Which Interventionist Quagmires Will Be Ignored at Tonight's Debate?

Maybe all of them.


U.S. Army

It's hard to tell what exactly is going to be discussed at tonight's presidential debate between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump. The topics were announced as "America's Direction," "Achieving Prosperity" and "Securing America." Those aren't exactly topics as much as themes you might see at a convention or on a campaign website. Given that the debate commission is a collaboration of the Democratic and Republican parties, that should not come as a surprise. The "topics" do a good job revealing how shallow much of American politics is despite the pretensions some have about their candidate being the "serious" one.

That's unfortunate. There are a plethora of substantive issues the next president will have to address that have been largely ignored in the general election cycle so far, not least of which are the United States' many foreign entanglements and interventions. Such interventions say a lot about "America's direction," are often launched under the pretext of "securing America" but actually prevent it from "achieving prosperity." Despite that, I would be surprised if a significant amount of time was spent on issues of foreign affairs, particularly in the absence of candidates like Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson or Green party nominee Jill Stein who at least offer critiques of U.S. military intervention abroad.

Syria – Syria has gotten more play in the general election cycle than some of the other countries the U.S. is involved in, via the issue of refugees (which until last year the Obama administration accepted virtually none of) as well as military action against ISIS. Trump's success in the Republican party was due in part on a strong anti-immigration anti-refugee stance, which he's only reinforced since winning the nomination. He's proposed suspending immigration from countries compromised by terrorism but hasn't specified which countries that would apply to. Depending on the definition you use, it's not just countries like Syria that have been compromised by terrorism but countries like France as well. Hillary Clinton says she supports admitting more Syrian refugees into the United States, though she did not work toward that when she served as Secretary of State, the latter part of which coincided with the first few years of the Syrian civil war.

When it comes to military action against ISIS in Syria, however, the differences between Trump and Clinton are largely rhetorical. While Trump is likely to call Obama weak (an old Republican talking point about the Obama administration's foreign policy) and say the U.S. needs to do more to combat ISIS in Syria, Clinton is likely to say Obama has done the right thing, and say the U.S. needs to do more to combat ISIS in Syria. Neither has offered many details on what exactly "more" entails outside of boilerplate pronouncements about increased cooperation with regional allies.

Libya – Libya has also gotten play in the election cycle so far. Since the U.S.-backed and Clinton-advocated 2011 intervention in the civil war, the security situation in Libya has only deteriorated. U.S. ground troops are now in Libya because of the rise of ISIS there since the intervention. Even President Obama has admitted failure to plan for the aftermath in Libya was the biggest mistake of his presidency, yet Clinton has insisted it was "too soon to tell" what the effect of the U.S. intervention has been. Trump may claim he was against the intervention in Libya from the beginning, but is unlikely to be able to articulate the principles that led to that opposition or that would lead to opposition to interventions in the future. Clinton may play "traffic cop" and insist Trump did not oppose the Libya intervention from the beginning. But she, too, is unlikely to articulate any kind of principles that might keep the U.S. out of future interventions that invite ISIS into countries in which it is not yet operating.

Iraq – During the Republican primary, Donald Trump got a lot of mileage out of his early opposition to Iraq war. In South Carolina, he called President George W. Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq possibly one of the "worst decisions" in the history of the American presidency. He won that primary despite many observers believing the critique of Bush would not go over well among South Carolina Republican voters, who are considered heavily "pro-military." Hillary Clinton voted for the authorization to use military force in Iraq in 2002, but by the time of her first presidential campaign, in the 2008 cycle, she announced she had regretted that decision, yet interventionism has been a consistent position for her. She may insist Donald Trump was also supportive of the Iraq war in its run up, but neither nominee has a substantive critique of the decision to go to war that would inform them in a non-interventionist direction in the future.

Both Clinton and Trump have accepted the premise that the U.S. ought to do something about ISIS, which operates in Iraq as well as Syria, called for more U.S. action in that regard but declined to define that intervention in a specific way. Additionally, despite claiming to be an opponent of the Iraq war and claiming to support the withdrawal, Trump has also parroted the conservative critique that the withdrawal from Iraq enabled ISIS, even insisting he wasn't being hyperbolic when he called President Obama a "founder" of ISIS.

