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How the Hawks Prevailed on Syria

Paul Pillar comments [1] on Bolton’s maneuvers to keep us at war in Syria:

The episode involving withdrawal and non-withdrawal of U.S. troops in Syria should be a lesson for those who mistakenly placed hopes in Trump for a more restrained and less militaristic U.S. foreign policy. Applause lines on the campaign trail have been mistaken for deeper thought. Behind the candidate’s rhetoric there never was enough strategic sense, necessary knowledge, or even caring about foreign affairs to ward off the maneuvers of a determined hawk like Bolton once he was in position to do damage.

If the first two years of Trump’s presidency didn’t already make it clear, the last few weeks should have laid to rest any suspicions that the Trump administration is going to put an end to unnecessary foreign wars. It isn’t happening. For one thing, everyone around Trump doesn’t want those wars to end and will go to considerable lengths to ensure that they continue. That is a result of Trump’s own poor personnel choices and bad judgment. It isn’t possible to have a “more restrained and less militaristic U.S. foreign policy” when the president’s national security team is dominated by reflexive hawks that have never seen a military intervention they didn’t want to support. Trump put Bolton in the position he now occupies, and unless he wants to start in on his fourth National Security Advisor within two years we are going to be stuck with the unfortunate consequences of that bad decision for a while longer.

Pillar writes:

The de facto reversal of Trump’s withdrawal decision is a victory only for those who—like Bolton, who still avers that the Iraq War was a good idea—never met a U.S. military intervention in the Middle East they didn’t like and never stop seeing regimes they would like to change with force.

One big problem with the Trump administration is that it is filled with the people who never met an intervention they didn’t like. People like that have been the ones shaping administration policies in the region for the last two years, and on Syria they have prevailed once again. It could scarcely be otherwise when there is essentially no one willing or able to make the arguments for the other side of these issues. It is extremely difficult for hawks to lose an internal administration debate when there is no one in the administration that opposes hawkish policies.

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9 Comments To "How the Hawks Prevailed on Syria"

#1 Comment By Steve On January 9, 2019 @ 9:44 pm

Here’s another big problem with the Trump administration: its lead by Donald Trump. So blame Bolton and others all you like, the problem at root is Trump’s reckless incompetence. In the end, he has the power to either disregard their advice or fire them. But he’s too weak and incapable for that. You elude to that, but to my mind, you buried the lead.

#2 Comment By SteveJ On January 9, 2019 @ 10:41 pm

I’m going to give Trump until the end of the year to get us out of these places.

If he doesn’t have the backbone for it, like the previous 2 Presidents, then screw him.

#3 Comment By voter rolls On January 9, 2019 @ 11:28 pm

I’m not counting it out just yet. By now nearly everyone admits that one of our biggest Mideast mistakes was arrogantly assuming that the enemy has no vote. Not only does the enemy have a vote, so do the other relevant regional parties.

Notwithstanding Bolton, Pompeo, and the other fools who imagine we are omnipotent, invulnerable, and have a bottomless treasure chest, it’s not entirely up to us whether we stay or go. Others have a vote. Including Russia, Turkey, Syria, and Iran. And including the President of the United States, believe it or not.

#4 Comment By Tom Callaghan On January 10, 2019 @ 3:35 am

On Syria, Trump doesn’t have any allies within his own administration. How crazy is that?

Bolton and Pompeo are Adelson people. In the Republican Party, he is the man that must be obeyed. As they say in Las Vegas…”money talks, BS walks.”


#5 Comment By Dan Green On January 10, 2019 @ 8:24 am

Read Ike’s warning of a US military complex. Well we have a very large one. War is important to the Generals no President will have any influence.

#6 Comment By Sid Finster On January 10, 2019 @ 9:49 am

If Trump has no allies in his own administration, that is on his head as he appointed those people.

Time to stop making excuses and face facts, folks, the Trump you thought you voted for ain’t never gonna show up, not later this year, not ever.


#7 Comment By rayray On January 10, 2019 @ 10:44 am

Trump didn’t win the election because he promised change in FP. Yes, there were some applause lines that seemed to say he wanted less American military presence, but to anyone watching they were usually followed up by applause lines that seemed to say he wanted more American military presence. He was just looking for applause lines irrespective of their meaning, full stop. If it’s not clear by now that Trump is essentially incompetent and ignorant, it never will be. The idea that Trump hasn’t “delivered” on what he promised is ridiculous.

The fact is that folks voted for Trump because he is fundamentally racist and willing to state it overtly. And credit goes to him for delivering the truth of the GOP that everyone has always known but no one was ever willing to say.

#8 Comment By Jonathan Lester On January 10, 2019 @ 12:53 pm

We’re also talking about people who obviously don’t care how many Christians or other demographic minorities have to die for their pet projects, and who are clearly avoiding the question of why Iran is allied with a secular regime if it’s any kind of theocratic threat to anyone.

#9 Comment By As It Is Played On January 11, 2019 @ 9:22 am

The hawks prevailed by doing what the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and other elite and Establishment organs have encouraged them to do: resist.
Manipulate his ignorance to advance the elite agenda, when he fails to act, act for him but in the interest of the elite agenda, and if he gives you a direct order, defy and undermine it — and don’t forget, we’re here to help you.

To paraphrase Marco Rubio, who is one of them, they know EXACTLY what they’re doing.