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Addressing Trump’s Errant Foreign Policy

Conservatives such as myself, who seek a return to America’s historic and successful foreign policy of non-intervention in overseas quarrels that are unrelated to American interests, thought we had won in November. In Donald Trump we had elected a non-interventionist president. He pledged good relations with Russia, avoidance of new wars, and, at least by inference, ending the conflicts he inherited, including the hopeless war in Afghanistan.

But that’s not how things turned out. On some issues, Trump has been true to his campaign. On his recent European trip, he refused to bow down and worship the great clay god NATO, which exists primarily to rekindle the Cold War with Russia. He pulled out of the globalist Paris Agreement. So far he has not signed off on the idiotic plan to send more troops to Afghanistan and resume “nation building” there.

But on a broader basis, the president has allowed his non-interventionist stance to be subverted by the Republican establishment. He has backed away from seeking an alliance with Russia. He has accepted continued deep American involvement in the Middle East. He has given the Pentagon more money, which, without military reform, just buys more expensive defeats. He has pursued strategically irrelevant quarrels with Iran and, dangerously, North Korea. This is not what “America First” looks like.

In the face of this disappointment, where are non-interventionist conservatives to find a voice? We can, of course, write articles for magazines, speak at conferences, and lament “O tempora! O mores!” over sherry at the club. But a rule of life in Washington is that unless you are connected to political power, no one reads what you write or listens to what you say. You don’t count.

There is a place non-intervention conservatives can turn to find a voice, and that is Capitol Hill. In the 1980s I was at the core of an anti-establishment effort that seriously rattled the Defense Department—the military reform movement. The movement became influential when it tied reformers’ ideas to a congressional power base, the Congressional Military Reform Caucus. This bipartisan caucus began when a conservative Republican member of the House Armed Services Committee, Congressman Bill Whitehurst, met with Democratic Senator Gary Hart, who served on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and said, “What do you think we could do for military reform if we put our efforts together?” (I was present at that meeting.) The result was a reform caucus that at one point counted over 100 members of Congress.

If non-intervention conservatives can create something similar to the Military Reform Caucus, they will have a voice. They will count in Washington. But times have changed. The extreme partisanship that now characterizes Capitol Hill makes the hope of a bipartisan caucus unrealistic. Members might fear encouraging a primary challenge if they joined one.

However, there is a way around this obstacle. Non-intervention conservatives should seek to create a Republican anti-intervention caucus. It should be called the “America First Caucus.”  That would make it difficult for neoconservatives to label it “weak.” If President Trump decides against intervention in someone else’s quarrel, it would support him. If he goes with the interventionists, it would criticize and oppose him.

The president is not likely to be comfortable facing an opposition on Capitol Hill that calls itself the America First Caucus.

Just as the Military Reform Caucus did in its time, the America First Caucus would have a symbiotic relationship with other non-interventionists of various stripes. It would put articles they write in the Congressional Record. It would sponsor debates and discussions on Capitol Hill. It would use their work to support the caucus members’ legislative initiatives. In turn, non-interventionist thinkers and writers would contribute their efforts to promoting the caucus and its work in a wide variety of media.

Meanwhile, a similar effort likely would spring up on the left. Anti-intervention liberals would organize a Democratic caucus. Obviously, conservatives cannot do that for them. But the example set by the Republican caucus should inspire someone on the left to try to copy it among Democrats.

Then, on an issue-by-issue basis, the two caucuses could work together to curtail America’s intervention in the wars of other peoples. Despite the current high level of partisanship, that is still possible. A bipartisan effort is currently coming together on the Hill to block money from flowing from this country to terrorist organizations such as ISIS (yes, that happens). I learned long ago that one way—often the only way—to defeat the establishment is to sandwich it in a double envelopment from the right and left. It does not know how to deal with that, because it breaks the matter under consideration free of the usual trench warfare. My old colleague and political mentor Paul Weyrich understood this, which is why he sometimes worked in tandem with figures such as Ralph Nader. The establishment howled, but it howled because it was scared.

As the Military Reform Caucus did, the America First Caucus and its Democratic counterpart would probably both start small. But even a handful of members of Congress is sufficient to give change a voice. As the American people’s disgust  grows over unnecessary and avoidable foreign wars—what many of them expressed in voting for Donald Trump—the two caucuses will also grow. Perhaps, in time, they might gain strength to the point that we could once again enjoy a bipartisan foreign policy where our country takes precedence over party.

