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Why Trump's Advisors Keep Quashing His Realist Whims

January 2, 2019 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

Over a period of mere days in late December, the Trump
administration made two troop withdrawal decisions that startled
Washington. The first was announced in a tweet by Trump stating
that the United States had accomplished its mission in Syria of
defeating ISIS and that he was ordering the immediate withdrawal of
U.S. troops from that country. Just days later, leaks from both the
White House and the Pentagon indicated that a substantial draw-down
of forces from Afghanistan was imminent. Some reports suggested
that 7,000—roughly half of the current deployed U.S.
force—would be removed.

The reactions were predictable. Advocates of a more realistic and
restrained
American foreign policy praised the moves as a key
step in jettisoning two frustrating and counterproductive missions.
A larger faction, consisting of neoconservative hawks along with liberal
proponents of humanitarian military crusades, condemned Trump’s actions. They often did so in
emotional and vitriolic terms about undermining crucial American interests in both
countries. A frequent assertion was that the president’s Syria
withdrawal would hand over that country and much of the Middle
East to Vladimir Putin. Matt Purple, managing editor at the
American Conservative, observed correctly that the Washington
foreign policy establishment was in full meltdown over the troop withdrawal. Indeed,
Secretary of Defense James Mattis mentioned the president’s
decisions as one reason for his abrupt resignation.

Donald Trump has time and
again allowed his advisers to talk him out of his realist
foreign-policy positions.

The latest lurch in Trump’s foreign policy views and actions
reflects an all-too-familiar inconsistency and volatility. During
the 2016 presidential campaign, he condemned the missions in both
Syria and Afghanistan (as well as those in Iraq and
Libya) as impractical ventures that had wasted American treasure
and lives. But once in office, Trump’s actual policies regarding
those countries did not change in any significant way. In August
2017, he explicitly embraced and even escalated the Afghan mission. He not only kept
U.S. troops in Syria, but he twice launched missile strikes against
Bashar al-Assad’s regime for its alleged use of chemical weapons.
Just a few months ago, he warned Assad against attacking the last major
rebel stronghold in Idlib province or risk U.S. military
retaliation.

Similar erratic moves took place with regard to other foreign
policy arenas. Trump began his administration with an
uncompromising, highly confrontational policy toward North Korea.
He then reversed course and held a cordial summit meeting with
North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. During the election campaign,
Trump repeatedly described the North Atlantic Treaty …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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