Are US “national interests” really US national interests?

The recent response by Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to the Khashoggi case has me thinking about US “national interests.” Here is one article that describes the Trump administration’s position on the matter.

It seems to me that what the Trump administration, and admittedly some prior administrations as well, describe as being in our national interest really isn’t in the interest of ordinary Americans. In this particular case it seems to be about an arms deal with Saudi Arabia. I don’t see how supporting a corrupt kingdom so that a few rich arms manufacturers can become even richer serves the national interests of the US. What say you all about this situation, and the general use of “national interests” to justify actions taken by the government?

Because those arms manufacturers employ a lot of people.

When the current administration cites national interests and America First, it is more of a keyword phrase to excite the base supporters rather than the result of any thoughtful analysis. In many cases where it superficially seems to benefit the U.S., such as import tariffs, the longer-term consequences are not so positive, such as shifting the financial burdens to other industries and degrading trade relationships with other countries. The arms deal with Saudi Arabia isn’t that critical in the grand view of our economy. There is some interest in a relationship with Saudi Arabia to preserve some stability in the Middle East and because they also have an interest in keeping Iran in check, which syncs with our affection for Israel. Secondly, the actual value of the arms deal has been grossly exaggerated by Trump and the benefits to the U.S., and even how real it is. Not only that, but we have a trade deficit with Saudi Arabia but Trump has never criticized that, as he has done the trade deficit with China, for example.

I suppose that any administration wants to spin the data to look good, although this administration has made its entire stance based on national interest, so constantly comes back to that to justify every boneheaded decision. The irony is that many decisions that are made in the name of national interest further isolate us from international partners, which is going to have a deleterious effect in the long run.

TL;DR: When the administration says “national interest” it is often cutting off its nose to spite its face for the sake of short-term political capital.

Well, those arms deals make US companies a lot of money, and pay wages for many US workers.
They sure aren’t good for the civilians of Yemen who are getting killed by airstrikes, but that’s a separate matter.

You have elected representatives. Write to them and let them know your positions.

We’re always cutting the Saudis slack because… Iran. And if not Iran… oil.

Giving the Saudis a pass to murder people isn’t in the US national interest.

And even if we didn’t care about that, you think the Saudis sell oil as a favor to the United States? Do you think they buy weapons from us as a favor to us?

The Saudis sell oil on the world marketplace to make the money they need to run their country. The Saudis buy weapons from us so they can bomb their neighbors. They do neither of those things as a favor to us.

And isn’t in hilarious that Trump can’t seem to remember that the Saudis are those horrible horrible mooslims he was complaining about a while back?

For a thorough takedown of the notion that Trump was just acting in the US national interest, see here:

So your position on this debate is…what?

My elected representatives are already acting in my interest, so I don’t need to write to them. But my president isn’t.

Well, not especially.

  1. “private-sector defense workers make up less than 0.5 percent of the total US labor force, and that includes every person whose job depends directly on the sale or production of airplanes, tanks, bombs, and services for the entire US military.”

As for this Saudi Arms deal: [INDENT]“It’s not going to create or take away a single job, I don’t think,” Jim Corridore, director of industrials research at the research and investment firm CFRA Research, told me. “There are other homes for these products should these deals fall through.” [/INDENT]

As for the OP, the concept of national interest and national security has been laden with bipartisan smoke blowing since the beginning of the Cold War. The nonsense goes very deep. I am unaware of any serious, rigorous treatment of, say, the effect on citizen safety from foreign attack as a result of… anything. Even when you strip away the nonsense words, there’s not a lot of clear thinking from the citizen’s perspective.

Decades ago, I did read a budgetary analysis purporting to show that the US could defend its borders by spending as little as 2% of GDP on its military (source: CDI). That was during the Cold War. The US currently spends 3.1%, a little over one and half times that.

Well the mainstream media thinks there’s a national interest in having the Saudis kill a US resident in a NATO country, and orphan 3 US citizens. I disagree and say, “Quite the opposite”.

Matthew Yglassias delivers the take-down:
Trump’s decision to continue arms sales is unquestionably beneficial to some Americans — primarily the owners and executives of defense contractors — and he appears to derive personal financial benefits from close ties to the Saudi government.

But that’s what’s at issue here. The average American derives no economic benefit whatsoever from arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and bears at least a minor cost from living in a world where foreign governments are getting the green light to murder American residents.

This is key. One of them is a theocratic misogynistic oil rich terrorist sponsor, and the other used to be called Persia.

To any of the kleptocrats advising Trump, or the whores of those kleptocrats serving in Congress, “national interest” means “interest of the kleptocrats.” As for Trump’s bloviations, it makes more sense to study pig’s entrails than to seek meaning in the flatulence or defecations of this Potus.

Is this what you learned from a 60 year-old civics textbook? If someone’s vehicle stopped running, would you ask them if they remembered to water the horses?

Trump’s America First is simply a repackaging of the bipartisan consensus. There has been no serious political challenge to Saud’s influence in policy. MBS has been lovingly covered in US media since his ascendancy and “corruption” campaign. This in spite of the crisis in Yemen, started by Obama and ramped up by Trump.

Obama backed the Saudi war in Yemen after the Iran deal was signed as a concession to the Saudis. The US govt was backing the Saudi backed rebels. Let’s be real, the US turning against the Saudis right now would be a huge change in policy.

Nominate a better presidential candidate, then.