 

William S. Lind is the author, with Lt. Col. Gregory A. Thiele, of the 4th Generation Warfare Handbook.

29 Comments (Open | Close)

29 Comments To "Addressing Trump’s Errant Foreign Policy"

#1 Comment By Adriana I Pena On June 25, 2017 @ 9:04 pm

It is a good thing that you are a Conservative, because otherwise you’d be tagged as a “blame America first” type for rejecting wars of choice.

#2 Comment By Kurt Gayle On June 25, 2017 @ 10:50 pm

I agree with you, Mr. Lind, that President Trump has “has pursued strategically irrelevant quarrels with Iran and, dangerously, North Korea.” But with respect to his Russia policy — in spite of the on-going attempts by the Republican and Democratic establishments, The Deep State, and the mainstream media to revive the Cold War — I do not believe that Mr. Trump “has backed away from seeking an alliance with Russia.”

If President Trump can finally get the fake “Russian collusion” charges consigned to the garbage bin where they belong, there is every reason to believe that he will once again be able to work with Russia in Syria, in eastern Europe, and elsewhere. There are just too many national interest reasons that favor the US working with Russia.

#3 Comment By Uzback On June 25, 2017 @ 11:49 pm

How many times do people with even a modicum of intelligence have to remind Trump supporters that they are fools?

Its not just that they were blind to think a blustering orange moron could even have any kind of philosophy, but it is the deafness of everyone else screaming that he is a toddler who will create more problems than you want.

I have to say this because this talk of realism is also based on such abject stupidity using words like “globalists” relating to the Paris Accord on climate change, or using the Nazi affiliated words of America First as if it had any actual meaning.

So TAC, please put a bit more editorial control of your writers as you do for the commenters.

#4 Comment By Whine Merchant On June 25, 2017 @ 11:52 pm

“But times have changed. The extreme partisanship that now characterizes Capitol Hill makes the hope of a bipartisan caucus unrealistic. Members might fear encouraging a primary challenge if they joined one.”

This is primarily a Republican phenomenon in recent years, where it is more important to be obstructionist ‘Right Wing’ than to be a constructive & principled Conservative.

#5 Comment By John S On June 26, 2017 @ 7:12 am

“quarrels that are unrelated to American interests”
Might American interests include resisting cyber attacks from Russia? How are we supposed to entertain good relations with Russia while they attack?
How about Al Qaeda’s safe harbor in Afghanistan? Do American interests not coincide with fighting Al Qaeda?
Very easy to argue against “the establishment,” whatever that is, and for the dream of non-intervention without going into particulars.

#6 Comment By EliteCommInc. On June 26, 2017 @ 9:09 am

I guess the idea makes sense. I never heard of the referenced Caucus. But I don’t see any comments how one overcomes the hurdles you mention.

And I am suspicious of public primed for action based “terrorist attacks” to prime he pump of intervention, including the use of such activities overseas.

Whatever, capital Pres Reagan gained as result of his “crazy enough to do it” persona, I doubt it will have much sway over the Taliban or others who have been battling “crazy” for more than twenty years.

And one curb the financial interests. Business owners and corporate boards demanding that the US do something.

#7 Comment By Grantland On June 26, 2017 @ 9:49 am

I hope this comes to pass. It’s badly needed.

#8 Comment By Fabian On June 26, 2017 @ 10:38 am

The problem is that there is always a bullet (real or digital) with your name on it if you go too hard on the military industrial complex. There is too much money and too many careers at stake.

#9 Comment By Skeptic On June 26, 2017 @ 11:08 am

John S.: Please read TAC more thoroughly. If you did, you would come across,for example, Gareth Porter’s recent investigative piece demonstrating that the US has been ARMING al Qaeda affiliates in Syria (the essay is titled “How the US is Arming Terrorists in Syria”). By the logic of your post, we should be asking “How is the US to maintain good relations with the US?”

As for Russian cyber attacks: call me old-fashioned, but I can’t bring myself to accept the CIA (which is in up to its eyeballs in the above-mentioned operations in Syria) as a perfectly reliable source on all of this. But that’s just me. Based on a hunch.

#10 Comment By Jon S On June 26, 2017 @ 11:29 am

Thoughtful article. As for me, I simply refuse to allow my children to enlist in military service. I no longer consider it to be an honorable effort.

