Do we have a president “whose words and actions are untethered to principle,” as Andrew J. Bacevich contends?
Consider the range of issues where President Trump has backed away from actions that as a candidate he had vowed to take, more often than not on ‘day one’ of his presidency. The US remains fully committed to the Nato alliance that Trump previously denounced as ‘obsolete’. The ‘One China’ policy of previous administrations remains intact, as does the Iran nuclear deal negotiated by his predecessor. That Trump will abrogate the North American Free Trade Agreement appears about as likely as Mexico paying for any ‘wall’ along the American border. The US embassy in Israel has not moved to Jerusalem and is unlikely to do so any time soon. Trump’s ‘secret plan’ to defeat Isis differs little from Obama’s plan, apart from more bombs and a handful of additional US troops. And Trump’s longed-for friendship with Vladimir Putin has yet to bloom. The Trump administration neither acknowledges nor provides any rationale for these shifts. Over the course of a single news cycle, positions once said to represent the President’s considered view simply become inoperative. Without explanation, the gunboat sent to Agadir weighs anchor and goes home, leaving behind bewilderment and relief.
In other circumstances, we might chalk up the disparity between what a president says while a candidate and then does on the job to mere politics. Or see it as evidence of an individual sobered by responsibility and ‘growing’ in office. Yet such explanations do not apply here. …
Like Wilhelm II, Trump is given to bluster and to striking poses. His compulsion to look tough is apparent. So too is his need to command attention and his affinity for military pomp. He loves generals.
We know of Syria, because the offensive there was launched, today, to great fanfare. But, says a Spectator writer, there’s been “War, war and war some more” for some time. This reality has been concealed by the Russia parallel reality created by Fake News media.
It’s often said that the Trump administration is ‘isolationist’. This is not true. In fact, we are now witnessing a dramatic escalation in the militarisation of US foreign policy in the Middle East, Africa and Afghanistan. This has not been announced but it is happening, and much of it without consultation with Nato or other key allies, or any debate in Congress or the media.
A few weeks ago, US aircraft carried out over 30 air strikes against Islamic militants in Yemen — almost the same as the number carried out there all last year. In Iraq and Syria there have been many reports of civilian casualties in US raids. As many as 200 are thought to have been killed in air strikes on Mosul, although Iraqi authorities dispute that.
Meanwhile, some 400 US troops are going to Syria to set up an artillery base to retake Raqqa. Another 1,000 may soon be sent to Kuwait as a reserve force. Another 400 have gone to Iraq and some 8,000 will go to Afghanistan.
Quite an active policy, for someone with no interest in it. A closer look at Trump’s senior aides helps to explain — they’re often from the military. The State Department may be downgraded but the military has never had a stronger influence on a president. …