Since first announcing his candidacy last June (and even before then), Donald Trump has had a knack for shooting off his mouth in a way that ends with him on multiple sides of the same issue. It didn't quite offer voters a blank slate like Obama's 2008 campaign did, but did let voters project their own preferred political views on the candidate. Based on Trump's comments critical of the Iraq war and its role in fomenting terrorism in the Middle East, a few non-interventionists believed Trump to be one of them.
Last week, in another in a series of self-inflicted controversies, Donald Trump appeared to praise Saddam Hussein for curbing terrorism in Iraq, calling Iraq in his absence the "Harvard" of terrorism. Yet this morning, he selected Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who served in the House from 2001 to 2013. Not only was Pence one of the 214 House Republicans to vote for the Iraq war in 2002 (only 6 Republicans voted against it), he argued that removing Saddam Hussein was critical to reducing the threat of terrorism. From a January 2002 AP article:
The United States' war against terrorism will not be complete until Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein has been removed from power, U.S. Rep. Mike Pence says.
Even though there is no proof Iraq played a role in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, there is no doubt the nation was directly involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 2nd District Republican said Thursday during an appearance before the Anderson Suburban Rotary Club.
As a result, the longer Hussein remains in power, the longer he will continue to support terrorism targeting the United States and it allies, Pence said.
"Until Hussein is done, the war is not over," Pence said.
Today, U.S. intervention in Iraq is widely understood to have contributed to the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) in the region, even if some defenders of the war insist on blaming the 2011 U.S. withdrawal not the 2003 invasion. Syria did not require a U.S. intervention to slip into chaos, but the availability of post-Hussein, post-invasion Iraq as a training ground for terrorists made the militants destabilizing Syria a lot more potent.
The Republican ticket now has a bona fide supporter of the Iraq war to match the often contradictory Trump. The Democratic ticket is set to have a supporter of the Iraq war, and other interventions, at the top, and may yet be filled out by another politician who helped make the disastrous Iraq war happen.
It didn't have to be that way. Bernie Sanders at least voted against the Iraq war in 2002, while Sen. Rand Paul, running for the Republican nomination, insisted to other Republicans that it was hawks in their party who were most responsible for ISIS. Yet some so-called libertarians praised Trump for being more forcefully non-interventionist than Paul for making stronger criticisms of George W. Bush than Paul. Now they get Mike Pence and good old fashioned 21st century Republican interventionism. They should've known better.