Ignore the Words of U.S. Presidents. Watch Their Actions Instead.

04.06.18
Photo illustration by John Lyman
Politics /06 Apr 2018
04.06.18

Ignore the Words of U.S. Presidents. Watch Their Actions Instead.

President Trump has publicly announced his plans to withdraw US troops from Syria “like, very soon,” something he has reportedly been saying in private for weeks now. Predictably, CNN and the Washington Post have been reacting with horror to these sentiments, calling a US exit from Syria a “win for Russia,” as though Syria is America’s property.

On the other side of the debate, the conservative anti-interventionists, antiwar leftists and anti-imperialist RT crowd have been cheering about the news, hoping it might mark a turning point in US foreign policy. Personally I see little to get excited about at this point in either direction, because there has always been a massive gulf between the things this president says and the things that the administration actually does, especially when it comes to the neoconservative agenda. Neocons/liberal interventionists can rest comfortably that their beloved Syrian bloodbaths will continue, and the antiwar crowd should thus stay watchful.

I will be the first to admit that I have been proven wrong about this. Nothing would give me greater joy than to admit that Trump appears to have finally followed through on his years-long advocacy of non-interventionist foreign policy and opposition to globalism and neo-conservatism. So far, though, what we have is a US president whose words say one thing and whose actions say something very different. This happens to be equally true of the previous US president as well.

Trump has been advocating non-interventionism for many years, but he recently appointed John Bolton the most virulent warmongering neocon in Washington, as his new National Security Advisor. Trump has been advocating staying out of Syria for years; instead an occupying force has been maintained there with the stated goal of effecting regime change. Trump has been advocating getting out of Afghanistan for many years; instead the occupation has been indefinitely continued and the troop presence has been increased. Trump has long been advocating detente with Russia; instead he’s been consistently increasing tensions with that nation far beyond anything President Obama would ever have dared, pushing the world into what even the Council on Foreign Relations now admits is a “second Cold War.”

For this reason, it’s essential for people to start putting far less emphasis on the words of all US presidents, and far more on the actual behavior of their administrations. It’s very clear at this point that any manner of noise can come out of their mouths, based on what they think people want to hear or perhaps even on what they sincerely believe is best for America, but it has no bearing whatsoever on what will actually happen.

If Democrats had done this during the previous administration, they would have noticed the steady continuation and expansion of all the stupid, endless warfare, Orwellian surveillance policies and soul-crushing neoliberalism of the Bush administration, the exact policies that Obama campaigned against. Instead Obama’s legacy is secured in the minds of many Dems as an administration of peace, harmony and prosperity instead of the natural prelude to the Trump administration that it actually was. If awareness of this discrepancy had been allowed to penetrate the consciousness of mainstream liberals, there could have been some serious changes effected in the Democratic Party, instead of a third and fourth Dubya term followed by an unfathomably corrupt Clinton campaign and a year and a half of Russia-Gate gibberish.

And now every day I see Trump supporters doing the exact same thing, refusing to look at the actual behavior of this administration and citing words and meetings as evidence of progress towards peace. There still remains an unwillingness to look at the extensive list of cold war escalations this administration has advanced or the fact that none of Obama’s wars have been ended or even scaled back, and that Trump is actually killing far more civilians than the previous administration with a drastic increase in air strikes.

Again, nothing would thrill me more than to be proven wrong about this, but so far what we are seeing is very clear proof that the words of any US president can be safely ignored when it comes to policies which interfere with the agendas of US plutocrats, war profiteers and intelligence agencies. When it comes to treating immigrants like garbage or destroying the environment there will likely be little resistance and there will be no deep state inertia, but if a president tries to interfere with the profit margins or geopolitical power grabs of the people who really run America, they’ll quickly find themselves running into a brick wall.

So for that reason I’m very cynical about the prospect of a US withdrawal from Syria, which would of course be a great thing, since the US-centralized empire caused the Syrian mess in the first place. Syria doesn’t appear to have grown less strategically significant to the power establishment, though, so even if Trump truly does want to remove US troops, he will likely find himself running into brick wall after brick wall in his attempts to do so.

We will either see a removal of US troops from Syria in the near future or we will not. If we do, it will mean that my cynicism here was invalidated, and that things are starting to get interesting. If we don’t, we’re still locked into the same old patterns, and we’re going to have to get a lot more rebellious if we want them changed.

There have been leaks to the press from inside the administration indicating surprise at Trump’s Syria comments, which to me means that either Trump is just making impotent noises with his face hole into the brick wall, or Trump is finally standing up to his handlers and moving away from an interventionist foreign policy. Trump supporters will want to believe the later option, but from what we’ve been seeing so far the first option is far more likely. Here’s hoping I get to eat a big plate of crow about that in the near future.

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