Recently, mainstream national media outlets have severely criticized President Donald Trump’s foreign policy on multiple fronts, primarily focusing on his sudden withdrawal of American troops from Syria and Afghanistan as well as his perceived weakness when dealing with Russia on the world stage. However, there are several key problems with the disingenuous and opportunistic criticism of Trump’s instinctive desire to protect and prioritize American lives over foreign nations – a mentality that was hailed as virtuous when former President Barack Obama pulled troops from Iraq – but is now attacked as a sign of “treason” when Trump does exactly the same thing.
To begin with, the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), passed by Congress in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, gave the president broad powers to initiate preemptive strikes on foreign targets as long as the president notifies Congress within 90 days regarding his or her plan of action. However, according to near-unanimous constitutional experts, the AUMF is reserved only for military targets that pose a clear threat to the United States, which currently only includes the terrorist organizations al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group (IS). It is important to note that the AUMF does not give the president unilateral authority to invade or occupy another sovereign state, friend or foe, without an official Congressional Declaration of War – which hasn’t occurred in seventeen years.
Bringing this into relevance to Syria, National Security Advisor John Bolton stated himself that “The United States will not leave Syria until Assad is deposed and Iran is removed from the country.” Additionally, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asserted that “We will never allow Russia to gain a foothold in Syria, not now, not ever.” Neither of these objectives have anything to do with those of the AUMF. Regardless of anyone’s opinion on Russia, Syria or Iran, none of those nations have launched direct terrorist attacks in the United States. The AUMF does not apply with regard to the illegal occupation of a sovereign state, such as Syria, a nation that is unanimously recognized by all member states of the United Nations.
To add insult to injury, Bolton has additionally stated to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the U.S. would “protect Israel in Syria from Iran.” It is not the job of the United States to fight wars for other nations, and it is appalling that American soldiers are so cheaply used as mercenaries for a nation such as Israel, which has systematically and repeatedly violated the human and civil rights of the Palestinian people in the West Bank and in Gaza, and is responsible for reprehensible war crimes and the permanent detention of foreign journalists. Obviously, claims such as these are nothing new from an individual like Bolton, who is well known in Washington for being so hawkish that even former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis questioned his mental stability. In addition, Bolton was a famously massive advocate for bombing Iran in 2006, a position that caused his original U.N. ambassadorship to be rejected by the Senate.
Secretary Pompeo is no better. He has embarrassed the moral credibility of the United States on the world stage by openly defending Saudi Arabia after the autocratic regime murdered a Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, in cold blood at the Turkish embassy last October. Instead of using this as an opportunity to punish the Saudi regime with economic sanctions for its virulent disregard for international law and the rights of journalists, Pompeo continued to defend the Saudi crown prince and advocated for a continued military relationship with the Saudis during Congressional testimony. Pompeo is also a massive supporter of supplying Saudi Arabia with American weaponry, despite the fact that the Saudis have been exposed for committing an religious genocide against Yemen with the same weapons.
Now, given the obvious lack of mature leadership in President Trump’s inner circle, it would seem surprising that the president has taken a completely different attitude on war and peace. He has ignored the severely flawed advice of both Pompeo and Bolton and has wisely chosen to end American operations in Syria and to phase out American operations in Afghanistan – a war that now rivals Vietnam in both length and casualties.
President Trump ran in 2016 on a non-interventionist foreign policy that put American lives first — both their economic well-being and their blood. Part of the reason why Trump was able to appeal not just to the traditional Republican base but also to many left-wing Bernie Sanders supporters was due to the fact that his foreign policy was far more in line with the American public than the aggressive warmongering of his opponent, Secretary Hillary Clinton, who famously voted in favor of the failed Iraq War and repeatedly expressed a desire to attack Russia during the 2016 campaign.
The national news media also claims that Trump is surrendering American interests in Syria and Ukraine to Russia. It also seems that journalists in Washington have bought into the evidence-free conspiracy theories of the president being a Manchurian candidate for Putin – a claim that, despite over two years of taxpayer-funded investigations, has yielded absolutely no substantive proof at all. Most importantly, this mentality is exceptionally naive and flawed for one simple reason – it assumes that the American people are somehow on board with bloated military spending and foreign aid to “contain” a nation as large and powerful as Russia – and that our efforts could even be successful in the first place.
To put this naivete into perspective, the United States is currently $22 trillion and counting in debt, with China being the largest foreign creditor of our debt (we’re currently engaged in an unsuccessful and pointless trade war with them). 54 percent of discretionary taxpayer spending (not counting Social Security and Medicare, which are government-sponsored savings programs) is spent directly on foreign aid and the military. The United States wastes $38 billion on Israel alone – a nation infamous for its horrendous treatment of Palestinian refugees. Given the fact that President Trump has repeatedly promised to revitalize the American economy and to put the American people first, it isn’t crazy to wonder why our federal government openly betrays the actual interests of the American people and instead chooses to fight wars for foreign nations and to engage in brutal killings worldwide.
Additionally, there are severe fallacies with the mainstream media narrative that Russia is the big bad wolf in the neighborhood. The most popular attack against Putin is that he “invaded” Crimea, but the reality is, it has historically been a part of Russia for hundreds of years. The Crimean people democratically chose to join Russia in a referendum in 2014, Crimeans are ethnically 97 percent Russian, not Ukrainian, and the overwhelming majority of them speak Russian. Another criticism against Russia is their military presence in Syria. However, the legitimate, U.N.-recognized government of Syria requested Russian and Iranian military assistance in 2015 to destroy ISIS and Syrian rebel terrorist cells that were quickly taking over the eastern part of the nation — and unlike the Russians and Iranians, the United States was never invited nor given permission by the Syrian government to participate in the civil war, and ironically, our insistence to become involved in the region has actually emboldened terrorist groups affiliated with al-Qaeda and has allowed autocratic regimes such as Saudi Arabia to proceed unchallenged in their bloody genocide of Syrian and Yemeni civilians in the Middle East.
Instead of blindly believing that the U.S. is the greatest nation on earth because of the size and might of our military, maybe it’s time to reevaluate how America is perceived across the world stage. Respect for America is at all time lows, with even close allies such as Australia, the U.K., and Germany expressing less than 20 percent approval according to the latest Gallup poll. Additionally, the Orwellian fearmongering and baseless slander of nations such as Russia as malevolent forces of evil isn’t just absurd, it’s childish. The world isn’t black and white, and nations, just like people, aren’t purely good or bad. All countries make plenty of mistakes, including the United States, which remains the only nation on earth to have ever used nuclear weapons, but has an obsession with preventing other nations from ever developing them.
To summarize, it isn’t the job of the United States to contain any other nation on earth. It isn’t the job of the United States to be the policeman of the world. Not only is our moral credibility at all time lows ever since the Bush era, we simply don’t have the economic capacity to continue to spend wastefully on the international stage. When children are starving in inner city Detroit, when thousands of veterans remain homeless after serving their nation faithfully (but often for regrettable causes), when tens of millions of Americans lack adequate healthcare and when countless college students are mired in impossible levels of debt, it is beyond breathtaking for the media to be quipping about Russia’s actions in Syria and Ukraine. That isn’t a priority for America right now. What should be a priority is exactly what President Trump ran and won on – putting the American people first again.