IMMEDIATE RELEASE 10 January 2020WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUNDToday’s Events in Historical PerspectiveAmerica’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932Hit the bully and runBy Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift WASHINGTON – It’s an old playground technique: hit the bully and run.It is also an isolationist’s technique. And make no mistake; isolationism is a form of cowardice. It is the coward pulling up the drawbridge and cowering in his castle, leaving faraway friends and allies farther to fend for themselves. This is not to be confused with forting up, which is what outgunned and outnumbered forces are often compelled to do. But the United States is neither outgunned nor outnumbered because technologically superior weaponry offsets numbers. So, when the United States retreats behind the walls of Fortress America and leaves the world to its own destructive devices it is not only an act of cowardice, it is self-destructive because eventually that turbulent world will come knocking, usually after erstwhile allies have been defeated, neutralized, or diminished. Yet Donald Trump ran on a platform of isolationism, even using the discarded pre-World War II isolationist mantra: “America First.” This is euphemism, that age-old tool of the propagandist who uses words not to inform but to conceal. “America First” means “America Only.” It says to friends and allies, “Look not to us; look to yourselves.” This is what President Trump said in his speech to the nation about Iran and the Middle East and the world in general. He ran on a promise to bring U.S. troops home and to bring an end to endless conflicts. But how to do this and still appear strong? Trump sees his tit-for-tat with Iran as a win. He was the tough guy, he took out General Soleimani, the second most popular figure in Iran. But it was a speech of tough-guy talk and cowardly retreat, and we must not confuse the two. Tough guy: America has powerful weapons including new hypersonic missiles. Iran will not be allowed to become a nuclear power on his watch. He has dispatched several thousand troops to protect American installations and interests. Coward: The United States is energy independent and no longer needs Middle Eastern oil. Interpretation: What happens in the Middle East no longer affects U.S. national interests Reality: Russian, Chinese, and Islamic fundamentalist influences along with ongoing Sunni-Shiite conflicts will alter the balance of power in the region and spill over in a destabilizing manner militarily, economically, and demographically worldwide in ways that will surprise and be beyond America’s efforts to control. Coward: NATO must send troops to the region. Interpretation: NATO must replace U.S. forces there. Reality: We have seen this act before. The U.S. left Europe to its own devices following World War I. World War II was the result. This is what NATO was created to prevent, and it has kept the peace in Europe for 70 years. NATO is an alliance, not a tool to be used to extricate American forces. NATO does not work without American participation, and if the NATO countries are coerced to do so, their staying power will be limited. Those countries will soon follow America’s lead and exit the stage. Coward: Hit the bully and run. Kill a general; dispatch a few thousand troops; bring in NATO forces. Then pull out before the November election. And Iran: There is an old axiom: Never get in the way when your enemy is making a mistake. This is why Iran’s response to the killing of General Soleimani was purposely benign. Trump’s speech was a declaration of surrender. By announcing the intent to pull U.S. forces out he is doing precisely what disparate entities from Iran to ISIS have demanded and what China and Russia have patiently awaited. If consummated, Trump’s isolationism will prove to be the nation’s greatest mistake since abandoning Europe after World War I. Douglas Cohn’s latest books are World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers) and The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency. Twitter: @douglas_cohn © 2020 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc. Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
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