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Trump The Untrustworthy

Can we believe anything this guy says about, well, anything? [1]

There is no theory to the chaos of Donald Trump’s constantly changing policy positions.

On Sunday, the volatile VIP changed his tune on yet another stance, saying he would have approved a “surgical” military operation to take out former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi after months of stating that he would have not intervened in the North African nation.

“I didn’t mind surgical. And I said surgical. You do a surgical shot and you take them out,” Trump said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” after host John Dickerson confronted the mogul with a 2011 video of him saying he would have intervened in Libya.

“I was for doing something, but I wasn`t for what you have right now,” Trump continued. “I was never for a strong intervention. I could have seen surgical, where you take out Gadhafi and his group,” he said after further needling from Dickerson.

How does Trump think we got the chaos now in Libya?

One of Trump’s few qualities, I have felt, is his questioning the imperative for the US to exert global hegemony. If you are looking for a reason to vote for him, that’s one. But in truth, I don’t think he believes it. His foreign policy beliefs are really irritable mental gestures, and I believe that a President Trump will be so at sea on foreign policy that he will rely on the GOP foreign policy establishment. In other words, it will likely be the third George W. Bush term.

What a depressing election.

98 Comments (Open | Close)

98 Comments To "Trump The Untrustworthy"

#1 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On June 6, 2016 @ 4:11 pm

Like Rod says, we DID do something surgical to “take out Qaddafi and his group.” That’s exactly how we get into the mess Libya is now. We assumed, without proof, that the council of nice-minded people issuing manifestos could take charge. But it couldn’t. A bunch of uncoordinated militias of varying agendas did.

There is a well worn saying about intervening in civil wars:
1) Don’t.
2) If you do, pick a side.
3) Make sure your side wins.
To this we might add, giving more substance to (3), make sure your side has what it takes to govern effectively once it wins.

Likewise, we can trust Hillary Clinton to be Hillary Clinton. She’s every bit as much of a friend to America as Brezhnev or Mao.

Or Donald Trump.

Yes, “what an election” … but it’s clear which way the sane would vote. Think of it this way. Hillary is the convicted, unrepentant murderer, Trump says he might have done it in the same circumstances. Which one do you want babysitting your kids?

Often, the one who got caught is the safer bet, if you have no better options. If nothing else, they are on their guard not to do anything obvious that would get them in hot water again. Trump thinks he can do ANYTHING and will pay no prices for it.

Trump walks EVERYTHING back a day later.

#2 Comment By R.S. Rogers On June 6, 2016 @ 4:22 pm

Trump’s basic attitude that those in charge are losers and America is losing means that when things are going to hell in Libya and we haven’t done much, he says we should do more. And when things are going to hell in Libya after we’ve taken exactly the action he would have taken, Trump declares that we should have done less. Fine. But the “less” Trump today calls for is exactly what the Reagan administration did in 1986 – and we missed the target. Gaddafi was camping in his backyard that night, so our planes killed his daughter instead of him. Does Trump not remember Operation El Dorado Canyon? And/or does he believe that there really is an easy, perfectly reliable “surgical” military option such that if the president of the United States simply wills it, any foreign leader could simply and quickly be assassinated with a smart bomb or two?

Either possibility is frightening in a president. Things like Grenada or the the Libya operation may not matter to the daily lives of ordinary people, but they should matter and be remembered by our leaders. Sure, we made a mess of things in Iraq after 2003. But that outcome was less surprising to those of us who remember Operation Urgent Fury, in which the Army and Marine Corps almost managed to come to blows against each other during a brief campaign that should have been not much more challenging than a suburban SWAT raid. Fighting against nobody in 1983, we almost got our national nose bloodied. If any politician thinks there is an easy or bloodless military solution to even the smallest problem, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

#3 Comment By WillW On June 6, 2016 @ 5:00 pm

Well, David French is out, but he assures us that the way is wide open for someone else. I assume Bill Kristol is now about to float Charles Krauthammer’s name? Apparently you have to be 70ish to have a chance at the nomination these days.

#4 Comment By Michelle On June 6, 2016 @ 5:21 pm

Trump won’t be another Bush when it comes to foreign policy. He might be better but I’d bet he’ll be far, far worse. What happens when some foreign leader does something he doesn’t like or somehow slights him? The narcissistic rage Candidate Trump is aiming toward the judge in the Trump U case will seem like nothing compared to the narcissistic rage President Trump, commander-in-chief, will be able to muster. Clinton is right. Trump is incredibly thinned-skinned, as befitting his position of poster child for narcissistic personality disorder. His ability to take even the slightest disagreement as a massive personal slight renders him unstable. This is a guy who responds to every Twitter takedown with a barrage of insults. I have no great faith in Clinton’s foreign policy but at least I think I’ll survive it. Can’t say the same for Trump.

#5 Comment By CharleyCarp On June 6, 2016 @ 5:33 pm

I understand concerns about Clinton’s foreign policy, and to an extent I share them. A huge difference between the candidates, though, is whether and how they’ll respond to institutional pressure. If Congress or NATO or and a million people in the street have objections to some military action, Clinton will respond, but Trump likely won’t.

Obviously, this is a problem when you have something like Libya, where key NATO members want it, Congress wants it but more and quicker, and the million people stay home watching reality TV. Whose fault is that?

A Sanders left and a Ryan right can, and, I would hope, will unite to restrain unwise military action under Clinton. Under Trump, Ryan wouldn’t even try, and Trump wouldn’t listen if he did.

#6 Comment By Clint On June 6, 2016 @ 5:44 pm

Trump was speaking of a surgical strike against Gaddafi, far removed from any Obama/Clinton extended intervention taking down his military and paramilitary structure which has yielded what we have seen in Benghazi and Libya in General.

