When it came to foreign policy, Trump’s time in office drove mainstream Democrats to schizophrenic paradox. All four years the same perspective echoed out through CNN and MSNBC and bounced around the cavernous skulls of knee-jerk liberals. Trump was an unprecedented threat, a conniving new Hitler one step away from forming a full on fascist dictatorship, while simultaneously a coward on foreign policy, a push-over who needed to get tough on leaders like Putin. According to the liberal media, it was a national disgrace that Tump focused more on milkshakes than CIA paramilitary operations during his time in office (Alexander, 2020). God forbid a president should be disinterested in the CIA’s thug tactics or run on a platform of ending the US involvement in the Middle East. Yes, Trump took these positions because he’s an ignorant narcissist who thought he was smarter than his advisors, not out of anti-war principle, but even idiots are right sometimes.
Trump’s criticisms of militarism were never sincere; he used his last days in office to pardon Blackwater mercenaries who killed civilians in Iraq, ramped up weapons sales to Saudi Arabia for their war in Yemen, and was openly gleeful when he dropped the world’s largest non-nuclear bomb on targets in Afghanistan (Zengrele, 2017, Starr, Browne, 2017). But it always left a bad taste in my mouth when members of the supposedly left-wing party would praise Trump as soon as he met their standard for belligerency, like the outpouring of support from Pelosi and Hilary Clinton after Trump bombed Syria in mid-2017 (Greenwald, 2017). Apparently mainstream liberal’s issues with Trump’s foreign policies were more about his rhetorical style than the decisions he made.
Now the Democrats seem to have their ideal leader, someone who will stand for social justice reform at home while maintaining military brutality abroad. Biden’s team has made some half hearted moves twoards less hawkish policies; the new secretary of state, Anthony Blinkin, has questioned the Trump administration’s decision to designate Yemen’s Houthi rebels a terrorist organization, which would do little militarily but would make providing food aid far more difficult. Whether he’ll actually reverse the designation, or whether the US will continue selling weapons to Saudi Arabia after Blinkin’s temporary halt expires in a few weeks both remain to be seen (O’Conner, 2021). However, Biden’s choices for his Department of Defense team don’t leave me optimistic. According to a November 2020 article in Jacobin magazine, a third of the new appointees have connections to the weapons industry, either collecting checks from companies directly or lobbying on their behalf (Lazare, 2020). With these sorts of ghouls in charge why disentangle ourselves from our client states? There’s still lots of money to made helping the Saudis blow up school buses.
The forever wars in the Middle East are the ultimate synthesis of Republican and Democratic policies, the golden goose of bipartisanship the media class in this country seems to be obsessed with. No president can be hawkish enough: there are always more enemies to be found, more profits to be made in intervention, irregardless of the cascading flows of destabilization and destruction. I’d love to be wrong about Biden and watch as he spends the next four years making good on his campaign promise to “end the forever wars” (Lazare, 2020), but he’s already shown he’s not serious. As long as foreign wars remain something the American public would rather ignore the imperial meatgrinder will work its way from country to country, ruining lives and leaving more future terrorists in its wake. Truly anti-war policies are possible, but they will only come from movements which have been shaken out of apathy and are prepared to commit themselves to the dismantling of empire.
Alexander, Harriet, 2020, “Donald Trump interrupted classified briefing on Afghanistan to order milkshakes, report says https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-election-2020/donald-trump-milkshake-classified-briefing-afghanistan-b1161154.html
Zengrele, Patricia, 2019, “Defying Congress, Trump sets $8 billion-plus in weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, UAE” https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-saudi-arms/defying-congress-trump-sets-8-billion-plus-in-weapons-sales-to-saudi-arabia-uae-idUSKCN1SU25R
Starr, Barbara, Browne, Ryan, 2017, “US drops largest non-nuclear bomb in Afghanistan” https://www.cnn.com/2017/04/13/politics/afghanistan-isis-moab-bomb/index.html
Greenwald, Glenn, 2017, “The Spoils of War: Trump Lavished With Media and Bipartisan Praise For Bombing Syria” https://theintercept.com/2017/04/07/the-spoils-of-war-trump-lavished-with-media-and-bipartisan-praise-for-bombing-syria/
O’Conner, Tom, 2021, “Biden Administration’s Signs of Policy Shift Divides Yemen’s Warring Sides” https://www.newsweek.com/biden-administration-policy-shift-divides-yemen-1565289
Lazare, Sarah, 2020, “Biden Is Already Loading His Pentagon Transition Team With Pro-War Think Tank Staffers” https://jacobinmag.com/2020/11/joe-biden-transition-team-war-hawks