The far left and far right agree on Donald Trump’s foreign policy legacy. They’re both wrong.

“This is a president who pardoned convicted war criminalsassassinated Iran’s top general, and deployed troops to seize Syria’s oil deposits — openly admitting he wanted to hand them over to ExxonMobil. A second term promises more of the same: He has already asked advisers for “battle plans” to invade Mexico in an effort to combat drug cartels.”

“The strongest argument for Trump’s dovish credentials, in all of these accounts, is that Trump did not start any new wars. While Bush invaded Iraq and Afghanistan, and Obama toppled Muammar Qaddafi in Libya, Trump kept the peace.”

“It’s certainly true that nothing Trump did compares in scope to the Iraq or Afghanistan wars. But few presidents in history ordered anything of that magnitude; the brief 2011 US intervention in Libya doesn’t come close. And when you compare Trump’s record to those of other post-Cold War US presidents, the evidence is clear: Trump is no less willing to use military force, and arguably more so.”

“Trump did a lot more than order “few missile and drone strikes”: In Iraq and Syria alone, drone strikes launched against ISIS and other terrorist groups killed an estimated 13,400 civilians, per data from Airwars, a nonprofit watchdog affiliated with the University of London. That’s roughly three times as many as were killed by American bombs in the 1991 Gulf War, the 1998-1999 Kosovo intervention, and the Libya warcombined.
It’s relatively easy to show Trump’s culpability here: His administration relaxed Obama-era rules of engagement designed to protect civilians. And once swampy Joe Biden became president, drone strikes in Syria and Iraq virtually ended.”

“In 2017, Trump became the first US president to order an attack on the Syrian government, bombing an airfield in retaliation for chemical weapons strikes, something Obama famously refused to do. In 2018, he pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal and bombed Syrian government positionsagain. In 2019, Trump approved airstrikes on Iranian soil, only to call the planes back literally while they were in the air. And in 2020, he had General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s elite Quds force, assassinated while the Iranian leader was near the Baghdad airport.
Similarly, Trump dramatically increased US airstrikes on Islamist groups in Somalia over Obama levels, and approved the sale of unguided “dumb” bombs to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen (something the Obama administration blocked). Though Trump frequently stated his opposition to the war in Afghanistan, and eventually did negotiate a withdrawal agreement, he began his presidency by escalating it — sending 3,000 new troops to fight the Taliban, a more than 25 percent increase from the pre-Trump presence. He also openly bragged about relaxing rules of engagement for bombings in Afghanistan, a policy that nearly doubled civilian casualties per year over the Bush- and Obama-era average.”  

“In 2018, Trump threatened to invade Venezuela to topple leftist dictator Nicolás Maduro. In 2019, he launched a broad-based sanction policy explicitly designed to collapse the Maduro government — an open regime change operation.
During that same time, Trump significantly escalated tensions with China over Taiwan — taking provocative actions deliberately designed to send a message of US commitment to the island’s defense. “In the past nine months, U.S. ships have sailed through the Taiwan Strait six times. During the Obama administration, passages were far less frequent, at just one to three times per year,” the Council on Foreign Relations’ Lindsay Maizland wrote in April 2019.”

“In 2017, Trump sent a full armored brigade to NATO allies on Russia’s border. In 2018, he provided Ukraine with lethal military assistance in its conflict with Russia in Eastern Ukraine (something Obama refused to do, and that Trump would later try to use to extort Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy).
In 2019, he withdrew from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) agreement designed to tamp down on nuclear tensions. In 2020, he backed out of the Open Skies Treaty, which created rules for reconnaissance overflights designed to tamp down on military tensions.”

“the question here is not whether Trump’s foreign policy was good, but rather whether it can be accurately characterized as “dovish” or “anti-imperialist.” A full review shows that it cannot: that Trump was more than willing to use deadly force and impose America’s will on foreign countries.”

“This is a president who proposed the largest inflation-adjusted defense budget since World War II and declared “we have to have, by far, the strongest military in the world.””

“Trump’s version of hawkishness is far less moralized, but no less aggressive. He sees himself not as protecting the global order but as putting “America First” — defending the country’s honor and pecuniary interests. This makes him less inclined to launch wars to protect foreign civilians, but more inclined to kill foreign civilians while attempting to target terrorists. Instead of fighting to promote democracy, he is willing to send US troops to take the oil in Syria.”

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