Congress should force the Trump Administration to stop. And it should be clear that, should his approval rating continue to crater, they won’t stand for him “wagging the dog.”
But Congress won’t assert itself absent a political angle. “The frustrating reality is that both the Obama and Trump administrations have been able to back the war without ever having to face much serious scrutiny from Congress or most of the media, and so they have not had to defend a policy that has shamefully encountered relatively little criticism and minimal resistance,” Daniel Larison writes. “Even when the U.S. role in fueling and arming the coalition’s planes has been acknowledged in reports, it is often mentioned only in passing and then minimized. It is very difficult to organize opposition to a policy that most people in the country may not even know is happening. I suppose it is good that our officers are sickened by what the U.S. has been helping the Saudis and their allies do, but most of our politicians and policymakers don’t appear to be bothered in the least.”
What’s needed is clear: a reinvigorated antiwar movement.
Just as Republican deficit hawks are at maximum strength when Democrats are in the White House, the reality of partisan hypocrisy dictates that anti-war Democrats make the most headway when a Republican is in the White House waging war.
I’d prefer a consistent, principled anti-war faction, but I’ll take what I can get, because Trump certainly cannot be trusted to exercise prudence or restraint on his own. Obsessed with projecting strength and out of his depth on all matters of foreign policy, he is now being influenced by a Washington foreign policy establishment that still resembles a cocky 19-year-old at a billiards hall who would do well to play defense and bide his time, but invariably insists on attempting the cue-behind-the-back, jump-the-8-ball combination, as if the odds favor the chosen ball banking off three different rails and falling in the pocket where he is pointing.
A wise anti-war movement will push the Trump administration to keep our commitments to NATO, a great force for stability, without expanding it; to use force only as a last resort, to stop an imminent attack or kill a senior leader of ISIS or al Qaeda; and say hell no (and pressure Congress to do the same) if or when President Trump, or Secretary Mattis, or John McCain, or Lindsay Graham, or any of the hawkish Democrats, urge a triple-combination bank shot, where victory requires arming the right faction at the perfect moment in coordination with an unreliable ally in hopes that the proxy of our enemy falls in just the right way, enabling a post-conflict reality that doesn’t just hand terrorists newly destabilized territory.
The foreign policy establishment wasn’t smart enough to pull that off with Clinton, Bush, or Obama at the helm. Attempting any such thing under Trump, a commander-in-chief with the attention span of a child, is madness. If the powers that be don’t see that, a newly energized anti-war movement needs to focus their attention.