The Deflated Balloon of a Strong Trump Presidency

Source: Independent

After President Obama’s weak reaction to the Russian interference in the Syrian civil war, the Russian annexation of Crimea, the world started wondering about an American leadership on the backfoot. The more hawkish of commentators even saw this as the beginning of the end of the American Empire or at least a President unwilling to further it.

President Obama had his own vision of a multilateral world, which was dovish to the extent that he ended up letting Russia dictate the direction of the Syrian civil war. He was a Wilsonian, albeit one skeptical about American moral superiority, who lacked the will to enforce his vision. A philosopher President who was even skeptical about his own convictions at times. President Obama also failed to follow his own red line for the Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad for carrying out chemical attacks on his own people by opting to deflect the decision to a vote in Congress. It was no wonder that many hawkish elements, many of them Republicans, were looking forward to a Republican Presidency.

However, everything changed with Donald Trump becoming the Republican frontrunner. Clearly, the American voter had a different mood this time around and was not taking anything from leaders making promises of globalization. With all the populist and anti-globalist rhetoric in the air, there was still one lasting factor traditional Republican view that Trump strongly promoted. The destruction of the Islamic State and deposing Bashar Al-Assad as the leader of the regime in power in Syria.

Trump came across as a strongman to many. Someone who would take tougher stances and establish America’s dominance over the world. However, President Trump’s completely spineless attitude toward Russian President Vladimir Putin and especially dealing the ceasefire in Southern Syria destroys the myth of a strong Trump Presidency. Now, we have an American Empire coming to terms with a precarious position in Syria.

The latest is that the Russia has signed an airbase deal with Syria, solidifying the presence of its troops for at least half a century to come. Instead of moving ahead with confronting the Islamic State, getting rid of Assad and confronting Russia, he reached a ceasefire deal for Southwest Syria with Russia. This development only points toward further military disengagement in the region. He does not seem to have any intention to confront the shrinking American influence either, as he too will apparently kneel before the Russian and Chinese aggression. He is more interested in creating an isolationist America than one leading from the front during the terms of Bush 41 and 43. Just because it will get you the votes in today’s political atmosphere.

It should be a great embarrassment to the Republicans for standing with Trump for his atrocious policies. While they are doing it for purely political reasons, they are going to lose the moral high ground that they are used to taking in front of the public. Politicians like John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who remain more concerned about the situation in the Middle East, should be particularly alarmed with the manner of the President they are standing by.

To many, the decline of America started with the election of a pompous narcissistic billionaire like Trump. It actually started with President Obama, elected on an anti-Iraq war mandate, withdrawing the United States from the global theater. To withdraw the role of actively policing the world for American values. While polar opposites ideologically and in terms of personality, both were symptomatic and also representative of the extreme polarization and a direction of international disengagement in American politics.

Supposedly someone with a liberal background, Donald Trump is going all out to pander to the hard-right conservative Republican base that has brought him to power. While those issues are going to cause much unrest domestically, his international stances, such as exiting the Paris Environment Treaty, are only going to undo the American moral leadership around the world.

Donald Trump and the politicians of his kind are taking the people of the United States back to the era of isolation and disengagement. They are taking America to the pre-Wilsonian era, which brought about great ideas such as the League of Nations and the United Nations to reality. Unlike the Republican tradition, they will not be the stalwarts of American moral leadership around the world. They are withdrawing America from the leadership of the world and leaving it in the hands of darker powers.

I know it’s still early days for the Trump Presidency, and given his unpredictable nature, anything is possible in the near future. However, the way he has handled the Syrian civil war so far takes out all the air that inflated the image of his leadership.

The post was published in The Nation blogs.

Trivializing The ISIS Threat

Source: RT.com

Source: RT.com

Regardless of the factors leading to the creation of the Islamic State or ISIS, there is little debate that it is a disturbing entity.

Even the most shameless Sunni apologists of the terrorist entity could feel some disturbance at their gruesome abuse of the local people in Iraq and Syria. Their treatment of the Yazidi women has particularly been the most chilling for the global conscience. To add insult to injury, they have been systematically wiping out the archeological treasures of the region, which should alarm anyone who treasures human civilization.

This is not an ordinary political and military force and is one that threatens human civilization as much as the more recent menaces in history such as the Nazi Germany, if not worse. This only necessitates forceful and meaningful military action against them involving boots on ground, without which the complete annihilation of ISIS is not possible. Unfortunately, neither President Obama nor any other global power seems to be interested in doing so, primarily because none of them is directly threatened by this terrorist state yet.

The unwillingness to take military action against ISIS is usually met by the resistance due to the fatigue from the several American military operations in the Middle East and around the world. The opponents of military intervention have a point, and for many years, I have held the same position. We should also recognize that many are being very consistent in their criticism of US military intervention over the years, and deserve respect for their intentions and ideological position.

The caucus of the anti-military constituents is significant in the United States and in most Western countries including UK and Canada, despite the widespread dislike for ISIS. The influence of such public opinion makes a possibility of action against the ISIS particularly difficult. But what is even worse, such political narrative often cynically trivializes the ever-growing threat of ISIS, when awareness for the support of more comprehensive action is badly needed.

Probably the main reason for the resistance to military intervention against ISIS among Western liberals is that North America and Europe have no direct threat from it. Fortunately, conservative politicians and voters in the United States are not only concerned about the ISIS threat but are also very much willing to support boots on ground.

Sadly, the opposition to comprehensive military action against ISIS has been simply reduced as a partisan election issue. The choice of not taking comprehensive military action against ISIS is a purely ideological and partisan position of liberal politicians, instead of a defensive strategy. However, President Obama certainly considers it the best way to go.

Conservative US senators such as Lindsey Graham and John McCain make sense in their criticism of President Obama’s recent decision to deploy less than 50 special operations troopers because of the half-hearted nature of the measure. While it is encouraging that the President finally realized that the ISIS threat deserves some boots on grounds, especially to assist the Kurds who are putting up an active resistance, we are a long way from a meaningful remedy.

The possible involvement of ISIS in bombing down a Russian airliner over the Sinai desert, as suspected by US intelligence, is only reflective of how dangerous ISIS and its affiliates have become. It clearly shows that the ISIS, if allowed to grow stronger and more influential, is not far from harming Western interests directly, if the misery of the Kurds, Iraqis and Syrians is not enough to fight this fire. Incidents such as these only strengthen the case of building an international coalition to fight the group, which is the right way to deal with the crisis.

The half-hearted approach adopted by the current US administration to deal with the threat of ISIS is not helping the situation. With a departing President looking to build his legacy as a peacemaker, it is unlikely that the current administration is going to commit to any major campaign. There is not much to expect from a Defense Department that considers the Sharia-enforcing Afghan Taliban as a partner for reconciliation anyway, something for which Pakistani government has been blasted since the Soviets left Afghanistan.

But probably what is even worse is the contribution of liberal and faux pacifists to trivialize the threat of ISIS for partisan purposes in political discourse. While it would help them win an election, it is not going to help in building the necessary public support for taking on the crisis created by ISIS, as was in the case of the operation against Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001. ISIS is far worse than both the Taliban and Al-Qaida and a Democratic President may very well require that support in 2016.

What the liberal and isolationist ISIS cynics don’t get is that whatever way we see the problem, there is no real solution but to deal with it through full throttle military action. Whether ISIS is created due to the actions of the wars started by Bush 43 or a by-product of President Obama’s military strategy in Syria, there is no choice but to deal with the crisis.

You cannot expect to have diplomatic negotiations with the Islamic State as in the case of Iran.

A version of the post was published in The Nation blogs.