The realignment on war policies


Glenn Greenwald writes that now that Donald Trump is president, Democratic party members have become more likely than Republicans to want to continue the many wars that the US is in, and the reactions to Trump’s call to withdraw troops from Syria illustrates this.

Both GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of the country’s most reliable war supporters, and Hillary Clinton, who repeatedly criticized former President Barack Obama for insufficient hawkishness, condemned Trump’s decision in very similar terms, invoking standard war on terror jargon.

But while official Washington united in opposition, new polling data from Morning Consult/Politico shows that a large plurality of Americans support Trump’s Syria withdrawal announcement: 49 percent support to 33 percent opposition.

That’s not surprising given that Americans by a similarly large plurality agree with the proposition that “the U.S. has been engaged in too many military conflicts in places such as Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan for too long and should prioritize getting Americans out of harm’s way” far more than they agree with the pro-war view that “the U.S. needs to keep troops in places such as Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan to help support our allies fight terrorism and maintain our foreign policy interests in the region.”

But what is remarkable about the new polling data on Syria is that the vast bulk of support for keeping troops there comes from Democratic Party voters, while Republicans and independents overwhelming favor their removal. The numbers are stark: Of people who voted for Clinton in 2016, only 26 percent support withdrawing troops from Syria, while 59 percent oppose it. Trump voters overwhelmingly support withdraw by 76 percent to 14 percent.

A similar gap is seen among those who voted Democrat in the 2018 midterm elections (28 percent support withdrawal while 54 percent oppose it), as opposed to the widespread support for withdrawal among 2018 GOP voters: 74 percent to 18 percent.

With Trump rather than Obama now advocating troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, all of this has changed. The new polling data shows far more support for troop withdrawal among Republicans and independents, while Democrats are now split or even opposed. Among 2016 Trump voters, there is massive support for withdrawal: 81 percent to 11 percent; Clinton voters, however, oppose the removal of troops from Afghanistan by a margin of 37 percent in favor and 47 percent opposed.

This demonstrates the problem of people seeming to decide on what policy they support based on who is advocating it rather than on its own merits. But alas, this is not new.

This is, of course, not the first time that Democratic voters have wildly shifted “beliefs” based on the party affiliation of the person occupying the Oval Office. The party’s base spent the Bush/Cheney years denouncing War on Terror policies such as assassinations, drones and Guantanamo as moral atrocities and war crimes, only to suddenly support those policies once they became hallmarks of the Obama presidency.

But what’s happening here is far more insidious. A core ethos of the anti-Trump #Resistance has become militarism, jingoism, and neoconservatism. Trump is frequently attacked by Democrats using long-standing Cold War scripts wielded for decades against them by the Far Right: Trump is insufficiently belligerent with U.S. enemies; he’s willing to allow the Bad Countries to take over by bringing home U.S. soldiers; his efforts to establish less hostile relations with adversary countries is indicative of weakness or even treason.

The neoconservatives have latched onto the Democratic party as their new vehicle for promoting their warmongering. Let’s hope the new progressives can successfully fight against this move.

Comments

  1. Mark Dowd says

    This demonstrates the problem of people seeming to decide on what policy they support based on who is advocating it rather than on its own merits.

    Who is doing the policy is part of the merits though. And with Trump running the show, it’s a near guarantee that he will make things worse somehow. If Trump supported universal health care I would be looking very closely at what exactly he meant by “universal”, “health”, and “care”.

    I am genuinely shocked by the exposes we’re seeing now about how Trump has been a failure not just recently, but in almost every aspect of his life stretching back decades. It looks like the only thing he’s ever succeeded at is running a con. Now that the national spotlights are on him harder than ever the myth he’s spent his entire life constructing is being torn down. His ambition has become his downfall. In this state of mind, His current temper tantrum is going to be endless (especially if he loses this shutdown battle), and he’s not going to be achieving anything good like this.

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    … neoconservatives have latched onto the Democratic party as their new vehicle for promoting their warmongering.

    Only if you define “new” as “in the last 40 years” – see: Carter, James Earl Jr.

