What does an “America-first” foreign policy look like under President Donald Trump? As a start, forget the ancient label of “isolationism.” With the end of Trump’s first 100 days approaching, it looks more like a military-first policy aimed at achieving global hegemony, which means it’s a potential doomsday machine.
Candidate Trump vowed he’d make the US military so strong that he wouldn’t have to use it, since no one would dare attack us—deterrence, in a word. The on-the-ground (or in-the-air) reality is already far different. President Trump’s generals have begun to unleash that military in a manner the Obama administration, hardly shy about bombing or surging, deemed both excessive and risky to civilians. Last week, 59 US cruise missiles (value: $60 million) pummeled an air base in Syria, a profligate response to a chemical-weapons attack in that country, which may yet lead to further escalation. Meanwhile, US weapons are to be sold to Sunni monarchies in the Persian Gulf with less concern than ever for human-rights abuses, and the Saudis will be provided with yet more of the support they demand for their devastating war on civilians in Yemen. Doubtless further military interventions and escalations across the Greater Middle East are on that classic “table” in Washington where “all options” are supposedly kept.
Most Americans believe the spin that the US military is all about deterring and preventing attacks on the homeland, especially those orchestrated by “radical Islamic terrorism.” Sold as a deterrent, Washington’s national-security state has, in fact, exploded into something that increasingly resembles a mechanism for permanent war. Ignorant of the most basic military strategy, impulsive and bombastic, its present commander in chief is being enabled by bellicose advisers and the men he calls “my generals,” who dream of ever-bigger budgets. (Even Trump’s promise of a $54 billion boost to Pentagon spending this coming fiscal year isn’t enough for some senior military officers.)