Withdrawing troops: The Impossible choices

It was I believe Colin Powell who said that sending in troops in a dispute was easy, but extracting them almost impossible.

The present situation in the Middle East illustrates this axiom perfectly. President Trump, like his predecessors, promised to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. And he renewed this promise just recently. Then he found, again like his predecessors, that fulfilling his promise aroused so much opposition, from all political quarters, that he had to renege on the promise. He did this by redefining how long it might be before he actually withdraws the troops.

If one asks someone whether or not troops should be withdrawn from Syria, the answer depends on how far back they define the onset of the current situation.

For some it is a very short time, and for others an extremely long time. For me the origin of the situation in which we are all embroiled at present is at least several centuries ago. The United States is in the Middle East as part of a general imperialist policy – everywhere in the world including the Middle East.

One cannot understand the position of various states and multiple non-state actors otherwise than seeing that they represent different ways of trying to fight against imperialist intrusions into their affairs.

The only way the United States can extract itself is to renounce imperialist policies. Doing this will be extremely painful not only for the United States but for almost everyone living in the region. There is no way to avoid this. The pain will be severe and immediate. But this is the least painful thing to do. Unless we bite the bullet and do this, the pain will never end. The choices will always be bad.

Is it conceivable that imperialists cease being imperialist? Probably not. Is it possible that the multiple victims welcome the withdrawal of imperialist powers even if their immediate situation becomes worse as a result? Possibly.

There is no good choice, no non-painful choice, only a long-run adjustment to a more equitable situation.

The Desperate mr. trump, or Trump says he matters

Commentary No. 488, January 1, 2019

Donald Trump is using all his rhetorical skills to keep everyone’s eyes focused on him and on him alone. He is trying so hard precisely because it is increasingly evident to most politicians and public figures, in the United States and elsewhere, that he is constantly losing ground. More and more actors are ignoring his demands. This is most of all clear to donald trump himself.

So he does hurtful things to all and sundry simply to prevent others from assembling the votes for things that exclude mr. trump from the center of worldwide action.

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When Trump Visibly Crashes

Commentary No. 487, December 15, 2018

As the 2020 U.S. elections begin to be the major front-page concern of the media, there is increasing speculation about what will be the form it takes. Could Trump really be impeached? Will the Democrats move still further left or rather move back to the center? How strong is Trump’s base, and how faithful?

As someone who has argued for a long time that the United States has been in a steady and irreversible decline, I am constantly asked: “Well then, why isn’t Trump crashing?” And if he is, will the crash become more visible? And if it does, will it be a sudden smash, or simply a steady downward slide?

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Is Trump Scared?

Commentary No. 486, December 1, 2018

I get this question all the time. The answer is: of course. He has been running scared all his life. It started with his sense that he was a disappointment to his father and continues until the present moment.

This sense of fear for his future is the most fundamental element in Trump’s psyche. It explains almost everything he does – the meanness and cruelty; the endless bullying; and his obsession with tweeting where he doesn’t share the platform with anyone else, so to speak.

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Mexico Confronts the Future

Commentary No. 485, November 15, 2018

I was just in Mexico for several days. I went to speak at a celebration of the victory of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), the president-elect. The meeting was held at UNAM, Mexico’s national university.

The meeting was intended to stimulate a critical and open reflection about where Mexico goes next. Not every supporter has the same vision of the future.

Many members of AMLO’s cabinet attended. But the ministers restricted themselves to chairing sessions rather than giving papers. It was as though they didn’t want to be challenged publicly about their views.

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The November 6th U.S. Elections: Catastrophe or Salvation?

Commentary No. 484, November 1, 2018

The short answer to the question is neither. As I write, one week before definitive counts in the U.S. elections, the consensus seems to be that they are too close to call. Most analysts believe this is a Trump election in two senses:

First, most voters are choosing their candidates for senator, representative, governor, or lesser offices as a function of their feelings for Donald Trump.

Secondly, the outcomes will affect profoundly Trump’s further political strength.

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Human Rights, Anyone?

Commentary No. 483, October 15, 2018

It is extremely difficult to find a country or other political structure that has not violated human rights in some way.

Sometimes, the violation involves killing a dissident.

Sometimes the action is less severe, but nonetheless has a very negative effect on the life and activities of the victim of the violation.

With rare exceptions, the political structure accused of violating human rights denies that it has done so.

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Poor Brett Kavanaugh: He’s Irrelevant

Commentary No. 482, October 1, 2018

The only one who cares if Kavanaugh is appointed is Kavanaugh himself, who has wanted this job all his life. For everyone else, he’s just a pawn in what the others – Republicans and Democrats alike – really care about, which is the Senatorial elections this coming November.

The crucial thing is to have a majority in the Senate in order to appoint or not appoint a right-wing Republican to this lifelong job. If Trump or the Republicans in the Senate have to sacrifice Kavanaugh to achieve this, they will do it. What everyone is trying to figure out is what will swing a small number of voters in a small number of states, such that their party’s candidate will win a majority in the Senate. There is no consensus on the tactics required to do this.

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