abrams (who was last seen attempting to weasel into the State Department as Deputy to Secretary Rex Tillerson) declare that with the strikes, Donald Trump had become the President of the United States and the Leader of the Free world. All it took for a media and political establishment to finally support him universally, when it had opposed him universally since the inception of his campaign, was to bomb a country in the Middle East.
As I watched that reaction, I then realized the naivety myself and some other Trump supporters had displayed in our hope that Trump would just walk roughshod over the globalists. Their world view, having been the orthodoxy for several decades, is very much entrenched and will take some shifting.
And thus we should be thankful that we have a shifty President in Donald Trump.
It is almost irrelevant what actually happened in Syria, with respect to the chemical attack. The official line is that Assad gassed his own people and thus a proportional response was required. More than this, it was used as further evidence that Assad had to be removed from power.
In watching the pundit class talk about these points, I was particularly annoyed with these constant repetitions of ‘gassing his own people,’ the evil nature of using chemical weapons, dead babies, and the celebrations of the moral superiority and exceptionalism of the United States. For a start, the conflict in question is a Civil War. This means that every belligerent involved, whether its Assad or the Jihadist ‘rebels,’ some of which are US-funded, have been ‘killing their own people’ the entire time. Abe Lincoln ‘killed his own people’ and is considered one of the greatest US presidents ever.
In terms of the use of chemical weapons, the idea that Assad would resort to this when by all accounts he very much had the upper hand in the war strains credulity. Especially when one considers he was tried and convicted in the court of American Warmongering within 24 hours of the attack.
With the only ones set to benefit from such an attack being American war hawks, through the existence of a new pretext for war, and the fact that anything following the phrase “US intelligence believes…” is equally likely to be propaganda as it is fact, suspicion was warranted. Unfortunately, it only came in the shape of Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and Senator Rand Paul in the US, and Peter Ford, the former UK ambassador to Syria. All of these figures were predictably marginalized despite speaking sensibly.
Then there was the moral posturing over how evil it was to be killing women and babies. As the week went on, the media produced reports that the Russians, Assad’s backers, might even have known about the attacks, a brazen attempt to further egg on the conflict the globalist set really craves – war between the US and Russia. Trump himself joined in on the posturing, almost comical in the way he forcibly worked dead beautiful babies and the like into every sentence he spoke on the matter. This moral posturing of course was done to paint the US in a superior light. The same US which once had Madeline ‘500,000 Iraqi children dying was worth it’ Albright as its Secretary of State.
I say these things not to absolve anyone from moral atrocities, but to ridicule the use of moral atrocity as a pretext for renewed war efforts in Syria. It doesn’t really matter what really happened there over the last two weeks or so because those events became merely a springboard for further intervention in Syria at the behest of the globalist set. Assad’s alleged humanitarian atrocities are the public justification as to why it must happen.
The broader reason is that Assad stands in the way of the destabilization of Syria, an event which in turn opens the way for a US backed pipeline running from Qatar to Turkey, which in turn undercuts the Russian supply of energy to Europe. This is important, given Russia stands as a nuclear backed opposition to NATO, and globalism generally, in the same way it stands in opposition to US-backed Jihadis in the Syrian Civil War. Of course there are your standard Sunni/Shiite conflicts embedded as well. The whole thing is a mess.
The torrent of praise Trump received for taking even the slightest step toward the globalist direction in Syria should be noted, because that same torrent is responsible for the characterization of Trump as a Putin double agent. Owing to Trump’s campaign rhetoric, and his willingness to ‘get along with Russia,’ he was subject to a myriad of leak-fueled reporting intended to propagate innuendo that Trump colluded with the Russians to defeat Hillary Clinton. All of a sudden, with that strike, those stories have died down, as if the globalist set have said ‘phew, he’s following our plan, let’s leave him alone so he can carry it out with as little distraction as possible.’
