Take the Oil! Trump the Imperialist


W.J. Astore

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.

5 thoughts on “Take the Oil! Trump the Imperialist

  1. I found the following comment rather surprising in view of U.S. military history to date:

    “… nor was [Donald Trump] challenged on his remarkably dangerous statement back in March that military officers would obey his presidential decrees, even when they were unlawful.”

    As far as I know, the U.S. has not fought a Congressionally declared war since 1941, and yet I know of few U.S. military officers, if any, who have resigned in refusal to fight such wars because of their unlawful nature, even though their illegality, in terms of both U.S. and internationl law, makes them war crimes. In recognition of this demonstrated lack of recognizable ethics or morality on the part of the U.S. officer corps, then, I would say that Donald Trump understands them much better than they understand him. They will do whatever he, as Commander-in- Brief, tells them to do, just as their fellow officers for the last half century have willingly, if not eagerly, done no matter what sort of person occupies the White House at any given time.

    Dangerous, yes; but hardly remarkable.


    1. No war should be fought without a formal Congressional declaration. I agree, Mike.

      The problem (among many others) is that Congress often refuses to go on record. And once troops are committed, members of Congress cravenly cave to the notion that “the troops must be supported in the war zone,” else you’re “stabbing them in the back” by withdrawing funds.

      That notion, however fallacious, pretty much equates to a blank check for U.S. presidents to commit troops (in the name of some emergency, like the war on terror) and to keep them in some foreign country, fighting a foolhardy “war,” for as long as the president wants.

      Hence, in foreign policy, U.S. presidents increasingly act as dictators, with virtually no Congressional check to their authority. Should we blame the military for this? Should we expect an authoritarian institution like the military, which draws its identity from its willingness to fight and win wars, to protest against the president? It’s unlikely in the extreme (partly because we no longer have a citizen-military, which did protest during the Vietnam War).

      Congress needs to do its job. But members of Congress are far too concerned with getting reelected; few dare to challenge the military-industrial complex. Indeed, as Ike noted, Congress is part of the complex.


  2. It is obvious that Trump has little or no legal or technical understanding of the military but none of our recent chief executives have. On the surface his comments about Iraq oil sound outrageously imperialistic but I have had the opportunity to spend a lot of time in that area and other than the native Iraqis on top who are making tons of money they sequester in Europe or the US no one wants to be there. Not a single Iraqi. They realize it is hot, dirty and a brutal society. They are not stupid. They all want to be in Sweden, Germany or the US. I always thought, as I pondered the vast waste of US assets in the area, why not just pay the average Iraqi a hundred thousand dollars out of the US Treasury and give them a green card. Three trillion divided by 30 million Iraqis gives 100 thousand per Iraqi. They have big families. Hand the family a million dollars and a green card. None would stay. Once most of the Iraqis left and were in the US or Europe why not just take the oil. No one lived in southern Iraq until the British discovered the oil at the turn of the century. Instead of wasting our trillions there we would have simply purchased the oil fields fair and square. It would have been a lot cheaper than what we are doing. If the average American or German taxpayer is being required to support millions of Arabs why should they not get some sort of subsidy?


    1. Interesting idea! But unworkable, of course. Just think of the “extreme vetting” process for 30 million people. And the $3 trillion expense.

      Here’s a different idea. Want to spread freedom and democracy in the Middle East? Allow Iraq to become the 51st American state. Give them two senators in Congress and the requisite number of representatives. Create an Iraqi state national guard (it already exists, in a way: the ISAF). Create an Iraqi Pentagon (it already exists, in a way: the colossal U.S. embassy). The Iraqis can’t unify behind a single leader? No problem. As the 51st state, Iraq’s leader will be the U.S. president. And of course Iraqis will all be citizens of the U.S., with USA passports, able to travel at will. No $3 trillion payoff required.

      And, with Iraq as the 51st state, we can take “their” oil because it’ll be “our” oil.

      Crazy? It may be less insane than previous policies.


  3. I mentioned 3 trillion b/c that is what we have spent to include VA disability costs etc. let alone opportunity costs related to neglecting our own country for 15 years in Iraq. Afg is the same….3 trillion. I spent a lot of time in AFG as well and not one wanted to stay there….other than the oligarchs making bank off Uncle Sam who had their lily pad in Munich, London or Santa Barbara. And AFG is at 3 trillion now. No end in sight just as in Syraqistan until the entire population makes it to Germany, Sweden or the USA. We have the laughable situation of a million Afghan and Iraqi military age men living in our vacated Kasernes and elsewhere in Germany built and financed by the US taxpayer hanging out at the cafes and hitting on the women while the previous denizens of the Kasernes, our GIs, are deploying to fight and die, or more expensively get wounded, for Iraq and Afg at US taxpayer expense.


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