Anti-Imperialism/Foreign Policy

Understanding Trumpist Foreign Policy

By Keith Preston

The statement below from a social media post illustrates a problem that many people have when it comes to understanding the Trump regime’s approach to foreign policy.

I wonder if Greenwald and the rest of the “Trump’s not as bad” galaxy brains remember his “fire and fury” nuclear dick-waving with Kim Jong-un, or what happened with Iran in January of this year.
Trump’s probably not as likely as a Democrat is to get into a calculated and premeditated war with Iran, based on what the liberal wonks and beard-strokers at Center for American Progress call “American interests.” But he’s a LOT more likely to incinerate Iran or Venezuela without warning because he woke up with a bug up his ass, or he wants to get his base worked up.
Trump’s fans regard him as a closet non-interventionist who is unfortunately being held back by the “deep state,” and his critics think he’s a fascist madman who is fortunately being held back by the deep state.

Both of these perspectives attribute far more agency to Trump than what is warranted. It is clear that the real foreign policy conflict in the Trump regime is between those who wish to maintain the neocon/liberal internationalist paradigm and neo-realists who believe the dominant paradigm is not sustainable and not in the empire’s long-term interests.  There is far more consistency to the Trumpish foreign policy than what is recognized. This is what the Trump approach to international relations has amounted to:

-adopting a more hawkish approach to China out of concern about US dependence on Chinese manufacturing for military hardware, US trade deficits and outstanding debts with China, and Chinese economic expansion into the Global South, including the Western hemisphere.
-seeking rapprochement with Russia in a classic Nixonian move to undermine the BRICS alliance and gain access to Russian petroleum, while using unilateral abrogation of the INF Treaty and ongoing NATO expansion as the stick to back up the carrot. Russia is a major point of contention between neocons and neo-realists among the Trumpists.
-weaponizing Turkey as a counterforce to Russian influence in Central Asia and to Iran’s resistance axis in West Asia, and farming out the Syrian war to Turkey for reasons of both foreign military and domestic political convenience
-seeking rapprochement with the DPRK in order to reduce threats to US protectorates in East Asia and undermine the alliance between the DPRK and the PRC,  with the long-term goal of cultivating the DPRK as a “China-lite” (a source of cheap for Western capital). On the latter point, some major capitalist interests (for example, the investor circle around Jim Rogers) have taken this position.  The “fire and fury” rhetoric is the stick behind the carrot. The DPRK strategy is a major point of contention between the neocons and neo-realists.
-strengthening the relationship between the US and Israel (for example, moving the embassy to Jerusalem) and Gulf States (for example, the arms deal with Saudi Arabia), and between the Gulf States and Israel (for example, recent “peace” agreements between Saudi Arabia and Israel, and Israel and the UAE), while building a wider Sunni-Zionist alliance throughout Central and Western Asia and Northern and Eastern Africa as a counter to Iran’s resistance axis (which is aligned with the broader BRICS alliance)
-taking a harder line against Iran and its allies (e.g. Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Iraq’s Shi’a militias, Yemen’s Houthi’s) in order to undermine regimes that oppose Saudi, Israeli, and Turkish dominance of Central and Western Asia, or US dominance of the petroleum, natural gas, and mining industries in the region.
-undermining nationalist, socialist, or anti-imperialist regimes in Latin America that resist US hegemony in the region, which has been standard US foreign policy in Latin America for 200 years, and is politically advantageous on a domestic level because of Florida’s electoral importance and the presence of large numbers of anti-Castroists and anti-Chavistas in Florida.
-expanding US presence in Africa in order to establish full hegemony in the former European colonies there, counter Chinese expansion into the African continent, and preventing African nations from becoming bases for Islamist insurgents.
-increasing the use of technology (e.g. drones) to fight wars on the periphery in order to rely less on ground troops which is a domestic political liability.
-taking a harder line toward Europe, because of the unwanted economic competition from the EU and because NATO is regarded as a growing economic liability with the European nations being increasingly seen as unreliable allies due to their unwillingness to support many US foreign policy objectives or adventures. The neocons and neo-realists strongly disagree on Europe.
-The biggest point of contention within the Trump regime seems to be over the future of Afghanistan, with the neocons wanting to maintain a permanent military presence (like Germany or South Korea) and the neo-realists viewing Afghanistan as a military and domestic political liability and preferring to do business with the Taliban instead (as the US did during the Soviet-Afghan war). But the common objectives in Afghanistan are countering Russian and Chinese interest in Afghanistan, and gaining or maintaining access to minerals, energy resources, and opium (see “Big Pharma”) in the region.
Everything described above is discernible from reading the reports of national security think thanks and the international financial press.
The idea that a US president is going to simply launch a nuclear war without the consent of the wider national security and power elite apparatus is absurd and reflects an ignorance of how foreign policy and international relations are actually managed and decided. The wider national security elite wouldn’t even let Trump use the regular army to suppress the riots over the summer. Are they going to let him unilaterally launch a nuclear strike? Hardly. Any more than the board of directors and major shareholders of McDonald’s are going to allow the CEO to convert McDonald’s into a chain of vegan restaurants.
Obviously, none of this has anything to do with “non-interventionism” in any serious or principled way, but it’s not merely a reflection of the random impulses of a crazy guy, either.

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