2020 October Surprise – Trump’s War?

President Donald Trump
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

It’s a sinking ship and, apparently, egoists can’t swim. Already, there’s a GOP primary challenger – William Weld, former governor of Massachusetts. Very likely there will be more, such as Mitt Romney or Jeff Flake.

Right now, it doesn’t look like Trump will be reelected. Yet, if we’ve learned anything, it is not to underestimate his ability to subvert reality and manipulate the media and public.

The cult of personality surrounding Trump has long distorted perspectives: most anti-Trumpers seem more repulsed by Trump the person than by his destructive anti-worker, corporate-worshipping policies. They seem more worried about his morals (or lack thereof) but not his amoral governance. They are concerned with Russia’s dubious influence on Trump but not his exacerbation of racism, white nationalism, and xenophobia.

As the election gets nearer, he could always construct another National Emergency around election time. But this may be too obvious and, unless martial law was declared, not be very helpful for the electoral outcome.

It may well be that he holds a royal flush for winning reelection: war with Iran. Venezuela is another option, but with Juan Guaido recently recognized by the U.S. as the “legitimate” president, the timing is not right for the 2020 election. Whereas, Iran has long been considered ripe for invasion, since the Project of the New American Century’s days under Clinton and Bush Jr.

Trump has long looked down the missile scope at Iran, one of his few consistencies. Mike Pence pressuring European nations to withdraw from the JCPOA, the decision to counter Iran through remaining in southern Syria and declaring Iran the world’s top sponsor of terrorism suggests the groundwork is being laid for a U.S. invasion at an opportune time – within 6-8 months of November 2020.

Trump has been inaccurately considered a pro-peace leader by some on the anti-war right. They point to less vitriol towards Russia, peace efforts with North Korea and his plans to withdraw troops from Syria and Afghanistan.

Yet these are largely red herrings.

Drone strikes and related civilian deaths have increased under Trump, additional sanctions have been placed on Russia and a troop withdrawal from Syria and Afghanistan consists of almost entirely additional troops that Trump sent in: 2,000 extra were sent into Syria and 4,000 to Afghanistan. The plan now is to decrease U.S. troops to a couple hundred in northern Syria and a couple hundred in the south. That leave more U.S. boots in Syria than when Obama left office. In Afghanistan, it’s estimated between 5,000-7,000 troops will be withdrawn. That would leave about 8,000 American troops in Afghanistan, a couple thousand below when the Obama tenure ended. The only legitimate peace effort Trump has made is towards Kim Jong-un; for example, in halting U.S.-South Korea military drills in exchange for North Korea’s suspension of nuclear tests while bilateral talks are underway. Yet the fruits of this effort remain to be seen. But let’s not forget that this outreach started after the two countries came very close to the brink of nuclear war, thanks largely to Trump’s bellicose rhetoric toward North Korea.

Clearly, this is not a president with a peaceful U.S. foreign policy. He has merely repositioned the missile’s scope to Iran and Venezuela while perpetuating and, in some cases exacerbating, similar hawkish policies elsewhere. Trump has placed the U.S. far nearer the verge of war with Iran and Venezuela – any day now, we may invade Venezuela to inform them how their destiny should manifest. And Trump bombed Syrian military installations twice, something Obama never could get himself to do.

As a celebrity culture-driven political opportunist, the right time for a Trump war has not yet arrived. Intuitively understanding the militaristic American public’s keenness for leaders who initiate bloodshed, this may be his 2020 surprise.  

Written by Peter Crowley

Peter F. Crowley is an independent writer and scholar with a M.S. in Conflict Resolution, Global Studies from Northeastern University. He works as Content Specialist/Production Coordinator for a prominent library science company. For fun, he plays in bluesy rock band around the Boston/NYC area. His writings can be found in Boston Literary Magazine, Mint Press News, (several publications in) Wilderness House Literary Review, 34th Parallel Magazine, Counterpunch, Foreign Policy Journal, Work Literary Magazine, Opiate Magazine, Truthout, Green Fuse Press, Mondoweiss, Antiwar.com, Rhinocerotic, Visitant (forthcoming), Peace Studies Journal, Peace Review (forthcoming) Ethnic Studies Review, Libertarian Institute, Middle East Monitor, Dissident Voice, Inquiries Journal and a periodical publication of the Brookline, MA Historical Society.

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2020 October Surprise – Trump’s War?