Will Trump Roll Back Military Use of Force Restrictions?

According to The New York Times, President Donald Trump and his administration want to relax critical Obama-era restraints on military use of force. They claim the measure is necessary to mount effective counterterrorism operations to keep America safe. But a number of people in the intelligence community argue that the move could actually expose the U.S. to an increased risk of terrorism, especially in combination with threatened cuts to the Department of State.

Let’s start from the top by examining the rules under discussion — those enacted in 2013 at the direction of Barack Obama. The policy was designed to minimize the risk of civilian casualties in military operations, keeping with ancient traditions of war. Under the rules, drone strikes, bombings and other military operations are limited to areas specifically designated as war zones. If the military wants to take action outside these areas, it triggers a careful review of the situation that requires layers of approval.

In January, the Trump Administration had a go at pushing the boundaries. The result? A disastrous raid in Yemen that killed as many as 23 civilians, along with a U.S. Navy SEAL.

The raid was made possible by Trump’s declaration that the location was part of an “area of active hostilities,” where U.S. forces don’t need to follow such scrupulous guidelines. In addition to yielding little useful information, the raid also highlighted the dangers of rolling back the Obama administration’s guidance.

One reason for such guidelines is obvious: Killing civilians is unethical.

There’s another problem that’s more utilitarian in nature, however: When countries see civilian populations being killed by invading militaries, it tends to breed anger, unrest and a desire for retaliation. That can manifest in terrorism — including attacks on a hostile nation’s own soil.

From the perspective of Daesh – also known as IS, ISIS or ISIL — the Trump administration’s move is great news, as the organization thrives on evidence that the United States doesn’t appear to value Arab lives.

When Western nations discriminate against Arabs — and Muslims in particular — through legislation, executive orders and social policies, it tends to feed the notion that this is a case of “Islam against the West.” And that’s precisely what Daesh actively cultivates. The group attempts to draw upon policies like these for radicalizing purposes.

Perhaps it’s unsurprising that a bipartisan group of intelligence experts spoke out about these issues, but they’re not the only ones.

In Congress, some Republicans are commenting about a related issue: the State Department’s budget. While Trump’s full budget plan hasn’t been announced, rumors include hints that the Department of State and foreign aid may experience deep cuts.

This is bad news, according to many international policy experts, because it could hamper the American use of so-called “soft power.” Why catch with vinegar — drone strikes — what you could catch with honey — foreign aid? The United States uses soft power to play a valuable role as peacemaker on the global stage, building positive foreign relations through mutual aid and support, rather than violence. Cutting those budgets means that the U.S. may resort to military force more often, which is a waste of military resources and a bad sign for America’s diplomatic future.

Presidents with limited military experience don’t always understand the ramifications of deploying military force, and those with limited political experience tend to underestimate the value of soft power. As a bully, the United States could quickly find itself isolated — but also at risk. Terrorist organizations may well use the country’s militaristic approach to foreign policy to drive acts of violence.

And without the support of global allies, the U.S. may also have a difficult time fighting terrorism. Other nations will likely be reluctant to collaborate on intelligence operations, extradite accused criminals or allow the U.S. to use their territory for staging purposes.

Worried about this potential change in policy? Consider contacting your representatives and urge them to apply pressure to the White House to reconsider.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore


Marie W
Marie W8 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

Peggy B
Peggy B11 months ago

I pray he doesn't.

Amanda G
Amanda Gabout a year ago

Thanks for posting

Carl R
Carl Rabout a year ago


Bill Eagle
Bill Eagleabout a year ago

Trump likes the part of being Commander in Chief and he is looking for opportunities to send people into battle. The man thinks of himself as a great warrior.

S Mabout a year ago

'As a bully, the United States could quickly find itself isolated — but also at risk.'

America is already a bully, also a Provocateur, - as in Ukraine and now towards N Korea.

It would be better for all if America went home and stayed within its borders, for 10 years at least, while the rest of world tries to unravel the mess of intrigue W'ton with CIA have created .... at least until the likes of McCain has left the stage.

Bill E
Bill Eagleabout a year ago

Trump loves the thought of playing soldier. We already spend more money on our military then both Russia and China, we also spend more money on our military than all of our allies combined...but for trump that is still not enough. Soon we will be all dressed up with no place to go. I really expect that we will find ourselves in another war somewhere. No one wins with a war, except the very wealthy...

Debbi -
Debbi -about a year ago

In the last century investors have gained vast wealth during war times. That is what's driving Trump to lower restrictions, that and his feeling the need to prove his leadership ability and masculinity. He's pathetic, and he is very dangerous. Who in their _Right Mind_ would want to start a war for those reasons? He should be n a rubber room.

william Miller
william Mabout a year ago


M Qabout a year ago

Sigh! What next I wonder, seems he's looking to start another war.