During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump got attention from Old Right conservatives and libertarians alike by expressing many non-interventionist, anti-war foreign policy ideas. The evidence for this is threefold: his opposition to the Iraq war, continuing criticisms of NATO, rightly concluding that the U.S. ought not to be the “world’s policeman”, and support for a renewed alliance with Russia. All three of these views were met with the predictable outrage of the political establishment and foreign policy community, though, whose goal, it seems, is to keep us all in perpetual war.
While it is true that President Trump did show some signs of being favorable to military interventionism during the 2016 presidential campaign, after all, who can forget his epic exchanges with Senator Rand Paul over the Geneva Convention and the killing of the children of suspected terrorists? His support for non-interventionist stances even led some brilliant libertarians, as well as conservatives skeptical of military intervention to support Trump for president against confirmed warmonger Hillary Clinton.
So now that Trump is at the helm of a trillion-dollar global war machine, how is he faring? Has he repudiated President Obama’s policies of unconstitutional drone bombing, killing of unarmed, civilian non-combatants, and assassinations of American citizens overseas without warrant or due process or has he continued these policies of death, destruction, and inevitable blowback? Unfortunately, it appears the latter is true, as Trump is more than picking up where Obama left off.
President Trump was inaugurated on January 20th. One week later, on January 27th, reports from Yemen surfaced that an U.S. led airstrike, approved by President Trump, on a suspected military compound had also killed as many of 30 civilians, including 10 women and children.
Nor does it appear that Yemen is alone in feeling the wrath of President Trump’s military escapades. Last week, the New York Times reported that an investigation is underway to into reports that up to 200 civilians have been killed in recent U.S. airstrikes in Mosul, in northern Iraq. Couple that news with reports out of Syria claiming U.S. airstrikes killed dozens of civilians in Raqqa and it is easy to see why those of us who support non-interventionism have soured on Trump’s handling of foreign policy.
An even more terrifying prospect is that it seems President Trump is not only continuing Obama’s insane and unconstitutional drone strike campaigns, he is, in fact, escalating them by granting the CIA a new, secret authority to carry out their own drone strikes on suspected terrorists.
“The new authority – said to have been granted shortly after Mr Trump’s inauguration – takes drone strikes out of the sole control of the military, sparking fears about accountability.
Under the drone policy of the Obama administration, the CIA could find a suspect, but the armed forces would carry out the actual strike.
Unlike the Pentagon, the CIA does not need to disclose drone strikes — or any resulting civilian casualties.”
As despicable as the previous administration’s drone policy was, at least they were being carried out by the Pentagon and in full view of both public and Congress. The idea that the CIA can now identify and carry out airstrikes on their own, without documentation or oversight, should send chills up the spine of any reasonable thinking human being. This is, of course, the same CIA that can secretly hack smartphones, televisions, computers, personal assistants such as the Amazon Echo, and even cars.
In just the first two months of his administration, President Trump is pushing the envelope on executive military power even further than President Obama did, just as he did with his predecessor George W. Bush. Where is Congress in all of this, one may ask? By abdicating their constitutional war powers and essentially handing them over to the president, they are attempting to insulate themselves from criticism. For example, how can they be held responsible for civilian casualties when it’s the president unilaterally carrying out the drone strikes? There may, though, be a bright side: now that the president is a Republican, the media and the anti-war left have come out of hibernation to criticize and hold the Trump administration accountable. Better late than never, I guess.