Seth Moulton says Trump is ‘doubling down’ on Obama’s foreign policy mistakes

Congressman Seth Moulton speaks during an interview at the Boston Globe Happy Hour in March
Rep. Seth Moulton speaks during an interview Thursday in Boston. –Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe

Rep. Seth Moulton wasn’t afraid to criticize the previous president and certainly hasn’t hesitated to criticize the current one. But rarely has it been for the same actions.

In a live-streamed interview Thursday evening with The Boston Globe, Moulton said that President Donald Trump was “doubling down” on foreign policy actions for which he criticized President Barack Obama.

“It’s not enough just to have a plan to win the war; you have to have a strategy to win the peace — and we have to put the resources behind that strategy,” said the Salem Democrat, when asked about reports of the United States’ deepening military involvement across the Middle East.

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During his first term in Congress, Moulton repeatedly criticized the Obama administration for lacking a long-term strategy against ISIS in Iraq. The now-second-term congressman credited the Obama administration Thursday for its territorial gains against ISIS, but said the United States still lacks a clear end game.

“I don’t think the Obama administration did enough to ensure a long-term political solution, so that once the fighting was done, once Mosul was taken over, we have a plan for the day after,” he said.

According to Moulton, Trump’s proposed 28 percent budget cuts to the State Department would makes those missteps worse.

“Trump is now doubling down on that mistake by increasing the military presence in the Middle East and actually decreasing the diplomatic presence,” he said, adding that the “strongest voices against those cuts are military voices — on both sides of the aisle.”

Moulton went on to liken the United States’ current foreign policy to a game of whack-a-mole and ISIS to Al-Qaeda-in-Iraq 2.0.

“I don’t want to see Al-Qaeda-in-Iraq 3.0 five years down the road,” he said. “And so after the military has done its job — which they’re doing very well — we’ve got to have the political work to make sure that Iraq can take care of its own national security, can protect its own borders, and our troops can finally come home for good.”

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Moulton said that strategy would consist of increased “political mentorship” and diplomatic advisors from the United States working with the Iraqi government, which he said the country was asking for. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi met Trump at the White House and said he was assured of increased U.S. support, despite the proposed diplomatic budget cuts.

“Some people say, ‘Ah, this sounds like meddling in Iraqi politics. The U.S. has a sorted history of getting involved in the affairs of other governments,'” Moulton noted, conceding a criticism of his preferred approach. But he challenged skeptics to come up with something better.

“Tell me a better alternative,” he said. “And tell me not to do something that the Iraqis are actually asking for.”

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