On Monday, August 21, 2017, Donald Trump addressed the nation regarding the war in Afghanistan. If you don’t include cold wars, it is the longest running war in U.S. history. Unfortunately, based on his speech, it is going to go on for longer still.
There was one particular part of his speech that caught my attention and should be of particular interest to libertarians. It should also be of interest to those who supported Trump because they wanted some real change and some opposition to the status quo.
Trump said the following:
“My original instinct was to pull out, and historically I like following my instincts. But all my life, I have heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office. In other words, when you are president of the United States.”
For many years, and even up until he was elected, Trump spoke out against nation building in Afghanistan and suggested that we were wasting money there and wasting lives. Now that he is president, things have changed.
This should be no surprise. George W. Bush campaigned on a humble foreign policy and quickly became a war president, including the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. Barack Obama, the supposed peace president, spoke against war and closing down the prison in Guantanamo Bay. He not only failed to shut down the prison in Cuba, but he started new wars in Libya and Syria, and continued the wars that were already going on. He also intervened in other places such as Yemen and Ukraine.
While Bush and Obama both spoke of less intervention, they didn’t do so in a hardcore way. In other words, they didn’t sound like Ron Paul. Still, it continually happens that a candidate will say one thing, and then all of a sudden things look different when they get into office. Voters follow the definition of insanity: doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results.
I had mild hope that things would be slightly better under Trump in terms of foreign policy. And while I expected the left to oppose Trump, I didn’t expect what has become an unofficial alliance the left has made with the war hawks in the Republican establishment.
While Steve Bannon was problematic in may ways, he was also one of the few people Trump had in a high level that believed in Trump’s nationalist agenda. While libertarians shouldn’t necessarily cheer nationalism, especially when it comes to protectionism and trade wars, nationalism beats globalism when it comes to foreign policy. When Bannon exited, so too did any hope of a less interventionist foreign policy.
It is interesting that Trump explicitly stated that things look different when you sit behind the desk of the presidency. This was his way of deflecting criticism of him flip-flopping. But in this statement, he told the truth. But the big question is: Why do things look different?
If anything, I would hope that it would be harder to send people (essentially mostly kids) off to war. You are making a decision that you know will take people’s lives. Yet when these people get into office, they almost inevitably are drawn towards more war.
Some people say it is the lobbyists that corrupt politicians. Perhaps this is so to a certain extent. In the case of war, you have the military-industrial complex. But Trump won his election without owing anything to the military-industrial complex, or really any of the major lobbyists. The only ones that Trump owes for his victory are the actual people who voted for him. He was vastly outspent, and he raised a small amount of money from big donors in comparison.
You have to wonder if, when you are elected president, you are taken to a private room and told the dark secrets. Maybe Trump was told what actually happened to John F. Kennedy for opposing the CIA and an escalation of war. Maybe he was told subtly, or even not so subtly, that he better stay within certain guidelines if he wants to survive.
I really don’t know on this. It sounds conspiratorial, and I’m sure it wouldn’t go down just like this. But there have to be pressures that we just can’t understand.
Of course, people don’t like to be ridiculed and continually slammed on a personal basis either. This comes with the job, but the establishment media can make anyone’s life especially bad. Even though the Trump voters completely ignored the media (and in many ways delegitimized them), it shows that the establishment media still has a great impact, even if they can’t always decide the election.
I wish Ron Paul had been elected president, if only to see what would have happened. Would he have been able to resist the establishment, the deep state, the elitists, or whatever you want to call them? Would Ron Paul, if he had been allowed to take office, have actually followed through on his promise to bring home the troops?
I think he would have followed through, but I also understand that he is somebody who is rare. You have to have a combination of intelligence, honesty, courage, and strong principles.
Trump had some good instincts, and unfortunately, even as he stated, he has abandoned them. But Trump never had any firm principles. That is why, when he talked about foreign policy, he was all over the place. One minute he wanted to bring the troops home, and the next minute he wanted to bomb the terrorists back to the Stone Age. Sometimes he had these contradictory positions within the same debate.
Trump’s election was still unique. He is the first unvetted candidate to get into office since at least World War 2. Even though the establishment would have preferred someone other than Reagan, they could still tolerate him. In the case of Trump, he was simply not acceptable at all to the insiders.
If Trump can’t resist the establishment, then it almost seems as if there is no hope. Trump is not going to drain the swamp.
But it is good to step back and appreciate the fact that Trump was even able to get elected, especially with the hostility of the so-called mainstream media. This alone is reason to celebrate.
We also have to consider that we don’t have to elect someone good to get some good change. Just as the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union came crashing down, change can happen rather suddenly and unexpectedly. There is obviously a lot of dissatisfaction out there. Maybe the different sides will realize that the only way to move forward is to separate and go their separate ways. Maybe they will realize that they don’t have to force their views onto others. Instead of struggling for the reigns of power, it is just a matter of withdrawing and leaving each other alone.
Trump is not going to drain the swamp. He is now part of the swamp. But the American people still have the capability to drain the swamp through public opinion.