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Why Trump Doesn't Always Get It Wrong on the Middle East
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Must one talk of Donald Trump? One must and not just because of the power of his position as US president, but because the nature of his foreign policy is misunderstood.

I was answering questions about the future of the Middle East at a meeting of Independent subscribers on Tuesday evening when there was a predictable question about the impact of Trump on the region.

I had the impression, perhaps unfairly, that the person who made this very reasonable and important query was expecting a reply that would be a blend of denunciation and derision.

This is usually the automatic reaction to all Trump foreign policy initiatives by the media across the world as soon as they read his latest tweet. It does not matter if the subject is Canada or Afghanistan, the reaction is one of instant condemnation and often this response is more than justified – but not always.

The exceptions are important but Trump does not get credit for them because of the knee-jerk hostility which rules out any possibility that Trump may be right and his vast array of critics wrong.

North Korea, Russia and Syria are good examples of the positive side of Trump foreign policy, however unorthodox its expression.

He may not have got as far as he wanted through talks with Kim Jong-un, but war in the Korean peninsula is certainly less likely than it was in pre-Trump times. Any contact between Trump and Vladimir Putin is portrayed by most news outlets as a hideous act of betrayal of the west. But Russia has a nuclear arsenal capable of blowing up the world several times over, so it is surely unwise to refuse to talk to, and treat as a pariah, the Russian leader who could press the nuclear button?

Trump’s sudden decision in December to pull US troops out of Syria was condemned by everybody from the most liberal Democrats to the most belligerent Republicans. They all jumped on to their moral high horses, but none proffered an alternative policy and happily pretended that the status quo was sustainable – though it is not.

The US is a bit player in Syria where the Kurdish-led forces it backs have largely defeated Isis. “Oh no they haven’t,” shouts the Washington foreign policy establishment, but Isis used to rule eight million people in a powerful state stretching from the outskirts of Baghdad to the Mediterranean. It now controls only part of a single small town, Hajin, in the depths of eastern Syria. The jihadis are never going to run up the white flag, but if this is not defeat it is something very close to it.

ORDER IT NOW

Other US objectives in Syria, such as curtailing Iranian influence and weakening Bashar al-Assad, are not attainable and are simply an excuse for continuing a war of extraordinary ferocity and destructiveness. The Washington establishment, which is itself a child of the Cold War against the Soviet Union, seems quite happy to contemplate this and denounces Trump for breaking the logjam.

What is needed is for the US, as it withdraws, to keep Turkey from launching an onslaught against the Syrian Kurds, and this can only be done – if it is to be done at all – by allowing the Kurds to do a deal with Damascus and for Syrian troops to return to the Syrian-Turkish border.

It may not turn out that way, but Trump’s approach is more realistic than those who dismiss it as dangerous idiocy. For all his verbal belligerency, Trump is a genuine isolationist who has yet to start a war anywhere. It is an achievement not to be underrated.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
 
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  1. With a 21 trillion debt, tbe USA simply cannot afford to keep meddling in the Middle East, no matter how profitable it is for think-tank staff, including a bunch of immigrants who adopted this country as their own, but make careers advocating for an endless cash transfer from the broke USA to their former homelands. Americans are just hated-on for meddling, anyway, as underemployed US citizens struggle, and our elites insist on pouring more money, more lives and more limbs of youthful troops into the war-ravaged ME. They’ll regret the profligate spending on war when the American economy collapses. While they might mock The Donald’s foreign policy, feeling superior via the junior high method of taunting, Trump’s intellectually vain successors will be confronted by that same insurmountable financial obstacle. Trump is right to support Israel, like most Americans, without taking a neocon stance, although he has not really pulled out of Syria, no more than he has built the wall promised to Deplorables. A wall could be financed with a peace dividend, with plenty left over to pay down the national debt so that SS won’t go broke for generations that have paid into it at 7.5–15.3% of every penny earned over a lifetime.

    • Replies: @Antipropo
  2. anon1 says:

    The more the USA distances itself from the middle east, and above all, Israel, the better.

  3. Well I went in sceptical but you made the point.

  4. As shown in this article, a recent Senate bill shows clearly how Washington has a two-faced approach when it comes to dealing with Russia and Syria:

    https://viableopposition.blogspot.com/2019/01/the-united-states-senate-saving-syria.html

    Congress, with or without Donald Trump’s influence, has proven that it simply doesn’t care about the geopolitical repercussions of its actions.

  5. “Trump’s sudden decision in December to pull US troops out of Syria was condemned by everybody from the most liberal Democrats to the most belligerent Republicans.”

    Two years into this sham “presidency” it’s quite clear that you cannot take anything that orange clown says or does at face value. AFAIK the troops are still in Syria, and there are reports that the U.S. bases there are being “reinforced”:

    http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13971103000563

    “It may not turn out that way, but Trump’s approach is more realistic than those who dismiss it as dangerous idiocy. For all his verbal belligerency, Trump is a genuine isolationist who has yet to start a war anywhere. It is an achievement not to be underrated.”

