President Trump Delivers Remarks To Troops Al Asad Air Base, Iraq.
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President Trump's big announcement to pull US troops out of Syria and Afghanistan is now emerging less as a peace move, and more a rationalization of American military power in the Middle East.
In a surprise visit to US forces in Iraq this week, Trump said he had no intention of withdrawing the troops in that country, who have been there for nearly 15 years since GW Bush invaded back in 2003.
Hinting at private discussions with commanders in Iraq, Trump boasted that US forces would in the future launch attacks from there into Syria if and when needed. Presumably that rapid force deployment would apply to other countries in the region, including Afghanistan.
In other words, in typical business-style transactional thinking, Trump sees the pullout from Syria and Afghanistan as a cost-cutting exercise for US imperialism. Regarding Syria, he has bragged about Turkey being assigned, purportedly, to "finish off" terror groups. That's Trump subcontracting out US interests.
Critics and supporters of Trump are confounded. After his Syria and Afghanistan pullout call, domestic critics and NATO allies have accused him of walking from the alleged "fight against terrorism" and of ceding strategic ground to US adversaries Russia and Iran.
Meanwhile, Trump's supporters have viewed his decision in more benign light, cheering the president for "sticking it to" the deep state and military establishment, assuming he's delivering on electoral promises to end overseas wars.
However, neither view gets what is going on. Trump is not scaling back US military power; he is rationalizing it like a cost-benefit analysis, as perhaps only a real-estate-wheeler-dealer-turned president would appreciate. Trump is not snubbing US militarism or NATO allies, nor is he letting loose an inner peace spirit. He is as committed to projecting American military as ruthlessly and as recklessly as any other past occupant of the White House. The difference is Trump wants to do it on the cheap.
Here's what he said to reporters on Air Force One before touching down in Iraq:
"The United States cannot continue to be the policeman of the world. It's not fair when the burden is all on us, the United States... We are spread out all over the world. We are in countries most people haven't even heard about. Frankly, it's ridiculous." He added: "We're no longer the suckers, folks."
Laughably, Trump's griping about US forces "spread all over the world" unwittingly demonstrates the insatiable, monstrous nature of American militarism. But Trump paints this vice as a virtue, which, he complains, Washington gets no thanks for from the 150-plus countries around the globe that its forces are present in.
As US troops greeted him in Iraq, the president made explicit how the new American militarism would henceforth operate.
"America shouldn't be doing the fighting for every nation on earth, not being reimbursed in many cases at all. If they want us to do the fighting, they also have to pay a price," Trump said.
This reiterates a big bugbear for this president in which he views US allies and client regimes as "not pulling their weight" in terms of military deployment. Trump has been browbeating European NATO members to cough up more on military budgets, and he has berated the Saudis and other Gulf Arab regimes to pay more for American interventions.
Notably, however, Trump has never questioned the largesse that US taxpayers fork out every year to Israel in the form of nearly $4 billion in military aid. To be sure, that money is not a gift because much of it goes back to the Pentagon from sales of fighter jets and missile systems.