Choose his own course
For those who value substance over rhetoric in foreign policy, the last few weeks have been a horror. Despite promising a new director in foreign policy, Donald Trump, like Barack Obama before him, has become a predictable hard-liner. With the war monger John Bolton pushing him, Trump practiced gunboat diplomacy against Venezuela and saber rattling against Russia. At this rate, war against Iran is a certainty.
Of course, Trump will receive all the blame if a policy or two goes awry. Democrats have pounded the drums against Russia, but now take exception to Trump’s suspension of the nuclear agreement. Republicans actively undermine Trump’s new direction on Syria. Indeed, Trump tried to advance different approaches toward Russia but that is being swept away by Robert Mueller’s investigation. And, of course, all the while the president pretends to run his administration.
Now, the national security establishment must be overjoyed that they succeeded in tripping up their third president in a row. After George W. Bush promised to be “humble” in his dealings with other nations, he became the interventionist deluxe. Barack Obama took a little longer, but after foisting Robert Gates on him, the neo-conservatives never looked back. Trump fought back, but as the testimony of his so-called advisors on national security proved, he was outgunned. They openly contradicted their own president. That was not a testimony but a mutiny.
Trump, for simply suggesting a different approach, took a pounding. He certainly has his faults, but his national security team cheerfully conducts themselves if he is not present in the discussion. The so-called “adults in the room” did it to Obama, why not the Donald? As for Bolton and his paladin Mike Pompeo, they glide Trump into territory he does not want to go into. But, he simply is ill-equipped to handle this camarilla.
Now, Bolton may have a point on Venezuela but only narrowly. Nicolas Maduro has mismanaged the country and his re-election is questionable. But what Trump and his European Union allies are doing is intervening in favor of capitalist rights, not human rights. As the brutal regime of Augusto Pinochet, of Chile, proved — a free economy is no guarantee against a brutal government. It is gunboat diplomacy, new style. But Democrats, as they did with Libya, cheer on the action.
Trump will find out that Pompeo, Bolton and others do not care a whit about his future, only their realization of empire. Indeed, they are probably never happier than when war drags on and Americans are plunged into despair. It might just build character — Bolton believes that is a worthy goal. Like the Bush administration, they seek to impose their will by the bullet and advance it by the ballot.
Unless Trump is able to re-take his government, he will likely be led down the garden path. But now, he is prisoner of the Bolton-Pompeo axis. He would be advised to pivot and chart a course of his choosing. If he does not, he will be guided by bloody-minded ideologues.