With the Pentagon, Trump Has Morphed Into Hillary Clinton

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 US 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.”

William J. Astore is a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF). He taught history for fifteen years at military and civilian schools and blogs at Bracing Views. He can be reached at wastore@pct.edu. Reprinted from Bracing Views with the author’s permission.

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

  1. In light of everything that’s happened, why must we generously assume that Trump ever had any intention of following through on his campaign rhetoric in the first place? It’s looking more and more like his campaign was a calculated “bait and switch” fraud from the beginning.

    1. I’m not so sure it was “calculated.” Looks more to me like he’s just your average con-man politician — say whatever you think will get you elected, do whatever you want once the suckers buy it — with a somewhat more hyperbolic style.

      1. Here are some of the problems I have with that theory: (1) Why did he run for president in the first place (after all he was already 70 yrs. old, wealthy and not a career politician)? (2) Why did he immediately surround himself with neocon warmongers and Russophobes like Nikki Haley? (3) Why does he not demand an investigation into 9/11, for example? (4) If he is merely doing “what he wants” to do, is it just a coincidence that he “wants” to reverse himself and emulate the foreign policy of Hillary Clinton? There are just too many red flags, IMO.

        1. “(1) Why did he run for president in the first place…”

          For the same reason any conventional politician runs for President: to get a power fix. Money is secondary, it is power which is the real goal.

          1. The quest for “power” all of a sudden came upon him when he was 70 years old; some kind of late life political epiphany? When he already had some significant wealth and associated “power” in society? And he decided he wanted to go from no political office to the highest political office in the land? It may make sense to you, but not to me.
            I think it’s more likely that Trump was being groomed over the years as a “deep cover” (aka “sleeper”) “agent” and was “waiting in the wings” for the right time to be used by his handlers.

          2. The Trump candidacy made sense to me on the assumption that Trump could see the looming disaster just the same as the rest of us could. And having the means, the name recognition, the apparent management skills, etc., and also having lots to lose (materially) in a pointless nuclear war with Russia, it seemed reasonable to me that he felt a patriotic “call to power” to try to do something to prevent the almost certain self-destruction (if we didn’t change course).
            But then he gets in there and immediately starts reversing himself? He starts doing almost everything that I would’ve expected Hillary Clinton to do (at least in the realm of “foreign policy”)?
            Something’s seriously amiss here.
            Then when I look back, some things start making “sense”; e.g., now I think I know why they didn’t run Sanders (a somewhat more electable crook than Clinton) against Trump. Now I think I know why Clinton’s choice of running mate didn’t do anything for her campaign (it wasn’t supposed to). Now I think I know why in the early fall of 2016, just as the campaign was going into the home stretch, Obama starts ramping up the tension with Russia (apparently to swing the election to the candidate who presented himself as an alternative to war).
            My conclusion: Trump was the candidate that was supposed to win the election, and his whole campaign was a bait-and-switch fraud.
            Of course I could be wrong, but this is my present view.

          3. To your theory, the coverage and spotlight afforded to Trump on political questions/issues over the years, especially near this last campaign cycle is conspicuous. I feel like Jared Kushner is getting the same kind of treatment for a future political purpose.

            I’m not convinced on the bait-and-switch/Trump anointed beforehand theory as of yet. The taking out of Flynn out of the gates, the leaks, all the efforts to impeach him, the efforts of Congress through sanctions on Russia to prevent him from working toward normalized relations… Those give me pause

          4. Most of that is smoke and mirrors apparently intended to give Trump political cover for his betrayals.
            For example the sanctions legislation was a blatantly unconstitutional infringement of the president’s constitutional authority to conduct foreign affairs.
            Trump could’ve vetoed it, and appealed to the people that elected him with a mandate to improve relations with Russia. And then, if congress overrode the veto, Trump could’ve simply failed to implement it (similar to what Reagan did when congress tried to force sanctions on South Africa). (Congress has no practical way to force the executive to execute or not execute anything).
            Trump could also have taken the issue to the supreme court, but Trump did none of these things because he’s a fraud.
            And what effort is there to impeach him? There is nothing meaningful that I’m aware of. We’ve been scammed, yet again.

          5. You’re arguing that Reagan failed to implement/enforce the sanctions on SA after they overrode his veto 78/21? Those sanctions went into affect. State Dept laxness on SA imports doesn’t equate to Reagan ordering that. Beyond that, even if Reagan is given the credit for that, the sanctions still went into effect. Curious to hear how you think Trump could’ve simply failed to implement the sanctions since much of the enforcement or, in this case, lack there of would be under the oversight of departments that are hostile to Trump?

            Nothing meaningful that you’re aware of? Maybe I’ve missed the many presidencies during which talk of impeachment continued near unabated for months at a time for no legitimate reason.

            Trump is useless for sure though. Spineless, Tweet-it-up, do nothing. Seeing him with Epstein and the other pedophiles makes me question him in that area, especially after seeing a few pics on the Internet of him and Ivanka on his lap in her teenage years.

          6. “Those sanctions went into affect (sic).”

            As I understand it, the sanctions were not enforced at all. How can the sanctions be said to have “gone into affect (sic)”, if they were not enforced?

            “State Dept laxness on SA imports doesn’t equate to Reagan ordering that.”

            Nor does it equate to Reagan not ordering that. But the fact is that Reagan was in charge.

            “Beyond that, even if Reagan is given the credit for that, the sanctions still went into effect.”

            Once again, how did they “go into effect” if they weren’t enforced?

            “Curious to hear how you think Trump could’ve simply failed to implement the sanctions since much of the enforcement or, in this case, lack there of would be under the oversight of departments that are hostile to Trump?”

