By Andrew Lepore | USA
January 20th marks one year since president Trump’s inauguration. When our 45th president was elected, Many (including me) had an optimistic in the realm of foreign policy. With the president’s past disapproval of the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, his warning of Obama to stay out of Syria, and his jabs at globalist institutions like NATO and UN, he left more reason to be hopeful than concerned. Especially with the alternative option being the War-Hawk Hillary Clinton (who Trump himself called “trigger happy”). Yet after 12-months of Trump Foreign policy, we have seen positives in some areas, and we have moved in a negative direction in many areas. Although Trump has achieved significant wins with a cut in UN spending and pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord; We have seen a serious ramp-up of militarism and aggression as well as escalating intervention and presence in various countries. In this article, I will cover some of my biggest problems with the Trump administration military policy from this year, as well as the consequences already emerging from it.
During the election, Trump and his rhetoric in the area of foreign policy pandered to those who were sick of globalism and nation-building overseas and wanted to see foreign intervention reduced. Many of these people were in no way philosophically libertarian-minded, they just wanted to stop seeing Precious lives and taxpayer dollars being wasted away in avoidable conflict after avoidable conflict. Trump took head-on opposition against Globalism, constantly railing against The UN, EU, NATO, the Iran deal, The TPP, NAFTA etc. etc. After winning the North Eastern primaries, Trump delivered a major foreign policy address, often quoted by populist conservative social media pages and viewers of InfoWars. Trump said, “We will no longer surrender this country or its people to the false song of globalism,” he promised. “I am skeptical of international unions that tie us up and bring America down”. Even previous to the election Trump seemed to hold this view. In March 2013 Trump tweeted about the war on Afghanistan “I agree with Pres. Obama on Afghanistan. We should have a speedy withdrawal. Why should we keep wasting our money — rebuild the U.S.!” Also in June 2013 Trump tweeted in opposition to possible Syrian intervention “We should stay the hell out of Syria, the “rebels” are just as bad as the current regime. WHAT WILL WE GET FOR OUR LIVES AND $ BILLIONS? ZERO”. With this kind of rhetoric, it’s easy to see why many supported him in this aspect, but his rhetoric and his policy in practice are not exactly in line.
After a year of Trump foreign policy, we have seen him keep various promises, as well as seen him diverge from earlier rhetoric or make flat-out contradictions. We have seen a downscale of taxpayer dollars going to other countries, and a reduction in the involvement with globalist institutions. Successes such as Pulling out of the Paris climate agreement, achieving a reduction in UN spending, and the halting of CIA funding of Syrian Rebels give credit to Trump’s Rhetoric as well as Non-interventionists hope. But we have also seen an expansion of Military involvement in various countries and a ramping up of aggressive and militaristic tactics, along with the already observable consequences of these tactics. One of these tactics being the self-described “Annihilation tactic”, meaning to drop so many bombs on a designated area that most or all enemies within the area have been displaced or annihilated. See past failures in the application of this tactic in the trenches of WW1 and the Jungles of Vietnam. An expected problem with the implementation of this tactic is a high number of civilians casualties, which allows for groups like ISIS to recruit in far higher numbers. He has expanded this “annihilation tactic” not only in the number of bombs dropped on average but with the list of countries and consistency with which we bomb them. In 2017 the Trump Administration exceeded the number of bombs dropped by the United States on the middle east in a single year by over 10%. Not only that, but we have expanded bombing and drone strike programs to several North and Central African nations. Another tactic the Trump Admin is taking advantage of is the rolling back of an Obama era constraint on drone warfare requiring “Near certainty” that no civilian bystanders would be killed in an attack. The consequences of rolling back this rule are already showing after just one year of Trump at the helm of the war on terror. The statistics show in the first 7 months of Trump’s war on ISIS have resulted in more civilian casualties from drone strikes than Obama’s full 3 years in this theatre. Airwars, a journalist led transparency project tweeted, “During @BarackObama’s 29 months at helm of ISIS war we tracked 855 alleged civilian casualty events which likely killed 2298-3398 civilians, “In @realDonaldTrump’s first 7 months as President, we tracked 1,196 alleged incidents in which we assess at least 2,819-4,529 civilians died,” it added. Trump has also been under fire for his flip-flops in regards to both Syria and Afghanistan. Trump emphasized on many occasions before his presidency (For example his quotes in the paragraph above) that he would not get involved in Syria, and declared a speedy withdrawal from Afghanistan “necessary”. Consider this trump tweet from March 2012, “Can you believe that the Afghan war is our “longest war” ever—bring our troops home, rebuild the U.S., make America great again.” Compared to his most recent Afghan policy initiative which called for more troops and more money to be sent overseas. Not to mention Trump’s airstrikes on an Assad regime airfield back in April 2017.
With 2017 having rapidly come to a close, and 2018 signifying new beginnings, Libertarian non-interventionists and anti-globalists alike have much to be optimistic about, as well as a lot to be pessimistic about. Overall, we have seen many steps in the right direction, away from globalism; But we have also seen many steps in the wrong direction, which is ramping up of government intervention overseas. What Libertarians can most realistically hope for in 2018 is more of the anti-globalist rhetoric which trump and his base love, and less of the Neo-Conservative warmongering hawkish behavior that trump and his base also love.