#7 Comment By russ On June 6, 2016 @ 6:12 pm

I don’t think it’s any use trying to figure out what Trump’s position on just about anything actually is. He’s manipulating people with effective techniques of persuasion. Not lawyerly reasoning, not political smoothness, but he’s creating much more effective catch phrases and slogans than Hillary, as he did with his rivals in the primary (playing to people’s confirmation biases in the process), and not pinning himself down on any specific policy goals. I don’t think it’s going to get him a general election win (especially if he actually debates her, and if the media takes their rightful place, in her pocket), but it’s not simply that he’s a simpleton, or simply that he’s corrupt. He might be both, but I don’t think that has much to do with his waffling and lack of commitment to any particular ideology. I believe it’s part of his strategy, and it’s served him well to date.

#8 Comment By KevinS On June 6, 2016 @ 6:36 pm

Trump is an ill-informed, impulsive, thin-skinned bully and buffoon who engages in petty spats on twitter in the we hours of the morning with everyone who annoys him. He is unqualified to be president (and commander-in-chief). Period. Full stop. That leaves me just one choice, no matter how much her foreign policy will make me wretch.

#9 Comment By Herenow On June 6, 2016 @ 6:55 pm

Anybody who votes for Trump because he thinks Trump is going to follow a specific course of action that is against the interests of the establishment in a significant way, is going to get their heart broken. He’s a business person whose brand is himself – even more of an opportunist than the average politician probably. Vote for him or don’t vote for him, but don’t expect him to drive major change in the way the US establishment works. Trump can’t change that, but he can probably persuade a few more of the people to stick with the current arrangements for a while longer: get them riled up, promise them change, deliver a few token gestures, but basically keep people in the BAU tent for a while longer. I mean, does anybody seriously see him going up to DC and changing the way the imperial economy, and the foreign policy arrangements that underpin it, actually work?

#10 Comment By Randal On June 6, 2016 @ 7:26 pm

Siarlys Jenkins says:

Like Rod says, we DID do something surgical to “take out Qaddafi and his group.”

No, you really didn’t. Unless you think an all out war lasting from March to October, using standoff weapons backing up armed rebels on the ground, in which the US’s European satellite states were actually in danger of running out of specialist munitions and which included the now familiar US government murder of “enemy” journalists somehow counts as “surgical”.

The question this raises is how has the situation come about that generally informed and alert (albeit not as far as I’m aware particularly focussed on foreign affairs) individuals such as yourself and Dreher have formed this idea, so at odds with the reality, that it was a “surgical strike”? It was a war without ground troops committed, in contrast to Iraq (thereby proving that the US and its satellite states don’t need to occupy a country to mess it and its entire region up royally), but it was not in any remotely honest sense “surgical”.

Usually such confusion is the result of media manipulation by those with an interest in muddying the waters and sufficient influence to achieve that goal.

#11 Comment By al On June 6, 2016 @ 8:24 pm

“There is no theory to the chaos of Donald Trump’s constantly changing policy positions.”

Yes there is. He’s running a con and like most con men has no core beyond his own ego. He’s an idiot savant at self promotion and is uninformed and somewhat stupid about things outside that universe. He wasn’t serious in the first place and probably no one was more surprised at the traction he has found – the dog actually caught the car.

I believe that he now realizes he’s over his head and his current off the wall attack on the judge is Trump looking for an exit strategy.

#12 Comment By Anne On June 6, 2016 @ 8:53 pm

Re Iran’s women’s soccer team, several players who had not had sex reassignment surgery were disqualified from playing by the old rules back in 2014, and several more revealed they hadn’t ever had the surgery upon their retirement in 2015.

Ironically, the otherwise extremely strict traditionalist Islamic state of Iran has recognized transgenderism as a real condition since the mid-1980s. That’s because the Ayatollah Khomeini, who had met a transgender woman in the early 1960s, was so moved by her story, he decided transgenderism was a real condition that could be corrected by surgery. Come the revolution in 1979, he saw to it that both the condition and the surgery became legal by the mid-1980s.

Unfortunately, because homosexuality remains a capital offense in Iran, many gay young people are claiming gender dysphoria in order to obtain the diagnosis (and surgery) to escape the wrath of the law or their families, or both. I’m not sure, given the laws in certain parts of Africa and the Middle East, but I’d hope Iran is one of the few places on earth where a kid would rather have his genitals removed than admit to being gay.

#13 Comment By steve On June 6, 2016 @ 8:59 pm

“So Trump oscillates on various issues but each oscillation is smaller than the previous as it eventually settles on a core view. ”

So the guy is 69, has never thought seriously about foreign policy, or even domestic policy very much, and now he wants to be President. And how does this make him a good candidate?

Steve

#14 Comment By Darth Thulhu On June 6, 2016 @ 9:34 pm

the weavers wrote:

Hillary is the convicted, unrepentant murderer, Trump says he might have done it in the same circumstances. Which one do you want babysitting your kids? Obviously neither, but the sane will go with “maybe” over “already did it”.

No, the sane go with “obviously neither”, and loudly reiterate “obviously neither” every step of the way, and do everything possible to lock the doors and call the cops when either of them show up.

Clinton is not remotely better than Trump on foreign policy. Wake up and smell the bloodbaths.

Trump might well start a random unjust war or three with some pissant microstates. Meanwhile, Clinton not only has her fingerprints all over Libya, Syria, and Yemen, but also has an established record of baiting Russia and comparing Putin to Hitler, with an “opposition” Party that will be giddy to “end American weakness” and aggressively escalate American involvement in massive hostilities overseas.

President Trump is almost certain to be a massive foreign policy disaster. The only difference with Clinton is to remove the “almost”.

