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"January 20th 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again. The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.... For many decades, we've enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry; subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military; we've defended other nation's borders while refusing to defend our own; and spent trillions of dollars overseas while America's infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay. We've made other countries rich while the wealth, strength, and confidence of our country has disappeared over the horizon.... "From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land.
"From this moment on, it's going to be America First....
"Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.
"We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones -- and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth."

Trump Doctrine

After a few months in office, Donald Trump began to repudiate many of the the positions he had articulated during the 2016 electoral campaign. There were quick reversals on a "One China" policy in a renewed pledge to Xi Jinping; on the Iran nuclear agreement in a pledge to Federica Mogherini; and on the U.S. mutual defense pact with Japan in a pledge to Shinzo Abe.

At the G7 summit on 10 April 2017, Rex Tillerson declared the US would punish "all who commit crimes against the innocents anywhere in the world." This far-reaching statement in Italy, basically vowed that the US would attack anyone and make anyone accountable who has harmed innocent people. Washington would thus be acting as world police - even without permission, if need be. Tillerson had changed his tone on Syria several times in the previous week. Despite expressing opposition to intervention during his election campaign, Donald Trump ended up attacking Syria anyway. There was no adequate explanation for why Trump shifted his stance from "America first" to "America everywhere." Some suggested this was a domestic diversionary tactic, as Trump wanted to prove that Russia did not hand him the US election, and that his campaign team's connections to Moscow were innocent. The Russians will wait to see whether US foreign policy will stabilize, or whether yet even more sudden changes are in store.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson left no doubt that Russia would have to change its Syria policy and sever its ties to Iran and Hezbollah. Such defiance of Moscow would not have been expected a few days ago. Since the alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria, Tillerson has reflected the Trump administration's dramatically changed stance on the war. Intentions of rapprochement with Russia have been replaced with a course of confrontation.

  1. There was a seismic shift in the US administration's position on Syria. The statement by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson 11 April 2017 that the reign of President Bashar Assad's family "is coming to an end" suggested the US was taking a much more aggressive approach about the Syrian leader. The remark came after a U.S. airstrike in Syria and threats of more punitive action. Only weeks earlier, U.S. officials, including President Donald Trump, were signaling a willingness to work with Russia and saying that Assad's status was not a priority for the time being.
  2. Donald Trump on 12 April 2017 declared the North Atlantic Treaty Organization “no longer obsolete,” three months after he said the alliance had outlived its usefulness because it had not defended against terrorist attacks. “The secretary general and I had a productive discussion about what more NATO can do in the fight against terrorism,” Trump said at a joint news conference with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg. “I complained about that a long time ago and they made a change, and now they do fight terrorism. I said it was obsolete. It’s no longer obsolete.”
  3. As tensions rose over Syria, Trump seemed to walk away from campaign promise to improve ties with Moscow. President Donald Trump has declared that US relations with Russia "may be at an all-time low". His top diplomat offered a similarly grim assessment after meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow earlier on 12 April 2017. "Right now we're not getting along with Russia at all," Trump said flatly during a White House news conference. Only weeks ago, it appeared that Trump, who praised Putin throughout the US election campaign, was poised for a potentially historic rapprochement with Russia.
  4. On 13 April 2017 Trump said he won't label Beijing a currency manipulator. In one of the sharpest reverses of his presidency, Trump backed off from a campaign pledge by saying he would not declare China to be a currency manipulator, an action that could have led to higher tariffs on Chinese goods. The accusation had formed a basis of Trump's argument for lost American jobs, on the grounds that an undervalued currency was boosting Chinese exports and leading to artificially low prices, all at US manufacturers' expense.

