Warmongers Hate Trump

Unlike Hillary Clinton, the bellicose billionaire is intermittently leery of foreign intervention.

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Last week 117 "members of the Republican national security community" signed an open letter condemning Donald Trump. It made me think the bellicose billionaire, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, is not quite as bad as I thought.

"His vision of American influence and power in the world is wildly inconsistent and unmoored in principle," the letter complains. "He swings from isolationism to military adventurism within the space of one sentence."

Although there is some truth to that critique, an inconsistent skepticism of foreign intervention is better than none at all. That is why I have trouble agreeing with Eliot Cohen, the neoconservative foreign policy expert who organized the letter, when he says "Hillary is the lesser evil, by a large margin."

It is not surprising that Cohen, who always seems to be agitating for another war in the Middle East, would strongly prefer Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee. Her signature achievement as secretary of state was a disastrous intervention in Libya that, like the U.S. invasion of Iraq, empowered terrorists by replacing a nasty dictatorship with chaos.

In 2014 Clinton finally conceded that she made a mistake by supporting the Iraq war, which killed as many as 189,000 people and may ultimately cost as much as $6 trillion. That long-delayed admission suggests Clinton might see the light about Libya sometime around 2022, by which point she could be halfway through her second term as president—plenty of time for new mistakes, starting with Syria.

Trump, by contrast, was an early opponent of the Iraq war, although not quite as early as he sometimes claims. "In 2003, 2004, I was totally against going into Iraq," he said during the Republican presidential debate on December 15. "I called it very strongly."

The truth is that Trump expressed tentative support for the Iraq war six months before the invasion and did not publicly change his mind until four months more than a year afterward. Still, he beat Clinton by a decade, and it seems significant that he condemns the war as often and as strongly as he does.

"George Bush made a mistake," Trump said during the February 13 GOP debate. "We should have never been in Iraq. We have destabilized the Middle East….They lied. They said there were weapons of mass destruction. There were none."

Trump applies a similar critique to the ouster of Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi (which he also initially supported) and the proposed toppling of Syrian dictator Bashir al-Assad. "Assad is a bad guy, but we have no idea who the so-called rebels [are]," he said during the November 10 GOP debate. "They may be far worse than Assad. Look at Libya. Look at Iraq."

The beginning of wisdom in foreign policy is learning from mistakes, something that Clinton, who is supposedly much more sophisticated about such matters than Trump, has proven constitutionally incapable of doing. Unlike Clinton, Trump intermittently seems to recognize the limits of American power and the impossibility of doing just one thing in a world full of complexity and unintended consequences.

But only intermittently. The same candidate who cautions against getting involved in civil wars thousands of miles away, who says "we can't continue to be the policeman of the world," and who rightly wonders why the U.S. continues to defend wealthy European and Asian countries that are perfectly capable of defending themselves also talks about the supposed need to make the military "bigger, better, stronger than ever before."

I'm not sure what Trump wants to do with this bigger, better, and stronger military, although it may have something to do with his promise to "get rid of ISIS," a campaign he says will include waterboarding and torture methods "a hell of a lot worse" as well as the murder of terrorists' families. Also troubling: Trump's tendency to view trade as warfare and immigration as an invasion.

It really says something that Clinton has shown herself to be a worse warmonger than this guy.

© Copyright 2016 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  1. Humph.

    1. Sullum underestimates the political breadth of objections to Trump’s view of foreign affairs and international security.

      The cosigners of the open letter opposing his nomination range from Reagan era hawks and palaeocons to Libertarians and Reason writers !

  2. Who knows? Trump still hasn’t bothered to hire any foreign policy people yet.

    1. It would be funny if he pulled a brewster’s millions and said no thanks if he wins.

      1. He would have to have the strongest trolling resolve of any troll who’s ever trolled to pull that off.

        1. If he did that – I would buy a portrait of him, on black velvet, and hang it in my dining room. It would have a gaudy gold frame, and a simple name plate – “TROLLMASTER OF THE UNIVERSE”

          1. “THE WORLD IS MY BRIDGE, GOATS – NOW PAY THE FUCKING TOLL”

          2. Brass plaque at the bottom: SCHLONG

  3. Trump for peace!

  4. So…there’s a lot more genuine Trump support here than I thought, judging by the last Trump thread. So that’s bad.

    1. There are Trump threads?

      1. Only when playing commentariat bridge.

    2. A few blocks from here is an elementary school. I often see what looks like Pakistani immigrants playing cricket in the large field near the street.