#15 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On June 6, 2016 @ 9:56 pm

Well Randal, a surgical strike is going to involve expenditure of ammunition on some scale, without committing ground troops. What was surgical was that we degraded Qaddafi’s military apparatus, without taking control on the ground. Others did take control on the ground… which turned out to be a problem.

But the point was that a “surgical strike” does not get us useful results. We can agree on that much about the outcome in Libya? What does it mean for Trump’s integrity and credibility?

#16 Comment By VikingLS On June 6, 2016 @ 10:23 pm

At the moment Clinton is a known quantity. Trump has never held office. At best what we have to go on is his reputation in public and the other one where he is off camera.

At this point in the election I really would have a hard time telling anybody how to vote. I just think for the next five months it would be best to follow Wheaton’s law, but I am convinced most people won’t.

#17 Comment By J On June 6, 2016 @ 10:49 pm

Honestly, it seems as though Trump’s entire foreign policy platform is “Hillary sucks”.

This election cycle has basically been Hillary Clinton versus about seventeen anti-Clintons from the start.

Sixteenish of those have been eliminated as of tonight (or tomorrow night, depending). The last one is reeling after a taking a single hard punch a few evenings ago, raising suspicions he doesn’t have much left and isn’t looking forward to going the distance to November.

There have been some sideshows of note. Adherents of a moderate Marxism (more or less) tried to make their best case but it is probably following white ethnic tribalism and conservative Christianity and other forms of conservatism out of the Democratic Party. On the Republican side the Religious Right leaders put up a fight but lost their standing within the elite inner circle. Also, Conservatism(tm)- the well funded pretense that Republicans had a viable alternative to the liberal vision- pretty much collapsed.

#18 Comment By panda On June 6, 2016 @ 10:49 pm

“Not lawyerly reasoning, not political smoothness, but he’s creating much more effective catch phrases and slogans than Hillary, as he did with his rivals in the primary (playing to people’s confirmation biases in the process), and not pinning himself down on any specific policy goals.”

I’ve been repeating this point all year, but here goes again. Trump is highly effective in getting persuading some people, and coming up with slogans they like. However, his favorability ratings have not budged for almost a year now (37% in August 2015, 38% now). His number against both Hillary and Sanders are at 40%, more than a month after he consolidated the nomination, while the other two are still in a primary race that turned kinda nasty. So, where is the magical persuasive capacity?

And FWIW “crooked Hillary” doesn’t have nearly the panache of “low energy Jeb” or “Little Marco”…

#19 Comment By panda On June 6, 2016 @ 10:53 pm

“All of which is a long way to say that if you KNOW that the one person will do something you hate, and you just kinda suspect that the other, it might be a tough call.

But what if you might suspect that the person who is not going to do what you hate just might burn down the local school if the principal refuses to have him as commencement speaker?

#20 Comment By KS On June 7, 2016 @ 12:16 am

[NFR: Taking out Qaddafi left a vacuum where there once was a state, hence the chaos you now see there. Removing Qaddafi (who was, no question, an evil man) was the key move. — RD]

That sir, is your problem. On what exactly did you base this, what seems like a religious determination of ‘evilness’? How well do you know libyan culture and history? How well do you know Gadaffi’s history? how well do you know Bedouin culture and the reasons why its traditions evolved the way they did?

You lose your argument right there and then, because if he is ‘evil’ in this religious sense that you seem to be implying, then it is a moral imperative to battle him is it not?

Isn’t this par for the course though for the puritan view? There is always someone out there who is the bogeyman, it was the indians first who were, and then this other group and that other group and this other person and that person. Maybe we would benefit from not seeing things through this religious manichean lens? We’ll be able to notice nuances and grey areas, and *make deals*. Maybe the electorate appreciates this, which is why they are supporting Trump. They want a deal maker, not a religious person.

[NFR: Are you okay? Should I be worried? — RD]

#21 Comment By Randal On June 7, 2016 @ 3:31 am

Siarlys Jenkins says:

Well Randal, a surgical strike is going to involve expenditure of ammunition on some scale, without committing ground troops. What was surgical was that we degraded Qaddafi’s military apparatus, without taking control on the ground.

It was a 7 month war aimed at the complete destruction of the Libyan military in order to allow the armed rebels to achieve a victory they could not achieve on their own even with the external support in supplies of arms and volunteers and specialist assistance they received from the usual suspects.

That’s not “surgical” in any meaningful sense. Unless you think the Kosovo aggression, which also involved “degrad[ing] [the target]’s military apparatus, without taking control on the ground”

But the point was that a “surgical strike” does not get us useful results.

How can that be the lesson of Libya when Libya patently did not involve a “surgical strike”.

We can agree on that much about the outcome in Libya? What does it mean for Trump’s integrity and credibility?

A surgical strike taking out Gaddafi but leaving the military and security apparatus in place for a successor to use to maintain order might or might not have worked. You can argue it either way and there are few real precedents to base the analysis on. As I indicated above, there are moral and legal reasons why the US regime and foreign policy elites pretend they do not engage in such activity (assassination of enemy leaders).

I really am not just trying to be argumentative here (honest), but I do think the interesting point here is not Trump’s opinion on a subject on which he was as much a bystander as we are at the relevant time. He’ll learn foreign policy on the job just as most US presidents have had to do.

The interesting point for me is why you and Rod have formed this vague but seemingly firm idea that Libya was a “surgical operation” going after Gaddafi alone, when in fact it was an all out attack on the national army and government of Libya intended to destroy the former and overthrow the latter. As I said, that kind of misunderstanding on foreign policy issues often indicates mainstream media misdirection.