#11 Comment By Mel Profit On June 26, 2017 @ 12:01 pm

Trump’s rubber soul is probably the main culprit–he is “liquid modernity” personified. That said, if he’d had the self-control to avoid at least some of the controversies that have plagued his presidency since day one, he might have given himself a bit more leverage to actually contest something as deeply rooted as the liberal international order (i.e. military/commercial war machine). But by month one he was hopelessly isolated, and forced to cuddle up to the least hostile faction, the mainstream Republicans and mainstream generals. Likely we will never know what he might have done had he given even an hour’s thought to how politics actually works–and to whether Mr. Bannon’s anarcho-creative destruction offered a viable model of governance. Instead, he has given us six months of incoherent jazz.

#12 Comment By Fred Bowman On June 26, 2017 @ 12:36 pm

I certainly agree on the need for an “American First Caucus”. But at the same time I wonder which Republicans in Congress would be willing to provide “Leadership” to such a group.

#13 Comment By Steve in Ohio On June 26, 2017 @ 12:41 pm

Great article! It is so refreshing to read constructive arguments about the Administration’s foreign policy from somebody who isn’t a Trump hater.

It amazes me that so few on the left care about our interventions abroad anymore. Perhaps reform minded conservatives need to propose cutting defense and using the savings for infrastructure, public transportation, education, etc. This may bring some liberals over. Also if Dennis Kucinich ever runs again, TAC type conservatives should contribute to him.

I think the key to more conservative support for non intervention is to appeal to pro Israel evangelicals. Ron Paul did a pretty good job at this. He came close to winning the Iowa primary in 2012. If you convince Christians you are with them on the social issues and you love Israel, you will win in many districts even if the neocons call you a squish. (Most of them are just chicken hawks.)

Finally, Mr. Lind why don’t you run for the Senate from Ohio next year? Josh Mandel claims to be a Trump Republican, but his FP is mostly neocon. JD Vance could be the other candidate and he voted for kooky Evan McMullin. A Senate race would be a great way to educate the electorate and who knows–We were told Trump couldn’t win either.

#14 Comment By Hyperion On June 26, 2017 @ 1:52 pm

Poster wrote: Conservatives such as myself, who seek a return to America’s historic and successful foreign policy of non-intervention in overseas quarrels that are unrelated to American interests, thought we had won in November.

Wow. Get professional help for your delusions.

#15 Comment By EliteCommInc. On June 26, 2017 @ 2:08 pm

“But that’s just me. Based on a hunch.”

As a fan of the CIA, I tend to lean on the analysis that challenges are careless interventions.
________________________

“Might American interests include resisting cyber attacks from Russia? How are we supposed to entertain good relations with Russia while they attack?
How about Al Qaeda’s safe harbor in Afghanistan? Do American interests not coincide with fighting Al Qaeda?”

1. Uhh, excuse me, i am unclear what military intervention is required to rebutt a cyber intrusion. I would certainly be interested in your advance in this regard.

2. Deeper withing the Al Queada is issue is the clear evidence that we have no idea what the current Al Queada and affiliates are or what they represent. Those responsible for 9/11 are just not a relevant issue. Those of that episode are not apart of what is currently taking place and never were.

3. This is however the convoluted mess when we makes criminal acts causes for war. And misapply the policy of pre-emption to justify military action is some vague agenda known as “primacy” or democracy creation.

I voted for and support the current executive. However, that support cannot be carte blanche because he’s a rich white guy. Rich white guys have been known to be wrong. And his inability to stand by the wise pledge to avoid entanglements in the Middle Eat or elsewhere save our immediate interests is unwise —

#16 Comment By Mr. Fixit On June 26, 2017 @ 7:08 pm

@John S. “How about Al Qaeda’s safe harbor in Afghanistan? Do American interests not coincide with fighting Al Qaeda?”

It would be a little easier to get worked up about the Al Qaeda safe harbor in Afghanistan if Saudi Arabia and the US weren’t arming Al Qaeda in Syria and Yemen and creating the ideal conditions for ISIS to flourish in places like Libya. The Israelis actually like ISIS and provide field medical support to it because it fights Hezbollah.

Make sense? You bet it doesn’t.

“Very easy to argue against “the establishment,” whatever that is, and for the dream of non-intervention without going into particulars.”

Face it: the American foreign policy “Establshment” doesn’t know what the f*** it’s doing in the Middle East. It took bad regional problems and made them incalculably worse.

Here are the particulars: we should cut our losses and leave the region to sort itself out – no “foreign aid”, no “military assistance”, no “advisors”, no “forward bases”, no “special operations”, no “mediation”, no “multilateral diplomacy” … just LEAVE.

