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What Will U.S. Foreign Policy Look Like Post-Trump?

What Will U.S. Foreign Policy Look Like Post-Trump?

Why leave autocratic regimes the hell alone? The U.S. never has.  Here is an argument for why we should consider changing our policy of regime change.

The joy of liberal democracy

In these past few weeks, we have seen the end to a regime in Washington that many in the U.S. see as one of the worst presidencies in our history.  We as a country had the joyful experience of voting him out of office, and see a relatively peaceful transfer of power. In these days, more than ever before, my heart aches for citizens of countries with no ability to have free elections, and no ability to get rid of their leaders when they are corrupt and do not represent the majority consensus.  In fact, the past few weeks illustrate vividly why well-meaning politicians and leaders in the so-called free world would want to share our version of political organization with other people who struggle under the weight of oppressive regimes.  But is this really the right idea?

Failure to thrive

In the cases of both Iraq and Libya, where Saddam Hussein and Qaddafi were targeted and murdered by U.S. forces, there was unprecedented devastation in their countries prior to their overthrow.  Additionally, we can look at the case of Syria, where our misguided support for the resistance to Assad, including at times funding Al Qaeda and other violent groups under the pretext of resisting so called-autocratic regimes, devastated a region that has never known war the way they have in the last 20 years. In all three of these cases, irreparable damage has been done to peaceful societies.

These leaders were criticized for things which seem petty and inconsequential in the face of the damage done to their countries by U.S. intervention.  Specifically, in the case of Iraq, we criticized Saddam Hussein for his weapons of mass destruction, and his human rights abuses.  In invading the country to stop his alleged crimes, the U.S. caused the deaths of numbers as high as half a million people — or higher — due to war and the collapse of the country’s infrastructure as a result of the war.  Additionally, horrific evidence exists that the U.S. is guilty of using chemical weapons against Iraqi civilians, including napalm and white phosphorous. All this to “defend” the people of Iraq and the world from an autocratic regime.

The failure of the promotion of liberal democracy reads like a litany of death and destruction in the Middle East, Central and South America, and Asia.  It is the legacy of U.S. foreign policy for decades.

The failure of the promotion of liberal democracy reads like a litany of death and destruction in the Middle East, Central and South America, and Asia.  It is the legacy of U.S. foreign policy for decades.

The problem of outdated political categories

It is overdue for the political minds in Washington to seriously consider re-evaluating the political categories used to frame and focus U.S. foreign policy.  The conflict of capitalism and communism, for example, was originally framed as a conflict between a free economy based on competition and an economy where there was control by the state to forcefully provide for the masses. However, the free economy of competition has been undermined by the large-scale corporate monopolies which have destroyed small business and the middle class, as evidenced by recent and severely overdue anti-trust litigation against Facebook and other dot.com giants.

Additionally, socialism and democracy freely coexist in Europe, and further make meaningless the traditional 20th-century dialectic that used to be posed between communism and capitalism.  The breakdown of communism itself has been perpetuated by the imperialism of the U.S., often in effect establishing dictators who support our monopoly of their resources and undermine popular movements to throw off the colonial yoke, as in Nicaragua. The concentration of wealth in the hands of the few. So where does this leave us in the post-Trump era?

Turkey and Saudi Arabia

Erdogan and the Saudi Royal Family are known for their autocratic regimes.  In fact, Kamala Harris has a history of criticism of these types of governments.  Trump was widely criticized for creating alliances with both governments, and supporting human rights abuses as a result.  However, thinking in terms of dictatorships and extending the arm of liberal democracy to share our way of life has proved to be a total lie and a front for the ruthless destruction of relatively peaceful thriving societies. 

One of the reasons that many people supported Trump — and I admit I myself appreciated this about him — was that Trump’s foreign policy of letting other countries solve and manage their own affairs actually in effect calmed down many hot spots of war and conflict.  South Korea and North Korea made strides in their relationship. 

Trump let go of many traditional assumptions about the role of the U.S. in foreign affairs, and there were direct benefits to real people. This is uncomfortable for some people to acknowledge given the tremendous damage he did here in the U.S., but there are facts to support it.

The war in Syria is effectively over as far as its status as a proxy war for Russia and the U.S. The Obama/Biden administration was at the helm of this country when the threat of ISIS emerged and the Syrian civil war started, largely because of the Arab Spring.  Whether or not you want to lay responsibility for this on their shoulders, it is not an accident that they created a war that Trump ended.  Trump let go of many traditional assumptions about the role of the U.S. in foreign affairs, and there were direct benefits to real people. This is uncomfortable for some people to acknowledge given the tremendous damage he did here in the U.S., but there are facts to support it.

Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater

The fact that the U.S. is on relatively good terms with Saudi Arabia and Turkey is not a bad thing. Both countries enjoy a relatively high degree of peace and prosperity.  It would behoove the U.S. to leave them alone.  With our reputation in shreds internationally more so than ever before, it would be a huge mistake in judgment to return to failed foreign policies based on outdated categories and destroy what alliances we have.  There is a way to maintain democratic ties with these countries, so let’s do that. It is imperative that we re-evaluate U.S. foreign policy going forward so that we do not return to the insanity of the last decades, haphazardly spouting outdated, obsolete, and useless platitudes about human rights and democracy.

Peace and prosperity: the role of the U.S. military going forward

This is not a defense of the Saudi war in Yemen.  This is not a defense of Erdogan’s persecution of the Kurds.  What we need to do is define our goals and how to get there in ways that will rebuild our country, and the world.  One of the critical pieces in how this must happen involves the military.

See Also

Perhaps the first thing that need to be said is that the wars of the last 20 years did not arise purely out of responses to prevent violence.  There is good evidence that the major defense contractors came together in a think tank in the 90’s to figure out U.S. policy going forward.  Cheney, Wolfowitz, Bolton, and others formed the “Project for the New American Century” (PANC) and came up with a deliberate plan to create endless war based on pre-emptive unilateral action to extend U.S. power around the world, particularly in the Persian Gulf and Middle East.  What needs to happen is we need to theorize about what our plan is for U.S. foreign policy now, past the PAN- era, post-Trump.

What if the military was used as a force for peace?  Now, granted there are many people who will think this is an insane idea, but absent a clear policy for the military, we risk returning to endless war.  What if the military in the U.S. became a force for militarized peace? 

Peace and prosperity would depend on changing the policy of unilateral action to one where the U.S. military followed multilateral agendas generated by world governing bodies such as the United Nations.  There is no doubt that there is still a need for weapons; people are not angels.  Unfortunately, without a military people run the risk of being overrun by military powers stronger than they are.  What if we change the military plan to be one that uses our military power to support peace, through multilateral action led by the UN?

While this may be a dream that is farfetched, perhaps it is possible.  Granted, this would allow Kamala Harris to follow through on her promises to end the war in Yemen by ending arms sales to the Saudis.  It wouldn’t mean just signing off on the status quo.  And that would be a good thing.  But it would also mean taking a role of collaboration with other world powers.  This would allow the world to come together and protect peace as it exists now while addressing the humanitarian crises that need urgent international attention.

Starting a new war or two may not sound like it is at the top of the Biden/Harris agenda, but it would be the final blow to the U.S. as an international leader or contributor.  It would also prove us to be the axis of evil ourselves.  We must ask ourselves, as Iran is, who are the terrorists now?  Let’s make sure, United States, it’s not US.

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Image courtesy of Common Dreams
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