      WHERE MY COUNTRY GONE?!

      1. I can put up with a lot of shit, but Cricket? That is over the line.

      2. I hope you beaned one or two of them with an actual baseball. I hate those fucking people.

          1. Yes. The only thing worse is those fucking soccer weenies. When someone calls it “football,” I don’t even argue any more, I just punch them in the crotch.

            1. Comment of the Week and it’s only Wednesday.

              Thanks for the laugh OMWC!

            2. (crosses fins and narrows fishy gaze at OMWC)

        1. Brits?

          1. PLAY RUGBY LIKE CIVILIZED MEN….CRICKET?!

      3. Cricket!? At least you’ve got plenty of time to protest. Don’t cricket matches, or games, or whatever, go on for like days on end?? Who’s got that kind of time!?

        1. Don’t cricket matches, or games, or whatever, go on for like days on end??

          Term you are looking for is ‘plague’. A prolonged period with lots of cricket is a plague.

    3. It’s kind of baffling how defensive people around here get about Trump criticism. It’s like they don’t know what an authoritarian bully con man he is, or they don’t care.

      1. It is hard to tell really. When you are dealing with the kinds of shitheads that Trump is up against I can never be sure if it is criticism of said shitheads or support for Trump. I sometimes find myself defending the guy because his critics are so awful and wrong. Pointing out that comparisons of Trump to Hitler are inappropriate is correct and not the same as Trump support. See my comment below.

        1. “I sometimes find myself defending the guy because his critics are so awful and wrong.”

          Trump is a clown. But if I want to think better of the guy, all I have to do is watch MSNBC.

          1. Exactly.

        2. When you call out faulty reasoning or intellectual dishonesty, and the response is to mistake this for support for one side of the argument or the other, it says something about the person making the accusation, of which they themselves can only be unaware. If you then attempt to point this out, well, you can predict the result of that.

          1. Yeah that’s the thing. Trump being a clown has nothing at all to do with Hillary or Bernie. Pointing out one thing is not the same as ignoring the other. And people who leap to that particular defensive posture are thinking exactly the way partisans want them to.

        3. Pretty much. Its not that I want Trump to do better, its that I want his critics to do better.

      2. I think his supporters don’t care. They’re not backing him because of his policies or ideas, because he doesn’t have those. He’s a garish, clownpainted middle finger in the face of politics as usual, and that’s it, and that’s all he needs to be.

        1. That’s exactly right. The more “serious” people deride Trump and lecture his supporters against voting for him, the larger and more entrenched his support becomes. Trump’s popularity is a large, politically-diverse segment of disaffected voters punishing the political establishment.

    4. Genuine Trumpenvolk? Trolls or some of the more….unstable…just latching on?

      1. Trumpenvolk…I am stealing that.

      2. Giant lampreys, latching on and sucking the life out of each and every thread.

        1. The dreaded Thread Lamprey!

          Nice.

      3. EIN TRUMP! EIN VOLK! EIN HITUNDLAUF!

    5. 16 @ 7:55AM|#

      So…there’s a lot more genuine Trump support here than I thought, judging by the last Trump thread. So that’s bad.

      I took an uber the other day and my driver was from India. He started to give me a history lesson about India to pass the time and then he talked about Muslim invader and the war with Pakistan. Then he said “that’s why I’ve supporting trump, because you can’t live in peace with Muslims.” Trump definitely has put together an odd coalition.

      1. Is “people who are scared and angry” that odd of a coalition?

        1. I guess fear/anger is universal, but the people I’ve bumped into that support him are very diverse. Immigrants, doctors, rednecks, New Yorkers. People if you put in a single room would either fight or refuse to talk to one another not only support him, but love him. I thought the guy was a joke like the God father’s pizza guy. I was wrong.

          1. “A Coalition you can’t refuse!”

            1. I’m supporting “Head in the Sand 2016”. It’s the only way to save my liver and pancreas.

        2. (As opposed to Bernie Sanders’s similar coalition, “people who are angry and scared and also don’t understand math.”)

