This week saw news that some 37 million refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) have been created in the Middle East since George Bush launched his “global war on terror” after the 9/11 Twin Tower attacks.
The Brown University’s Costs of War study is a salutary reminder that cheering for interventions and invasions abroad is a cost-free exercise for most western leaders, in contrast to the millions of dead, displaced and deprived in far-off lands.
If Donald Trump can be commended for anything, it’s surely his feat (despite the encouragement from both sides of the aisle) of failing to launch a new war, unlike so many of his predecessors.
For Barack Obama to win the Nobel Peace Prize despite bombing Libya into an abyss of chaos means Mr. Trump can surely start polishing his shoes in anticipation of being similarly awarded for negotiating a peace accord between Israel and the UAE, on top of, more importantly, keeping his finger off the trigger.
There were worrying moments, such as the strikes on Syria and Iran’s Qasem Soleimani, when war was a possibility, but the White House thankfully relented under his command.
His opposition to the war in Iraq came shortly after both Democrats and Republicans had happily given George Bush the green light, when such skepticism was seen as unpatriotic, despite he and a handful of other elite dissenters eventually being proved correct in their predictions of the untold suffering ahead for both nations.
His rival in November’s election has a lamentable record in this regard however, not least in his support for wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, with Joe Biden consistently doing the bidding of military hawks intent on overthrowing regimes considered hostile. The Obama administration’s arming of jihadist rebels in Syria, along with sustained and fatal strikes on Gadaffi’s Libya, all took place under the watchful eye of Vice-President Biden, a fact quickly forgotten in the media scrum to depict Trump as a foreign-policy failure.
Trump’s major flaw however, from a humanitarian point of view, was surely maintaining and expanding upon the US policy of selling arms to Saudi Arabia, the Yemeni victims of which rarely make the headlines. With such deals do the deaths of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, become inevitable.
That said, his first election campaign and subsequent presidency have made clear that war in countries like Syria is firmly off the agenda, much to the apparent chagrin of some generals and the enormous arms industry they rely on.
Trump on Labor Day claims soldiers love him but the top brass do not because they are tools of the companies that make the bombs. Latest poll shows soldiers favor Biden. In 2017 Trump had called Pentagon generals “dopes and babies”. pic.twitter.com/LqxYwROreC
— Jim Boyle (@JimGBoyle) September 8, 2020
Whereas Joe Biden and other Democrats decried Trump’s decision to pull troops out of northeastern Syria last year, grassroots Republicans are now coming to the realisation that Trump has re-calibrated their party, for now, as the anti-war, isolationist option for a growing voter demographic that never want to go back to the dark days of preemptive “greater good” invasions.
Whilst a Biden administration would almost certainly avoid any invasion of Syria so long as Russia is present, retaining a vast swathe of the oil-rich northeast and re-arming the rebels would be high among his objectives, if past performance, and recent remarks condemning Trump’s “betrayal” of the Kurds, are any indicator.
Under the direction of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the Trump administration has however left a few hundred troops there to “guard oil-fields from ISIS”, with contracts for extraction already signed between Delaware company Delta Crescent Energy and Kurdish SDF forces, but the scope for expansion of US activity in the region remains a realistic possibility if the White House changes hands in November.
Whereas Trump appears at ease confronting the much-vaunted military-industrial complex, dialing down their involvement abroad, Biden’s record suggests a tolerance for war that should disquiet those who would pay most dearly for yet more destruction.
Sleepy Joe confronted by army veteran who lost many friends in Iraq. Biden is disqualified to be president! pic.twitter.com/sWyMxqGpRI
— UNITED WE SAVE USA (@UNITEDWESAVEUSA) September 9, 2020