My first suspicion is that it is probably because the left-leaning mainstream US media has wanted to try to maintain a pretence at differentiating Obama’s Libya crime from Bush II’s Iraq crime. There are differences – the Libya war was at least superficially legalised (albeit by a mendacious UN resolution based upon falsehoods and stretched well beyond its legitimate scope), the Libya war did not involve significant US sphere military casualties (because there was no invasion and occupation) and the Libya war was rather smaller in scale (because Libya is a much smaller country than Iraq). But in the basics they are the same – morally both were wars of aggression justified by lies, and pragmatically both had catastrophic consequences for the target countries and the wider region.

#22 Comment By wintermute On June 7, 2016 @ 6:43 am

Hillary is the convicted, unrepentant murderer, Trump says he might have done it in the same circumstances.

Trump would have done worse…

Get over yourselves people, there isn’t a single US president since WWII who hasn’t presided over or caused a major bloodbath in some part of the world:

Truman: WWII, Korea
Eisenhower: Iran & Guatemala
JFK: Vietnam
LBJ: Vietnam & Indonesia
Nixon: Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Chile, Argentina
Ford: ?
Carter: Afghanistan
Reagan: Afghanistan, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Grenada
Bush 41: Iraq, Somalia, Panama
Clinton: Iraq, Serbia
Bush 43: Iraq, Afghanistan
Obama: Syria?, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya & Drones

And these are just the highlights, off the top of my head, I am sure that I have missed a bunch of coups, minor invasions, death squads, torture and other miscellaneous horrors. This is what being the leader of any major state involves, the larger, the more powerful a State, the more bloodbath it will be involved with. it’s the nature of the beast. You should be grateful when the body count does not run into hundreds of thousands if not millions.

The best you can hope for is a leader who can see both the short term & long term consequences of their actions. Do any of you think that Eisenhower would have overthrown the Mossadeq regime, had he known the consequences (a brutal police state, followed by a revolution, followed by a war that left at least half a million dead)?

What are the odds that Trump can look more than 15 minutes into the future? Whatever Hillary’s shortcomings are, and lord knows they are numerous, she can at least look three month into the future. And three months is substantially better than 15 minutes.

#23 Comment By russ On June 7, 2016 @ 7:48 am

@panda:

I’ve been repeating this point all year, but here goes again. Trump is highly effective in getting persuading some people, and coming up with slogans they like. However, his favorability ratings have not budged for almost a year now (37% in August 2015, 38% now). His number against both Hillary and Sanders are at 40%, more than a month after he consolidated the nomination, while the other two are still in a primary race that turned kinda nasty. So, where is the magical persuasive capacity?

And FWIW “crooked Hillary” doesn’t have nearly the panache of “low energy Jeb” or “Little Marco”…

True enough. He improbably won the GOP nomination, however, and has outpaced expectations all along.

The Hillary slogans aren’t as catchy, no, but when they confirm existing biases, they’re useful. There are only two people in America that will be running as a candidate of a major party. Trump is one of them. More of his success comes down to powers of persuasion than his convincing rhetoric or support for well-detailed policy proposals, doesn’t it?

#24 Comment By Randal On June 7, 2016 @ 9:38 am

wintermute:

This is what being the leader of any major state involves, the larger, the more powerful a State, the more bloodbath it will be involved with. it’s the nature of the beast.

This is true, though most of the more recent US bloodbaths have been unusually gratuitous by superpower standards precisely because the US has been so totally dominant and utterly unthreatened militarily in this period.

In place of national defence and interests as motivations for mass violence, the US regimes have substituted manipulation by foreign interest groups (Israel, Saudi Arabia, Kossovan terrorists, Ukrainian and eastern European nationalists, etc), and destabilising universalist ideologies (democratism and “r2p” nonsense).

What are the odds that Trump can look more than 15 minutes into the future?

Amazing how lucky he’s been, managing to hold onto and grow his fortune in a cutthroat business world whilst being such an airhead, eh?

#25 Comment By Andrew E. On June 7, 2016 @ 9:43 am

Hillary Clinton recklessly endangered the national security of the United States with her email server. She should be kept away from power at all costs, full stop.

#26 Comment By panda On June 7, 2016 @ 11:00 am

“More of his success comes down to powers of persuasion than his convincing rhetoric or support for well-detailed policy proposals, doesn’t it?”

I actually give his supporters more credit than that: sure, his celebrity and ability to garner media attention helped, but he identified a political position no one in the party catered to, embraced it, and his supporters, who happen to be plurality, recognized it. In this way, Trump 2016 is somewhat similar to Obama 2016: sure the charisma and the media adulation helps. But if he didn’t oppose the Iraq War, Obama is still a senator nowdays (and is probably running for president!)

#27 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On June 7, 2016 @ 11:37 am

And FWIW “crooked Hillary” doesn’t have nearly the panache of “low energy Jeb” or “Little Marco”…

If I was his campaign manager I’d go with “Laughing Hillary”, a reference to the time she laughed about the time she savaged the reputation of a twelve year old rape victim on the stand, in defence of a man she believed to be guilty. That’s the personal character of the likely next president of the United States.

#28 Comment By VikingLs On June 7, 2016 @ 11:58 am

“This is what being the leader of any major state involves, the larger, the more powerful a State, the more bloodbath it will be involved with. it’s the nature of the beast. You should be grateful when the body count does not run into hundreds of thousands if not millions.”

Would you mind naming another major state that has the same kind of record in recent history?

The closest I can kind of sort of maybe see is Putin’s Russia, but he’s supposed to be the boogeyman that Trump is scary for having said some mildly positive things about.

#29 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On June 7, 2016 @ 12:06 pm

How can that be the lesson of Libya when Libya patently did not involve a “surgical strike”.

You’re entitled to your own opinion Randal, but not your own facts. The use of the word “patently” assumes facts not in evidence.