          1. I haven’t run into any Bernie supporters, or at least not any that just start talking to me about it out of the blue. I almost never talk politics IRL.

          2. I don’t know, I can sum up all the Bernie supporters I’ve met as the “layabout millenials looking to the state as a sugar daddy” demographic. Even some old hippies I know either intend to sit this one out or are backing Hillary because Democrat.

      2. My wife just showed me a video of some young white chick foaming at the mouth with Hillary hate. The rant wasn’t that substantial but I point out that the anger the girl is dealing with is very common. The political class is totally self serving and people are fed up. Trump is their middle finger in the eye of the political class. Personally I would do it differently but I do understand their anger. Their course is just a bit misguided.

        1. Their course is just a bit misguided.

          Exactly, they’re still looking for a Top. Men. to fix things.

          1. It’s not the system it’s just that we don’t have the right people in charge.

            Herd animals are gonna herd.

          2. Not all, I think. There seems to be a lot of “burn this shit to the ground and start over” sentiment behind Trump.

        2. I’m not sure which is a worse expression of anger, Trump or rioting in the streets.

          1. Both are hell on property values…

            1. Are you kidding?!? We will all have gold plated houses. You’re gonna get bored of all the classiness?

              1. You’re gonna get bored of all the classiness?

                God Damnit, this needs to stop, people. For the last time, Trump brings something different to the table, and it is spelled with a CAPITAL K and two z’s.

                Klazziness. Look it up.

                sheesh.

            2. Are you kidding? With all those broken windows…

      3. “Trump definitely has put together an odd coalition.”

        Two of them. He will be crushed by an alliance of odd bedfellows.

  5. Actually, less war is consistent with Trump’s general policy of “a government of, by, and for Americans”.

    Most of the warring we do, and all the nation building, is about policing the world. A more old fashioned foreign policy is regime change, as in stomp the rulers of our enemies and go home. In fact, stomp the rulers from afar. And if the next batch of rulers screw with you, stomp them too. Otherwise, leave the people on the ground to their own devices. Not our problem.

    That seems like the Trumpian policy.

    1. Trump’s general policy is: Huh? What? Nuclear tri-whatzit? Make America Great! The best! It’s gonna be amazing! Just elect me and… I’ll… have the … greatest ever!

    2. A change in the dominant power is usually accompanied by a world war. See 1933 to ’45.

  6. Dude, this is a Trump hating site.
    Are you trying to get fired?
    Is this your application to Breitbart or something?

  7. “… neoconservative foreign policy experts who say “Hillary is the lesser evil, by a large margin.”

    Wildly, spectacularly wrong. Burn the GOP to the ground and start from scratch. However, all we may have to do is stand back and let them do it themselves.

    1. If the main architect of the Libyan fiasco is the “lesser evil” of ANY other candidate, then we’re doomed.

      1. My jaw dropped when I read that. Hillary is the lesser evil? I hope Trump uses the images of Amb. Stevens lying dead in the street with is pants around his ankles and images representing Hillary’s private server in the general election. Smart power at it’s best? Maybe we need less of that.

        Over and over the GOP has shown explicitly that their only concern is the power structure within their own party. Fuck you, fuck me, fuck the country. They are just as self serving as Hillary just more wheedling about it.

        1. “Hillary is the lesser evil?”

          Of course she is, compared to Trump. Hillary is awful but she’s not a proto-fascist and isn’t proposing Smoot-Hawley 2.

          1. Bibi is not a fascist, Trump is. I get it. Real classy adding “proto” but the Smoot-Hawley reference is overkill — the wannabe-wonk shtick gets tiresome.

    2. Yeah, if that’s what the last remnants of neoconservatism believe is the lesser evil then let that be the final nail in neoconservatism’s coffin.

    3. I’m all for burning the GOP to the ground, but that’s generally where the shit-heads stop thinking. There’s more after that, and it’s gonna be a lot harder to build up than it was to destroy.

  8. Retroactively skeptical, perhaps, which may be better than learning nothing. But many of the signatories, such as Dan Drezner, took exception to his promises of war crimes, torture, and more bellicose foreign policy.