Afghanistan – The war in Afghanistan, in its 15th year, barely got any attention in the last cycle and neither candidate has addressed it substantively this time. The U.S. helped local forces oust the Taliban government in Kabul relatively quickly but has been dealing with a Taliban insurgency ever since, one local forces seem unwilling or unable to fight against themselves. And in recent years, ISIS has set up shop in an unstable Afghanistan as well. Neither candidate has offered anything substantive about the war. As secretary of state, Clinton was responsible for a "diplomatic surge" in Afghanistan that came along with the troop surge. In fact, Clinton was among a number of high-level officials whose personal quibbles with each other thwarted any possibility of the surge actually having some kind of positive effect toward ending the war.

Yemen – Saudia Arabia has been waging a war in Yemen for the last year and a half that has been a sort of proxy war between the U.S., which funds Saudi efforts, and Iran, which allegedly backs rebels that overthrew the U.S. backed government. This war has gotten virtually no attention from the major party nominees and very little attention from the mainstream media. Barring Lester Holt bringing it up, it will almost certainly not be a topic tonight, even though it encapsulates many of the problems of U.S. intervention. An extended counterterrorism campaign by the U.S. that relied on information from the authoritarian government used to be touted by the White House as an example of a successful counterterrorism strategy has, since the collapse of the government and outbreak of war, been largely memory holed.

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  1. Since “quagmire” is a slang term for old-lady vagina and Hillary is an interventionist I’m fully hoping her quagmire will be ignored.

    1. Please let it be so. No Sugarfree, no Sugarfree, no Sugar…wait a minute, if I say his name 3 times will he appear with a new story?

      1. So close…

    2. So who is more likely to start WW3 by snuking some middle east country 90% of Americans can’t find on map?

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  2. I suspect all of them will be ignore, and here’s why:

    By mentioning them as “problems” the media, aka the ‘moderators’ would have to first fully acknowledge that there’s a problem– which would further suggest the current administration might have some of its fingerprints on said problem.

    Obama has improved our image abroad, so mission accomplished, now let’s turn our gaze upon domestic policy which Obama has totally hit over the fence, and see which president has the privilege of taking the Obama Social Justice baton across the finish line and into the rest of America.

  3. The moderators will not go there and give Trump the opportunity. Not that he could take advantage of it, but they won’t allow any mention of this. Topics will be walls, racism, islamaphobia, free college, sexism, homophobia, walls, and racism. Did I mention racism?

    1. Hitler, David Duke, cartoon frogs,baskets full of brown shirts and nuclear triggers…

      1. You guys both totally missed bathrooms and climate racism. For shame.

        1. But Trump’s okay with bathrooms so they can’t use that as a wedge issue against him.

  4. Clinton’s choice of dovish Kaine for VP is a positive sign for peace.

    Jill Stein sighs dejectedly.

  5. Don’t think its official “quagmire” until local regime axed and US loses at least one aircraft while totally not bombing anybody.

    So Syria and Yemen not quagmires, so I predict they’ll get lots of rhetorical action tonight from candidates promising quagmires.

  6. Trump could get another terror ‘bump’.

    1. Really puts the Porsche in context.

    2. Does this mean we can finally have some bans on lawyers, or at the very least some strict lawyer control?

      1. No, they will just quarter lawyers in our houses.

        1. Before or after drawing them?

          1. I care not for your crude caricatures, sir.

    3. It was fun while it lasted seeing everyone decide to blindly speculate.

    4. I must admit, it certainly swerves from the normal Arab shooter with a Nazi fetish narrative.

  7. Depending on the definition you use, it’s not just countries like Syria that have been compromised by terrorism but countries like France as well.

    My definition is much more simple: no one with a funny-sounding name is allowed to enter this country. I’m looking right at you, Krayewski.

    1. :::bassjoe looks at his driver’s license….:::


        1. Yes, Mr. Hemorrhoid-Ticklebox get the fuck out!

  8. Both Clinton and Trump have accepted the premise that the U.S. ought to do something about ISIS

    Helpfully, this premise has also been accepted by the “serious” Top Men in the government and media so, thankfully, neither of them will ever be asked why we should.

