Advertise On EU-Digest

Annual Advertising Rates


USA - Martial Law Soon ? Trump's New Favorite Solution: The Military - by David A. Graham

Three times in the last two weeks, President Trump has turned in frustration from an intractable problem and landed upon an apparently elegant solution: the military.

First it was Congress’s decision not to fund the president’s border wall in the omnibus spending bill. Trump twice tweeted that he wanted to “build WALL through M,” which most observers understood to mean “Mexico,” until The Washington Post revealed it actually referred to the military.

Next came Trump’s idea to deploy the military to the border and provide security in the absence of a wall.

Finally, Trump set off a frantic scramble Tuesday when he appeared to announce a withdrawal of American troops from Syria as a solution to the intractable conflict there. Asked whether he intended to pull troops out, Trump replied, “I want to get out. I want to bring our troops back home. I want to start rebuilding our nation.”

In each of these cases, the attraction of military action for the president is clear. He has found his agenda largely stalled in Congress, where legislators have no interest in funding the wall or any other number of signature Trump projects, and the president has shown neither the interest nor the patience to lobby them. Even working through executive-branch processes has not produced the results that Trump wants, as courts have blocked some of his most treasured moves, especially his Muslim travel ban.

The military, however, seems to offer something more akin to the experience that Trump enjoyed as the chief executive of a privately held company, where he could make a decision and see it quickly implemented. As commander in chief, he has authority over the military, and the military is, at least in theory, better equipped to respond quickly and efficiently to orders than the rest of the government. What each of these cases has shown, however, is that even the military doesn’t offer a frictionless tool for evading political and practical reality.

Trump is hardly alone among presidents in turning to the Pentagon as a method of acting when other means wear out. Dog-wagging and jingoism make military deployments an alluring option for any president, especially one who is struggling in Congress, opinion polls, or both. President Obama became quickly enamored of drone strikes. President Clinton bombed the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Sudan. President Reagan invaded Grenada. Presidents at the ends of their terms tend to concentrate on foreign affairs, sometimes at the barrel of a gun, once they’ve achieved all they can domestically.

What is unusual about Trump is how quickly he has landed on the military as his silver bullet, and the range of cases in which he has employed it.

The prehistory of this impulse began before he took office. In assembling his team, Trump hired several retired generals, and he interviewed a range of current and former generals and admirals for top jobs. This seemed to serve a dual purpose. It both satisfied Trump’s appreciation for a martial aesthetic and for the majesty of a uniform, and it brought to him prospective lieutenants with a strong sense of can-do spirit and duty, unlike some of the civilians who had already written off working for Trump.

The inflection point came in April 2017, when Trump ordered missile strikes on Syria. This was widely interpreted as a major reversal. During the campaign, he had offered a sort of non-intervention, complaining about the expense of nation-building overseas and preferring to spend money domestically, although a broad reading of candidate Trump’s statements would indicate an aversion to lengthy occupations, not to bellicosity per se. (There is even a caveat to this caveat: his suggestion that the U.S. should have taken Iraq’s oil, a vast colonial project.) In any case, the strikes won Trump widespread acclaim, including from centrist and establishment pundits who portrayed the strikes as signs of more realistic engagement with the world, or even an indication that Trump was becoming “presidential.” (This even though the strikes proved to be hastily ordered and not connected to any broader strategic purpose.)

The lesson must have been clear to Trump: Ordering military action gave him a chance to quickly and prominently produce results, and it would earn him praise from a press that otherwise detested him. Since then, he has become fond of talking up the power of the armed forces.

Famously, Trump lobbed a vague but ominous threat of “fire and fury” at North Korea in August 2017, one of many times when he rattled the American saber in Pyongyang’s direction. These threats were more or less in the mainstream of American foreign policy, although he made them more explicit than other presidents, and it’s not clear the U.S. has any particularly attractive military option in North Korea.

Note EU-Digest: What is next for Trump as the Commander in Chief of the US military forces : Martial Law - in case he is rebuffed too many times by the Congress to carrying out his plans? Lets hope not.

Read more: Trump's New Favorite Solution: The Military - The Atlantic

No comments: