With the Pentagon, Trump Has Morphed Into Hillary Clinton

More alike than we knew?

W.J. Astore

Candidate Trump occasionally said unconventional things about the Pentagon and America’s wars.  He attacked the Pentagon for wasteful spending; cost overruns on the F-35 jet fighter were a favorite target.  He attacked the Iraq and Afghan wars as wasteful, asserting they’d cost trillions of dollars without aiding the U.S. in any measurable way.  He argued for friendlier relations with Russia, a détente of sort compared to the policies followed by the Obama administration.  Naturally, even as he declaimed against America’s wasteful wars and costly weaponry, he promised to fund the military generously.  Finally, he wasn’t afraid to take America’s generals to task, asserting he knew more than they did about war and foreign policy.

President Trump is a different man.  “His” generals have brought him under control.  Criticism of the F-35 has gone away.  Trump, even if reluctantly, has embraced the Afghan war and the Pentagon’s open-ended commitment to it.  Russian détente has taken a back seat to tough talk and sanctions (not that Trump had much of a choice, considering his campaign is under investigation for possible collusion with Russia).  More than anything, Trump has tacitly admitted “his” generals know far more than he does.  Mattis controls the Pentagon and the National Security State.  Kelly, as White House Chief of Staff, does his best to control Trump.  McMaster, as National Security Adviser, increasingly controls what Trump knows and when he knows it with respect to security policy.

In short, the generals have won.  Consider the fates of Steve Bannon, Sebastian Gorka, and John Bolton.  Bannon was eased out; Gorka was fired; and Bolton, according to today’s FP: Foreign Policy report, “has been shut out of the White House under the new leadership of chief of staff John Kelly. FP’s Dan De Luce writes that several sources confirm Bolton’s regular meetings with Trump are a thing of the past, and he has been unable to deliver a plan he devised to get Washington out of the deal it signed with Tehran to halt that country’s nuclear program.”

I’m no fan of Bannon-Gorka-Bolton, but they did represent a challenge to the U.S. military and the neo-con orthodoxy that rules Washington.

Trump is now firmly under the U.S. military’s control, even as he continues to feed the beast with more money and influence.  His only way out is to starve the beast — to cut its funding by cutting its mission.  Fat chance of that happening anytime soon, with generals like Mattis, Kelly, and McMaster in charge.

Most in the mainstream media see this in a positive light.  We read about how Trump’s generals are the adults in the room, a moderating influence on Trump’s ill-informed impetuosity.  There may even be some truth to this.  But here’s the rub: President Trump, at least on national security policy, has ironically morphed into Hillary Clinton.  He’s become a conventional hawk with no new ideas, when as a candidate he had the temerity to criticize America’s wasteful weaponry and disastrous imperial policies.

As Trump himself might tweet, “Sad.”

5 thoughts on “With the Pentagon, Trump Has Morphed Into Hillary Clinton

  1. What we are seeing in Washington is a military junta, a soft junta if you will, with a notional figure head, who is allowed to ramble, rave, and rant to give the impression he is in charge but who in reality is under the complete control of the junta. Somebody should write an obituary for democracy in the US.


    1. Yes. Recall how each candidate, Trump and Hillary, had a “retired” general raving at their respective conventions about how great they were. Trump had Michael Flynn and Hillary had General John Allen. Really creepy moments.


  2. I recently ordered and received the book Militarism USA, written by Col. James A. Donovan (Ret) in 1970. As a Boomer I lived through that era and was in Vietnam when it was published.

    We had the Imperialism – Defacto-Colonialism era in the USA. The unremitting war against the Native Americans in the 18th and 19th century. We had some test runs here in the Western Hemisphere, periodic invasions and coups in Latin American. We graduated to World Wide Imperialism- Defacto-Colonialism with the Spanish-American War and interventions into China.

    It was World War 2, which ushered in Militarism and the marriage of the Wall Street-Security-Military-Industrial Complex. We had galaxy of heroes – George Marshall, Ernest King, Hap Arnold, Eisenhower, Bradley, Patton, MacArthur, Nimitz, Halsey, Spruance and LeMay among others. We had the sole possession of the “Bomb” for awhile. Our greatness was for all to see. Our economic power had smothered the Axis in war production. We had made Germany and Japan a wasteland.

    Donovan, mentions in his book the enormous production, of planes, tanks and naval vessels during the WW 2. It was the perfect storm in effect, the military was held in high esteem and with the Cold War, the production of military hardware could continue. The concept of MAD precluded a direct fight with the Soviet Union.

    Donovan points out 297,000 aircraft were manufactured by the USA during WW 2. By 1950 the fighters and bombers of that era were rendered largely obsolete by the new generation of jet aircraft. The defense industry simply re-booted so to speak and began producing contemporary weapons for the Cold War. By design or inertia the new testing facilities and manufacturing plants were spread out all through the country. Each congressional district may have had it’s own defense related facility.

    The fatal weakness of American politics was exploited, the influence of lobbying, and campaign contributions into the political system by the defense industry insured the allegiance of elected officials. These elected officials might also have opportunities once retired to move into leadership positions in these defense companies. Certainly the ex-generals and ex- admirals could find a willing company to hire them.

    Today, questioning the competence of the military high command establishment is tantamount to being a traitor. The blending has been clever – if you criticize the military and civilian leadership when they go off on some new tactic or strategy in Afghanistan or Iraq – you are not supporting the troops.


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