    Trump has promised to step up the bombing against ISIS. Voting for him as a candidate of restrained foreign policy is delusional.

  9. No mention of how he’s also going to take all of ISIS’s oil?

  10. Bellicose leaders are better at preventing wars and international disputes than peacemongers.

    Look at what peacemongers accomplished in the 1930s. Peace “we ain’t fighting no more wars” mongers don’t have the final say so.

    And it is always necessary from time to time to put on a “demonstration” – to prove you are not a paper tiger.

    It would be nice if it was otherwise. It would be nice if human nature was different.

    1. “Look at what peacemongers accomplished in the 1930s.”

      Were your bellicose leaders any better at preventing wars?

      1. Hitler was about as bellicose a leader as one can imagine. Do you believe he was better at preventing wars etc than other leaders? This is an interesting argument and I wish you would expand on it.

  11. “His vision of American influence and power in the world is wildly inconsistent and unmoored in principle,” the letter complains. “He swings from isolationism to military adventurism within the space of one sentence.”

    I’m trying to figure out how a series of wildly inconsistent opinions, unmoored in principle and apt to change right in the middle of a sentence, can be called a “vision”. A set of guiding principles to give somebody an idea as to where you might stand on any given issue is a “vision”, and Trump’s whole shtick is that he’ll stand wherever it’s most profitable to stand. You’re asking a guy who’s going out hitting up all the neighborhood garage sales if he’s got a shopping list of what he intends to buy. No, he doesn’t know what he’s going to buy, he’s going to buy whatever’s a great bargain. Trump has no idea what his position is on any given issue, nobody’s yet made an offer to buy or sell a position. Voting for Trump is like giving the guy the keys to your car and your wallet on a promise that he’s going to go buy some great stuff for you. Who knows what the hell he’s going to come back with? Steaks? A new couch? A set of encyclopedias? A pet monkey? Whatever was on sale at a great price is what he’s coming back with and you’d better hope he didn’t drive past the going-out-of-business sale at the Everything Elvis! Emporium.

    1. Huh.

      Well with that analogy, at least the guy is actually bringing you something back. I mean, voting for Hillary is like giving that guy your wallet and the keys to your car, and then seeing neither ever again.

  12. I hate to say it, but I do think Trump would be less-terrible than Clinton. A quote Don Boudreaux’s latest:

    The reason is that the same mainstream media that would fawn idiotically over a Clinton administration would be appropriately merciless on a Trump administration. President Trump would not receive, because he does not deserve, any benefit of the doubt. President Clinton would receive, even though she does not deserve, every benefit of the doubt. This almost-certain difference in press treatment would tightly check the policies of President Trump while they would fuel those of President Clinton.

    1. I agree, but the problem I see is that I don’t believe the venom would be targeted at Trump for the right reasons. They’ll hate him because of the (R) next to his name, not because he’s a Statist buffoon. The media will simply clamor for the Statist buffoon with a (D) next to their name.

      1. Well, yeah. Principals (R) always trump principles (statism).

      2. “They’ll hate him because of the (R) next to his name”

        There’s nothing “they’ll” about it. They hated him when he started, and they hate him now. Doesn’t seem to be hurting him. Trump is arguably a reaction to folks like you and the press telling people what to think.

  13. Yes, I think Trump is better than Clinton on foreign policy and the economy.

    That said, mathematically someone has to be better, so it’s not really much to brag about. There’s probably a most intelligent Kardashian sister too.

    1. It’s not a zero-sum game, sadly. You can have many, many people who are equally stupid. Life proves this to us all every day.

  14. “His vision of American influence and power in the world is wildly inconsistent and unmoored in principle,” the letter complains.

    If that was the description of any other leading candidate for the presidency of a nuclear-armed nation, we’d all have immense reason for concern.

  15. “His vision of American influence and power in the world is wildly inconsistent and unmoored in principle,” the letter complains.

    …making him no different than our current president or several of the front-runners for the next term.

