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Trumping NeoCons: The Rise of the Non-Interventionist Right

by Kaia Los Huertos, published

Last week, the Donald Trump administration dealt the neocon establishment two pounding blows. Yet, the mainstream media and the global justice movement did not seem to connect the dots.

Let’s be clear from the beginning about the definition of a neoconservative so there is no confusion. Merriam-Webster defines “neoconservative” as:

1:  a former liberal espousing political conservatism.

2:  a conservative who advocates the assertive promotion of democracy and U.S. national interest in international affairs including through military means.

Neoconservatism is generally accepted in today’s lingo as a political philosophy that accepts the idea that America can and should be the world’s police force, and its greatness can be measured by its willingness to be a global powerhouse through unlimited military intervention.

Trump’s move away from neoconservative policies started with his swift abandonment of the Obama-negotiated, neocon-celebrated Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a multilateral trade deal that was vehemently opposed by a variety of groups and organizations on different sides of the spectrum.

Trump made bashing the TPP one of his campaign staples, going as far as to call the deal “a rape of our country.” But he was not alone. Former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was also very passionate in his opposition to the TPP, calling it “a disastrous trade agreement designed to protect the interests of the largest multi-national corporations at the expense of workers, consumers, the environment and the foundations of American democracy.”

Senator Sanders was quick to praise the treaty exit, while very adeptly staying away from praising Trump himself. There is an argument to be made that the TPP was due for a slow death in Congress regardless, but the move remains a symbolically powerful one, sending the message:

Trump is not your Bush-school, neoconservative Republican.

When people think of the term “neoconservative,” the Bush administrations are often seen as the epitome of this political philosophy. However, top officials in both major parties have adopted neoconservative policies.

After all, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama supported U.S. military action in Afghanistan, Iraq, as well as intervention in Libya and Syria. Additionally, Clinton initially supported the TPP, which she praised as “the gold standard in trade agreements.”

Probably the biggest blow to the neocon establishment, however, was Trump’s dismissal of most of the Department of State’s senior management, removing the old guard in one fell swoop.

Among those asked to leave were Patrick Kennedy, Under Secretary of State for Management, Joyce Anne Barr, Gentry O. Smith, and Michelle Bond, all career foreign service officers who served in the Bush and Obama administrations.

The writing seems to be on the wall for the end of interventionist presidential policies and nation building. Throughout the campaign, President Trump advocated for a stronger defense, and said we need to rebuild our military, but he also supported an end to what he called “intervention and chaos” overseas.

Could this be the administration that turns America's focus inward, in a way we haven't seen since the 1930s? What effect would that have on the country? Only time will tell.

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