One of the problems for people who rail against Trump is that the First Toddler is so wildly inconsistent. As such, a “Trump is wrong on all things all the time” mindset is apt to induce inconsistency on the part of those who hold it.
The same is true for his diehard supporters — much comment has been made about Senate leader Mitch McConnell, normally a diehard Trump supporter, excoriating the president’s Sunday night “decision” to clear the way for Turkey’s murderous Erdoğan regime to invade Syria and attack Kurdish groups, most of whom have been helping Western forces destroy Islamic State. “It is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars,” Trump tweeted, before going on to refer, Mao-like, to his “great and unmatched wisdom” in promising to punish Turkey if it does anything untoward.
Trump officials then scrambled, as they have scrambled so often before, to explain his tweets: the US wasn’t actually leaving Syria, but merely moving a small number of troops out the path of Erdoğan’s plan to exterminate as many Kurds as he could — a plan the Turkish president promptly implemented. The collective reaction to Trump’s move — from right to left, Republican to Democrat, US and abroad, Trump supporter to bitter critic — was that this was a disaster. The US had once again betrayed the Kurds; its credibility was now so tattered no ally could depend on it; the Turkish attack on the Kurds would release hundreds of IS fighters and create new areas from which they could launch attacks.
Here, the Australian government had to express a different view. Having outsourced our entire Middle Eastern foreign policy to the White House, the Netanyahu regime and the mass murderers of Riyadh, Scott Morrison had to reflexively support Trump despite being taken entirely by surprise. The prime minister tempered his support by hilariously urging “restraint of all of those who are involved”. Particularly the Kurds, one assumes, who should restrain from getting in the way of Turkish bullets and bombs.
By and large, though, the reaction from the foreign policy establishment was summed up by Nine’s Chris Uhlmann — a regular and savage critic of Trump — who argued “if an alliance that is measured in a sea of blood has no value to Trump, then what price does he put on defence relationships built on pledges of burden-sharing made by nations such as Australia?”
Trump, as on everything else, is entirely inconsistent about “Endless Wars”: at the behest of the Saudi tyranny and his former national security adviser John Bolton, he has prepared the ground for a war against Iran, which Morrison has eagerly signed us up for (Bolton’s departure hasn’t removed his toxic presence, by the way: only this week we learnt the US would be abandoning the “open skies” arms control treaty). But Trump’s shuffling of troops around Syria has exposed how fragile — and facile — the arguments are for maintaining Western forces in yet another Middle Eastern country.
Trump’s former UN ambassador Nikki Haley argued that the US had to continue to, in effect, guarantee Kurdish security because of their contribution to the defeat of IS. But think that logic through: IS was created as a direct result of the illegal Western attack on Iraq by George W. Bush, Tony Blair, John Howard and other miscreants. IS then became the pretext for another military venture in the Middle East in 2014. Now we’re told that, as a consequence of that secondary venture, Western forces must remain there.
These are literally “Endless Wars”, with each one creating the pretext for another venture justified by neoconservatives and the foreign policy establishment as crucial to security, stability and that precious commodity of “credibility”. For Trump’s critics there will never be a point at which the US, and other Western countries, should end their interventionism.
The same circular logic applies to the argument that continued Western involvement is crucial to prevent the establishment of safe havens for terrorists. But we’re still in Afghanistan more than 15 years after invading it for that very reason, and continue to be there because our invasion created more terrorists. The Iraq invasion created an entirely new generation of terrorists around the world, as did Islamic State. As Patrick Buchanan notes, “al-Qaeda and ISIS are in many more places today than they were when we intervened in the Middle East”. Interventionism, as Crikey has argued for years, simply creates more terrorists, which become the pretext for more interventions.
Trump is rarely right, and when he is, you just need to wait five minutes and he’ll change his mind, or his officials will brief something different. But his resistance to “Endless Wars” — at least those he hasn’t started himself — is a rare moment of open challenge to the doctrine that has given us nearly two decades of a multitrillion-dollar War On Terror with no end in sight.
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