For all their obvious flaws, one of the good things about early Trump supporters in the US was their opposition to war. Having lived through the Clinton-Bush-Obama-era wars of imperial conquest, waged under various pretexts across the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia, old-fashioned patriots (again, for all their flaws,) at least backed candidate Trump when he made campaign speeches which appeared to oppose the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the destruction of Libya in 2011, and the raising of tensions with nuclear-armed Russia.
But in the real world, Trump is and always was a warmonger like his predecessors; and in addition, it’s important to remember than individual presidents have little-to-no influence over the multibillion dollar Pentagon war machine. This article is adapted from my new book, President Trump, Inc. (2017, Clairview Books).
“Because we are such a kind nation, it’s hard for us to believe that some people around the world don’t actually like us-that we have enemies dead set against us,” wrote Trump in his book The America We Deserve (2000).
Trump’s foreign policy may appear to be a mixed bag. On one hand, Trump has made peace overtures to Russia, which have been welcomed by certain peace campaigners (those who actually believe them), because reaching out to Russia may constrain the race towards nuclear Armageddon. On the other hand, Trump has hinted that his China policy will be a continuation or expansion of Obama’s “pivot to Asia,” namely the encirclement of China by US bases, destroyers and nuclear weapons. By courting Russia, Trump might be trying to divide it from China.
Multinational corporations rely on America’s ability to dominate the world, force markets wide open and keep them open. In 1997, the US Space Command published its Vision for 2020, which commits America to global military domination by weaponizing land, sea, air, space and information, “to protect U.S. interests and investment.” The doctrine is called Full Spectrum Dominance and was expanded in 2000 by all the heads of the major armed forces, the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The Pentagon has since attacked Iraq (several times), Serbia, Afghanistan, Yemen (with drones), Pakistan (with drones), Somalia, Libya, Syria, and has supported Israel’s attacks on Lebanon and Palestine by supplying most of the weapons and blocking UN resolutions to end the violence. It has also supported the coup which ousted Ukraine’s pro-Russian president and replaced him with a US ally. Despite his campaign rhetoric, Trump once told “shock jock” Howard Stern that he supported the invasion of Iraq.
In Time to Get Tough (2016), Trump writes: “[when the US] sacrifices thousands of lives of its own young servicemen and women and more than a trillion dollars to bring freedom to the people of Iraq, the least-the absolute least-the Iraqis should do is pick up the tab for their own liberation” (emphasis in the original). This tab would be paid for by Iraq’s oil, which the US should control, says Trump in his chapter, Take the Oil.
Declaring a “war on terror” was an attempt to give many of the above atrocities a veneer of legitimacy, as was the pretence of “humanitarian intervention” in Serbia and Libya. But as Thomas Friedman of the New York Times once put it, the real reasons for war are different: “The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist – McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the builder of the F-15 [fighter jet]. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley’s technologies is called the United States Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.” Similarly, ex-Center for Naval Warfare Studies professor, Thomas P.M. Barnett, explains: “Any time American troops show up ‘ it tends to be in a place that is relatively disconnected from the world, where globalization hasn’t taken root.”
Donald Trump believes in Full Spectrum Dominance. According to its website, the Center for National Interest, “seeks to stimulate debate, promote public understanding of U.S. foreign policy and international affairs, and define principled yet pragmatic policies to advance America’s national interest.” Trump spoke to the Center in April 2016. He said: “Our military dominance must be unquestioned, and I mean unquestioned, by anybody and everybody.” Sixteen years before that, he quoted Theodore Roosevelt’s maxim: “Speak softly and carry a big stick,” which he describes as “a good MO” (The America We Deserve).
In Time to Get Tough (2016), Trump acknowledges that Obama’s invasion of Libya was a violation of US domestic law. He also acknowledges that NATO was led by the US and was used as the anti-Gaddafi terrorists’ air support. However, he writes: “we should have said, “Sure, we don’t like the guy [Gaddafi] either. We will help you take out [Gaddafi]. But in exchange, you give us 50 percent of your oil for the next twenty-five years'” ‘Our policy should be: no oil, no military support. No exceptions.”
Trump’s view of China, and the world in general, is that different cultures are a market for US goods. When they are held captive by corrupt dictatorships, they are often too poor to buy American products. Likewise, if the given regime is socialistic and sponsors domestic industry, it pushes American producers out. Ergo, America must promote a certain kind of democracy which makes people around the world free to buy American goods.
In The America We Deserve, Trump has a subchapter called How to Take on China and calls China “our biggest long-term challenge.” Trump writes: “We want to trade with China because of the size of its consumer market. But if the regime continues to oppress individual freedoms, how many consumers will there really be?”. Trump was screaming about China’s alleged theft of American technologies and secrets as far back as 2000. He writes: “under no circumstances will we keep our markets open to countries that steal from us.”
Trump is very anti-Iran. In 2016 he said: “Iran cannot be allowed to have a nuclear weapon, cannot be allowed. Remember that, cannot be allowed to have a nuclear weapon. And under a Trump administration, will never, ever be allowed to have that nuclear weapon.” This presupposes that Iran actually wants a nuclear weapon, when all the evidence shows that it doesn’t want one and hasn’t the means of acquiring one.
Trump is so anti-Iran that he sees Iranian influence in its neighbour Iraq (which destroyed Iran in the 1980s) as evidence of Iran’s status as a regional power. This is factually incorrect, by any measure. Under Bush and Obama, Britain, America and Israel subjected Iran to warfare on at least four fronts: 1) using terrorist proxies (the Shia Mujahideen-e Khalq (MeK) and the Sunni Jundallah near Pakistan) to weaken Iran’s government; 2) murdering Iranian civilian nuclear engineers; 3) launching cyber-attacks and; 4) imposing devastating economic sanctions.
But this wasn’t enough for Trump, who says: “[Obama] has treated Iran with tender love and care and made it a great power. Iran has, indeed, become a great, great power in just a very short period of time, because of what we’ve done. All of the expense and all at the expense of Israel, our allies in the region and very importantly, the United States itself.”
In The America We Deserve, Trump has a subchapter called Rehabilitating Russia. Trump’s view is that the smashed-up Soviet Union was, “like an old business or professional adversary who falls on hard times.” But America can impose “free market” economics on Russia, as it attempted to do in the 1990s, and “get the guy back on his feet, clean him up, give him a few bucks, and hope for the best.” But this kind of charity comes at a price, says Trump. “We need to tell Russia and other recipients that if they want our dime they had better do our dance, at least in matters regarding our national security.”
Russia was put at a strategic disadvantage. As part of the Lisbon Protocol to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, ex-Soviet states Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine gave up their nuclear weapons. America’s allies in Europe and elsewhere-Britain, France, India and Israel-retained theirs.
Trump has little to say about Russia in Great Again, except to express his bafflement as to “why Germany and other countries watched impassively as Putin marched into Ukraine.” The reality of Ukraine is that since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine has been a proxy battleground for US-Russian influence. After independence, Ukraine immediately announced training exercises with the US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Think how America would have reacted if Canada had started exercises with the former Warsaw Pact countries, or how Britain would have reacted if Russia had started large-scale exercises with Ireland.
As we have seen from Trump’s continued bombing in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, “rebel” president or not, the quest for Full Spectrum Dominance continues on course.
T.J. Coles was a awarded a PhD from the University of Plymouth (UK) for work on the aesthetic experiences of blind and visually impaired people. His books include Britain’s Secret Wars and The Great Brexit Swindle.
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This post was written by TJ Coles