And indeed, Trump may go on to do that. But as I said, he is a shifty character and a master of The Art of the Deal. My sense is that Trump gave the globalists a little bit of joy with that strike, indulging them in a bit of aggro in on foreign soil, adopting their humanitarian rationale to boot. It is the ultimate aim of the aggression that is of concern here. The ideal outcome of the Syrian Civil War for America is a solution that defeats the Jihadi ‘rebels,’ and ends with the US extricating itself from Syria. Whether Assad stays or goes is really of little concern, but given the fact that the narrative of Assad being a war criminal is the overwhelming prevailing narrative, he might have to go to satiate those voices.
The globalists have been telling us that Assad needs to go because he is a war criminal. Fine. Get rid of the Jihadi ‘rebels,’ arrange Assad’s exile to Russia perhaps, and install someone else who everyone, including the Russians can agree on. Stabilize Syria, and get out of dodge.
Of course, hat solution wouldn’t satisfy the globalists, as the Syrian piece on the geopolitical chess board would be out of their reach. They couldn’t get their pipeline through the country, and Russia would still have its influence. They would prefer the Jihadi ‘rebels’ as replacements, who would take Syria down the road to becoming an Islamist hellhole, but one friendly to American globalist wishes. The globalists would tolerate the terrorism and refugee crisis that would result, and attempt to tell the average American to tolerate it as well, but it wouldn’t be worth it. Should Assad go, he should be replaced by some other leader from Assad’s Alawite tribe, with Russian approval.
The globalist tears resulting from that scenario would expose the game to the American public, which would wonder why American forces would still be needed after securing a peace for all parties and ending the war.
Some of this is far-fetched, I admit, but it is not so far out of the realm of possibility. After all we’ve seen similar episodes of Trump-jitsu over the past week. Trump has been accused of flip-flopping for softening his stances on NATO and on China. On the campaign trail, he declared that NATO was obsolete, and accused China of ‘raping’ the United States on trade and vowed to label them a currency manipulator.
On both of those issues, Trump took a more sanguine position over the last week, leading most to declare that Trump was reversing campaign promises. What hasn’t been mentioned was the fact that in the interim, NATO and China have moved heavily in Trump’s direction on a number of issues. Both NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Chinese Premier Xi visited Trump in the US in the past week, held talks and came out the other side essentially singing the Trump tune on certain issues. NATO has agreed with Trump that all NATO countries must pay their fair share and are moving in the right direction in order to make it a reality. Trump also explicitly called for NATO to come to terms with Russia.
As far as China is concerned, for the first time in ages, China has taken concrete steps towards getting the belligerent North Korea under control. If NATO is going to stop cheating the US, forge closer relations with Russia, and if China is going to come to its senses and realize there is more profit in working with the US on trade and bottling up North Korea, there is no reason for Trump to maintain an aggressive stance on either issue.
The same rationale applies to Syria. On the campaign trail, Trump took a very ‘easy’ line with respect to Syria and Assad. As recently as two weeks ago, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declared that the Syrian people must determine their own future. This drew gasps of horror from the Deep State/Globalist set, ironic given its public-facing rationale for foreign intervention is spreading democracy. Yet, it disapproved of Tillerson’s advocacy for self-determination in Syria, simply because it didn’t like what the outcome would likely be, a continuation of Assad.
Then, the attacks happened, and Trump’s tune abruptly changed. The fireworks display and the subsequent chest puffing of Trump and later Tillerson as he went to Moscow earlier this week is in line with a Trump taking the extreme position in a negotiation. A negotiated peace which begins with a show of force. The Russians don’t want war, Trump doesn’t want war, and the Syrians want their country back. The neocon/globalist set is the only actor which relishes war, and unfortunately it is also probably the most powerful actor. The only play here is to indulge it to a point, and then double cross it later by using that indulgence to put pressure on the Russians and Syrians for a deal. Then wipe out the neocon-backed Jihadi ‘rebels,’ exterminating the neocon foothold in Syria.
As I said earlier, it is the most optimistic angle in this whole Syria saga. It is also the most delicate. Trump has to thread the needle here, and the messy steps taken in this regard are legitimate cause for worry from those who fear globalists have compromised Trump. Reading between the lines, suggests that Trump is still holding true to his campaign rhetoric. If Trump can pull it off, he’ll be well on his way to the greatest foreign policy achievement of the last 30 years.