  16. Trump has exposed the anti-freedom hyper-judgemental wing of the Repub party. Thanks Mr. Trump.

  17. “Trump intermittently seems to recognize the limits of American power…”

    But not there are no limits to Trumps power so there’s that. Bush and Obama couldn’t do it because they are losers but a winner like Trump will get it done and we will be winning and believe me and Merica great again…

    1. This has less to do with war and foreign policy??!!?? and more to do with the long con these grifters in congress are playing. These R-guys have placed their bets (foreign and domestic) on a Rep winning the WH. They do not see Trump as a Republican, not because of his position(s) but because he has not earned it by taking shit for the last 7 plus years like they did and/or not knowing that this is pay back time…cause that’s how it always has been. If Trump wins and they can’t cash in because he doesn’t know or want to pay them back, they are screwed in cashing out for another 12 years. Some of those grifters could be dead by then.

  18. The headline is horribly written. I personally know one of the signatories, and no one could better understand the tragedy of war or advocate more forcefully for it’s reasonable avoidance. Do better next time.

    1. Peacenazis don’t care about facts.

  19. Trump has mused on taking oil from the ME and hasn’t rejected war with Mexico to fund The Wall. This ‘Trump is against war’ meme is total bullshit.

  20. “This ‘Trump is against war’ meme is total bullshit.”

    We’ll only know that for certain if we hear Trump repeat the meme: “All options are on the table.” Then we’ll know that war is in the cards. This is how presidential candidates let the public know they are acceptably bellicose.

    1. This ‘Trump is against war’ meme is total bullshit.

      Maybe. He has gone out of his way to antagonize the supporters of the Iraq war, and this is one of the things he can legitimately rub in Hillary’s face were it down to a Clinton-Trump election. However, I get the feeling that Trump really only has a few things he actually believes in (like eminent domain and tariffs); the rest of the stuff, he’s sticking his finger in the air to see which way the wind is blowing.

      I’m a Ted Cruz guy, but I am intrigued by Trump and would gladly vote for him based on a few things:
      1. He has gone after the dipshits who supported the Iraq invasion
      2. He believes in enforcing our immigration laws
      3. He believes in neutrality regarding the Israeli-Palestine conflict
      4. He seems pretty neutral about gay marriage. When the Kim Davis thing went down, he sorta said “Eh, it’s the law, whaddya gonna do?” (And yes, I know, Ted Cruz is a very vocal opponent of gay marriage. Nobody’s perfect).

      1. “He has gone out of his way to antagonize the supporters of the Iraq war”

        I was impressed how he faced a booing crowd on this issue in a SC debate, and went on to win big anyway. Then again he’s endorsed by America’s favourite sabre-rattleing opportunist, Rudolf Giuiliani. Still, along with Paul, Trump is something of a ray of foreign restraint sunshine in an otherwise abysmal field.

        1. I love your last sentence.

          Trump is very different than what we think of regarding the Right-Left paradigm. No, he’s not a libertarian, but I just find his approach very compelling.

  21. WHoops

    Maybe. He has gone out of his way to antagonize the supporters of the Iraq war, and this is one of the things he can legitimately rub in Hillary’s face were it down to a Clinton-Trump election. However, I get the feeling that Trump really only has a few things he actually believes in (like eminent domain and tariffs); the rest of the stuff, he’s sticking his finger in the air to see which way the wind is blowing.

    I’m a Ted Cruz guy, but I am intrigued by Trump and would gladly vote for him based on a few things:
    1. He has gone after the dipshits who supported the Iraq invasion
    2. He believes in enforcing our immigration laws
    3. He believes in neutrality regarding the Israeli-Palestine conflict
    4. He seems pretty neutral about gay marriage. When the Kim Davis thing went down, he sorta said “Eh, it’s the law, whaddya gonna do?” (And yes, I know, Ted Cruz is a very vocal opponent of gay marriage. Nobody’s perfect).

  22. I’m sure Trump is just saying what he thinks people want to hear.

    I’m also sure all the other candidates are just saying whatever they think people want to hear.

  23. War makes lots of money for the Apparatchik, WWII was singularly responsible for pulling us out of the Great Depression. Given how deeply ingrained the Military Industrial Complex is in American politics, it is fair to say most of the major conflicts in the last 100 years were fought for power, money and societal control.
    Funny how the same Establishment party minions that crucified Bush Sr. and Jr for going to war now attempt to crucify Trump for trying to avoid it.
    What is clear is the Establishment and their minions in the media want to pick your president for you. If you let them.

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