Alliances between and among countries are always shifting. Just look at who our friends and enemies were in World War II compared to today, how friends (Russia) and enemies (Germany) are realigned today. We established diplomatic and trade relations with Vietnam in 1995, a country in which 58,000 Americans died to prevent a communist takeover, but only reopened our respective embassies with Cuba in 2015, a country we never went to war with. And these are just the glaring shifts among a long list.
In 1953 the United States supported a coups against the prime minister of Iran who had been elected by a wide majority of members of the Iranian parliament. The Shah replaced him until Islamic theocrats overthrew the Shah in 1979. Between 1953 – 1979, the U.S. had good relations with the Shah whose government we supported to the extent that it had the most powerful military in the Middle East. It was a marriage of convenience despite the repressive regime of the Shah that led to the revolution.
Since 1979 the United States has had no diplomatic relations with Iran. Thirty years later the Green Movement hit the streets to protest the results of the presidential election and other social discontent in Iran. Newly elected U.S. president Barack Obama failed to support the dissidents in word or deed and has been widely criticized for it ever since, criticism that arguably is mostly fair.
In Venezuela Donald Trump has offered strong language in support of dissidents seeking to overthrow dictator Nicholas Maduro, and he has increased the sanctions on the economy that Obama had imposed. Neither appear to be having the desired effect. Sanctions never worked against Cuba and other communist countries, and they often times have unforeseen consequences. But using Venezuela as a political posterchild by Republicans to scare voters into believing that they can expect the same here if a Democrat is elected president, is more effective. It doesn’t matter that the U.S. Supreme Court in 1952 created a legal precedent in overturning President Harry Truman’s nationalization of the steel mills because of a strike that occurred during the Korean War.
Hong Kong, which the communists allow a certain amount of freedom under the banner of two governments, one country, has been experiencing violent protests for two months because of limitations on freedom the Beijing government has imposed. The protestors recently marched in front of the American Consulate waving the American Flag and singing the Star Spangled Banner seeking support for “freedom and dignity.” They have been met with silence from our president because he is more concerned about the immediacy of getting a favorable trade deal with Beijing.
The old Soviet Union feared NATO, perhaps the greatest alliance ever formed in the defense of liberty. Vladimir Putin’s Russia of today still fears NATO, and it has done everything it can to undermine it and prevent former communist bloc countries from becoming members of it and the European Union. Trump was right in demanding that some of the current NATO allies pay their fair share (two percent of their GDP), which is a requirement to belong. But how much of Trump’s indignation is based on the United States bearing most of the burden of defense versus the amount of money NATO countries spend on purchasing the bulk of their weapons from U.S. arms manufacturers?
In Syria our president wants to pull out U.S. troops. There is an argument for that, although those who attacked former President Barack Obama for executing the agreement his predecessor had made to withdraw our armed forces from Iraq in 2011 somehow think it’s different this time. But this time we are leaving the Kurds, the very people who supported the U.S. in ridding Syria of ISIS, to the mercy of our questionable NATO ally Turkey as Turkey seeks to remove the Kurds from their border.
As Turkey proceeds to war against the Kurds, who ran detention camps for ISIS captives, there is the real possibility that ISIS terrorists will escape and once again become a real threat to the United States and Israel. We have heard mild protests from a handful of Republicans and crickets from most of the rest.
All friendships are based on mutuality and a certain amount of nurturing. Under the Trump administration we are reverting to pre-World War II isolationist policies, which in a very interrelated world of trade, defense, and other common interests, will not serve us or anyone else well. Yet we currently cater to dictators like Kim Jong Un, Putin, and Prince Mohammad bin Salman. Something is wrong with our priorities and national policy. Something to consider in 2020.