#17 Comment By EliteCommInc. On June 26, 2017 @ 9:18 pm

” . . . I do not believe that Mr. Trump “has backed away from seeking an alliance with Russia.”

Ih he is going to maneuver US fighter aircraft or by other weapons systems to shoot down Syrian aircraft defending their airspace and physical territory, he is in effect telling the Russians he’s not interested in a decrease in tensions.

#18 Comment By Ken T On June 26, 2017 @ 10:27 pm

Steve in Ohio:
It amazes me that so few on the left care about our interventions abroad anymore.

In fact, there are a lot of us. You might have noticed that Sanders came from outside the party and still came amazingly close to stopping Hillary’s march to the nomination. But we have been marginalized ever since McGovern’s loss in 1972. You might also have noticed that it has been your side of the aisle that has spent the last 45 years demonizing us as “anti-American peaceniks etc.etc.etc”, thereby giving the Dem party establishment all the ammunition they have needed to keep us down. Instead of talking about bringing liberals over to your side, how about some of you coming over to our side? Frankly, there are a lot more of us than there are of you, and we have a much better chance of changing our party than you will ever have of changing yours.

#19 Comment By Anne Mendoza On June 27, 2017 @ 5:23 am

Good luck with that. To be effective, an America First Caucus would need to have the courage to tell the truth about American military power. Has the U.S. ever admitted to loosing a war? Is the U.S. even capable of admitting such a thing?

We have lost the war in Afghanistan and yet we dropped an MOAB in a theatrical show of force and our military leadership continues to push for more troops. We lost the war in Iraq and the war in Libya. And then there are the unwinnable wars in Yemen and Syria.

Who in Congress has the courage to admit our lost wars? Anyone? Who in Congress has the courage to admit our unwinnable wars? Anyone?

#20 Comment By SomeOhioGuy On June 27, 2017 @ 9:13 am

It still amazes (and saddens) me that there are my fellow “non-interventionist” types that were somehow incapable of seeing thru Donald “I love war” Trump’s blatant veneer of lies during the campaign. A man who is incapable of keeping his stories straight from day to day is now killing civilians in Syria, is greatly expanding our already bloated military, has LITERALLY bowed before the deplorable House of Saud, and is now gleefully leading the drooling pack of warmongers into an eventual confrontation with Iran (I’m predicting by 2019). The problem is THIS WAS ALL PREDICTABLE BEFORE THE ELECTION. Some of you pushed for this likely rapist all based on nothing more than wishful thinking and the illogic of “he must be the opposite of Hillary”. Your fanciful pipe dreams have turned into neocon wet dreams, and you have yourselves to blame for this. Trump will send more people to die for his graft, and won’t care one bit about it, because that was the plan the whole time. And yet some of you couldn’t see the obvious oncoming train wreck.

#21 Comment By Steve in Ohio On June 27, 2017 @ 12:03 pm

Ken T.
“…we have a much better chance of changing our party…”

Both parties seem controlled by the interventionists. Bernie would have enacted a sane foreign policy I suppose, but he sure didn’t talk about it much.(I could have lived with Bernie as President if there had been a Republican Congress to temper his big spending and social liberalism.) Liz Warren talks even less about FP. From what I can tell she is fine with humanitarian interventions. She would be like Obama–no big wars, but dabble here and there. You guys need another McGovern–somebody with military experience who says “Come home, America, most of these things going on in the world are none of our business.”

I think the social issues will keep people like us apart. There are only two pro life Democratic Congressmen. I don’t believe in killing babies or foreigners. I guess we need to work in our own parties and elect people who are willing to work together on an issue by issue basis.

