Thursday, March 30, 2017


The New York Times reports:
U.S. War Footprint Grows in Middle East, With No Endgame in Sight

The United States launched more airstrikes in Yemen this month than during all of last year. In Syria, it has airlifted local forces to front-line positions and has been accused of killing civilians in airstrikes. In Iraq, American troops and aircraft are central in supporting an urban offensive in Mosul, where airstrikes killed scores of people on March 17.

Two months after the inauguration of President Trump, indications are mounting that the United States military is deepening its involvement in a string of complex wars in the Middle East that lack clear endgames....

Mr. Trump’s tough statements before coming into office, and the rise in civilian deaths in recent American strikes, have raised questions about whether the new president has removed constraints from the Pentagon on how it wages war.

... since Mr. Trump’s inauguration, the United States has stepped up its long-running drone campaign against the Yemeni branch of Al Qaeda, believed to be the organization’s most dangerous.
We're told that the increased involvement represents a carrying out of policy changes that began at the end of the Obama administration (though apparently no one in the Trump administration has attempted to reverse those changes). And everyone involved now swears that the rules of engagement haven't been changed.

Yet here we are. Also:
... since Mr. Trump took office, his administration has advanced some arms deals for coalition countries, while approving the resumption of sales of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia, according to an American official familiar with Yemen policy.

Mr. Trump’s more muscular approach has been hailed by Gulf leaders, who felt betrayed by Mr. Obama’s outreach to Iran and who hope that they now have an ally in the White House to help them push back against their regional foe.
And then there's this:
Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson has decided to lift all human rights conditions on a major sale of F-16 fighter jets and other arms to Bahrain in an effort to end a rift between the United States and a critical Middle East ally, according to administration and congressional officials involved in the debate.

Mr. Tillerson’s decision comes as the Trump administration looks to bolster Sunni Arab states in the Middle East and find new ways to confront Iran in the Persian Gulf.
Now let's go back to 2016 and recall the many times we were told that Donald Trump was to Hillary Clinton's left on foreign policy.

Here's GOP operative and frequent MSNBC guest Steve Schmidt, speaking to Chris Matthews in May:
One thing we know as we get ready for a general election contest is that Donald Trump will be running to the left as we understand it against Hillary Clinton on national security issues. And the candidate in the race most like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney from a foreign policy perspective is in fact Hillary Clinton, not the Republican nominee.
Here's Maureen Dowd, in a May column:
On some foreign policy issues, the roles are reversed for the candidates and their parties. It’s Hillary the Hawk against Donald the Quasi-Dove....

[Trump] can sound belligerent, of course, saying that he would bomb the expletive-deleted out of ISIS and that he would think up new and imaginative ways to torture terrorists and kill their families.

But he says that in most cases he would rather do the art of the deal than shock and awe.
Here's Dowd's Times colleague Mark Landler, writing in April, when Ted Cruz still seemed to have a chance at the Republican nomination:
Neither Trump nor Cruz favors major new deployments of American soldiers to Iraq and Syria (nor, for that matter, does Clinton). If anything, both are more skeptical than Clinton about intervention and more circumspect than she about maintaining the nation’s post-World War II military commitments. Trump loudly proclaims his opposition to the Iraq War. He wants the United States to spend less to underwrite NATO and has talked about withdrawing the American security umbrella from Asia, even if that means Japan and South Korea would acquire nuclear weapons to defend themselves.... Thus might the gen­eral election present voters with an unfamiliar choice: a Democratic hawk versus a Republican reluctant warrior.
Here's The Washington Post last March:
Donald Trump outlined an unabashedly noninterventionist approach to world affairs Monday, telling The Washington Post's editorial board that he questions the need for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which has formed the backbone of Western security policies since the Cold War....

Speaking ahead of a major address on foreign policy later Monday in front of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Trump said he advocates a light footprint in the world. In spite of unrest abroad, especially in the Middle East, Trump said the United States must look inward and steer its resources toward rebuilding domestic infrastructure.
Here are Judy Miller and Doug Schoen, writing for Fox News in June:
Unlike Mrs. Clinton, [Trump] has opposed arming Syrian rebels. In his isolationism and reluctance to use force to secure American goals, Mr. Trump resembles Democratic presidential aspirant Senator Bernie Sanders more than he does Hillary Clinton.
The Nation's William Greider wrote a piece in March titled " Donald Trump Could Be the Military-Industrial Complex’s Worst Nightmare." A July column by The Guardian's Simon Jenkins was titled "At Least President Trump Would Ground the Drones."

Most of these geniuses would say that they were merely taking Trump's own words literally. But they were shrugging off all the talk about taking Iraq's oil and bombing the shit out of ISIS. Also, when they heard Trump say that he "wants the United States to spend less to underwrite NATO" and when he "talked about withdrawing the American security umbrella from Asia," they didn't recognize that those were pro-Putin positions, not dovish positions.

All this was boiled down to a message a disturbing number of voters believed:

That message didn't just come from Putin's useful idiots on the left. It came from the mainstream media. Thanks a lot, folks.

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