I suppose we could discuss at length and in detail exactly what constitutes a “surgical” strike. It might exceed the capacity of a single blog. If seven months is too long to be “surgical,” is the limit one month? Two? Five? Is is surgical if it assassinates the top dog but not if it kills anyone else? How about if it takes out the cabinet, maybe some wives and children as collateral damage, but nothing more? Perhaps it could take out the upper ranks of the officer corps, but leave a few colonels to take over?

The original rationale was, a peaceful protest has been raised against the government in power, the military of the nation was mobilized to go shoot down the peaceful opposition, outside intervention would degrade the military capacity of the country sufficiently to save the lives of the peaceful protesters.

First declension of deviation from that framework, since the military took a while to degrade, various opportunistic militias began contesting that military. Oops, the original surgical strikes are putting us into de facto alliance with an unknown range of armed factions. It went downhill from there.

A surgical strike taking out Gaddafi but leaving the military and security apparatus in place for a successor to use to maintain order might or might not have worked.

Indeed. With “might not have” in the equation, we are back to the basic argument that a “surgical strike” — however you define the specific parameters — is not a reliable proposition.

As to the larger question:

Hillary deserves to lose to Donald Trump. Trump deserves to lose to a woman — particularly Hillary. The major parties deserve the way this race is devolving. But, the United States of America, and the people of the USA, do not deserve whatever it is we’re going to end up with come Jan 20, 2017.

#30 Comment By JonF On June 7, 2016 @ 1:02 pm

Rew: Hillary Clinton recklessly endangered the national security of the United States with her email server.

Andrew, that sounds as silly as something in The Onion.

#31 Comment By Randal On June 7, 2016 @ 3:08 pm

Siarlys Jenkins says:

[Lots of misleading stuff about the Libya war]

Look, the facts are right there in the public record. Even the Wikipedia article would point out the basic errors in your description of what happened:

[2]

If you don’t like Wikipedia, this Foreign Affairs article describes it well, albeit from within the US foreign affairs establishment groupthink bubble:

[3]

The fighting following demonstrations you describe occurred in February. There was no open US sphere military intervention until there was a UN resolution to provide a legal pretext for it, long after open civil war had begun and indeed (entirely uncoincidentally) the government was in sight of winning that war. The resolution was passed on 17th March, based upon lying rebel propaganda dishonestly given undue credence by the US regime and its satellite regimes in order to provide a pretext for the clearly desired and intended regime change operation. Here’s the Wikipedia description of the US sphere’s military response to getting that pretext for regime change – see if it sounds remotely “surgical” to you:

On 19 March 2011, a multi-state NATO-led coalition began a military intervention in Libya, ostensibly to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973. The United Nations Intent and Voting was to have “an immediate ceasefire in Libya, including an end to the current attacks against civilians, which it said might constitute crimes against humanity” … “imposing a ban on all flights in the country’s airspace – a no-fly zone – and tightened sanctions on the Qadhafi regime and its supporters.” The resolution was taken in response to events during the Libyan Civil War,[18] and military operations began, with American and British naval forces firing over 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles,[19] the French Air Force, British Royal Air Force, and Royal Canadian Air Force[20] undertaking sorties across Libya and a naval blockade by Coalition forces.[21] French jets launched air strikes against Libyan Army tanks and vehicles.
…..
Civilian losses
14 May: NATO air strike hit a large number of people gathered for Friday prayers in the eastern city of Brega leaving 11 religious leaders dead and 50 others wounded.[184]
24 May: NATO air strikes in Tripoli kill 19 civilians and wound 150, according to Libyan state television.[185]
31 May: Libya claims that NATO strikes have left up to 718 civilians dead.[186]
19 June: NATO air strikes hit a residential house in Tripoli, killing seven civilians, according to Libyan state television.[187]
20 June: A NATO airstrike in Sorman, near Tripoli, killed fifteen civilians, according to government officials.[188] Eight rockets apparently hit the compound of a senior government official, in an area where NATO confirmed operations had taken place.[188]
25 June: NATO strikes on Brega hit a bakery and a restaurant, killing 15 civilians and wounding 20 more, Libyan state television claimed. The report further accused the coalition of “crimes against humanity”. The claims were denied by NATO.[189]
28 June: NATO airstrike on the town of Tawergha, 300 km east of the Libyan capital, Tripoli kills eight civilians.[190]
25 July: NATO airstrike on a medical clinic in Zliten kills 11 civilians, though the claim was denied by NATO, who said they hit a vehicle depot and communications center.[191][192]
20 July: NATO attacks Libyan state TV, Al-Jamahiriya. Three journalists killed.[193]
9 August: Libyan government claims 85 civilians were killed in a NATO airstrike in Majer, a village near Zliten. A spokesman confirms that NATO bombed Zliten at 2:34 a.m. on 9 August,[194] but says he was unable to confirm the casualties. Commander of the NATO military mission, Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard says “I cannot believe that 85 civilians were present when we struck in the wee hours of the morning, and given our intelligence. But I cannot assure you that there were none at all”.[195]

[4]

The original rationale was, a peaceful protest has been raised against the government in power, the military of the nation was mobilized to go shoot down the peaceful opposition, outside intervention would degrade the military capacity of the country sufficiently to save the lives of the peaceful protesters.

However you stretch the parameters of “surgical” you cannot with the slightest credibility pretend that an open ended operation “to degrade the capabilities of a country’s military” is anything like “a surgical operation to take out Gaddafi”, which is what Trump is criticised for advocating. (And by the way what you describe is the US sphere propaganda version, complete with outright lies about protecting civilians. What was implemented was obviously a regime change operation.)

the United States of America, and the people of the USA, do not deserve whatever it is we’re going to end up with come Jan 20, 2017.