    Realistic? Seriously? The only reason orange clown has not yet started a (new) war is because of the restraint of the other parties involved, not because orange clown hasn’t been trying. The credit for no new wars (yet) goes to Vladimir Putin et al., not to the devil-worshiping-demon-possessed-nuclear-armed-PNAC-Zionist-warmongering-nuclear-armed-suicide-bomber holed up in the white house (i.e. orange clown). Clearly, the evil clown has been escalating the pre-existing conflicts, but that doesn’t count for some reason?

    And what about orange clown’s pulling out of the INF treaty and his stated intent to militarize space? None of this matters? And what’s team orange clown doing in Venezuela, playing tiddlywinks?

    Orange clown has accelerated his predecessors’ drive to WW3 and cockburn calls him an “isolationist”? This is perhaps the most absurd article I’ve ever seen here. Is the author trying to be funny, or is he out of his “mind”?

    • Replies: @george Archers
  6. Cratylus says:

    The article is right on the money. And the best evidence is comment #5 by Harold Smith above.
    He has nothing of substance to say in response to the excellent points Cockburn raises.
    The best he can do is hurl insults at Trump like the original and oh-so-clever sobriquet, “Orange Clown.” My sides are aching from laughter at that one – I have not heard it before.
    Trump Derangement Syndrome on steroids.

    • Replies: @Harold Smith
  7. Biff says:

    Trump is a genuine isolationist who has yet to start a war anywhere.

    That has no merit among the whinny ass liberal Obama lovers who still think the brown pencil neck was the best thing that ever happened to planet earth.

    • Replies: @Harold Smith
  8. @Cratylus

    Yo shit for brains, ask the Venezuelans if your deranged king orange clown is an “isolationist.”

  9. @Biff

    The thing is, your king-of-the-jews, orange clown, makes “the brown pencil neck” Obama look like a paragon of virtue and reason. BTW if Juan Guaido is the actual president of Venezuela, then Hillary Clinton is the actual president of the U.S.; your king-of-the-jews orange clown having demonstrated his illegitimacy in front of the whole world.

    • Replies: @aadfa
    , @Biff
  10. One very big point – not all “liberals” want war in the Mid East – only those “liberals” who are Zionists (or who are on their payroll) want us fighting in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and eventually Iran. These “liberals” are the Schumers, Pelosis, Clintons, and their protoges. There is a whole new bunch taking over the “liberal” Democratic Party and to them, the benefit of Israel is not worthy of a minute’s worry. So, the Zionists need to join the GOP right now!

  11. Anon[774] • Disclaimer says:

    Hmm, the US-backed Kurds beat back ISIS?

    Whatever happened to the Russian-backed and Iranian-backed Syrian Army?

    Trump has a lot of presidential authority, he seems skittish of using it. Pulling the troops is an area where he can act independently. Needs to make a YouTube video to explain it…after it is well begun.

    Trump might consider Lincoln as a model. If a General just wanted to stay in camp and would not fight the Army, that General got replaced. Next!

    Areas where he is constrained? Well, he can certainly put troops on the border, and continue pounding the Democrats over not approving the wall. Again, leap over the top of the New York Times and WaPo, talk to the people on YouTube. Ask them to call Reps and Sens. We’ll see a little movement then.

    Sadly, though, he may not get the picture. Y’know, I’ve removed my Trump bumper sticker.

    • Replies: @Harold Smith
  12. Candidate trump promised to carpet bomb ISIS cities. This, he has done. The 3000 marines he inserted into Syria included two batteries of 155mm artillery. They launched 80ooo guided shells into Syria as of Nov 2018. Let’s assume 100ooo by now. 400 such shells turns any US state medieval. Then, there is the air, naval attacks. Who needs a “new war”? Fact is, all the easy picking “new wars” are no longer available, unless John Kelly works his dark magic in Venezuela. The reason trump could not attack North Korea has nothing to do with whatever “policy” you fantasize. It is because the North built nukes, and a delivery system to hit Tokyo, that’s why. Get along with Russia? What a joke, in his first 2 years Obama met with Putin and inked the new Start treaty. Does spanky have any policy improvements towards Russia? I don’t see any. Looks like the author just enrolled in trumpU.

  13. @Anon

    “Trump has a lot of presidential authority, he seems skittish of using it.”

    Well he doesn’t seem to have a problem with bold assertions of presidential power when the object is to do “deep state” dirty work (evil).

    And what may be even more disturbing (than the capricious, imperial acts of the homicidal orange clown, per se), is the fact that he can do something as outrageous as withdrawing from the INF treaty, for example, with all of the potentially horrific consequences, apparently without even a hint of meaningful political opposition.

    Having the orange clown in the white house is like having an unsupervised, emotionally disturbed child playing with matches, in a house full of highly flammable material.