  3. Sam N says

    @Mark Dowd,

    How is Donald Trump going to make it worse than Donald Trump keeping US troops in Syria? I really don’t get your reactionary opposition to such a move. I think it’s the one good idea Donald Trump has pretended he might act on. I bet there will be some more carnage in that country, but things didn’t go so well for the Syrians over Obama’s watch, now did they?

  4. file thirteen says

    @Mark

    The merit of the policy will be visible as a simple head count of those returning. It’s fine to be skeptical, but if it does happen, then credit where credit’s due, even to the prince of lies.

  5. says

    It’s interesting that Trump’s pretend declaration of withdrawal appears to be working in spite of Bolton saying “we are staying” – a demoralized clusterfuck might still result in the right thing happening, though. It seems like it’s politics as a crapshoot. It’s still better than having the permanent war party behind the wheel and in complete control.

  6. says

    This demonstrates the problem of people seeming to decide on what policy they support based on who is advocating it rather than on its own merits.

    This demonstrates the problem of a shallow analysis.

    From my point-of-view, it’s the Republicans who’ve flip-flopped on keeping troops in Afghanistan (for example) based on who has the presidency. Liberals, meanwhile, seem to have been saying “we have to both (A) ensure the place doesn’t go back to being a haven for terrorists and (B) clean up the mess we made” for over 15 years now. During the Obama years, troop strength went both up and down in the country, and Republicans let him know that neither direction was correct.

    The party’s base spent the Bush/Cheney years denouncing War on Terror policies such as assassinations, drones and Guantanamo as moral atrocities and war crimes, only to suddenly support those policies once they became hallmarks of the Obama presidency.

    Damn, I’d love to see some solid evidence of that claim. The liberals I know opposed and still oppose assassinations, drone attacks, and Guantanamo all through Obama’s presidency and into Trump’s. I remember distinctly that it was the Republicans in Congress who prevented Obama from closing the Guantanamo prison. Does Greenwald really not remember that? (Note well: the fact that Greenwald cites himself and another couple of people who also couldn’t remember that Congress prevented Obama from closing Guantanamo – and even called it “Obama’s decision to keep open the prison” – isn’t actually evidence in favor of Greenwald’s claim.)

    Oh, it doesn’t matter. He’s comparing a poll asking “do you support removing troops as soon as possible?” with a poll asking “do you support removing troops immediately?” so it’s clear that Greenwald is a damn hack. One can answer the first question “yes” and the second “no” while maintaining a consistent attitude towards foreign policy and national security, because “as soon as possible” doesn’t necessarily mean “right now.” By analogy, “I will turn the water back on in the house as soon as possible, but not right now while the plumber is working.” Greenwald would portray that as hypocrisy.

    …his efforts to establish less hostile relations with adversary countries is indicative of weakness or even treason.

    Greenwald is just being a Trump apologist here. Trump’s method of establishing less-hostile relations with adversary countries appears to primarily involve rolling over and sucking up, and very little solid diplomacy to create a mutually beneficial international partnership. The opposite of Trump’s foreign policy is not necessarily “bomb the snot out of them,” but Greenwald wants you to think it must be.

    Somebody pays Greenwald to write this nonsense?

  7. mvdwege says

    An immediate withdrawal without conditions just means giving Erdogan a free hand to smash the Kurds. There are plenty of good liberal reasons for not wanting that.

    Greenwald is advocating genocide on the Kurds.

    And funny how his critique once again nicely aligns with Russian foreign policy objectives. He’s got a nerve calling other people not liberal enough.

  8. Mano Singham says

    Dave W. @#6,

    Damn, I’d love to see some solid evidence of that claim.

    If you follow the link to Greenwald’s article, you will see that he does provide evidence.

  9. Sam N says

    @7 mvdwege, I might agree with you, if at any moment our mission had been to help the Kurds, and if there was any long term solution to that problem. How does immediate withdrawal (which by the way, will still take weeks if not months), versus withdrawal on a 1 year time span, help things at all? Turkey is suddenly going to decide, oh its a been a year, let’s not do anything about this Kurdish force sympathetic to separatists in our own country? All I hear, is an excuse to keep a costly imperialistic military in another country for a longer period of time.

