“If we make peaceful revolution impossible, we make violent revolution inevitable.” - JFK
The probability that any American political candidate will propose any “revolutionary” domestic reforms in 2016 is slim to none. Even means testing for entitlements is anathema across the American political spectrum.
Nonetheless, Bernie Sanders promises a “revolution” in November. What he really means, if elected, is more of the same, only bigger - more taxes, more spending, and more redistribution of other people’s money.
American politicians of both parties posture, pander, and prosper on the supply side of entitlements. If there is to be real difference among 2016 candidates, variations are likely to be found mostly in foreign/military policy, not social programs.
Foreign policy is, and always has been, the existential consideration. Indeed, we could argue that it, and apathy on the right, defeated Mitt Romney in 2012. Recall that during the last series of party debates, whenever candidate Obama mentioned terror, war, or foreign policy, candidate Romney’s stock response was, “me too.”
Of all prospects in 2016, Donald Trump represents a clear potential departure from decades of foreign policy malpractice.
Beyond the bluster and bombast, Trump is substantially different on several existential issues: Israel, Islam, jihad, Russia, and immigration to name the most obvious. No small coincidence that all these hot buttons are related in important ways.
Trump prospects in 2016 are still iffy, but more than any other candidate, right or left, he has reset the foreign/military policy table.
Trump’s loud support for Israel is not without hiccups. Most American Jews identify with the Democrat Party and the American left. Nonetheless, Trump has been outspoken in siding with Likud policies and Israeli politicians like Benjamin Netanyahu. Trump is also outspoken in his criticism of Israel’s Shia and Sunni enemies alike. The Iran nuclear agreement and any “two state” Palestinian deal are unlikely to make any Trump “to do” list.
Trump likely sees Israel as the canary in the geo-strategic coal mine, the lone civilized democracy in a very bad Muslim neighborhood. Wither Israel, so goes the Mideast – and probably Europe. Compared to team Obama’s neglect, if not hostility, Trump’s Israel policy is likely to be a sea change.
And in the global propaganda war, Donald Trump is unlikely to allow State, CIA, DOD, or National Security Council apparatchiks to define what is or is not “Islamic.”
Donald Trump doesn’t seem to have any illusions about the politics of Islam and the host of related problems associated with toxic politicized religion: problems like terror, small wars, war crimes, human rights atrocities, and the 5th Column potential of so-called “migrants.” Most significant is Trump’s willingness to call a spade a spade. He actually uses words like “Islam” and “Muslim” to describe national security threats.
Trump’s candor infers that he believes that jihadist Islam knows why it fights, while America and Europe do not. The call to “make America great again” implies Trump believes that America has lost faith, preeminence, and a sense of purpose. Oblique as it may be, Mr. Trump’s political logic has become the lodestone for Yankee angst in 2016.
Withal, Trump’s take on those Muslim small wars is a mixed bag. He seems to think the Afghanistan tar baby was a good investment, but Iraq was a “disaster.” In fact, both ongoing theaters of war are American quagmires where progress is elusive and Muslim native “allies” do not fight – at least not fight well.
Trump is closer to truth on the handling of 9/11 where the Bush regime failed and then repatriated a host of likely Saudi Sunni culprits before an investigation could even begin. The 9/11 disaster was the worst warning failure since WWII and yet the then NSA chief, Michael Hayden, was promoted by President Bush in the wake of failure.
Rewarding tactical, operational, and strategic failure now seems to be an American national security meme. Trump made “you’re fired” the buzzwords of a decade. If he brings that ethic to office, fear and loathing amongst national security elites in Brussels and Washington is understandable.
Saudi Arabia and the Emirates still provide sanctuary, succor, and finance to the growing theofascist mutation that underwrites jihad, small wars, and Muslim terror worldwide. For the moment, America is allied with the worst of Islam: Iran, Arabia, Turkey, and Pakistan.
Given the American treasure and lives invested in liberating Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, and now Syria; Trump’s suggestion to seize and hold ground wealth to pay for Muslim wars and counter terror operations is spot on. Oil and opium pay for mosques, madrassas, toxic ideology, and the swords of Islam. Fighting Islamic propaganda and petro-terror with Arab or Muslim oil money would be a brilliant, if not game changing, policy.
The Russian Air Force and the Kurdish army are now in the process of cutting the fiscal throats of a corrupt Turkish regime and the genocidal Islamic State. The Russian/Syrian/ Kurd coalition has done more damage to imperial Sunni Islam in a few months than the American mythic “60 state” coalition has done in 20 years.
American policy towards Israel, now Russia, is a kind of contemporary political penis envy. The West now resents decisive and successful leaders like Netanyahu and Putin simply because they are strong men with a clear vision of their national interests.
Europe and America, in contrast, have been captured by a generation of effete, dithering social democrats where emotional issues undermine security, achievement, and military success. Open borders is an example. Indeed, American and European weakness has made the modern, passive and aggressive, Muslim crusades possible. The West can’t say no to imperial Islam. And the jihadist wolf in Islamabad, Tehran, and Riyadh can’t say no to easy pickings either.
Muslim apologetics, compassionate intervention, regime change, and open borders are all symptoms of a West hijacked by clueless bleeding hearts in Brussels and Washington. Humanitarian intervention is a 21st Century oxymoron.
Donald Trump says he can do business with Vladimir Putin. We should hope so. The Obama Cold War over Chechnya, Georgia, Ukraine, or Syria is a policy driven by personal demonization not ground truth. Good relations with Russia are essential to any prospect of success in Eastern Europe, the Muslim world, or outer space for that matter.
Trump, unlike the Pentagon, does not consider Russia to be a major national security threat to NATO or America. Nonetheless, the chimera of an aggressive Kremlin today serves two purposes for both American political parties: military spending and a continuing excuse to change the subject, avoid confronting Shia and Sunni Islam as the global existential threats.
Muslim migration is one of two things; a humanitarian crisis or the second wave of imperial Islam, a cultural blitzkrieg. Neither Europe nor America can decide which. Impaled on a moral dilemma of its own making, Brussels and Washington have accepted open borders by default. Concurrently, there are few open borders in the Ummah. Trump says that unvetted Muslim immigration is an evolving disaster. If national sovereignty and national security are still virtues, he is correct.
A hiatus on Muslim immigration pending rigorous vetting and improved border control facilities is simple common sense. Acknowledged or not, the Islamic world is the nexus of modern global instability. Chaos, terror, sedition, and religious fascism are now Islam’s primary cultural exports.
The Ummah problem is both jihad and religious ideology. Islam is at war with the world, but only ayatollahs, imams, and gadflies like Netanyahu and Trump seem to acknowledge that reality.
Donald Trump often obscures intimations of policy with bombast, bad manners, and broad strokes. Fortunately, Trump is running for commander-in-chief, not Secretary of State. He defends the absence of specifics so as not to telegraph his punches. Indeed, the telegraphed punch has become a battle standard of hapless team Obama in the Levant and South Asia. If Trump does nothing else in 2016, his broad policy strokes may herald a pragmatic and much needed revolution in 21st Century American foreign/military affairs.
Often, the ship of state must come about before it can fire for effect. Policy wonks, Shia ayatollahs and Sunni imams can wait for the details.
G. Murphy Donovan writes about the politics of national security. He is the former Director for Research and Russian (nee Soviet) Studies at USAF Intelligence.