Why Donald Trump Might Become an Interventionist
Similar dynamics could come into play with a domestically beleaguered Donald Trump. Trump’s comments during the campaign suggesting a less interventionist orientation than previous administrations were just like many other of his campaign comments in appealing to discontents of the moment. He was especially trying to capitalize on dissatisfaction with the disastrous Iraq War, going so far as to lie about his own purported opposition to the invasion of Iraq. His comments that sounded like an intention to retrench were no more part of a carefully constructed worldview or grand strategy than are any other things he has said. Other comments of his seem to go in a different direction, such as his promise to “bomb the s*** out of” ISIS.
If one is to hang larger conclusions on fragments of Trump’s speeches, one might also consider some other lines in the inaugural address. There was the one alleging “a very sad depletion of our military,” notwithstanding that the United States spends more on its military than the next six largest armed forces in the world combined. If President Trump and the Republican majority in Congress really were to devote still more resources to the military, voices both inside and outside the administration are bound to start asking the Madeleine Albright question, “What’s the point of having this superb military if we can’t use it?” There also was the promise regarding “radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth.” That is an impossible promise to fulfill, and so there always will be some target bearing that label to go after.
Right now all of this is speculation. But so has been projection of a less interventionist future based on the tweets and blurts and campaign speeches. What actually transpires will depend not only on the vicissitudes of presidential narcissism but also on interplay yet to develop between the president and his most influential subordinates. Those commentators who have been repelled by the hegemonic inclinations of the Washington consensus or by the hawkishness of Mr. Trump’s general election opponent and who have hope for fewer foreign misadventures may be in for some unpleasant surprises.
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