From Consortium News
President Trump outside the Department of Defense on July 20, 2017.
(Image by (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)) Permission Details DMCA
President Trump's recent report on National Security Strategy supposedly reflected his America First "realism" but his approach seems more like old wine in a new bottle, particularly his continued strong support for Saudi Arabia and Israel in the Middle East combined with an even more aggressive U.S. policy in Asia aimed at containing China as well as confronting North Korea.
For more background on Trump's foreign policy, I spoke to Matthew Hoh. In 2009, Hoh resigned his position with the State Department in Afghanistan in protest of the escalation of the Afghan War by the Obama administration. He previously had been in Iraq with a State Department team and with the U.S. Marines. He is a senior fellow with the Center of International Policy. Hoh is also a member of the advisory boards of Expose Facts, Veterans For Peace and World Beyond War.
Dennis Bernstein: Before we get into Trump's recent major speech on foreign policy, let's take a look at Afghanistan, where you were posted by the State Department until you resigned in protest. Your thoughts after over 16 years of a US-waged war there?
Matthew Hoh: For the people of Afghanistan, this war has been going on since the 1970's, much of it propelled by and supported by outside involvement. It has been eight years now since I resigned. If you had told me back then that this level of tragedy would still be continuing eight years on, there is no way I would have believed you.
It was just revealed by the Pentagon that in the last six months, American and Afghan commandos have conducted more than 2,000 raids in Afghanistan. Americans are still there kicking in doors, raiding people's homes in the middle of the night, killing them, taking prisoners. This has happened over 2,000 times in Afghanistan in the last six months! In addition to that, we have seen an escalation in air strikes, both from drones and from manned aircraft, in Afghanistan and throughout the Muslim world.
These poor suffering people are no closer to seeing an end to this horrific violence. Money continues to pour in to support the war, people continue to get rich off the war, the opium trade continues to expand.
Bernstein: It's interesting, there are two major things that Trump has done when it comes to Afghanistan. One was to test out "the mother of all bombs" there and the other was to state that we are not going to make any commitment to withdraw by a certain date.
Hoh: Dropping the mother of all bombs was really the first indication of what war policy was going to look like under Trump. Under Obama and under Bush, there was a political victory sought. As immoral and misguided as the military aims were, there was a political end stated. They encouraged elections, they assisted in development, they were involved in a process of reconciliation.
Under the Trump administration, there is no political end state. People who were concerned about there being so many generals in the White House were concerned for a reason. We have General Kelly as Chief of Staff, Mattis as Secretary of Defense and General McMaster as National Security Advisor. You have military operations now conducted simply for military purposes. This new bomb is a great example of that.
They lied that it was used to go after a tunnel complex. It was above ground and turns the entire area into one huge flash. It is useless against tunnels. The dropping of this bomb was meant to punish the people there because, a week prior, an American service member had been killed in that area.
This policy of terror and punishment is in common with other wars which America is leading in the region. In Iraq, the US-led forces have demolished Sunni cities in the Euphrates and Tigris River Valleys. Look at what the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates have been doing in Yemen, what the Kurdish forces along with the American Air Force have done to Raqqa as well as other cities in eastern Syria. And in Afghanistan we are seeing an increase in air strikes, in artillery operations and in these night raids into people's homes.
Our policy has become to terrorize people into subjugation. And this ties into what Trump said on the campaign trail. Trump said a number of times that he was going to "take the gloves off," that our wars were too politically correct, that we should be killing the families of terrorists and destroying their homes, etc.
Bernstein: President Trump gave his big speech yesterday [Monday, Dec. 18] on US foreign policy. What is your take on what was said?
Hoh: As has been pointed out by a number of commentators, Trump's speech yesterday was really a public relations speech, affirming his status as the leader of the Make America Great Again campaign. The first thing he talked about, as he was addressing the national security interests of the United States, was how 13 months prior the American people elected him to be a "glorious new hope." The target of the speech was not China or Russia or the Islamic State. Its purpose was to reaffirm to his domestic political base that he is the man to lead a policy of American exceptionalism. This is the belief that American moral superiority is needed to keep the world in order.