Home/Daniel Larison/Don’t Ignore Trump’s Crude Imperialism in Iraq

Don’t Ignore Trump’s Crude Imperialism in Iraq

The last Democratic presidential debate before the Iowa caucuses covered foreign policy more than usual, but as Van Jackson observed the treatment of the issues was extremely shallow and limited. The debate questions were not very good, and in some cases they framed these issues in the most absurd way possible. The candidates were asked about whether they would be willing to keep U.S. troops in the Middle East, and Blitzer put the question to Bernie Sanders this way:

Sen. Sanders, in the wake of the Iran crisis, Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei has again called for all U.S. troops to be pulled out of the Middle East, something you’ve called for, as well. Yet when American troops last left Iraq, ISIS emerged and spread terror across the Middle East and, indeed, around the world. How would you prevent that from happening again?

Blitzer’s loaded question was also divorced from reality since he never saw fit to mention that it is the Iraqi government that wants U.S. troops out of their country because of the flagrant violations of Iraqi sovereignty that have taken place in the last three weeks. Iraqi preferences and sovereignty never came up once in the discussion of whether U.S. forces should remain there. It was simply taken for granted that this is solely an American decision and Iraqi wishes don’t count for anything. One reason why our foreign policy debates are so poor is that almost everyone involved in them internalizes this logic of dominating other countries and dictating terms to them. Ignoring Iraqi sovereignty has unfortunately become a well-established habit in Washington among members of both parties.

There is no shortage of sound arguments against what the administration has done and what it threatens to do. Ted Galen Carpenter criticizes the administration’s bullying of Iraq on the main page:

If Washington refuses to withdraw its forces from Iraq, defying the Baghdad government’s calls to leave, those troops will no longer be guests or allies. They would constitute a hostile army of occupation, however elaborate the rhetorical facade.

Doug Bandow recently called for U.S. withdrawal in accordance with Iraqi wishes:

However, Washington cannot reoccupy Iraq against its government’s and especially its people’s will. The consequences of imposing an American presence, backed by threats of economic sanctions if not military action, are likely to be catastrophic. Two wars with Iraq are enough.

The Trump administration’s neo-imperialist policy of threatening Iraq is crying out for serious, sustained criticism from the press and the Democratic field of candidates. Regrettably, the administration faces little pressure at the moment to change its position. In the absence of significant opposition here in the U.S., the administration will assume that it can get away with trying to compel Iraq to yield. Americans need to stand up and reject Trump’s crude imperialism in Iraq, and they need to hold him and his officials for putting U.S. troops at greater risk with his reckless and illegal actions over the last month.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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