Trump Defies Neocons, Stands Up for Base on Iran

Blake | United States

Trump started his campaign with outright condemnation of America’s endless war epidemic. This message fit well into the “America First” platform. It resonated with many Americans that have grown tired of unfulfilled foreign policy promises. He seemed like the way out of the Bush-Clinton neocon dynasty. Trump reaffirmed this stance in February saying he inherited endless wars “of unlimited spending and death. During my campaign, I said, very strongly, that these wars must finally end.”

Disappointingly, though, Trump seems to swim in the swamp rather than drain it post-election. He publicly maintains his opposition to foreign entanglements. But it still looks like outside influences are speaking into his ear. Trump fired missiles into Syria, threatened military action against Venezuela, and sent 1,000 troops into the Middle East. This flies directly in the face of the America First ideal. Even after setting the record for staff and cabinet turnover, Trump is still surrounded by voices antithetical to the message he sold to his base.

Neocons Take Over

Cockroach neocons inevitably managed to sneak into the Administration with minimal protest. John Bolton is one such figure, known for his diehard megaphoning of the neoconservative cause. He also strongly defends the invasion of Iraq. In addition, there’s Mike Pompeo. He’s a Koch brother puppet who asked Trump for authority to launch drone strikes into Afghanistan without going through the Pentagon. This meant the strikes could remain a secret. Finally, we have Gina Haspel, the controversial CIA director. She oversaw the beating, torture, and waterboarding of CIA prisoners at a secret black site in Thailand. After that, she then proceeded to destroy 92 torture tapes from the sites.

Company aside, Trump has firmly sided with Israel. Israel routinely feeds the U.S. intelligence in hopes of provoking U.S. backed war. On May 5th, intelligence that Israel gave to John Bolton prompted him to threaten Iran with “unrelenting force”. Shortly before after Iranian attacks on oil tankers, Israel said that anything weaker than military force wouldn’t be a strong enough action against Iran.

Defying Bolton

Recently there has been an inflection point for Trump and it shouldn’t just excite his base; any American that thinks killing innocent people is wrong should be thrilled. Trump appears to have broken off from the advice of the neocon ruling class. He’s moving back towards the America First doctrine he originally promised.

According to a NYT report, National Security Advisor John Bolton has grown frustrated at Trump because he is “unwilling to push for more transformative changes in the Middle East.” Trump, privately said that “if it was up to John, we’d be in four wars now.” Bolton is now stunted by a president publicly clarifying “We’re not looking for regime change. I just want to make that clear”. Bolton’s influence on Trump is waning and the President is increasingly dismissive of war hawk rhetoric. Trump was once in favor of intervention in Venezuela. But he has grown disinterested and ranted to his staff that Bolton “got played” by Venezuelan officials. The most recent display of Trump’s trend of libertarian foreign policy is his reluctance to attack Iran.

Trump and Iran

Tensions with Iran have been rising with Trump clearly debating what to do, refusing to give any definitive answers on his plans. Iran has attacked 6 oil tankers of U.S. allies in the Strait of Hormuz. They also attacked a U.S. drone over international waters. Bolton, Israel, and others aiming for war have publicly called on Trump to use military force. Sean Hannity, the shadow chief of staff, said that “if you shoot an American missile or a drone out of the air and you attack tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, you’re going to get the living crap bombed out of you.” Trump was not as eager to throw away human lives, telling reporters: “We had nobody in the drone. It would have made a big difference, let me tell you. It would have made a big, big difference.”

Trump ultimately called strikes against Iran off at the last minute. He cited the expected loss of human life and a weak basis for the strikes.

A Different Foreign Policy

Previously, our Presidents have conducted themselves disconnected from the priorities of the rank and file American, seeking to gamble human life and liberty abroad. They aimed to glean power and glory in what they viewed as an inconsequential board game of international diplomacy. Most non-politicians understand that it’s wrong to treat people as mere geopolitical casualties if there isn’t a pressing threat to Americans. We rarely see this basic human intuition in D.C., though. Trump’s ability to understand this is a good signal for the future of Trump’s foreign policy.

Trump is standing by the principles that put him in office. He understands these ideas deeply enough to block out the hawkish propaganda that pollutes Washington.


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