Congress Begins Impeachment Inquiry While Sleeping On Middle East Foreign Policy

Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on 24 September 2019 that after a ‘whistle-blower’ drew attention to President Trump’s politically motivated decision to withhold aid to Ukraine, the Democrat-controlled House will open an impeachment inquiry. This comes after an eventful week for Trump as he approved military aid to Saudi Arabia, following attacks on their oil refineries, while again condemning Iran at the United Nations.

Calls for Trump’s impeachment have existed since the beginning of his presidency, though this is the first major step taken to date. Trump, who tweeted that this ‘whistle-blower’ claim is another ‘witch hunt’, later released a conversation with Ukraine’s President over the matter. Currently, it is unclear whether he deliberately withheld ‘aid’ in the hope of gaining damaging information on former Vice-President and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, whose own involvement with Ukraine seems equally troubling. Regardless, Congress and the media’s focus on this news has overshadowed other recent developments that are of parallel significance. Importantly, Trump, at the United Nations, repeated in his address his condemnation of Iran’s government, explaining that ‘sanctions will not be lifted, they will be tightened’ until they change their behaviour. This comes after the United States and its allies blamed Iran for being behind the droning of two Saudi Arabian oil facilities, even though the Houthi rebels in Yemen have claimed responsibility for the attacks. As a result, Trump has approved 200 troops and missile defence capabilities to be deployed to Saudi Arabia, earning the rebuke of some that this will likely undermine future diplomacy in the region while adding to existing tensions.

So, though impeachment may seem significant, especially for those who dislike the president, there is irony in how this finally came about. This did not happen by actively abetting another nation that is waging a horrific war, or by sabre-rattling with others. Instead, it came through a political controversy on the matter of aid, which should originally have had congressional oversight, if Congress cared about performing its duties. It might seem overly harsh to criticize the House for this. After all, this Congress has increasingly challenged foreign policy decisions in its debates on the benefits of weapon sales to ally Saudi Arabia. However, the Democrat-controlled House largely agrees on principle to support whatever the Trump administration requests, so it is difficult to see impeachment currently as anything but political so long as there is no substantial concern or investigation into the other decisions Trump has made.

If Congress wants to make a positive impact for the United States and world affairs out of these events, it needs to radically call into question executive power and follow the Constitution for a better way forward. Speaker Pelosi, who made many mentions of the importance of the Constitution in announcing this impeachment inquiry, should realize that this means all presidents deserve equal scrutiny under the Constitution. This is especially the case when it is politically inconvenient for a congressional member’s own party or position. This perhaps explains early pessimism for her strategy for this impeachment inquiry, given that she previously declined to investigate President Bush Jr. over his wrongdoings, once again demonstrating the linear philosophy of both parties that exists in Washington DC. And, both from a moral and an economic perspective, foreign policy legislation, which often gets bipartisan support, has not typically resulted in outcomes that will benefit the country – think blowback and financial degradation, which will only get worse the longer an unrealistic foreign policy is allowed to remain.