“No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.” — James Madison
If America grew nostalgic for undertaking Middle Eastern wars in the years following two Bush administrations, all they had to do was elect Jeb. Instead the country chose Donald Trump, a man with such ambitions and ego that he no doubt likens himself to a 21st Century Teddy Roosevelt.
“Bully,” say the old Republican guard cheering on the president’s missile strike on Syria and bomb drop on Afghanistan. Attacking the Syrian airbase endangered Russian personnel while the biggest conventional bomb crushed jihadists in a catacomb of Afghan tunnels. Both were a startling change from former President Barack Obama’s old lady leadership. More importantly, they reveal a startling foreign policy shift in the Trump administration.
For Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, Donald Trump is now a bona fide member of the Republican Party; the Party of George W. Bush who days after 9/11 said: “This crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take a while.”
It has been 14 years since American tanks rolled through Iraq, and it seems possible the whole region will implode.
In the late 1990s, American neocons didn’t appreciate how easy it was to start a war and how difficult it was to end one. America is still bogged down in Afghanistan, the second longest war in our history. That is not what the Pentagon envisioned during the immediate aftermath of Vietnam. America was to have fewer military interventions.
The birth of Pax Americana
With the collapse of the Soviet Union the neoconservative movement was born, and in less than a decade their influence on Washington grew.
In 1997 William Kristol and Robert Kagan created the Project for the New American Century, a non-profit think tank. Their stated objective was “to promote American global leadership.”
In 1996, Kristol and Kagan co-authored an article in Foreign Affairs titled, Toward a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy. In the article, they asserted that American conservatives were “adrift” on foreign policy. To right the ship of state they championed a “more elevated vision of America’s international role.” They wrote that America’s role in the world should be that of a “benevolent global hegemony.”
Brilliant minds no doubt, but without an iota of common sense. Individuals act with benevolence, nations do not; particularly not empires.
No one seemed to consider this and the neocons had a dominating presence in the Bush II administration. Opportunity fell onto their laps just as the Twin Towers were falling that September morning in 2001. An outraged and shocked nation was a perfect precursor for the neocons that included Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz. These men and their neocon confederates saw opportunity in tragedy. They would shape George W.’s foreign policies over the objections of moderates in the administration like Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security advisor Condoleezza Rice.
For the neocons, 9/11 was like winning the lotto. Suddenly they were making decisions for the president; they determined how and where to use hard power to overhaul the Middle East. Their long-term objective was to turn the Persian Gulf into the French Riviera. The Middle East was to conform to neocon blueprints, even though there is no history there of democracy, which became intrinsic to Europe only after 400 years of resistance and wars.
The neocons never considered how the populace of more than 300 million people in the region would feel about Democracy given 1,000 years of religious tribalism and a lifetime of learning the preachings of the prophet. Too many are maniacal Muslims who spend a life of daily instruction from the Quran, the holy book that includes this verse: “Believers, make war on the infidels who dwell around you.”
It should be no surprise that America has not shown one iota of progress in the Middle East after 14 years. Life is full of second chances, and the neocons may have found theirs in a back alley deal with President Trump. But the Middle East has been America’s nightmare, and regardless of how much the neoconservatives want to see that change, I am convinced that far worse times are ahead.
Candidate Jekyll, President Hyde
Three thousand Americans died on 9/11, an attack born out of Osama bin Laden’s need to avenge the scandal of America’s military bases on Arab lands (Saudi Arabia) in 1990-91. Two thousand Americans have been killed in the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and nearly 4,000 Americans have died in Iraq. The cost of the two wars is just under $5 trillion, or one quarter of the current U.S. federal debt. That was all the debt the federal government had accumulated from 1789 to 1997.
President Donald Trump promised to make America great again. He spoke of an America at peace at home and abroad. He spoke of making America the economic dynamo that it had once been and an America in which foreign policy no longer stumbled along aimlessly. Trump campaigned on that and as recently as April 5 that was his message. On that day he told a group of American workers that he does not want to be “president of the world.”
I believe the powers that operate the United States, the oligarchy that directs America’s foreign policy, has reeled Trump in by showing him a future where he would be constantly besieged by a hostile media that would stir never-ending protests, their objective nothing short of his impeachment. The real power brokers have Trump just where they want him; desperate enough to give in to the neocons’ continued lunacy of more war, more weapons and more money for the petroleum industry and defense and technology corporations.
On April 10 the Website Consortiumnews.com ran the headline: Neocons Have Trump on His Knees.
The story read:
After slapping Donald Trump around for several months to make him surrender his hopes for a more cooperative relationship with Russia, the neocons and their liberal-interventionist allies are now telling the battered President what he must do next: escalate war in the Middle East and ratchet up tensions with nuclear-armed Russia.
Star neocon Robert Kagan spelled out Trump’s future assignments in a column on Sunday in The Washington Post, starting out by patting the chastened President on the head for his decision to launch 59 Tomahawk missiles at an airstrip in Syria supposedly in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack blamed on the Syrian government (although no serious investigation was even conducted).
Trump earned widespread plaudits for his decisive action and his heart-on-the-sleeve humanitarianism as his voice filled with emotion citing the chemical-weapons deaths on April 4 of “small children and even beautiful little babies.”
However, for Kagan, the missile strike was only a good start. An advocate for “regime change” in Syria and a co-founder of the Project for the New American Century which pushed for the Iraq War, Kagan praised Trump “for doing what the Obama administration refused to do,” i.e. involve the U.S. military directly in attacks on the Syrian government.
The endgame for the neocons is for the United States to reassert itself as the world’s sole superpower. The early evidence is Trump is morphing his foreign policy to replicate President George W. Bush. Trump’s bosses will insist on a continuation of détente with China and aggressive actions against Syria and its benefactor Russia.
Plans have been made to install a pro-American regime in Syria that will replace Bashar al-Assad, who has been bought and paid for by the Kremlin. The only glimmer of light in this black bank of clouds is that the neocons have made the Democrats look like fools over their conspiracy propaganda that Putin and Trump were in cahoots.
I knew Trump would be nothing like Obama. What I didn’t know is that he would adopt the failed neoconservative policies of George W. Bush.
Yours in good times and bad,
— John Myers