Whether it was the backing of death squads in Central America, preemptive war designed to further US economic interests in Iraq, unmanned illegal drone strikes in Pakistan , oddly timed coups, repeated election interference abroad, or dozens of other imperialist actions that have spread discord globally, the United States throughout my lifetime has been the world’s leading imperialist power.
American imperialism comes in both economic and military forms. Whether it is the United States pressuring nations to push its private airlines to buy Boeing airplanes or the nation’s military industrial complex funding overseas war or right-wing rebellions, the US has since the 1980 election on Ronald Reagan put the global economic interests of its elites above that of ordinary people both home and abroad.
The United States while not committing the traditional western definition of terrorism, has long used terror in its own way to frighten the developing world and other actors into submission.
President Donald J. Trump as recently as February’s State of the Union pledged to be different. For all his other flaws as a tin-pot wannabe authoritarian dictator, he’s criticized the folly of Iraq and Vietnam because as a President appealing to working class voters, he knows those wars were a burden on his electoral base. He also appears to understand that the US wars of the last 15 years have been carried out at the behest of financial elites, US corporations and military contractors.
This having been said Trump has been almost as bad as George W. Bush in pushing American economic imperialism which forces developing nations to either choose American products over European or Chinese ones or face enormous pressure that can crash an economy. Buy Boeing planes, Dell computers and Apple phones otherwise you’ll be considered a rogue state more or less is the thinking. Don’t buy oil from Iran or Venezuela or else you will face American retaliation. Help us manipulate to oil market to destabilize Russia’s economy or else be considered a Kremlin ally, so on and so forth.
Coming to office pledging to end needless foreign wars and improve relations with Russia’s Vladimir Putin ( the co-biggest backer along with China of anti-American interests globally), Trump seemed despite his angry and dangerous right-wing domestic populism to perhaps reposition the United States globally. However, the President and his family enjoy a close alliance with Saudi Arabia that has not only threatened a potential rapprochement with Russia, it has helped drive Turkey, a traditional US ally under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan toward Russia in a reversal of 400 years of animosity between the nations and empires that ruled Russia and Turkey.
This new alliance represents an overriding threat to all US and western interests in the Middle East, Central Asia and Balkans. That however is a topic for another time. (in fairness it should be noted the seeds of this dangerous alliance were originally created by US mistakes under President Obama – however Trump has done nothing to reverse course except pay lip service personally to both leaders.)
Against this backdrop is the growing pressure from within Trumpian ranks to go to war with Iran – a dream of Dick Cheney in the later Bush II years, that was shot down by the President himself who had by 2007 evidently grown weary of sending Americans off to fight and die in wars of economic aggression.
Trump’s perceived friendship with Putin has done nothing to mitigate his hostility toward Iran, a Russian ally. It is Trump’s alliance with the Saudi royal family and Israeli Likudniks that has driven his administration toward the madest potential war of all – one that is not only immoral but one which the United States will not win conventionally. In fact short of potentially using nuclear weapons in a tactical manner, the US might not be able to win the war at all. But the US long a backer of its own version of terrorism, combined with an impulsive rogue actor like Trump may be the least trustworthy current acknowledged nuclear power, so who is to rule this possibility out?
It is the Saudi’s that badly want to dismember Iran, and despite the extreme wealth of Saudi Arabia they are looking to the United States to send its young working class men and women off to die in order to fulfill their own political agenda. President Trump having allowed Saudi Arabia to dictate so much of his thinking toward the region seems now willing to allow war to break out.
The entire “American first” mantra of Trump’s rhetoric hangs in the balance. Start this war and you are potentially unleash a carnage on the lines of what Adolf Hitler brought Europe in World War II. Stop your most extreme advisors and be seen as a fair, honest broker in terms of protecting the American working class from the elites you claimed you would drain the swamp of. Stop this war and maybe you still have a shot at reelection, however painful that is for people of my leftist political persuasion.
Donald Trump is far from my favorite elected official. I strongly oppose his domestic policies and his general un-statesmanlike demeanor. But until this point his foreign policy has arguably been more reasonable than that of his predecessors in both parties. He hasn’t expanded American military commitments and has been actually more pragmatic than his rhetoric would appear. But the consistent alliance with Likud and the Saudi’s always stood out as a potential problem – now it’s becoming a burden which Trump must unshackle or go down in history in the worst possible manner.
Trump may be looking at the George W. Bush presidency as a cause for war. Bush was elected in 2004 after stealing the 2000 election thanks to patriotic hues and slanderous “swift boating” of his opposition after initiating the disastrous US war with Iraq 18 months before his election. Trump, won in 2016 legitimately under the US electoral college system- albeit with a minority of popular votes, so might be looking to repeat Bush’s feat.
Whatever the case, Trump’s historical legacy, already likely to put him in league with Warren Harding and James Buchanan might just fall even further to the depths unknown for an American President should he not stop this madness.