    At this point, I feel the same about Afghanistan. There was a moment of opportunity to broker some political stability in that country, but instead, the hubris of Bush/Cheney overplayed their hand, implemented some dumb-as-shit policies, and at this point, I don’t see what good the current level of deployment will do on a 10-year timeline. How will the situation change? There doesn’t seem to be a plan anymore. You could say you break it, you buy it, but in case you don’t remember, Afghanistan was already broken.

    Feel free to not like Glenn Greenwald. But I, like him, at least detest US interventionism in other countries because our military and intelligences services have repeatedly lied to us about what they’re actually going to accomplish.

  10. mvdwege says

    @Sam,

    Have you been paying attention? No matter why the US is Syria, they have been giving support to the Kurds. With US forces there, Erdogan can’t do his nice ethnic-cleansing act without firing on US forces. Which he won’t. Which is why he was rather pissed when US officials hinted that they might not immediately withdraw.

    The fact is that US presence is at the moment saving Kurdish lives. Unconditional withdrawal is giving Erdogan a free hand. No amount of handwringing will change that.

    Simply pulling out without a plan is not a good idea in Afghanistan either. That Bush & Co broke it is no excuse to say “Well, we’re taking our ball and going home”. It’s exactly that kind of arrogant behaviour that is detrimental to US standing in the world.

    I don’t like it either, but fact is that unconditional withdrawal is one of the worst solutions. Simply looking at the facts on the ground is not war-mongering. If the interventions fail because of the military-intelligence complex fucking up, the solution is not letting other people suffer for it, it is cleaning your own house. And in the meantime try to withdraw gracefully, if possible.

  11. Sam N says

    @10

    What would a realistic, graceful withdrawal look like? I honestly want to know. In either country. Because I think you are denying reality if you believe such a thing is possible in either place. So I guess the alternative is eternal low level occupation? I think that is more damaging to our standing in the long-run.

  12. says

    Mano @8:

    If you follow the link to Greenwald’s article, you will see that he does provide evidence.

    I did follow the link, and I already mentioned that the citations he provides are not good evidence for his claim.
     
    One of the links is to this Washington Post article that has enough obvious lies in it to question whether anything else the authors write is true. The other link Greenwald provides is to an article that he wrote about that exact same Washington Post article. In other words, Greenwald’s two links are actually one link.
     
    But maybe I should dig deeper.
     
    The Post article is about these Washington Post/ABC News poll results. The authors, Scott Wilson and Jon Cohen, claim:

    The survey shows that 70 percent of respondents approve of Obama’s decision to keep open the prison at Guantanamo Bay.

    The idea that Obama merely “decided” to keep Guantanamo open is so patently absurd as to be a bald-faced lie, even in 2012. Yes, the poll question was phrased that way, but that just means the people who created the question were liars, too.
     
    Wilson and Cohen continue:

    Even the party base appears willing to forgive that failure.

    The poll shows that 53 percent of self-identified liberal Democrats — and 67 percent of moderate or conservative Democrats — support keeping Guantanamo Bay open…

    I cannot find where they got these figures. The number 67 appears exactly four times in the survey data they linked to, and none of them are in the results for question 13a, the only question that mentions Guantanamo. Similarly, the number 53 doesn’t appear in the results for 13a. The results don’t break down the responses for question 13a by political affiliation, unlike some other questions, so I must conclude that Wilson and Cohen just made that stuff up about Democrats.
     
    On the use of drones, Wilson and Cohen wrote:

    But fully 77 percent of liberal Democrats endorse the use of drones…

    Again: that number does not appear in the poll results they cite for the question asked (13c/14).
     
    Even a commenter back in 2012 wondered about that. “kilowatt” wrote:

    I don’t see any data in the actual poll about the attitudes of liberal democrats. Was that data not published?

    He got no answer to that very important question.
     
    At least Greg Sargent, writing about the same poll, said “And get this: Depressingly, Democrats approve of the drone strikes on American citizens by 58-33, and even liberals approve of them, 55-35. Those numbers were provided to me by the Post polling team.” Of course, while still bad, those numbers flatly contradict the claim of 77% by Wilson and Cohen. Neither 55% nor 58% is 77%.
     
    So again: Wilson and Cohen appear to have made up numbers.
     
    Greenwald updated his outrage article with a link to this post (now archived), but it’s refering to the same damn Wilson and Cohen article that we all know has made-up numbers in it.
     
