Opinion | Muftic: Trump’s real suckers and a sucker punch
Donald Trump visiting the troops over Christmas proclaimed a memorable line which will haunt him for years.
“We are no longer the suckers of the world,” he declared to justify an order to withdraw troops from Syria. The real suckers are those who believe that Trump’s foreign policy is putting America First, when in reality it is making our adversaries stronger.
In tweeting the orders, he blind sided and sucker punched his own advisers who had tried to refrain him from taking such a move. The tweet was an abrupt reversal of a prior policy and a slap in the face to his own national security advisers. In their eyes, withdrawal hurt American national security interests and it gave a boost to the power of US adversaries, Russia and Iran, allowing them to increase their influence in the region at USA’s expense. The US national security advisers believed our effective allies, the Kurds, could not carry on the fight without US air and US special forces’ support. ISIS may have lost the bulk of the territory they once controlled, but they were not defeated. They still had the knowhow and an appealing ideology waiting for an opportunity to re-emerge.
Trump’s tweeted orders resulted in the exit from his administration of those who were considered the adults in the room and who were keeping America safe from some of his worst impulses. Trump made the spur of the moment decision to withdraw from Syira in the middle of a telephone conversation with the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a dictator Trump admires. Turkey views the US allies, the Kurds, as anti-Turk terrorists and a threat to their national security. Trump never bothered to give a heads up to the Secretary of Defense General James Mattis or the diplomat coordinating our allies’ participation. Both Mattis and the diplomat quit. Their advice was ignored and they could not in good conscience follow those orders.
Trump’s timing and method of reversing policy may have been impulsive, but it should not have been a surprise. It was consistent with his long-held views. Trump’s policy wishes dated to his campaign days. He often stated foreign policy preferences were to let Russia and Syria’s President Assad take over the conflict. Trump has frequently indicated he was willing to lift sanctions and overlook Russia’s take over the Crimea. Weakening NATO, a thorn in Russia’s side, has also been Trump’s goal. We do not know if Trump himself conspired with the Russians to help him win in 2016. That awaits Mueller’s Special Counsel report. However, Mueller’s court filings reveal a Russia who took us for suckers by infiltrating, using and manipulating our media to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential campaign in order to elect a Russia-friendly Trump.
Trump had always insisted throughout the campaign and his presidency that the US has been taken for suckers for fighting for our allies who were unwilling to pay US for its assistance. He called that campaign plank “America First.” That helping allies was in US national security interests was never a concept he understood or bought into. That it was better to fight our adversaries abroad instead of in the homeland did not concern him. This isolationist viewpoint has surfaced before in our history. How did that work out? These later day American Firsters believe isolationism will keep the US free of foreign control over our country. The lessons of post World War I exposed the failure of isolationism, an American First movement that refused to provide the will or power to stop Hitler’s rise. Intentionally ignoring the threat of Japan contributed to the Pearl Harbor surprise.
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