One of the reasons Donald Trump appealed to many American voters during the 2016 election is that much of what he promised on the campaign trail directly contradicted Hillary Clinton’s record, particularly in terms of foreign policy. For example, before the election, he explicitly stated that he believed the world would have been better off had the U.S. not toppled Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Muammar Gaddafi in Libya (he previously did advocate for removing Gaddafi and Hussein but apparently hoped his support-base wouldn’t notice).
As aptly explained by Anti-Media’s JP Sottile:
“Trump never had a ‘policy’ of anti-interventionism. He was simply a troll who tweeted out oppositional statements attacking Obama’s foreign policy. If Obama was doing it … he was against it. He knew that no matter what, it was red meat for his future base. Then he grandstanded on Iraq to torpedo Jeb Bush. And he attacked Hillary’s militarism … because it was expedient. Go back and listen to him speaking at those rallies. The real Donald Trump is the guy who wants to ‘bomb the shit’ out of ’em and take their oil and kill their families. The real Trump is the guy who proclaimed in his bizarre inauguration speech that ‘Radical Islamic Terrorism’ was something he wanted to ‘eradicate completely from the face of the Earth.’”
The sad truth is that after barely seven months in office, Donald Trump is “the most hawkish president in modern history,” as the Council on Foreign Relation’s Micah Zenko put it. By the end of July, Trump had already dropped almost as many bombs in his first six months in office as Barack Obama did in the whole of 2016. As of July 31, Trump had dropped 20,650 bombs in 2017 compared to Obama’s 26,171 for all of last year.
One should also note that the rate of bombs dropped by Obama in 2016 was higher than in 2015, and Trump is set on a path to potentially double that murderous rate. This trend in violence can be explained through Trump’s decision to empower his military generals to call in airstrikes directly from the battlefield without any oversight, a move that has culminated in widespread civilian suffering.
Since July, the bombs have still been dropped at unprecedented rates throughout the Middle East. The end result, as the Intercept reports, is that entire families are being wiped out by American-taxpayer funded missiles.
All that being said, Trump’s willingness to overuse the American military extends far beyond that of deadly air strikes. As Zenko explains:
“Trump has also escalated U.S. military involvement in non-battlefield settings — namely Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan. In the last 193 days of the Obama presidency, there were 21 lethal counterterrorism operations across these three countries. Trump has quintupled that number, conducting at least 92 such operations in Yemen, seven in Somalia, and four in Pakistan.” [emphasis added]
Essentially, Obama inherited two hot wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and significantly expanded operations in at least five other countries (six, if you include the Philippines). Similarly, Trump has inherited all of these wars from Obama, has radically amplified them with no real end in sight, and is willing to further expand the scope of hot wars to Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela. His administration is also considering wider involvement in the Philippines.
Those thinking ‘So what? Trump’s making America great again!’ need to consider how long this strategy can be implemented and what the consequences are. The U.N. is already issuing stark warnings about U.S. activity in Syria, even directly suggesting that the U.S. is breaching international legal standards. Those standards are there for a reason; the U.S. considers breaches of international humanitarian law to be very serious crimes when committed by other regimes.
Although the U.S. can continue to escape criminal liability because of its superpower status, it is still unclear how these wars will come to an end given they amount to a relentlessly violent overall strategy in a host of countries that pose no threat to the United States. Weak and unstable states like Somalia and Iraq cannot directly threaten the U.S. mainland, but if the U.S. continues to exacerbate a strategy that is documented to create countless supplies of terrorists in the process, then eventually, the U.S. will be looking at some very serious retaliation. Not only will the wars likely not come to an end anytime soon, the wars will be – in more ways than one – only just getting started.
Over a decade and a half after 9/11, Americans should question a foreign policy that continues to punish civilian populations in countries that played no active role in those terror attacks. The countries that did play an active role in attacking American civilians, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, are some of America’s closest allies.
As Donald Trump ramps up the never-ending quagmire that is Afghanistan and sword-dances his way through the Middle East while making billion-dollar arms deals with the very country he once accused of committing 9/11, the American people need to understand that they have been hoodwinked by one of the best con men on the planet.
Trump is not an anti-interventionist — and he never was. He is also not going to save you from “radical Islamic terrorism” considering he is continuing and perpetuating the very policies that create this line of terrorism in the first place.
Trump is not making America “great again,” nor is he any different than Bush, Clinton, and Obama. In more ways than one, Trump is arguably worse — and certainly far more hawkish.