Donald Trump’s foreign policy, like much of his domestic policy, is a throwback to the worst right-wing excesses of the Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan administrations. Mr. Trump, who avoided the draft during the Vietnam War for “bone spurs,” praised that nation’s government during a visit by Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc to Washington in May 2017. Trump repeated those warm words for Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang, during a visit to Hanoi in November 2017. However, given the fact that Vietnam recently imprisoned 12 individuals, including two US citizens, who were fighting with a guerilla movement that seeks to restore the US-backed “Republic of Vietnam” (South Vietnam), Trump’s foreign policy could be ripped from the history pages covering 1969 to 1971.
On August 22, the People's Court of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) convicted members of the Provisional National Government of Vietnam (PNGV), which is based in California, for planning to carry out terrorist attacks in South Vietnam. The PNGV was formed in the 1990s by former officials of the Republic of Vietnam, which was defeated by North Vietnam and the South Vietnamese Vietcong in 1975. The California “government-in-exile” has proclaimed Dao Minh Quan as its prime minister. The two US citizens imprisoned in Vietnam for 14 years -- Nguyen James Han and Phan Angel – were convicted of planning to carry out attacks on police agencies and Ho Chi Minh City's Tan Son Nhat airport. They were also charged with attempting to hack into a Vietnamese radio station to broadcast anti-Hanoi propaganda.
On August 22, 2018, Trump tweeted, “I have asked Secretary of State [Mike Pompeo] to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers. ‘South African Government is now seizing land from white farmers.’” Trump’s belief that there are “large scale killings” of white farmers originated with the lunatic conspiracy nitwittery of Fox News host Tucker Carlson, whose father, Richard Carlson, was the director of the US Information Agency (USIA), Voice of America, and Radio Marti, all organs of American propaganda during the Reagan administration. Part of the elder Carlson’s mission was to tilt US policy in support South Africa’s minority white apartheid government and against the opposition African National Congress (ANC) of then-imprisoned Nelson Mandela. Richard Carlson later became the vice chairman of the right-wing neo-conservative Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a foe of the ANC-led governments of post-apartheid South Africa.
Tucker Carlson relied on his incorrect information about South Africa from the right-wing libertarian Cato Institute, which, in turn, received its information from the white Afrikaner-led AfriForum, a lobbying group for white South African farmers, who own 72 percent of farmland in South Africa. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and the ANC are considering legislation to return white-owned land to black South African farmers. However, Trump’s contention that there is large scale killings of white South African farmers is confronted by the fact that the murder of South African farmers, white and black, is at a 20-year low. Further exaggerating the claims of mass killings of whites in South Africa was US neo-Nazi leader Richard Spencer, who counts Trump speechwriter and suspected Twitter message adviser Stephen Miller among is close friends.
Mr. Trump decided that is was best to take the word of an overly-manicured bow tie-wearing Tucker Carlson over that of Vaughn Bishop, his deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency on the situation in South Africa. Bishop happens to possess a Doctorate in African Studies from Northwestern University. Tucker Carlson, on the other hand, has a bachelor’s degree in history from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. In addition to AfriForum and the Cato Institute, the nonsense about mass killings of white farmers was ricocheted around the alt-right echo chambers by Stefan Molyneux, a Canadian conspiracy theorist who traffics in discredited white genocide propaganda, and his Canadian colleague, Gavin McInnes, whose beliefs generally fall in line with those of Molyneux.
During the 1980s, the Reagan administration created a covert weapons, mercenary, and logistics network in support of the Afghan mujaheddin that was fighting Soviet and government forces in Afghanistan. What grew out of this clandestine network, which was based in northwestern Pakistan and financed by Saudi Arabia, was Al Qaeda. Trump is currently considering an offer from Erik Prince, the founder of the Blackwater mercenary firm and brother of Trump’s Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, to deploy his new army of mercenaries, Reflex Responses (R2), based outside of Abu Dhabi, to fight a “privatized” war against the Taliban and its allies in Afghanistan. Prince is already fighting a semi-privatized war in Yemen, on behalf of his United Arab Emirates bosses. That war, which involves US air support for Saudi, Emirati, and R2 ground forces, has resulted in thousands of civilian deaths in the country, the latest being 40 schoolchildren, whose bus was hit by a US-made laser-guided bomb made by Lockheed Martin and sold to Saudi Arabia.
In the early 1970s, as Taiwan began facing diplomatic isolation as more and more nations switched their recognition from the “Republic of China” on Taiwan to the People’s Republic of China in Beijing, the Nixon administration constantly berated nations for changing diplomatic ties, even as it was secretly negotiating with mainland China at talks in Warsaw amid the much-publicized “ping-pong diplomacy” between the two nations. As the United Nations was debating seating the People’s Republic of China and expelling Taiwan in 1971, even as plans were afoot for Nixon to visit China the following year, the United States warned nations with relations with Taiwan not to switch them to China. Ecuador and Peru were among the Latin American nations warned by Washington. Recently, as El Salvador announced it was recognizing China and abandon relations with Taiwan, the Trump administration attacked El Salvador.
The White House announced in a statement that, “The El Salvadoran government’s receptiveness to China’s apparent interference in the domestic politics of a Western Hemisphere country is of grave concern to the United States and will result in a reevaluation of our relationship with El Salvador.” The Trump rhetoric could have come right out of the early 1970s, when similar threats were made by the Nixon administration to nations switching ties from Taipei to Beijing.
The Trump administration’s hostility toward Venezuela and Nicaragua is reminiscent of the dark days of Nixon, when the CIA launched a successful coup in Chile, toppling the democratically-elected president, Salvador Allende, from power and replacing him with a right-wing military junta. Trump is known to favor US military intervention against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, while his Pentagon and CIA have been actively promoting a “themed revolution” against Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega. These Trump operations are taken right out of the playbooks of Nixon in dealing with Chile and Ronald Reagan in dealing with Nicaragua. It appears that Trump is intent on reviving the infamous CIA “contra” war against Nicaragua from US bases in Honduras.
Trump foreign policy, like that of Nixon and Gerald Ford, does not want to see the end of colonialism and the emergence of newly-independent nations in the Pacific – New Caledonia and Bougainville – or in the Middle East – Kurdistan and South Yemen. Trump’s policy against Palestinian statehood is out of the 1960s and 70s. Trump’s foreign policy is an anachronism that should be chased back into the history books as soon as possible.