Clearly opinion is divided on that point.

#32 Comment By EngineerScotty On June 7, 2016 @ 3:39 pm

Jimmy Carter caused the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan?

I suppose he did “preside” over it, as he was President while it occurred, but if you’re going to argue that his foreign policy forced Brezhnev to march on Kabul… well, you’ve got a difficult case to make.

#33 Comment By EngineerScotty On June 7, 2016 @ 3:44 pm

Part of the reason that “little Marco” was an effective jab, is it was said to Rubio’s face in a debate. Trump hasn’t had the opportunity to go one-on-one with Hillary yet.

A suggestion I’ve made before for Trump–he should offer Hillary $500k to come down to Trump Tower and give a speech on the topic of his choice to his golfing buddies. (“I’ll pay Bill a million, but you’re only worth half”). That might catch her off-guard. But stupid names like “crooked Hillary” aren’t going to disturb someone who has dealt with far tougher customers than Donald J. Trump.

#34 Comment By panda On June 7, 2016 @ 3:51 pm

“If I was his campaign manager I’d go with “Laughing Hillary”, a reference to the time she laughed about the time she savaged the reputation of a twelve year old rape victim on the stand, in defence of a man she believed to be guilty. That’s the personal character of the likely next president of the United States.

I have no idea about the “laughing” part, and will need to see the exact context in which this allegedly happened to form judgment, but if she, as someone with political ambitions, too on an zealously defended the least sympathetic possible client, I see it as point in her favor.

#35 Comment By Darth Thulhu On June 7, 2016 @ 8:12 pm

wintermute wrote:

The best you can hope for is a leader who can see both the short term & long term consequences of their actions.

Which Hillary Clinton has repeatedly demonstrated 0% capacity to do. Or, at the least, she had repeatedly demonstrated 0% capacity to care about and try not to replicate “both the short term & long term consequences of their actions”.

This is the woman who authorized Iraq for craven political calculation, under which authorization we are still hip deep in the ISIS quagmire.

This is the woman who “admitted” that her vote to authorize Iraq was her single biggest mistake, because that’s what she clearly had to say if she ever wanted any Democrats to vote for her again.

Having “admitted” that, however, this is also the woman who champed at the bit to go into Libya, and who giggled about the “success” of that campaign.

And having “admitted” that Iraq was a disaster, this is also the woman who wanted us (and wants us, still) to be aggressively arranging for regime change in Syria.

And having “admitted” that Iraq was a disaster, this is also the woman what wanted (and wants) a Syria no-fly zone so we can start a new front in our undeclared illegal war on the Syrian regime, while also getting into a shooting war with the Russians legally invited in by that regime.

And having “admitted” that Iraq was a disaster, this is also the woman who wanted (and wants) us to be more belligerent with Iran.

And having “admitted” that Iraq was a disaster, this is also the woman who wanted (and wants) us to be even more “supportive” of Saudi Arabia while is commits war crimes and starvation blockades in Yemen.

And having “admitted” that Iraq was a disaster, this is also the woman who wanted (and wants) a belligerent warmonger like Victoria Nuland running “diplomacy” with Russia in the State Department.

And having “admitted” that Iraq was a disaster, this is also the woman who wanted (and wants) to make glib comparisons of Putin to Hitler.

Trump would be a horrible President, but his inability to project talk more than 15 microseconds into the future is a gigantic silver lining, in that instance. His complete inability to imagine a foreign policy plan more complicated that “you allies are all on your own” and “we’re gonna tear ISIS apart and torture terror wives” (until told he can’t actually do all of that) is a plus. He can’t actually plan the elaborate manipulation campaign required to lie this country into another half dozen wars. Thanks be to God.

Whereas Clinton isn’t shortsighted at all. Never mind 3 months. The woman has Eight Full Years Of Foreign Policy Plans, one can be entirely sure. She has more than enough Kissingerian foreign policy chops to know the words to lie this country into another half-dozen wars.

And given her track record, I think we can all safely list the half-dozen old wars and the half-dozen new wars she is most likely to walk our military into, with Zero regrets and near-unanimous Republican warmongering support: Iraq and Libya and Yemen and Syria and Ukraine and Afghanistan, with bonus excursions to Somalia and Georgia and Iran and Nigeria and Pakistan and the South China Sea.

That’s how Clintonian “triangulation” worked before, domestically, and its how foreign policy “triangulation” is going to go. Especially if she wins an election after having completely bashed and trashed the leftist wings of her own party for the entire primary-and-general period of her electoral campaign.

#36 Comment By wintermute On June 7, 2016 @ 9:04 pm

Jimmy Carter caused the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan?

I suppose he did “preside” over it, as he was President while it occurred, but if you’re going to argue that his foreign policy forced Brezhnev to march on Kabul… well, you’ve got a difficult case to make.

[5]

In April 1978, the communist People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) seized power in Afghanistan in the Saur Revolution. Within months, opponents of the communist government launched an uprising in eastern Afghanistan that quickly expanded into a civil war waged by Islamist guerrilla mujahideen against government forces countrywide. The Pakistani government, that under general Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq (since July 1977) had started the policy of aggressive islamization, provided these rebels with covert training centers, while the Soviet Union sent thousands of military advisers to support the PDPA government.[4] Meanwhile, increasing friction between the competing factions of the PDPA – the dominant Khalq and the more moderate Parcham – resulted in the dismissal of Parchami cabinet members and the arrest of Parchami military officers under the pretext of a Parchami coup.