#22 Comment By Michael Kenny On June 27, 2017 @ 1:15 pm

The elephant in the room is Israel. There can never be an “America First” movement, as Mr Lind understands that expression, as long as the US is allied to Israel. US policy will always be “Israel first”, as it has been for at least the last 50 years. Israel’s security requires the maintenance of US global hegemony. It also requires the maintenance of NATO, which provides a legal pretext for maintaining US forces and, more importantly, military supplies, near to Israel. It also provides a convenient fuel stop on the most direct route from the US to Israel. The “deal” is that the US defends Europe and, in return, Europe turns a blind eye to the US using NATO bases for the defence of Israel. The US must also confront Israel’s enemies, containing Iran (at very least) and removing Assad. It must also fight a “war on terror”, notwithstanding the fact that guerrilla wars are unwinnable (as Israel’s own 69-year history, if nothing else, shows).
Putin is the lynchpin of all that. Originally, US neocons saw Putin as a “useful idiot”, a battering ram to break up the EU, seen as a challenge to US global hegemony. He was also to serve as a bogeyman to scare Europe, thereby bringing it firmly back to total dependence on the US for its defence. At that point, NATO would indeed, have been, as Mr Lind says, an instrument to rekindle the cold war. However, Obama “welshed” on the abovementioned “deal”. By not standing up firmly to Putin in Ukraine, Obama allowed the latter to discredit the US as Europe’s (and by extension, Israel’s) protector and discredit NATO as the instrument of that protection. In addition, Putin has waded into the Syrian civil war as Assad’s protector and has snuggled up to Iran. At that point, having lost control of their “monster”, the neocons, logically, turned against Putin, reducing his American support to the alt-right and a few paleoconservatives. There can thus be no “good relations” with Putin’s Russia, to say nothing of an “alliance”, other than at Israel’s expense. That isn’t going to happen. For there to be “good relations” with Russia, therefore, Putin has to go. If he can be “persuaded” to stand down when his term expires in May 2018, so much the better. If not, the US, regardless of who is president, is going to have to confront him militarily. The main game is in Ukraine but since Putin has been fool enough to bog himself down in Syria, that’s a logical place to fight him, all the more so as there, he is on the “wrong” side of a guerrilla war.

#23 Comment By SomeTarheelGuy On June 27, 2017 @ 2:46 pm

@SomeOhioGuy ” Some of you pushed for this likely rapist all based on nothing more than wishful thinking and the illogic of “he must be the opposite of Hillary”. Your fanciful pipe dreams have turned into neocon wet dreams, and you have yourselves to blame for this. “

No. We held our noses and voted for Trump because by November 2016 he was the only alternative to a known neocon wet dream. I mean that literally: the Kagans et al embraced Hillary well before the election.

“We” are not to blame for the Establishment GOP gearing up early on to shout down and marginalize sane alternatives to Trump.

Even so, given Hillary’s track record of recklessness and incompetence and her well-known associations and alliances with some of the most notorious neocons, Trump was a better bet.

Indeed, while the omens are not good, Trump hasn’t yet precipitated any disasters of Hillary Clinton proportions (Libya, Yemen, Syria, Ukraine, S. Sudan etc). We’ll see.

#24 Comment By US 80 PA On June 27, 2017 @ 2:55 pm

Those who flagged Kushner as a big problem for Trump are certainly being proved right.

Kushner may well wreck his father-in-law’s presidency. It’ll be his father-in-law’s fault, of course.

I personally am disgusted by the naked nepotism on display here. I didn’t vote against the chance of a Bush or Clinton dynasty in order to then see Trump turn the White House into a jobs program for his relatives. That isn’t “draining the swamp” – it is the swamp.

#25 Comment By Mark in BC On June 27, 2017 @ 3:47 pm

Rep. Walter Jones comes to mind as the perfect man to lead this charge. He’s held off numerous challenges from the neo-cons and with Camp LeJune in his district that is very telling.

#26 Comment By Upper Peninsular On June 27, 2017 @ 4:41 pm

@US 80 PA “I didn’t vote against the chance of a Bush or Clinton dynasty in order to then see Trump turn the White House into a jobs program for his relatives”

I agree. This is one of the most disturbing, un-American, banana-republic-like aspects of Trump’s presidency.

I was disgusted when Bill Clinton started openly pushing his unelected and widely un-loved wife into policy making roles, and there have always been creepy, leech-like relatives trying to make a buck off their presidential connections, but I can’t think of a recent president who has so blatantly favored members of his own family inside the office itself.

#27 Comment By Kurt Gayle On June 27, 2017 @ 8:34 pm

Project Veritas: CNN producer discusses CNN’s Trump-Russia narrative:

#28 Comment By Adriana I Pena On June 27, 2017 @ 10:34 pm

@Anne Mendoza

A good first step about telling the truth about America at war is to make people listen to the Canadian song “The war of 1812”

[1]

Which tells how the first declared war was crusade to bring Democracy to the poor oppressed Canadians.

“The White House burned, burned, burned…”

#29 Comment By Nino Savatte On June 27, 2017 @ 11:15 pm

Mr. Lind’s mentor is Paul Weyrich. Founder of Heritage Foundation AND ALEC! Enough said. The premise may be good but the messenger is toxic.