Last night’s “commander-in-chief” security forum that featured Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump was, not surprisingly, disappointing. (You can read the transcript here.) Trump recently stated he was in favor of large increases in defense spending, but he wasn’t asked about this. He wasn’t asked about his support of torture, nor was he challenged on his remarkably dangerous statement back in March that military officers would obey his presidential decrees, even when they were unlawful. Hillary was challenged on her email fiasco at the State Department, and rightly so, but she pretty much got a free pass on her support of the calamitous Iraq war and the chaos following the Libyan intervention. And of course neither candidate was challenged on their blanket support of Israel.
What you got was two self-absorbed candidates, one wonkish, the other one clearly a wanker, both of them posing as warriors as long as someone else’s kids are doing the fighting. Here’s a question for Trump and Hillary: the next time you deploy troops to Iraq or Syria or Afghanistan or wherever, will you include Ivanka or Chelsea, respectively, and put them in harm’s way?
Most interesting to me was Trump’s old-fashioned imperialism, which explains much of his appeal to the rabid right. Here’s what Trump had to say about how the Iraq war should have turned out for the USA:
“We [the USA] go in [to Iraq in 2003], we spend $3 trillion, we lose thousands and thousands of lives, and then, Matt, what happens is, we get nothing. You know, it used to be to the victor belong the spoils. Now, there was no victor there, believe me. There was no victor. But I always said: Take the oil.”
You have to hand it to The Donald: at least he’s occasionally honest. The Iraq war was about oil, among other things, and Trump says the USA as the “victor” should have taken it. Why? Because might makes right. Because, as Thucydides said so many centuries ago, the strong do what they will and the weak suffer as they must.
Remember when George W. Bush said Iraq’s oil was the “patrimony” of the Iraqi people and that the USA wasn’t about to take it? That the Iraq war was about freedom and democracy in the Middle East, not a naked grab for resources? Trump is having none of that. Any wonder that he’s so popular among Americans who are tired, as they see it, of losing?
“Take the oil!” It’s a statement that could easily appear on the next iteration of Trump’s baseball cap.