The hard-line, populist tenor that dominated Trump’s insurgent candidacy gave way to a centrist governing philosophy and within three months after taking office, he edged away from some of the nationalist themes that endeared him to his base. Steve Bannon's influence had waned and his days in the Trump White House seemed numbered. On 05 April 2017 Trump removed chief White House strategist Stephen Bannon from his role on the National Security Council (NSC). On 11 April 2017 Trump said “I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late,” Trump said. “I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors, and I didn’t know Steve. I’m my own strategist and it wasn’t like I was going to change strategies because I was facing crooked Hillary.” Trump ended by saying, “Steve is a good guy, but I told them to straighten it out or I will.”

Jared Kushner was, until his father-in-law ran for president, a lifelong liberal and a Democratic donor. Bannon had called Jared a ‘globalist’ and a ‘cuck’ - “cuckservative,” a portmanteau of “cuckold” and “conservative”. Cuck is a favorite slur on the right, used to condemn moderates as emasculated girly men. Cuck a sexually and racially charged version of “RINO,” a Republican In Name Only. “Globalist” is a term typically used by nationalist, pro-Trump right-wingers, a code word for Jew [Kushner is Jewish].

Rules of Engagement (ROE)

In the fight against ISIS in Mosul, the United States adjusted its rules of engagement (ROE). Under the December 2016 Obama directive there had been some “relatively minor adjustments” that decentralized part of the process of approving fire missions as the campaign moved from a largely defensive campaign to an offensive one. Under an additional directive issued by Trump in February 2017, US advisers embedded at the brigade level were able to directly deliver support such as airstrikes and artillery fire to the units they're partnered with. Previously, such support would have gone through a whole a strike cell bureaucracy and through Baghdad.

Trump hadn’t eliminated Obama’s troop number limits. Thus, the caps of 503 for Syria and 5,262 for Iraq remained. But the military is ignoring them with White House approval by using an existing loophole to categorize deployments as temporary. On 31 March 2017 the Pentagon said that officially there are 5,262 U.S. troops in Iraq, though officials privately acknowledged a couple thousand more there.

On the campaign trail in late 2015, Donald Trump pledged to “bomb the shit” out of ISIS if he became president. "The other thing with terrorists," then-candidate Donald Trump said on “Fox and Friends” in December 2015, "is that you have to take out their families."

In December 2016, when the Army issued its latest Rules of War Manual, military leaders planning operations against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria may authorize strikes where up to 10 civilians may be killed, if it is deemed necessary in order to get a critical military target.

The collateral damage estimation (CDE) included a threshold of predicted civilian deaths called the Non-Combatant cutoff value or NCV. his number is the threshold of predicted deaths where, in order to get permission for the strike, the targeteer has to prove that the military utility is so significant as to make those predicted deaths acceptable.

The procedure for every military action involves a precise evaluation of the number of civilian deaths likely to result from a given military action. According to the LA Times: “The U.S. military predicts how many people will die in its airstrikes by surveilling and estimating the population within a proposed blast radius. It also sets a limit on the number of innocent people each command is authorized to kill incidentally. This limit, called the Non-Combatant Cutoff Value, or NCV, is perhaps our starkest rule of engagement, and it varies region-by-region for political reasons.”

Obama-era rules required "near-certainty" that no civilians will be killed in airstrikes. Under Trump, there was a transfer of risk from military forces onto civilians. Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan had been designated “areas of active hostility,” but drone strikes in other areas such as Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan required high-level approval under Obama-era doctrine.

In March 2017 Trump lowered the threshold on acceptable civilian casualties from a “near certainty” of no such deaths to “reasonable certainty”. In March 2017 Trump gave the US military more authority to conduct offensive airstrikes on al-Qaida-linked militants in Somalia.

On 31 March 2017 Sarah Sewall, undersecretary of state for civilian security, democracy and human rights during the Obama administration, said that Trump had "moved the Somalia engagement of U.S. forces from the category of more targeted uses of force to that of general hostilities.... The former category required that only those who were a direct threat to Americans could be targeted. Now they can be targeted if they’re members of an organization that’s an associated force with the perpetrators of 9/11.... the former standard of using the use of targeting according to a near certainty of not killing civilians has now been relaxed.... the laws of war still apply, so uses of force still have to be proportional and they still have to be discriminate."

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