  9. There is a ton of discussion about the possible substance of tonight’s debate, and for sure people will be writing about it and discussing it for the next few weeks. But I think this debate is going to be more like that famous Nixon/Kennedy debate. Unless one of the candidates says something completely crazy and out of character, nobody will pay attention to what they say, so much as how they looked saying it. If Trump comes across as confident but not mean, and Hillary looks tired or sick or even coughs, Trump is going to convert a lot of people.

    To put it another way, Hillary can have all her facts in order, and Trump can be caught in lie after lie, but if she has a coughing fit, that’s all anyone will care about.

    1. I’d love to see a doping test right before for each of them. Sure Donald drank a little aftershave to calm his nerves, but I bet Hillary is on a fistful of uppers, some Xanax to take the edge off and enough cough suppressant to fuel a three-day Lil Wayne video shoot.

      1. Hillary’s pit crew has to be careful – so many possible unintended symbioses given the CVS aisle of inputs.

        There is also bathroom break optics with Hillary. Drink something, and it goes right through. Don’t drink anything, then that pass out/stroke-thing from dehydration again.

    2. True but still, you don’t need to cough directly into the microphone. Hold it away from your face – if only for the sake of the next person to use it.

    3. Trump is going to convert a lot of people.

      Neither will convert anyone. Bad performances will keep people from voting for that particular candidate, not vote for the other candidate.

  10. FBI will now put on the terrorist watch list people who buy Porsche and Audi. Clinton promises to crack down on foreign propaganda inciting troubled and impressionable people to violence.

  11. If Trump becomes president, here’s what I predict will happen:

    1. There won’t be a wall or, at best. it’ll be a completely symbolic wall stretching about 500 feet from the El Paso border crossing (hopefully, with “Trump Wall” boldly written on it). He definitely won’t get Mexico to pay a dime for it.

    2. He won’t stop a single Muslim immigrant or tourist from entering the country (other than the ones he scares away with his rhetoric). He MAY restrict the refugee program but I’m not even giving him even odds on doing anything more than symbolic there.

    3. He’ll nominate Senator Lee for SCOTUS. Who’ll politely decline. He’ll next nominate Trace Mayer because… why the hell not?

    4. He’ll be impeached in 2019 after three years of crassly stupid governing.

  12. We need to arm the moderates and bomb the extremists. You can tell which is which by the color of the smoke that rises from the entrails. I support Hillary because she’s a witch, so she knows this stuff. (Many of her spells were stored on her email server, but were redacted by the FBI.)

    1. -1 “Dustbin” Stephens

  13. Well, that’s fine with me. I can only assume they’ll be spending such a goodly amount of time on our $100,000,000,000,000 accrual basis debt, which is the cornerstone of why these quagmires exist in the first place, that the sensible solutions proffered by both will solve both problems at once. I anticipate being torn in two of whose plan to choose!

  14. Question, what do you get when you insert ‘IT’ into Hillary?

    1. These masturbation anal sex euphemisms are getting hard to figure out.

  15. Which Interventionist Quagmires Will Be Ignored at Tonight’s Debate?

    Or, more accurately, “Which Interventionist Quagmires THAT ONE OF THE CANDIDATES ON STAGE EITHER VOTED FOR OR PARTICIPATED IN PLANNING AND EXECUTING Will Be Ignored at Tonight’s Debate?”

  16. If they touch on foreign policy, it has to be Syria.

    You have refugee crisis, immigrants and Trump’s buddy Putin. All sorts of things to spin Trump sideways.

    Which I’ll predict he will ignore in his non-politician Trumpian manner, much to the consternation of Holt and Clinton.

    I’ll also predict that I”m not going to be able to watch this mess. It is just too frustrating.

  17. I predict – here a bit over an hour before the debate actually takes place – that no matter what happens or is said Hillary will be declared the winner by the mainstream media and the various other talking anuses who are often referred to as pundits That or the debate will be declared a draw.

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