By mid-1979, the United States had started a covert program to finance the mujahideen.[5] President Carter’s National Security Adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, was later quoted as saying that the goal of the program was to “induce a Soviet military intervention”,[6][7] but later clarified that this was “a very sensationalized and abbreviated” misquotation and that the Soviet invasion occurred largely because of previous U.S. failures to restrain Soviet influence.[8][9] According to Eric Alterman, writing in The Nation, Cyrus Vance’s close aide Marshall Shulman “insists that the State Department worked hard to dissuade the Soviets from invading and would never have undertaken a program to encourage it, though he says he was unaware of the covert program at the time. Indeed, Vance hardly seems to be represented at all in Gates’ recounting”.[10]

The Brzezinski Interview with Le Nouvel Observateur (19Original French version appeared in “Les Révélations d’un Ancien Conseilleur de Carter: ‘Oui, la CIA est Entrée en Afghanistan avant les Russes…’” Le Nouvel Observateur [Paris], January 15-21, 1998, p. 76. Click here for original French text.

Note that all ellipses appeared in the original transcript, as published in Le Nouvel Observateur.

Question: The former director of the CIA, Robert Gates, stated in his memoirs that the American intelligence services began to aid the Mujahiddin in Afghanistan six months before the Soviet intervention. Is this period, you were the national securty advisor to President Carter. You therefore played a key role in this affair. Is this correct?

Brzezinski: Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahiddin began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan on December 24, 1979. But the reality, closely guarded until now, is completely otherwise: Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention [emphasis added throughout].

Q: Despite this risk, you were an advocate of this covert action. But perhaps you yourself desired this Soviet entry into the war and looked for a way to provoke it?

B: It wasn’t quite like that. We didn’t push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.

Q : When the Soviets justified their intervention by asserting that they intended to fight against secret US involvement in Afghanistan , nobody believed them . However, there was an element of truth in this. You don’t regret any of this today?

B: Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter, essentially: “We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war.” Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war that was unsustainable for the regime , a conflict that bought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.

Q: And neither do you regret having supported Islamic fundamentalism, which has given arms and advice to future terrorists?

B : What is more important in world history? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some agitated Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?98)

And there you have it, from the horse’s mouth!

#37 Comment By wintermute On June 7, 2016 @ 9:06 pm

[6]

Missing URL from the previous post.

#38 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On June 7, 2016 @ 9:29 pm

Clearly opinion is divided on that point.

Duh-uh. That’s why we have elections. The opinion that comes out of my mouth is mine, and nobody else’s. If you have another opinion, its your job to vociferate it.

As to the facts, I fail to see the slightest contradiction between what I said and the Foreign Affairs article you reference. You correctly anticipated that I would give short shrift to Wikipedia as PROOF of anything. For that matter, Mr. Wales is on record that teachers are right not to accept Wikipedia citations as footnotes for research papers, although it can be a good place to get a rough overview and an idea where to look.

#39 Comment By KS On June 7, 2016 @ 11:55 pm

OMG what twilight universe is this? So a ‘surgical strike’ is somehow a good thing? I realize that people badly want to believe that Trump is the savior, but what would a surgical strike do? What is its goal?

Lets say you succeeded, and gadaffi was killed? Then what? Someone else would take charge, and they would have the same goal as gadaffi or any other leader would, put down any rebellions and rule. And they would also be libyan and would have a quite similar outlook and cultural framework that gadaffi did. So what exactly would that surgical strike accomplish?

I’m tellin ya, you may not like it, but this is all a misplaced outcome from not so well interpreted christian psychology, especially calvinist puritan psychology. You are looking for ‘satan’ if the hope you can get rid of him and then there will be the rapture and you will drop your clothes and ascend to heaven. That’s why you keep thinking in this binary fashion, if only we remove xxxx then all will be well.

Well you tried, Gadaffi did die, so did sadda whathizname and no the rapture did not come, you did not ascend to heaven, nude.

How many people here actually know anything about libya, about bedouin culture, about its history? How many here have actually even been to anywhere in that part of the world?

You know he scene in the beginning of Lawrence of Arabia, where Omar Sharif’s character (Sharif Ali) shoots the guy who is drinking water from the well, and silly Lawrence makes a speech about how if the arabs don’t change they will be a petty barbarous people etc etc.

But Sharif’s Ali’s actions actually make a lot of sense. This is the desert, where water is desperately scarce. You have to protect your water or else you will die! There is no police force, you can’t just call the police to complain someone is stealing your water. Where is the police going to be? How is it going to get to the scene of the water theft? By camel, three days after the complaint? How will you make the complaint ?

Democracy, same thing. Who is going to organize it? Who is going to around and find all the nomads and get their vote, then go inform them about how the election fared?

As such, of all the three actions, Sharif Ali’s, clinton’s, and this proposed surgical strike,
– Sharif Ali’s is the most understandable. It is an action for a very tangible goal. Hey that’s my water, if I lose it, I die.
– Clinton’s is next in the sensibility stakes. The assumptions might not be correct, the execution might have been badly flawed, but at least there is a goal. Hey we believe we have a better culture than these people and so we want to put our people in charge to change their culture to become like ours.
– The surgical strike is last on the sense-meter. It has no goal whatsoever.

#40 Comment By VikingLS On June 7, 2016 @ 11:59 pm

@Darth like times infinity that comment at 8:12. Bravo!

#41 Comment By KS On June 8, 2016 @ 12:02 am

@EngineerScotty, here is the interview with Carter’s national security advisor, Zbignew Brzezinski, in which he described the covert ops conducted to lure the soviets into afghanistan and give them their own vietnam. It was very much policy. Read it.

[6]

#42 Comment By KS On June 8, 2016 @ 12:13 am

Regarding Trump, he is saying whatever current thought pops in his mind, so it is hard to take what he says seriously. However if he does apply business principles to foreign policy and focusses less on ideology and righteousness than on results we will be better off. RealPolitik is the need of the hour, so making sure that our interests are protected and we spend out resources well.

