What’s the Good and the Bad of Trump in Afghanistan and Venezuela?

The past week saw President Trump step even farther away from his campaign pledge of America First, of getting involved less in foreign quarrels. But how far?

His actions took off the front page the bad press he keeps getting from his response to the death and disaster of the Charlottesville protest. Probably anything he said would have been blasted by the fake-news media. The New York Times’ op-ed page has been even more apoplectic than usual.

In Venezuela, Trump’s sanctions make no sense at all. The White House Reads blog for Aug. 25 began with this:

“The Miami Herald reports the U.S. has ‘imposed its first economic penalties against Venezuela on Friday, hitting the South American country’s financial sector in an attempt to starve President Nicolas Maduro’s government of cash.’ President Trump signed an executive order approving the sanctions last night. The measure targets Venezuela’s ability to borrow and is aimed at sowing discontent among Maduro’s inner circle, the paper reports. It’s the harshest sanction the U.S. can take, barring an outright oil ban.”

It’s true Maduro is a dictator who is abusing his people. But then why not similar massive sanctions against much more brutal dictators in Saudi Arabia and China?

The sanctions on Venezuela’s financial sector mainy will hurt what remains of the middle class, denying them the financial means to rise up on their own. And how have the 1962 sanctions against Fidel Castro worked? Was he driven from power? Of course not. He croaked a year ago after running Cuba into the ground for 54 years, the longest run at the top for any non-royal in history. His brother Raul still runs the place.

Trump didn’t ban Venezuelan oil imports because that would distort the world market, the oil would just go to Europe and prices would rise in America, dampening our economic boom. It’s way too cynical.

As to Afghanistan, although adding more troops is wrong. And Trump himself numerous times over the years called for getting out, for example tweeting in 2013, “Let’s get out of Afghanistan. Our troops are being killed by the Afghanis we train and we waste billions there. Nonsense! Rebuild the USA.”

Yet his action there is more understandable. He’s under tremendous pressure from the Deep State to keep the Military-Industrial-Intelligence Complex rolling. Bannon is gone. Gorka just left. Both were in tune with Trump’s 2016 promises to let the foreigners solve their own problems.

So although the White House is putting out exact numbers, increasing troop strength from 8,400 to 13,000, or some similar number, isn’t that much of a “surge.” The American Conservative and others brought up the specter of Vietnam. But there, LBJ escalated the war from 15,000 troops in 1964 to 550,000 in 1968. There’s no way even getting to 50,000 is possible in Afghanistan today. So this is just a stopgap to push things till after the 2020 election.

Trump’s announcement made the Neocons giddy. Sen. John McCain’s statement read, “I commend President Trump for taking a big step in the right direction with the new strategy for Afghanistan. The unfortunate truth is that this strategy is long overdue, and in the interim, the Taliban have made dangerous inroads….

“For the last 16 years we have faltered. Now we must keep up the right level of effort, in the right places, with the right authorities and resources, together with our allies and partners, and see this conflict through to success.”

In 16 years, the U.S. has tried everything, and failed to conquer Afghanistan just as happened to Alexander the Great, the Mongols, the British Empire and the Soviet Empire.

And the new the strategy itself makes no sense. Trump both attacked Pakistan and asked it to help more: “In the past, Pakistan has been a valued partner.  Our militaries have worked together against common enemies.  The Pakistani people have suffered greatly from terrorism and extremism.  We recognize those contributions and those sacrifices.

“But Pakistan has also sheltered the same organizations that try every single day to kill our people.”

And he brought India into the picture: “Another critical part of the South Asia strategy for America is to further develop its strategic partnership with India – the world’s largest democracy and a key security and economic partner of the United States.”

That reminds me of an old quip of Henry Kissinger to President Ford in 1975 when Indira Gandhi made herself dictator. “Mr. President, I have good news and bad news. Good news: America now is the world’s largest democracy. Bad news: India has just become a dictatorship.”

Trump continued, “We appreciate India’s important contributions to stability in Afghanistan, but India makes billions of dollars in trade with the United States, and we want them to help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development.”

But India and Pakistan are bitter rivals, as even Trump said! “For its part, Pakistan often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror. The threat is worse because Pakistan and India are two nuclear-armed states whose tense relations threaten to spiral into conflict. And that could happen.”

The good news is Trump still has the America First instincts that attracted to him so many voters sick of decades of pointless wars that destroyed entire countries while killing our brave young troops and draining our economy. The bad news is any man depends on his advisers, and almost all his now all favor war, war, war.

John Seiler

John Seiler

2 Responses

  1. Harry Colin says:

    I’m beginning to wonder if Trump’s America First pronouncements were coming from his internal principles or from the pages of Mr. Bannon’s Breitbart work. Reports indicate today that he is apparently dismayed with Tillerson and is considering replacing him with Nikki Haley. If he is going to go fully neo-con he might as well drag Lindsey Graham into the seat. It seems Trump knew a winning strategy when he saw it but now settled into the Oval Office chair, he is turning over all foreign policy over to the same sages who brilliantly engineered Afghanistan, Iran, Yemen and all of our other successes.

  2. Alexander Coleman says:

    Nikki Haley as Secretary of State? Surely we are to be spared such a spectacle.

    Trump’s mercurial nature in the realm of foreign policy has left certain doors open, however, doors which lead to unfortunate events.

    Let us hope he knows which doorways to not go through.