The Donald Trump Dove Myth: Why He’s Actually a Bigger Hawk Than Hillary Clinton
By Zack Beauchamp
Hillary Clinton is, without a doubt, a hawkish Democrat. She has been consistently to the interventionist right of the party mainstream on issues like the Iraq War, the Afghanistan surge, and arming the Syrian rebels.
Donald Trump, by contrast, has criticized the Iraq War and the Libya intervention. He's been skeptical of America's commitments to defend traditional allies in Europe and East Asia, and said the Middle East in general is "one big, fat quagmire" that the US should stay out of.
This sure makes it sound like Trump is some kind of dovish neo-isolationist, a principled skeptic of military intervention. Clinton seems like a superhawk by contrast. Steve Schmidt, a prominent Republican strategist who ran John McCain's 2008 campaign, put this theory well during an MSNBC appearance in early May: "Donald Trump will be running to the left as we understand it against Hillary Clinton on national security issues."
But the problem is that the way "we understand" Trump's national security position is bollocks. Trump isn't a leftist, nor is he a pacifist. In fact, Trump is an ardent militarist, who has been proposing actual colonial wars of conquest for years. It's a kind of nationalist hawkishness that we haven't seen much of in the United States since the Cold War — but has supported some of the most aggressive uses of force in American history.
As surprising as it may seem, Clinton is actually the dove in this race.
In the past five years, Trump has consistently pushed one big foreign policy idea: America should steal other countries' oil.
He first debuted this plan in an April 2011 television appearance, amid speculation that he might run for the GOP nomination. In the interview, Trump seemed to suggest the US should seize Iraqi oil fields and just operate them on its own.
"In the old days when you won a war, you won a war. You kept the country," Trump said. "We go fight a war for 10 years, 12 years, lose thousands of people, spend $1.5 trillion, and then we hand the keys over to people that hate us on some council." He has repeated this idea for years, saying during one 2013 Fox News appearance, "I’ve said it a thousand times."
Trump sees this as just compensation for invading Iraq in the first place. "I say we should take it [Iraq's oil] and pay ourselves back," he said in one 2013 speech.
During the 2016 campaign, Trump has gotten more specific about how exactly he'd "take" Iraq's oil. In a March interview with the Washington Post, he said he would "circle" the areas of Iraq that contain oil and defend them with American ground troops:
POST: How do you keep it without troops, how do you defend the oil?
TRUMP: You would... You would, well for that— for that, I would circle it. I would defend those areas.
POST: With U.S. troops?
TRUMP: Yeah, I would defend the areas with the oil.
After US troops seize the oil, Trump suggests, American companies would go in and rebuild the oil infrastructure damaged by bombing and then start pumping it on their own. "You’ll get Exxon to come in there … they’ll rebuild that sucker brand new. And I’ll take the oil," Trump said in a December stump speech.
Trump loves this idea so much that he'd apply it to Libya as well, telling Bill O'Reilly in April that he'd even send in US ground troops ("as few as possible") to fight off ISIS and secure the country's oil deposits.
To be clear: Trump's plan is to use American ground troops to forcibly seize the most valuable resource in two different sovereign countries. The word for that is colonialism...
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