THERESA MAY is almost doubling the deployment of British troops to Afghanistan following a request from Donald Trump, whose arrival in the country tomorrow is poised to spark mass protests.
Hawkish liberals often voice their concern over the unpredictable Trump, noting his family’s business links to Russian oligarchs and seeing his complaint that Nato’s European members are “taking advantage” of the United States as a veiled threat to withdraw troops from the continent.
That would be no bad thing, of course — the expansion of the US-led alliance to Russia’s border since the end of the cold war breached international commitments made to the Gorbachov government in the 1980s in return for its withdrawal of Soviet forces from those countries.
Like so many “deterrents” throughout history, the Nato military build-up in Poland and the Baltic states makes war more, rather than less, likely.
Hyperbolic denunciations of “Russian aggression” ignore the role Washington and Brussels have played in igniting conflict in the region, such as by their support for the coup against Ukraine’s elected government in 2014 and US training and support for openly neonazi paramilitaries fighting on Kiev’s behalf in the Donbass.
In reality, the Putin regime’s stability rests on income from oil and gas exports and Moscow has no interest in conflict with its European customers. A demilitarised Europe would benefit everyone except the arms dealers and the armchair generals.
Sadly, few things are more unlikely than a Donald Trump peace dividend. If anything, his petulant carping at European states for failing to spend enough on their armies is likely to have the opposite effect.
Even rebutting his insults seems to involve repeating the oath of allegiance.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, having rejected the US president’s inane assertion that her country was “completely controlled” by Russia (whose economy is three times smaller than Germany’s), rushes to confirm that “we are still very heavily involved in Afghanistan and thus we also defend the interests of the United States of America.”
Indeed, she gushed, Germany was “pleased” to do so. So, no doubt, is May, hence the dispatch of another 440 British soldiers to shore up the US position in a war that began 17 years ago and was officially declared over four years ago.
Since the Taliban are actually getting stronger after nearly two decades of warfare, it is clear that anything resembling military victory in Afghanistan is a pipe dream.
If May were genuinely concerned about rising violence there, she could stop the deportation of asylum-seekers to a country which is manifestly not safe (as Amnesty revealed last year, deportations to Afghanistan actually tripled over the previous 12 months).
She is not, of course. May’s commitment to the Afghan war — shamefully echoed by some on the Labour benches — has nothing to do with the people of the country and everything to do with her determination to keep British foreign policy subordinated to Washington’s.
That alone is reason enough to be out on the streets tomorrow protesting against Trump.
The current occupant of the White House disgusts most people in Britain, and for good reason: he is a racist, a sexist, an apologist for far-right violence and white supremacism, a thug who separates families and locks up children.
Socialists must, however, put Trump in context. The protests against him should be used to expose the roots of this morbid symptom: an international neoliberal order based on exploitation and policed by war.
There is no point in seeing off Trump or May merely to return to the “politics as usual” of Barack Obama or David Cameron. Tomorrow’s protest should be a challenge to capitalism itself.
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