            Because Trump is the president? Because he can tell his subordinates what to do or not do and fire them if he so chooses? Curious to hear how you think Trump is so powerless over his subordinates.

            “Nothing meaningful that you’re aware of? Maybe I’ve missed the many presidencies during which talk of impeachment continued near unabated for months at a time for no legitimate reason.”

            What you’ve apparently missed is the fat that talk is cheap, and talk is deceptive.

          7. You have good political instinct and should trust it.

            A rich Banker of International finance was able to buy the DNC super delegates and media outlets with PAC-money while he also financed “President” Trumps beloved son in Law Jared Kuchner for $300,000,000.

            This fellow bribed Johnson to sit down and waste all the gains the LP had made in several election cycles while he also financed Jill Stein to investigate the Wisconsin and Michigan election results to make sure they really did lose because of gun control not the Russians.

            Bernie Sanders would have won the electoral college so George Soros manipulated the vote to make sure Clinton or Trump would win so the CIA-Israel-Wall Street Military Junta in Washington DC would have it covered by both sides. The 2016 Presidential election was such a good scam that most journalists are still to scared to tell us and most Americans will never even know who scammed them. This is one of the last websites left that will not silence my voice.

          8. ” It may make sense to you, but not to me.”

            Who says “significant wealth and associated ‘power’ in society” was sufficient for him? Money and power results in lust for more of the same.

          9. I do, because if his pre-presidential affluence wasn’t enough, he would’ve begun a serious political career much earlier in his life.

            But let’s say I’m wrong. You have to explain how starting a nuclear war with Russia and/or China (which is what he seems to be trying to do) will result in money and power for him.

          10. I’m guessing you didn’t mean to conflate “money” and “power” into “affluence”.. Affluence is just having a lot of money. Firstly, there’s near zero probability of a political path leading to billions of dollars, the Clintons have worked harder than anyone on that & them may have hit $0.5 billion. I think the power issue is obvious. At his most powerless moment as president of the US, he can do things that would have never been possible making phone calls from Trump Tower as head of that organization.

            With regard to the Russia/China thing… He achieved that very power/prestige in becoming the president, that’s the point. You can argue about whether he really has power in the ultimate sense, etc. but, he’s president of the US and 323 million others are not.

            I don’t see the Russia/China scenario as relevant, but where’s your proof he’s even conscious that’s an eventuality? Maybe the crazy Neocons have convinced him WWII is winnable? Paul Craig Roberts wrote on article on how the Neocons actually think a first strike nuclear war can be won. Lunatics.

          11. Aw c’mon, show me somebody in this society who has lots of money but no “power”; or at least no option to exert power. Money and power go together, especially in a corrupt society such as ours; affluence = power.

            “Firstly, there’s near zero probability of a political path leading to billions of dollars,”

            In your opinion that is, but that’s irrelevant. Did I say otherwise?

            “I think the power issue is obvious.”

            Well he’s certainly enjoying himself exercising power over others, yes. He seems to particularly enjoy wielding power over the life and death of people in far away places. But that doesn’t mean that “power”, per se, was the primary motivation for his candidacy. And if you claim otherwise then you have to explain for example why the urge for such “power” came over him so late in life. (Serial killers supposedly do what they do because of the thrill of exerting life or death power over others. Can you provide some examples of serial killers who only started killing people when they hit the age of 70 or more)?

            “At his most powerless moment as president of the US, he can do things that would have never been possible making phone calls from Trump Tower as head of that organization.”

            Well of course he can, but so what? Once again, that doesn’t mean that “power” per se was the primary motivation for his candidacy.

            “I don’t see the Russia/China scenario as relevant, but where’s your proof he’s even conscious that’s an eventuality?”

            Let’s narrow down the issue. In a sense, anyone aspiring to the office of president, is “seeking power”, right? The question is, did Trump seek power for its own sake, which seems to be your position, or did he seek power to accomplish some ulterior, nefarious agenda, which is of course my view.

            If the former, then why use that power in such a reckless manner as to risk self-destruction that would put an end to that power?

            Look at Saddam Hussein for example. He apparently sought power as an end in itself. He obviously enjoyed playing with other peoples’ lives, etc. He didn’t have a problem starting wars with Iran and Kuwait, but he bent over backwards to avoid a conflict with the U.S., Why? Apparently because he knew what the potential consequences of a war with the U.S. could be, right? What good is it to be a sociopathic ruler on a power head trip if you start a war that destroys your country and gets you removed from power and/or killed? Saddam asked the U.S. for permission to invade Kuwait.

            If even power hungry Saddam Hussein could understand the consequences of a war with a country that could destroy him, then why can’t Trump?

            I’ll tell you why: If Trump’s not conscious of the fact that he’s playing a dangerous game with Russia and China which could lead to a life-ending nuclear war – even by accident – then he’s what I would call “demon-possessed”, or in “worldly” terms, “criminally insane”.

            And that is precisely the reason he was selected and groomed for the job.

        2. My opinion on the first question is that he actually thought that he could do a better job than the people in charge, a lot of people do. Someone else may have actually been better but he lacks the the proper world-view, determination, and the discipline to change anything.

  2. Who actually run the US?
    Doesn’t sound like it’s the President!
    Is it maybe the Reptilians behind all… Have earth been invaded by aliens?

    But what the heck do I know – I’m from Sweden – feel ashamed to admit it.
    (Sweden is the country up in the north which is f*cked up
    by the so called feminists people or as u might call them – the p*ssy people)

  3. The only positive thing about trumpy, is the particular lying strategy and platform his “handlers” decided to use to get him elected. It shows there are lots of people who wanted to hear this, so they voted for the fantasy , hopefully knowing that all politicians are lying sacks o sh**T.

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