Last Thursday, President Trump declared that the United States would be withdrawing from the Paris Agreement on climate change. The move sparked widespread condemnation and outrage. Many Americans said they were embarrassed by Trump’s decision.
It’s worth debating whether Americans should feel responsible for the decisions of the US government. But, assuming embarrassment is ever an appropriate response, here are four presidential policies that are far more cringe-worthy than leaving the Paris Agreement.
And to be nonpartisan about it, we’ve included some of the greatest (worst?) hits from the Trump and Obama administrations.
1. Trump’s Warm and Erroneous Speech in Saudi Arabia on Countering Extremism
This unpleasant episode occurred just last month when Trump made his first foreign trip. In Saudi Arabia, he made a speech ostensibly about terrorism, but it made several important errors. The most serious of these was the implication that Iran was somehow aligned with Isis and Al Qaeda, in spite of the fact that Iran is actually war with both groups.
The speech also included praise of Saudi Arabia for its alleged efforts to counter extremism. In reality, Saudi Arabia has been one of the largest exporters of extremism in recent years. Indeed, the Kingdom was identified in a released US intelligence analysis as one of the lead backers of the rebel movements that eventually became Isis. Additionally, a Saudi foreign minister reportedly admitted backing Isis to then-Secretary of State John Kerry.
2. The US’s Alliance with Pedophilic Warlords in Afghanistan
This story broke headlines in late 2015. Years earlier, a US Special Forces soldier, Dan Quinn, beat up an Afghan militia leader who kept a young boy chained to his bed as a sex slave. In response, the US military discharged Quinn, and in 2015, the military was working to terminate another soldier who participated in the beating.
The reason for their terminations is that they attacked an ally. The fact this particular ally was a child molester did not change things from the government’s perspective.
The US military had, and presumably still has, an unofficial policy to look the other way on the child abuse of its Afghan allies. So the US is allied with pedophilic warlords in Afghanistan, and US soldiers that try to stop it get disciplined.
This quote from Quinn adequately sums up the absurdity and tragedy of the situation:
The reason we were here is because we heard the terrible things the Taliban were doing to people, how they were taking away human rights. But we were putting people into power who would do things worse that worse than the Taliban did — that was something village elders voiced to me.
Indeed, he was sadly right about that. As Justin Raimondo of Antiwar.com noted, the Taliban actually came to power in part because they were able to put a stop to the rampant pedophilia of the warlords. When the US overthrew the Taliban, our government allied with some of those same people and effectively put them back in positions of power, where they remain now.
There’s also no silver lining here. The US is currently considering how many additional troops they are going to put into Afghanistan to prolong the war.
3. Trump Bragging about Bombing Iraq, er, Syria over Delicious Chocolate Cake
At the time the strikes were ordered, China’s President Xi was on an official visit to the US. So Bartiromo asked Trump when he told Xi about the strikes.
Apparently Trump gave the news after the dessert, but it was not just any dessert–it was “the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you’ve ever seen”. Then, when Trump described the strike itself, he initially said the missiles were going to Iraq, not Syria. The host had to correct him.
The episode was instructive for two reasons. First, one might like to think the decision to escalate a war is taken a bit more seriously than, say, whether or not to have coffee after dinner. And second, Bartiromo acts almost starstruck or giddy throughout the proceedings–acting as if the entire conversation they’re having is wholly normal.
As long as we’re feeling embarrassed about the actions of other Americans we can’t control, her conduct could probably fit the bill too.
4. Obama Backing the Devastating Invasion of Yemen to Placate the Saudis
It doesn’t get much press, but the worst humanitarian crisis in the world right now is found in Yemen. Millions of people are suffering from malnutrition and face potential starvation after two years of war.
Recently, the problems have gotten even worse as it suffers from its first cholera outbreak in history, and parents have resorted to selling their daughters off to marriage in order to afford food, according to the Times.
These problems are all inextricably linked to the Saudi-led war against Yemen. The Saudis invaded Yemen back in 2015 in an effort to reinstall an unpopular dictator that had been overthrown. The US, under President Obama, decided to back the war effort–not because there were any US interests at stake–but in order to “placate the Saudis“, as the Times put it.
The Saudis were upset with the US because of the nuclear deal with Iran. One might think the Saudis would like that agreement, since it further ensured their Iranian rivals would not acquire a nuclear weapon. Instead, the Saudis were furious because it would mean a less isolated Iran and might cause the Saudis to lose some influence in the Middle East.
Thus, the Obama Administration decided to make it up to them by supporting their war to the south–and millions of Yemeni civilians are suffering as a result. But what’s a needless famine amongst friends, right?
Trump has continued the Obama-era policy and increased the number of direct US missions there.