Eminent libertarian author Tom Woods regularly quips that no matter who you vote for, you always end up with Senator John McCain (R-AZ). But not since the days of the country singing “you like Ike, I like Ike, we all like Ike” has a president called out the military-industrial complex on national television. That is what President Donald Trump recently did as he lamented the informal alliance of neoconservatives, the top military brass, and the defense industry in Washington, who “never want to leave” Afghanistan, Iraq, or Syria. When was the last time a modern U.S. leader was so frank about American foreign policy?
I Like Ike
In his February 1961 farewell address to the nation, former President Dwight D. Eisenhower ended his presidential term warning the American people about the increasing power and influence of the military-industrial complex. One of the most popular presidents in U.S. history urged the public to be wary of the federal government’s collaboration with military and industrial leaders.
“Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together,” he said.
Since then, the Democratic and Republican leadership have abandoned these sage words, choosing to adopt regime change, preemptive strikes, and nation-building as the primary tenets of U.S. foreign policy. While he has not exactly been the anti-war crusader some had hoped for, President Trump has been less hawkish than his modern predecessors.
Speaking in an interview with the Fox News Channel, Trump conceded that the nation does have an M.I.C. and “they do like war.” He stated that there are many people in Washington who “never want to leave” once they invade and occupy a foreign country.
He candidly explained to the cable news network:
“Well, I’m the one that talks about these wars that are 19 years, and people are just there, and don’t kid yourself, you do have a military-industrial complex. They do like war. You know, in Syria, with the caliphate, so I wipe out 100 percent of the caliphate. I said I want to bring our troops back home. The place went crazy. You have people here in Washington, they never want to leave.
I said, you know what I’ll do, I’ll leave a couple hundred soldiers behind, but if it was up to them, they‘d bring thousands of soldiers in. Someday people will explain it, but you do have a group, and they call it the military-industrial complex. They never want to leave. They always want to fight.”
Despite practicing very little military restraint and maintaining the Bush Doctrine, former President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. There’s a reason why many of libertarian critics referred to him as the military-industrial complex’s “best friend” back in 2015: the invasion of Libya, the intensification of drone strikes in the Middle East, establishing a U.S. military footprint in Africa, and spying on the American people.
Trump, on the other hand, has instituted caution on several fronts, particularly Russia and North Korea.
Iran So Far Away
Throughout Obama’s tenure, the real estate billionaire mogul would routinely warn against starting a war with Iran. One such tweet came in October 2012: “Don’t let Obama play the Iran card in order to start a war in order to get elected–be careful Republicans!”
This was a wise warning.
Seven years later, he tweets: “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!” But then again, only days later, he reportedly told acting defense secretary, Patrick Shanahan, that he does not want to go to war with Iran.
So, which is it? Many would hope that it is the latter. Unfortunately, if the reports are accurate, it seems like he is being pushed into a disastrous conflict with Tehran, one that is likely being peddled by the neocons in his administration. For a man who was a staunch critic of the war in Iraq and who repeatedly called out his fellow Republicans in the 2016 primaries for supporting the boondoggle, it would seem odd if he believed any of the hawks inside the Oval Office.
The Onion recently published a hilarious article, titled “Bleeding John Bolton Stumbles Into Capitol Building Claiming That Iran Shot Him.” This was a satirical piece, but it would not be far-fetched if Bolton pulled a similar stunt to initiate a conflict that the meretricious neocons have been itching for since the early stages of the Iraq War.
Will Trump Get Neoconned?
President Trump has shown that he does not have an itchy trigger finger like his predecessors or the desire to leave thousands of U.S. troops on foreign land for many years. The primary issue, however, is exactly what Douglas Macgregor, an Army Colonel and author, recently told Tucker Carlson: The president surrounds himself with a “bipartisan globalist elite” who advocate for these perpetual regime change wars that cost dollars and lives. If Trump orders the bombing and invasion of Iran, then what? He will unleash a mess that would rival Iraq and Afghanistan put together. Instead of listening to Bolton, Trump would be better off paying attention to his instincts. His little man has a better track record than all the neocons put together.
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