    So as I said: Greenwald hasn’t provided evidence for his claims.
     
    Note also that this CNN/ORC poll from just four years later contradicts Greenwald’s, Wilson’s and Cohen’s claims, also. It actually shows the breakdown for the responses for question 42 on page 8 of the PDF, and reveals that 33% of Democrats and 83% of Republicans thought that the U.S. should continue to operate the prison at Guantanamo. I shouldn’t need to remind anyone that Obama was president during both these polls, so that undermines the hypothesis that Democrats flip on the issues depending on who’s in office, even if Wilson and Cohen were right. Same president, but Democratic approval for Guantanamo went from between 53 and 67% all the way down to 33%.
     
    I repeat: Same President, but Democrats flipped from supporting to opposing Guantanamo. This is clearly contrary to the hypothesis that “people [seem] to decide on what policy they support based on who is advocating it rather than on its own merits.”
     
    By the way, if for no other reason, a good basis to dismiss Greenwald as a political hack is his declaration that “assassinations, drones, and Guantánamo … became hallmarks of the Obama presidency.” Greenwald apparently thinks the Affordable Care Act isn’t part of Obama’s legacy. Really, there’s plenty to criticize Obama about, including his complete reversal on transparency with regards to civil rights matters, so there’s no need for ridiculous hyperbole or resorting to making stuff up.
     
    Why, Mano, when you post so much that ridicules Trump or advocates progressive values, are you defending a Trump apologist who’s getting paid to dump on liberals without good evidence?

  13. Mano Singham says

    Why, Mano, when you post so much that ridicules Trump or advocates progressive values, are you defending a Trump apologist who’s getting paid to dump on liberals without good evidence?

    1. I do not consider him a Trump apologist and I have seen no evidence that he is being paid by anyone to push their agenda.
    2. I have been following Greenwald from back when he was a fairly obscure blogger and have always found him to be very sharp in his analyses and consistent in his principles.
    3. What I have always liked about him is his willingness to criticize people for their inconsistencies, irrespective of party affiliations.

  14. mvdwege says

    Sam @10,

    Simply saying “do you have a better idea” is nothing but deflection. No, I don’t know what a better solution is, but that does not stop me from pointing out that unconditional withdrawal is a bad idea.

    I don’t need to be a fireman to be able to shout fire when I can clearly see the flames.

  15. Sam N says

    @15, if you have no better solution, and the current solution is costing us, and others, for real, a real price, why shouldn’t we stop. I have no argument with your heart. I think we’re both trying to use that, which I appreciate. Just I think we do real harm when we deploy. Real harm! And I’m so tired of it.

    When can we withdraw? Never? I mean, the if the flames are going to be there within a hundred years, and meanwhile, we cause, low-level, but real harms, shouldn’t we withdraw? So that the big harms work themselves out without our intervention. I am anti-interventionist without honest, real intelligence. Which we never get.

    If you had a good game plan to get honest, real intelligence, well let’s keep dreaming…

  16. Sam N says

    It’s not deflection. It’s really wanting to know a better alternative. When you can’t take an action to improve things. Stop acting. That’s my lesson from life. Maybe you have some other one.

  17. mvdwege says

    I say the US can withdraw if they have a decent plan. It’s not an either-or scenario: stay forever or leave tout-suite. But showing some responsibility for the mess instead blithely handing it to someone else would be appreciated. And where the military-intelligence complex seems to have no thought for the mess caused by intervention, I see far too many people on notionally my own side who think that sparing no thought for the mess caused by withdrawal is therefore a good idea.

    Two wrongs still don’t make no right, and false dichotomies are called false for a reason.

  18. Sam N says

    Well, rather than leave the mess in the hands of a military that has proved incompetent and uncaring for the lives they destroy, I do find it far preferable to take the win of an immediate removal of our forces, even if done irresponsibly. It’s preferable over continuing to give them carte-blanche to do whatever dumb shit they will. I see you disagree. You have far more trust that in the good nature of our military than I do.

    Let’s see how that works out in the future: betting on our military to be reasonable.

  19. says

    Mano @14:

    1. I do not consider him a Trump apologist and I have seen no evidence that he is being paid by anyone to push their agenda.

