art by Savannah McCarroll
I started writing a first draft of this before Donald Trump took office and somehow it was more optimistic before than it is now. As Donald Trump has clarified his positions, it has only caused a greater need for this to be addressed. And I understand that with the quantifiable dangers being posed to civil liberties, the health and safety of American communities and to scientific truth, it can be draining to hear an implication that there are issues that matter more. If you’ve been paying attention at all, the week has been full of substantive issues and no shortage of things about which to be angry and it is reasonable and just to contact legislators and make your voice heard. Rather than to negate and devalue the great work being done already with a “but”, I will add that “in addition” there is another issue that requires your attention. With Donald Trump holding the position of Commander-in-Chief, there is a real and present danger that America will enter its third war in two decades. This is something for which I have little faith that Donald Trump will be prepared but we all must be.
Whether or not you believe another war in the Middle East would be justified, there is mounting evidence. My first alert to the potential problem was in the character of the man. Character is destiny, so they say, and Donald Trump views every situation as a conflict to be won. He’s off the campaign trail but still sees his relationship with the media as adversarial, as though the press are a group to be beaten. His chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, has echoed this sentiment, going so far as to say that “the media are the opposition party” more than the Democrats are. He conducts foreign policy in tweets, attempting to strong-arm Mexico into paying for his proposed border wall or accusing China of stealing a drone. Whether or not you see that as effective, (China did end up returning the drone, though it can’t be said whether or not it was a result of Trump’s tweet) what must be acknowledged is that these actions are aggressive. They’re aggressive against trade partners of America with no clearly defined replacement plan for the goods we receive from these countries. They’re aggressive in ways that might not always be effective in place of diplomacy. He has shown that he is objectively thin-skinned to criticism, attacking journalists, news publications and celebrities.
He is a man that, having never gone to war or even served in one of America’s armed forces, is almost always in favor of a more militaristic option than a peaceful one. I say “almost” as a half-hearted disclaimer to protect the truth but in any comment he’s made, I’ve never see him suggest less military force as a solution, except as it relates to supporting the allies we currently have in favor of redrawing our alliances with nations he personally favors more. Like a loan shark, he implies that support for our allies in NATO ought to be contingent on tributes from these countries, ignoring the inherent benefit of containing Russian encroachment. He recklessly suggests that rather than American military support in Japan or Korea, perhaps there should be more nuclear armament in these nations. He has ridiculed a prisoner of war and the family of a fallen soldier and this is only the generous treatment he has offered to our allies and to American citizens. He has tunnel vision as to the enemy of America, seeing ISIS as the enemy above all else but his vitriol for them is sufficient. At rallies, he has claimed that he will “bomb the shit out of them” and in the first week of his presidency has called for an expansion of the military, hoping very soon to presumably send troops into ISIS territory.
For as much as he would have you believe he had the foresight to oppose the Iraq War (he didn’t), Trump seems to be gearing up to enter his own Iraq War. And much like the first war, there is no one around him I have any faith in at all to oppose him. Whether militarists, nationalists, or spineless yes-men, Trump has surrounded himself with people who will enable this. Revered, skilled and thoughtful as he may be, I do not trust “Mad Dog” Mattis, who has been quoted multiple times on the joys of killing and on the great might of the American fighting force, to oppose Donald Trump’s war. I do not trust Stephen Bannon, a man whose strategies parallel Trump’s in aggression but with more open “the white race is superior” rhetoric, to oppose Donald Trump’s war. I do not trust Reince Priebus, a political opportunist who firmly backed Trump even after video surfaced of him proudly gloating about sexual assault, to oppose Donald Trump’s war. I do not trust Sean Spicer, who made it clear he would lie to the public outright to maintain his position on Trump’s team, to oppose Donald Trump’s war. Nor do I trust Kellyanne Conway, whose job is lying to protect her position, to oppose Donald Trump’s war. The only man who I haven’t seen outwardly ready to thrust America into another war and who has a son currently serving in the military is Mike Pence and if he has an objection to throwing American soldiers into another war, I won’t close my ears to it.
The problem in opposing an American war against ISIS is that they’re a logical enemy. Unjust, cruel, inhumane; ISIS represents a violent affront to Western values and American blood has been spilled already in their wake. Few people would argue against a war with them as they have our destruction at the core of their ideology. This is the same problem we found ourselves in after 9/11 and though the aims are pure of eliminating a radical contingent, we are going to find ourselves on this American odyssey decade after decade if we kill the fighters but not the source of their ideology. Were America to eliminate ISIS quickly and swiftly, that would be excellent but the war on terror is a war on an idea. If America enters the Islamic State with just means to achieve our just goal, then we may succeed with finality. But with the poorly thought-out, unjust methods currently being proposed by Donald Trump we may be doomed to this cycle far into the future. Knowing nothing of war, the militarist Donald Trump has proposed that we kill not just enemy combatants but their families. Donald Trump has proposed that, following the mass bombings he intends to carry out, we would take the oil that is currently under the control of the Islamic State. He has proposed that torture be brought back as a means of gaining information despite multiple military and intelligence officials verifying that it is an unreliable means of gathering information. What he proposes are two war crimes and one violation of international law. Domestically, he has enacted a ban of immigrants from certain Muslim countries. Under his leadership, another war in the Middle East would not be just, but another shameful part of America’s history. An inexperienced tantrum-thrower with an interest only in power and attention would not commit America to a war with our soldiers, our safety or the future of America in mind, but only his own ego.