  14. @Harold Smith

    Donald Trump pretends to be sincere . Trying to please his supporters but in fact is a habitual liar
    A Conman! Sad part no one has commented–how many of his appointed staff members have been fired or made to resign. just count them? Look who has he picked now Bolton Pompass.
    However he pretends as been fair minded— he is a very dangerous president. Lucky, he does not get democrat congress support. WW3 with this nut case.

    • Replies: @Harold Smith
  15. Anon[294] • Disclaimer says:

    The US of A support the destruction of Syria, back and send weapons to violent groups such as Jihadists and mercenaries from foreign countries:

    Kucinich and Gabbard:

  16. aadfa says:
    @Harold Smith

    F off, old man. I am tired of your constant bitching about Trump. You remind me of the old, feckless man who yells at the clouds because it’s raining. Find something else to do, like bingo, trips with the grand kids—anything, just go away.

    • Replies: @Harold Smith
    , @Antipropo
  17. Biff says:
    @Harold Smith

    The thing is, your king-of-the-jews, orange clown, makes “the brown pencil neck” Obama look like a paragon of virtue and reason. BTW if Juan Guaido is the actual president of Venezuela, then Hillary Clinton is the actual president of the U.S.; your king-of-the-jews orange clown having demonstrated his illegitimacy in front of the whole world.

    The way the tribal human brain is wired it becomes very obvious that people need authority figures in their lives, and when the wrong authority firgure is chosen(fucking democracy!) anxiety sets in – fits of rage, and virtue signaling becomes normal behavior. This is you.

  18. @george Archers

    “However he pretends as been fair minded— he is a very dangerous president. Lucky, he does not get democrat congress support. WW3 with this nut case”

    You’re one of the few people who seem to recognize the danger that Trump poses to all life on this planet. I’m amazed at how many otherwise reasonable people simply cannot see him for what he is. I would call it a “supernatural blindness.” They refuse to even consider the possibility that his whole campaign was a calculated bait and switch fraud; clinging instead to the ever more outrageous view that he’s really a good person being coerced into doing bad things. He’s a real life “Greg Stillson” IMO.

  19. Tsigantes says:

    Bravo Mr Cockburn. This is the Trump the ROW sees and appreciates, being immune from the noise and psychodramas in the US.

  20. @aadfa

    Thanks for the great endorsement, junior.

  21. I would not call Trump a “true isolationist”, a “realist” is more in line with his thinking and that’s if you try and tag him with an ideology which I don’t think really works well with Trump anyway.

    The “realist” school of foreign policy is more in line with Republicans before the neo-con influence came into play. They were as far from isolationist as they are from neo-cons. They still want to run the world, they just choose to do so via “gunboat diplomacy”, trade wars/trading alliances, soft power, etc. etc. etc.. They pushed Mercantilism, protectionism, etc. That is not “isolationism” nor is it non-interventionism. It is however a far better position than either the liberal R2P or the neo-con fantasy of spreading democracy (same thing really).

    For instance the realists would trade with a nation if possible and entangle the two government that way, if not possible, then they would resort to gunboat diplomacy. If that didn’t work they would resort to other means, but they would in fact do everything they could short of military invasion to force nations into our realm of influence. They were not disengaging us from the international scene at all.

    The big difference is simply that of regime change via actual military action and forcing nations to do business with our corporations via other means. A realist seems to think of military force as an option only when attacked vs the military option first with a policy crafted around getting to the point where the military can be used without it looking too much like flat out war crimes.

    Trump is neither an isolationist nor a neo-con, he’s not a lefty R2P either. He’s closest to a “realist” and even that label only loosely defines him but it is more accurate than isolationist.

  22. Antipropo says:

    Great respect for your knowledge and experience in that part of the world, however it’s a little disappointing that you echo the claim that the Kurds have largely defeated Isis as if the SAA, Hezbollah, Iran and Russia didn’t fight and die defeating Isis and the nightmare stew of other terrorists. Completely agree that the best way to protect the Kurds is for their leaders to reconcile with Damascus, give up the hopeless dream of an independent state and for SAA troops to replace the (illegal) Turkish forces there.

  23. Antipropo says:
    @Endgame Napoleon

    You lose me when you state that Trump is right to support Israel. The article is about Syria-you know the country Israel now openly boasts of conducting “thousands of near daily attacks on”. That’s an open admission to daily committing the supreme war crime: the crime of aggressive war.

  24. Antipropo says:
    @aadfa

    Just use the oh so handy comments to ignore facility mate, I did after reading his first childishly puerile offering. Possibly it’s a child using daddy’s log on or a mental patient off his meds. Whatever fools like that are just a (deliberate?) distraction.

    • Replies: @Harold Smith
  25. @Antipropo

    LOL! So how many pseudonyms are you going to use, chump? You’ve made your “point,” now why don’t you just go back to your gay porn sites; this way you can avoid reading anything here that might offend your gentle ass-clown sensibilities.

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