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MATTHEW BOOSE: Trump exposes the media’s war hypocrisy
President Donald Trump’s decision to override his advisers and — gasp — withdraw troops from Syria and Afghanistan sent a shockwave through Washington.
Not since Trump declined to “stand up to Putin” in Helsinki has the establishment sounded so robotic in denouncing Trump’s departure from foreign policy consensus.
Perhaps most striking is the media’s sudden, dogmatic embrace of America’s Forever Wars. President Trump has done the impossible by making the once anti-war left repeat the talking points of Bush-era neoconservatives.
Trump has made it clear that he sees policing the world as diametrically opposed to his “America First” agenda. Perhaps this is the reason, at the flick of a switch, that the same liberals who once opposed war in the Middle East are suddenly its loudest champions.
The hypocrisy is striking. Whether out of knee-jerk reaction to Trump or some broader, until now latent kinship with neoconservatism, the media is beating Trump over the head for not wanting war.
It gets weirder than that. The left’s bizarre embrace of the FBI now encompasses a newfound reverence for the military’s top brass and what liberals used to call the “military-industrial complex.”
In an editorial contrasting John Bolton favorably with Trump, The New York Times describes Trump’s decision as “abrupt and dangerous….detached from any broader strategic context or any public rationale” and a “gift to Vladimir Putin.”
The Washington Post’s editorial, titled, “With Mattis leaving, be afraid,” could have been written by the same editorial board. Trump’s “reckless” decision was reached without consulting his advisers to develop a strategy (with what goal in mind is unclear) and, of course, only helps Putin in the end.
One of the more mundane media talking points has been that James Mattis was the final “adult in the room.” With Mattis gone, the story goes, the Trump presidency has officially gone rogue. That’s right: the only person stopping Trump from making really disastrous decisions about the Middle East was, apparently, a general with the call-sign “chaos.”
Since when did the left bow to authority — of the military, no less?
Whether Trump succeeds in by-passing Washington to pursue his Middle East agenda or not, he will already have shined a light on the hypocrisy and self-interest of the media’s newfound hawkishness.
There are clear political motives for the drum-beats. Rachel Maddow suggested that Trump was serving up a distraction from the Mueller investigation. Then there is the patently political “gift to Putin” nonsense. By withdrawing from Syria, says the media, Trump is leaving the region vulnerable to the predation of that incomparable genius of diplomatic subterfuge.
Putin — who no longer seems to be a person so much as an ethereal, omnipresent threat — is the left’s chief bogeyman and a seemingly inexhaustible pretext for perpetual involvement in foreign conflict. If the United States does not maintain a sphere of influence in regions where Putin also has interests, then Putin — like a swarm of locusts or creeping rust — will take over, and all of those stable democracies in the Middle East will suddenly become outposts of the Kremlin.
The commentary coming from the establishment has been painfully trite. The media says that America has lost some of its “credibility,” which it apparently requires to launch unilateral, unauthorized invasions in sovereign countries. They have invoked the same over-warmed casus belli as neo-conservatives, arguing that ending wars will leave a power vacuum to be filled by a resurgent ISIS, Iran, Russia, Turkey, Assad, etc., without explaining what America is trying to accomplish in the first place. Defeating terrorists? Regime change? Whatever it is, it has something to do with Putin.
The media’s astonishing hawkishness is not altogether new — the Post and New York Times, after all, spread and endorsed the WMD conspiracy theory before the invasion of Iraq — but there is an increasingly salient overlap between the international left and the neoconservatives of the recently deceased Weekly Standard. Over the last several months and weeks especially, it has become eminently clear that the media would rather have the military defend foreign lands than the United States and its borders.
While the media pontificates about Trump’s treatment of his generals and troops, their contempt for the armed services couldn’t be more obvious. The media now seems to share the conviction of the foreign policy establishment that soldiers are rubes to be thrown into whatever meat-grinder Washington is cooking up — as long as it doesn’t involve protecting the U.S.-Mexico border, of course.
One New York Times cartoon perfectly summarized the media’s actual feelings towards Trump’s military constituency. As Trump points towards Mexico, the straw-men soldiers muse, “I enrolled [sic] to fight in the Middle East….not the midterms!”
Depending as it does on reverence for ossified consensus and the arcane advice of “experts” who have cost the country thousands of lives and trillions of dollars, the media’s outrage is out of touch with Trump’s military supporters and the wider electorate.
America’s wars in the Middle East have been unpopular ever since the country soured on Bush 2 and the early stage of the War on Terror passed. In 2016, Trump accurately read the temperature of the country and realized that ending foreign interventions was a popular position.
Despite the constant negative press coverage of Trump’s relationship with his military, he received a hero’s welcome when he made a surprise visit to Iraq on Wednesday. The media’s contempt shone through again when journalists at CNN and elsewhere tattled on soldiers for getting their MAGA hats signed.
This pedantic, desperate attack on U.S. soldiers had nothing to do with so-called military infractions and everything to do with the ruling class having a problem with patriotism. To them, true patriotism means being the world’s policeman while leaving the front door wide open.
Trump promised to end America’s endless wars and only now, two years into his first term, is giving the first unequivocal signs that he plans to ignore what the establishment wants and pursue his own policy in the Middle East. More than ever, the left sounds just like the neoconservative right it once loathed.
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