Monday, April 10, 2017


No matter how many disasters arise, no matter how many miscalculations and frustrations repeat themselves, US foreign policy is fiercely resistant to change.

No two presidents could be more different than Donald Trump and Barrack Obama. One is a would-be dictator with a racist and vulgar misogynist mentality. The other is a humanist intellectual, a liberal (some would say “neoliberal” because of his commitment to the “free enterprise” capitalist foundations of our economic system). 

Both came to the White House pledging to change a failed foreign policy and to withdraw from US entanglement in endless “dumb” and losing wars. Their objectives and methods differ as profoundly as their respective characters, and Trump’s presidency is creating the greatest crisis for American democracy since the Civil War.

But a president is crudely called to order if he seems to stray from fealty to “vital interests” defined by a dominant military-intelligence-corporate complex.  

Obama had Gates, Clinton and the military chiefs to counter his “reluctant warrior” tendencies, so while he opted for diplomacy in matters such as the Iran agreement, the drones and missiles kept flying and no wars came to an end. 

Trump was turned around in one week on military intervention in Syria. Before the horrifying images appeared of gassed families and children, the pressure was on to “normalize” the National Security Council. As the Times comments, “since the forced resignation of Michael T. Flynn…, Mr. Flynn’s successor, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, has been moving to put a more traditionally professional stamp on the operations of the National Security Council.”

Nor was it lost on Trump that his increasingly unpopular presidency could use a “rally around the flag” tonic. And, indeed, the resort to instant unilateral and illegal force seems almost to “normalize” Trump, especially in the eyes of neocons and old-fashioned war hawks.

So in a world that turns up unspeakable atrocities with regularity, the instant response is a military strike — and then what? No time or place for reason, no time to verify facts, no room for the United Nations, no investment in the hard work of advancing the common interests of differing nations whose people hate and fear barbarism and war as much as we do. 

So why is it so hard to change the course of a failed foreign and military policy? Because it is ingrained in a history of imperial conquest, because it is rooted in the undying beliefs of “American exceptionalism” and supremacy — above all because “vital interests” refer not to the well-being of people, but to the demands of the most far-flung corporate and military empire ever.

That’s more than any president can be counted on to challenge, though a Trump can create more havoc even than a George W. Bush. Only relentless reality can force change, but only a finally wised-up and angry populous can bring it about.


  1. Amen. An obvious way to help the Syrian people would be to open our borders and our hearts to them. But as you pointed out, we're in the business of conquering, not helping. Where was our outrage when 5 million people in the Congo were killed during what the NY Times called the "world's worst wars?"

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