‘Dumb’ Donald’s Middle East strategy is outsmarting the ‘clever’ professionals

Discussing the state of American foreign policy recently, a “liberal” friend bewailed the fact that the “dumb” Trump was in charge. “The foreign affairs professionals and smart people should be put back in charge,” he moaned. “We need to try something different.” Yet, as I pointed out, it was precisely those “professional diplomats and smart people” who had got America into most of its messes.

Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Libya, Yemen: those were all the work of “smart people” and “foreign affairs professionals”. Like most leftists, this person praised Barack Obama’s supposed intellect: yet Obama has the unenviable longest war record of any American president. Not to mention a staggering roster of drone-delivered extra-judicial killings.

What my friend in fact wanted was not something different, but more of the same.

Meanwhile, Trump is trying something different – and he’s racking up the foreign policy wins. No matter what the legacy media might say. quote.

Pay attention to what Donald Trump does, not what he tweets, former prime minister John Howard said in an interview last year. Look beyond the “media snow”, he counselled, and examine “the substance of the outcome of all the things he does”. That was good advice 10 months back, but it is even better advice now that we have a solid track record to examine. end quote.

Of course, the media-political elite just can’t bring themselves to admit that a braggadicious parvenu outsider is doing what the “professionals” and “smart people” have failed to for decades. quote.

A column by the Lowy Institute’s Rodger Shanahan…ignores Howard’s advice. Shanahan caricatures Trump as a leader “who prefers bravado over process”; as such, his major arguments evaporate under scrutiny.

Shanahan depicts Trump’s Middle East policies as disconnected from any strategy. Indeed, Trump’s approach is perfectly consistent with mainstream Republican thinking. Like almost all Republican candidates for president in 2016, Trump argued that Barack Obama empowered Iran at the expense of America’s traditional allies. From the moment he took office, Trump worked to contain Iran and to revitalise relations with Israel, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

You can certainly argue against this approach but you can’t claim it’s incoherent. end quote.

If anyone’s foreign policy could be described as incoherent, it was Obama’s. In fact, Foreign Policy journal bluntly described it as a “clusterf-k”. Trump’s foreign policy, by contrast, is clear. It’s just not what the allegedly “smart people” wanted. Obama’s worst blunder was to toady to an Islamic theocracy for whom “Death to America” is still an article of faith.

The “professionals” and their media camp-followers worked themselves into ecstasy over Obama’s disastrous Iran deal, utterly convinced in the face of all the evidence of Iran’s duplicity that it was all but “peace in our time”. This was nonsense, of course, and Trump was completely correct to scotch the deal. Obama’s strategic idiocy with regard to Iran helped to unleash not just a tide of blood, but a human tidal wave that has swamped Europe. quote.

Shanahan chastises Trump for abandoning the nuclear deal with Iran and for tying the US too closely to Saudi Arabia. This line of reasoning draws a facile equivalence between Riyadh and Tehran. Whatever their faults, the Saudis support the Western security system. Iran, by contrast, seeks to destroy it with the aid of its self-styled “resistance alliance”, which includes Syria, Hezbollah and a network of Shi’ite militias operating in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. The organisation that holds this network together is the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guard, which is expanding its influence throughout the region.

Obama ceased all efforts to counter the Quds Force out of a misguided belief that recognition of an Iranian sphere of influence in Iraq and Syria would transform Tehran into an agent of stability. This miscalculation opened the door to an Iranian and Russian military escalation in Syria, which, in turn, led to the deaths of about a million Syrians and the displacement of more than 10 million more. end quote.

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Listening to a radio spot on the Trump presidency, a foreign policy maven was whining that Trump was apparently bent on upsetting the established order. Well, yes: that was pretty much the reason he was elected.

It galls the “smart people” to admit it, but their supposedly “intellectual” and “values-based” approach is being smashed out of the park by an uncouth New York businessman with a bad haircut. But, given a choice between the smooth-talking Harvard lawyer whose policies “empowered the Syrian-Iranian murder machine”, or the foul-mouthed entrepreneur whose blunt realism is helping recalibrate the global order, from North Korea to Europe, which would you choose?

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