#43 Comment By Randal On June 8, 2016 @ 4:31 am

Siarlys Jenkins says:

Duh-uh. That’s why we have elections. The opinion that comes out of my mouth is mine, and nobody else’s. If you have another opinion, its your job to vociferate it.

For clarity, in case it’s needed, I was not referring to a difference of opinion as to which candidate would be better, but rather to the suggestion that the American people or state deserve better than the options on offer. Do a people or a nation ever “deserve” what comes to them? If so, then it’s hard to think of a people or a nation that has not been provided with better opportunities not to go down the path they have chosen to go down than the American people. This path did not start in 2015.

I fail to see the slightest contradiction between what I said and the Foreign Affairs article you reference

LOL! Then you should either read it, or read it again properly.

You should just stop digging. You were factually wrong in what you said (there has, as a matter of recorded fact and basic linguistic definition, been no “surgical” strike in Libya), and would be better just accepting it and moving on, especially since the point you were wrong on was not even particularly important or interesting next to the other issues around it, to which I referred earlier.

#44 Comment By Randal On June 8, 2016 @ 4:48 am

KS, what you write here is all perfectly reasonable and probably correct. The point is that it makes sense to hold Clinton to account for her support of the Iraq war and her complicity in the Libya crime (for that is what it was, morally) and blunder, but it does not make sense to hold Trump to anything like the same standard for his own opinions on foreign policy at the time of the events in question, or even now.

Clinton was part of the US government when these events took place and has no excuse for the errors she made and the crimes she was an accomplice to. Trump was and is, like us, a bystander. Granted, he’s now standing for office, but like the majority of US presidents throughout history he will learn foreign policy on the job.

As to the specific suggestion of a “surgical strike”, I tend to agree with you that it is wrongheaded and would not work. But it is not, by the standards of US foreign policy making in general, unusually stupid, nor is it without merit in terms of arguments that can be made for it as well as against it. The point is that it has not been tried, in either Libya or in Iraq, where in both cases the problems were mostly caused by destroying the target nation’s army and state apparatus as well as overthrowing the government and killing the leader.

The real point, of course, is that there was no need to replace Gaddafi in 2011 or Hussein in 2003 sufficient to justify the risks and costs incurred by doing so, based upon genuine US national interests. In order to reach the conclusion that “something had to be done”, in either case, you needed to be motivated by other aims, such as ideological zealotry for “r2p” or democracy-promotion, or the interests of other states such as Israel or Saudi Arabia, or you had to be deceived by the propaganda spread liberally around by the people with those motivations.

The real question about Trump and foreign policy is to what extent does he share those motivations, or can he be duped by those who do, as Bush II was?

#45 Comment By JonF On June 8, 2016 @ 5:52 am

Re: EngineerScotty, here is the interview with Carter’s national security advisor, Zbignew Brzezinski, in which he described the covert ops conducted to lure the soviets into a

Sounds like an ex post facto rationalization for what at the time was seen as a major foreign policy disaster– for the US (Russians on the march south!). And unless the US had the Oracle of Delphi stowed away in the basement of the State Department there was no way anyone could know in advance how that would turn out.

#46 Comment By KS On June 8, 2016 @ 11:38 pm

@JonF, come, come now, what did you think they were going to do, hold a press release announcing the covert ops and how glad they were the soviets fell for it? You were played, as you should have been and it looks like the playing worked, people spending your tax money did a good job lol.

But the chagrin is understandable. As we saw with the hiroshima discussion, two sacred cows for the conservative story are the WW2 and the Reagan Afghanistan story. The narrative cannot be questioned or shown to be anything else other than a heroic battle of good v/s evil. Catner bad and weak, Reagan good and strong, those brave mujahideen etc etc, BTW who now we are busy fighting against.

We have got to get over this binary thing. Why does it have to be binary? Can there not be subtleties and grey areas? Or areas in riotous multicolor? Can not our analysis be, here are some things we did great, here are some things that sucked, here are some places where we gave into our vices, here are some where we experience grace and ditto for the person on the other side of the table.

Fight the devil within you and you might learn some very good things. Outside, the world is full of nuance, as we can see. Cultural nuance, individual nuance, 7 billion nuances for all the seven billion people in the world. And so we need the deal maker.Someone who can work these nuances to get a good deal. Enter Trump.

#47 Comment By KS On June 8, 2016 @ 11:47 pm

@Randal, at this point it is really hard to tell what Trump’s motivations are regarding foreign policy and how much will he be swayed by the voices around him and whose voices too.

What we do know is that as a businessman he has shown a track record of reasonably cool-headed management, though he’s had his share of failures too. He does have this other side that Noah Millman writes about, where he seems to be talking to himself really, continuously trying to convince himself he is a winner, which is…odd. (What do you think that is about?) How will that impact his thinking on foreign policy? Who knows?

#48 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On June 9, 2016 @ 12:44 am

For clarity, in case it’s needed, I was not referring to a difference of opinion as to which candidate would be better, but rather to the suggestion that the American people or state deserve better than the options on offer.

For clarity, in case its needed, I was making a statement of unvarnished opinion, not an assertion of proven and undeniable fact. Did you really see anything else in what I wrote?

I also have an opinion about the significance of the facts presented in the article you linked to. Who is reading it “properly” is a matter of opinion. The facts stated are more or less the same facts I asserted.

As KS highlights, Trump used the phrase “surgical strike,” so those who want to glorify Trump are impelled to prove two things:

1) A surgical strike is a good thing, otherwise Donald wouldn’t have lauded it, and,

2) Whatever has failed in the past is NOT a surgical strike, because, Trump called for surgical strikes, and he’s their hero, so he wouldn’t advocate a proven failure.