Donald Trump’s pivot to U.S. involvement in regime change in multiple countries, combined with military and diplomatic bluster, swagger, and chest-thumping can best be summed up as combining the unitary executive imperialistic foreign policy of George W. Bush with the regime change agenda of Barack Obama, or «Bush version 2.0/Obama version 1.5».
Trump’s knee-jerk decision to launch Tomahawk cruise missiles against the Shayrat air base, a forward operating base for Syrian and Russian military forces battling against Islamic State forces in Palmyra and other locations, represents the type of reckless unilateralism employed by the Bush administration in Iraq coupled with the «regime change» tactics of the Obama administration throughout the Middle East and North Africa. However, even Barack Obama refused to be drawn into direct military action against the Syrian government, preferring instead to use Syrian rebel factions backed by the Turkish, Saudi, and Qatari governments and overseen by Central Intelligence Agency operatives to launch attacks on Syrian government forces.
Trump’s decision to attack Syria’s forces was based on the shoddiest of video and photographic «evidence» that was tainted with the fingerprints of the very dubious and terrorist-connected Syrian «White Helmets» and the pathetic joke known as the «Syrian Observatory for Human Rights» in Coventry, England. There was no wonder that Trump’s cruise missile attack was celebrated wildly in the Islamic State and Al Qaeda camps around the Middle East, by the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and in the royal courts of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. These quarters had previously been worried about Trump’s campaign rhetoric to join with the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad and Russia in defeating the jihadist scourge that swept across Syria as the result of Obama’s «Arab Spring» and regime change goals.
As the first Tomahawks were fired from the U.S. Navy destroyers USS Porter and USS Ross, anxiety among the jihadist rebels in Syria, who were losing ground to Syrian and allied forces, quickly turned to ecstasy. The Islamic State, Al Qaeda, Ahrar al-Sham, Jaysh al-Islam, the Al Nusra Front, Liwa al-Haqq, and others had just been awarded by Trump their own high-tech military force: the United States Navy.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump’s supporters did not mind the real estate billionaire’s swashbuckling attitude. After all, Trump said he would worry about «America First». Trump decried the role played by his predecessors as the «world’s policeman». Trump said he would not be the «president of the world» but the president of the United States. Everything changed on April 7, 2016, when Trump ordered 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles launched on the Syrian air base. At the United Nations, Trump’s ambassador, Nikki Haley, proclaimed that the U.S. would take additional actions against Syria and that the United States did not see a future for Assad as president of Syria. Haley told CNN: «there’s not any sort of option where a political solution is going to happen with Assad at the head of the regime… regime change is something that we think is going to happen». Haley also expanded America’s goals in Syria by stating that Trump also sought to eliminate Iranian influence in Syria. The statement about Iran and Syria went far beyond anything ever suggested by the Obama administration.
There were reports that Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, a White House adviser without portfolio, and her husband Jared Kushner, the senior White House presidential adviser, had convinced Trump to attack Syria after being convinced of the authenticity of photos and videos showing Sarin victims, including children, in the village of Khan Sheikoun. The sources of the «evidence» – the same sources that originated previous dubious «evidence» of Syrian use of chemical weapons – were totally suspect.
In 2013, Trump tweeted the following about calls for the U.S. to attack Syria: «What will we get for bombing Syria besides more debt and a possible long term conflict? Obama needs Congressional approval.” Trump sought no congressional approval for his action against Syria. In fact, Trump informed Chinese president Xi Jinping, while he was departing Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, about the attack on Syria before he informed members of Congress. Trump’s attempt to impress President Xi had little impact. No sooner had Xi’s plane departed Florida, the Chinese government news agency Xinhua stated: «It has been a typical tactic of the U.S. to send a strong political message by attacking other countries using advanced warplanes and cruise missiles».
Trump had become what he decried earlier: an unaccountable world policeman who would, without U.S. constitutional or international legal authority, seek regime change through military means.
Trump also decided to beef up U.S. air and naval forces in Northeast Asia in a show of force to North Korea. In media leaks, Trump advisers let it be known that a nuclear attack on North Korea or a U.S.-sanctioned assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jon Un, both with the goal of North Korean regime change, were on the table as options. Trump’s actions in Syria and on the Korean peninsula demonstrated that he has gone «full neocon», much to the distress of his alt-right and «America First» supporters. There were reports out of the White House that Trump’s strategic policy adviser Stephen Bannon had been kicked off the National Security Council in deference to the wishes of the neocons who had effectively seized control of the White House’s foreign policy apparatus.
All around the world, officials of the Trump administration re-adopted the regime change tactics of Obama. Trump’s ambassador to Serbia, Kyle Scott, let it be known that Washington was not happy with the re-election on April 2 of Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic. Scott sent messages that Washington did not favor Vucic’s continued close relations with Russia, encouraging anti-Vucic street protesters in the service of George Soros to stage anti-Vucic demonstrations. In neighboring Macedonia, Trump’s ambassador Jess Baily continued to provide U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) support for Soros-backed protesters and opposition parties that were trying to replace the Macedonian government with one that favored integration with the European Union and a freeze in relations with Russia. At the end of March, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gave Baily, who was visiting the State Department, a green light to continue the destabilization activities in Skopje that began under Obama. In Serbia and Macedonia, what appeared on the streets were the first signs of a concordat between Trump and Soros, something that was bound to enrage Trump’s anti-globalization and anti-Soros erstwhile base of supporters.
In Latin America, Trump’s envoys were backing the forces of reactionary proto-fascism. Washington questioned the legitimacy of Ecuadorian leftist leader Lenin Moreno’s presidential election victory over a Wall Street-backed crony capitalist named Guillermo Lasso. In Argentina, U.S. embassy officials rallied around Trump’s billionaire friend, President Mauricio Macri, against labor and student leaders protesting the Wall Street-directed austerity measures of the Argentine government.
While Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner prevailed on Trump to avenge the deaths of civilians in Khan Sheikoun by launching a missile attack on Syria, neither of these two self-entitled products of crony capitalism had much to say about the massacre of 43 Coptic Christians by the Islamic State while attending Palm Sunday services at churches in Tanta and Alexandria in Egypt. Trump’s vapid family were silent in any call for retaliation against the actual financial and logistical supporters of the Islamic State in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey. Ivanka certainly would not want to jeopardize her fashion line sales in the high-priced boutiques of Jeddah, Doha, and Istanbul.