    I’m not saying that Salon and/or The Intercept are paying him to push their agenda, but they’re clearly paying him to push Trump apologetics, because that’s what he’s written.
     

    2. I have been following Greenwald from back when he was a fairly obscure blogger and have always found him to be very sharp in his analyses and consistent in his principles.

    And yet this very article relies upon obvious lies. Is it 55% or 77%? Did Obama “decide” to keep Guantanamo open? If this is an example of Greenwald’s consistency in principles, then I must conclude that he’s been lying to you for years.
     

    3. What I have always liked about him is his willingness to criticize people for their inconsistencies, irrespective of party affiliations.

    But in this particular article, he clearly fabricates an inconsistency over which to criticize Dems. He’s just lying. And you’ve repeated the lie: “This demonstrates the problem of people seeming to decide on what policy they support based on who is advocating it rather than on its own merits.” Greenwald demonstrated no such thing.

  20. mvdwege says

    No Sam, I do not have more trust than you in the US military. I have even less trust in people like Erdogan.

    It is easy to say ‘withdraw now!’ when it is not your families that are being led to the slaughter.

  21. file thirteen says

    @Dave W

    Did Obama “decide” to keep Guantanamo open?

    Yes.

    Or, wait, did he actually close it like he promised to? That’s a relief. I must have missed it.

  22. Mark Dowd says

    How is Donald Trump going to make it worse than Donald Trump keeping US troops in Syria?

    I mentioned it in my first post. More and more revelations are showing that Trump has been a complete failure his entire fucking life. It doesn’t matter how hard it would be to screw up the Syrian withdrawal, he will find a way, and he will do it.

    I’m not deciding to support a policy based on who’s advocating it, I’m decided based on who’s going to be implementing the policy.

    his efforts to establish less hostile relations with adversary countries is indicative of weakness or even treason.

    Dave W already covered this, but this is the biggest bunch of stupid in the whole piece, with multiple levels of wrongness.

    On the first level, he isn’t just “establishing friendlier relations”, he’s being a fucking groupie. He so clearly envies the power that Putin, Kim Jong Un, Duterte, and MBS have in their own countries, and he wants that same power for himself. The “adversary countries” he’s being nice to are exclusively dictators.

    On the second level, he isn’t just being friendlier with some countries, he’s also blowing up existing relationships with democratic countries. Pulling out of the Iran deal is just the worst of many foreign policy disasters he’s dumped out of his ass. I think the only country he hasn’t totally shit on (yet!) is Japan.

    This is just the tiniest, smallest, minuscule fraction of the constant and constantly escalating DISASTER that the Trump presidency has been since before day 1. Yet when I state that even if something sounds good Trump will fuck it up, I’m accused of being reactionary. To which I can only respond WHAT THE FUCK HAVE YOU BEEN PAYING ATTENTION TO FOR THE LAST TWO FUCKING YEARS!! Is it really that shocking that I’m not inclined to give Trump any benefit of any doubt at the moment?

  23. Mark Dowd says

    If there are too many profanities in that post, it is because I have run out of all patience with The Dump and every feeling I have about him has been worn down into AAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I can only hope that this presidency will be his undoing, that it will unravel the myth he has constructed for himself, make him taste defeat and failure for the first time in his life, and let him end it in prison. Only then will I laugh at him again. He ceased being a joke a long time ago.

  24. says

    file thirteen @22 said,

    Did Obama “decide” to keep Guantanamo open?

    Yes.

    Or, wait, did he actually close it like he promised to? That’s a relief. I must have missed it.

    No, it’s obvious that I missed the rule that says a president’s promises are never confounded by other influences. Or did Trump build his wall while I wasn’t looking? Hey, Obamacare is still on the books, too!
     
    It’s ludicrously naive to think that just because a candidate makes a promise and is consequently elected, any failure to keep said promise must be because that person “decided” to not keep the promise. Thanks to Congress, Obama had to find countries willing to take the Guantanamo prisoners without just releasing them like Kuwait did. It was a problem he seems to have been working on until very late in his presidency, arguing with the Senate quite often. Some people think Obama had the political capital to close the prison over Congress’ disagreements, but I have yet to see evidence of that.

