I voted for Donald Trump because he promised to pursue a new foreign policy. As he said in December, “We will stop looking to topple regimes and overthrow governments. Our goal is stability, not chaos, because we want to rebuild our country.” He vowed to appoint those with “new approaches, and practical ideas, rather than surrounding myself with those who have perfect résumés but very little to brag about except responsibility for a long history of failed policies.”
After decades of disastrous interventions, Trump inspired me. But less than 100 days into his administration, I’m feeling the sting of betrayal. In recent weeks, Trump and his surrogates have abandoned virtually every foreign policy stance he took during the campaign.
He launched missiles against the regime of Syrian strongman Bashar Assad — mere months after telling the New York Times: “I thought the approach of fighting Assad and [Islamic State] simultaneously was madness, and idiocy.” Now Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is saying Assad must go, a clear indication that the Trump administration is “looking to topple regimes and overthrow governments.”
In another interview with the New York Times, Trump declared NATO “obsolete,” explaining, “When NATO was formed many decades ago we were a different country. There was a different threat.” Now we are told that “NATO is no longer obsolete.” Stay tuned for the Trump administration’s campaign to bring back Betamax.
“Wouldn’t it be nice,” Trump often said, “if we could get along with Russia?” This was music to my ears: finally a Republican candidate who wasn’t locked into a Cold War mentality. Yet, Trump’s appointees are now echoing the Washington policy wonks who want to start a new Cold War.
H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security advisor, claims the Russians are engaged in a campaign of global “subversion.” Tillerson, during his recent visit to Moscow, denounced Russia’s alleged “interference” in the 2016 election — an echo of the Democrats’ unproved claim that the Kremlin colluded with his boss.
As Trump threatens to go to war with North Korea — which would spell doom for the 38,000 American troops stationed on the Korean peninsula — I am reminded of his comments on our military commitments in the region: “There is going to be a point at which we just can’t do this anymore .… At some point, we cannot be the policeman of the world …. [I]f we are attacked, [Japan doesn’t] have to do anything. If they’re attacked, we have to go out with full force …. That’s a pretty one-sided agreement.”
I’m not alone in feeling betrayed.
Ann Coulter, author of “In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome,” wrote recently that “Trump’s Syrian misadventure is immoral, violates every promise he ran on, and could sink his presidency.” At Breitbart News, the online headquarters of the Trump insurgency, a piece about the Syria attacks attracted more than 50,000 ferociously negative comments. Pat Buchanan, the ideological godfather of Trumpism, despaired that “the promise of a Trump presidency … appears, not 100 days in, to have been a mirage. Will more wars make America great again?” A baffled Laura Ingraham tweeted, "Missiles flying. Rubio's happy. McCain ecstatic. Hillary's on board. A complete policy change in 48 hrs." Talk radio host Michael Savage complains that “People in Trump’s own sphere are turning him toward the beating war drums.” Nigel Farage, the leader of the Brexit forces in Britain who campaigned for Trump in the U.S., opined that the president’s supporters “will be scratching their heads” at these foreign policy reversals.
It’s the same sad story on the domestic front. Instead of repealing Obamacare, Trump pushed what the House Freedom Caucus dubbed “Obamacare lite.” Trump the campaigner denounced both Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz as pawns of Goldman Sachs; as president, he’s appointed several Goldman Sachs executives to top spots in his administration. Not long ago, he told Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet L. Yellen — whose visage was featured in a negative ad that ran in the last week of the campaign — that “she should be ashamed of herself,” accusing her of politicizing the Fed and creating “a very false economy.” Now he says he’s open to reappointing her.
The liberal media are thrilled by Trump’s transformation: The chorus of gushing praise on CNN and MSNBC as bombs fell on Syria was loud and practically unanimous. And Trump is reciprocating: Last week at a White House event honoring first responders, he characterized the media as “honorable people.” Remember when he called them out as “the world’s most dishonest people”? Ah, those were the good old days!
And while Trump praises his enemies, he denigrates his loyal friends, openly downgrading Stephen K. Bannon, the architect of his victory, as just “someone who works for me.”
As the elites rush to embrace the president, those of us who supported him are horrified, angry and increasingly convinced that instead of draining the swamp, Trump has jumped headlong into it.
Justin Raimondo is editorial director of Antiwar.com and author of “Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement."