or a president who won his office by denouncing the Middle East wars into which George W. Bush and Barack Obama plunged the nation, Donald Trump has assembled the most unabashedly hawkish conclave of foreign policy advisers in memory. And he himself seems to concede the point.
If foreign policy were decided by my security adviser John Bolton, the president confided recently, “We’d be in four wars by now.”
It was Bolton who ordered the Abraham Lincoln carrier group and B-52s to the Gulf and told the Pentagon to draw up plans to send 120,000 U.S. troops. It is Bolton who is charging Iran with using mines to sabotage four oil tankers outside the Strait of Hormuz.
Speaking at the West Coast neocon lamasery Claremont Institute last week, Secretary Mike Pompeo said the Founding Fathers “knew peace wasn’t the norm” and “conflict is the normative experience for nations.”
He ripped into the Russians.
Thirty years after the Cold War, said Pompeo, “The Putin regime slays dissidents in cold blood and invades its neighbors,” and, along with China, conducts a foreign policy “intent on eroding American power.”
“We Americans have had too little courage to confront regimes squarely opposed to our interests and our values.”
As for “America First!” Pompeo explained Trump’s signature phrase thus:
The president “believes America is exceptional — a place and history apart from normal human experience.”
President George Washington would approve of our policies, said Pompeo. Though the Father of our Country may have warned in his Farewell Address against “permanent alliances,” we are “banding together with the like-minded nations like Australia, India, Japan and South Korea to make sure that each Indo-Pacific nation can protect its sovereignty from coercion.”
“American exceptionalism … will remain alive and well in the 21st century,” concluded Pompeo. “What’s good for the United States is good for the world.”
One wonders: Do the hawks in his inner councils speak for Trump? For they surely do not speak for a nation whose weariness with wars put him into the White House.
On the first day of Trump’s visit to London, Pompeo, who last year issued his 12 demands on Iran, was quoted as saying the U.S. is now prepared to negotiate with Tehran with “no preconditions.”
For now, Trump’s hawks appeared contained. But for how long?
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