  25. file thirteen says

    @Dave W

    I didn’t realise you were still commenting. This thread is not really current anymore, but FWIW:

    – So you don’t think Obama was in control enough to decide? The other possibility is that he was inept (the Guardian certainly thought so). Cue your “ludicrously naive” excuses, eg.:

    – Are you seriously suggesting that moving the prisoners to other foreign locations would be satisfactory? Maybe he just should have opened “Son of Guantanamo” a mile down the road and moved the inmates there to satisfy his literal promise?</sarcasm> If his attempts to bring the prisoners to facilities in the US were blocked, then the right solution should have been to release them. And IIRC, he decided not to even threaten to do so (sic decided, unless you agree with the Guardian’s perspective).

  26. says

    file thirteen @26:

    I didn’t realise you were still commenting.

    Touch of the flu. Nasty stuff.
     

    This thread is not really current anymore…

    Shrug. I’ve been involved in threads that went on for years. I just wish the “notify me” option worked here.
     

    – So you don’t think Obama was in control enough to decide? The other possibility is that he was inept…

    Really? Either a President gets done what he promises or he’s inept? No other possibilities? That’s Trumpian authoritarianism that completely ignores the fact that Congress and the courts get a say in a lot of these sorts of things. Hell, even Michael Bloomberg had a hand in keeping Guantanamo open.
     

    …(the Guardian certainly thought so).

    I never said the guy was perfect. My claim was that, in February 2012, the idea that Obama “decided” to keep Guantanamo open was a ridiculous lie. Even with his mistakes, he was trying to close Guantanamo from 2009 to February 2012, and he would continue to try right up to 2016.
     
    Now, maybe you’ve got some theory that says Obama made “mistakes” in order to keep the prison open? If so, and you evidence is solid, then sure, he decided to keep the place open.
     

    – Are you seriously suggesting that moving the prisoners to other foreign locations would be satisfactory?

    Who, me? I never made any such suggestion. Obama’s idea of closing the facility was to transfer the majority of the prisoners to other countries and let them try/imprison/whatever them, and the last few too-dangerous-to-let-go folks would get imprisoned somewhere within the U.S. And Obama did quite a lot of that, just not all of it (except the last part – that got blocked by Congress in 2011).
     

    Maybe he just should have opened “Son of Guantanamo” a mile down the road and moved the inmates there to satisfy his literal promise?</sarcasm>

    You meant “</strawman>”.
     

    If his attempts to bring the prisoners to facilities in the US were blocked, then the right solution should have been to release them. And IIRC, he decided not to even threaten to do so…

    Sure! Give the last 41 guys in there a new suit and $20 each, open the gates, then say, “watch out for the iguanas, and the base speed limit is 25, no exceptions.” </funnier strawman>

  27. file thirteen says

    @Dave W

    I never said the guy was perfect. My claim was that, in February 2012, the idea that Obama “decided” to keep Guantanamo open was a ridiculous lie. Even with his mistakes, he was trying to close Guantanamo from 2009 to February 2012, and he would continue to try right up to 2016.

    So you’d rather think he was inept. It’s usually less rude to assume (or at least appear to assume at first) that the results of a person’s actions are intentional rather than due to sheer mismanagement, but it’s fine, I can go with that.

    You meant “</strawman>”.

    Nope, I meant </sarcasm>. Kind of the opposite of a strawman, it lets the reader know the statement is sarcastic and not to be taken as part of the argument. Very ironic that you used </strawman> for setting up your own strawman! You must get that criticism a lot; it explains your obsession with jumping in with the term first.

    Shrug. I’ve been involved in threads that went on for years. I just wish the “notify me” option worked here.

    Commiserations for having no life. Go ahead keyboard warrior, get in that last word.

  28. says

    file thirteen @28:

    So you’d rather think he was inept. It’s usually less rude to assume (or at least appear to assume at first) that the results of a person’s actions are intentional rather than due to sheer mismanagement, but it’s fine, I can go with that.

    So we can add “rather” and “assume” to “decision” as words you don’t understand. Got it. Also, “obsession.”
     

    Go ahead keyboard warrior, get in that last word.

    Thanks! Sorry you’re too busy to crack a dictionary.

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