Thursday, September 28, 2017

Trump on the Warpath

By Jeffrey D. Sachs

 Fifteen years after George W. Bush declared that Iraq, Iran, and North Korea formed “an axis of evil,” Donald Trump, in his maiden address to the United Nations, denounced Iran and North Korea in similarly vitriolic terms. Words have consequences, and Trump’s constitute a dire and immediate threat to global peace, just as Bush’s words did in 2002.
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Back then, Bush was widely praised for his response to the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. It’s easy to rally the public to war, and that was especially true after 9/11. Yet, on every front – Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and North Korea – US militarism squandered global trust, lives, finances, and precious time. And Trump’s approach is far more belligerent – and dangerous – than Bush’s.
For Trump, as for Bush, there is
Good (America) and Evil (Afghanistan under the Taliban, Iran, North Korea, and Iraq under Saddam Hussein). America the Good makes demands on the evildoers. If the evildoers do not comply, America can exercise the “military option” or impose punitive sanctions to enforce “justice” as the United States defines it.

Bush applied the logic of force vis-à-vis Afghanistan and the “axis of evil,” with disastrous results. The US quickly overthrew the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 2002 but could not secure order. Fifteen years on, the Taliban controls considerable territory, and Trump has just ordered an increase in troops. America has spent roughly $800 billion in direct military outlays in Afghanistan, and indeed has been at war there almost non-stop since the CIA covertly intervened in 1979, helping to provoke the Soviet invasion of that country.

The response to Iraq was even worse. The US invaded in 2003 on false pretenses (Saddam’s alleged but nonexistent weapons of mass destruction), squandered another $800 billion in direct military outlays, destabilized the country, caused hundreds of thousands of deaths, and, contrary to stated US objectives, plunged the region into turmoil. The indirect costs of the two wars (including the long-term costs of veterans’ disabilities) roughly equal the direct costs.
Bush’s hardline approach toward Iran also produced none of the envisioned results. Iran’s regional influence – particularly in Iraq, but also in Syria and Lebanon – is stronger today than 15 years ago. Its ballistic missile development is much further advanced. And the halt in its development of nuclear weapons is due entirely to President Barack Obama’s diplomacy, not Bush’s militarism and threats.

Bush’s approach vis-à-vis North Korea was similarly unsuccessful. At the start of 2002, a fragile 1994 agreement between the US and North Korea was still restraining the North’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons, though the US had dragged its feet on several parts of the agreement. Scorned by Bush administration hardliners, the agreement collapsed in mutual recrimination in 2002. In January 2003, North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and resumed full-scale weapons-development efforts. Now the country has thermonuclear bombs and ballistic missiles.
All four cases reflect the same US failing. The US has repeatedly disdained negotiation as a sign of weakness and appeasement. The hardline approach is initially popular with much of the US public, but invariably ends in grief.

Trump is doubling down.

Read the rest here.