If you love war, Donald Trump made clear on Wednesday, you want him in the White House.
That was not the purpose of his Philadelphia speech on national security, but if you listened to his words, both specifics and theme, that was the message. Embedded in the message was that he would be a very big spender of tax dollars.
And Trump revealed, unintentionally for sure, that his secret plan to destroy ISIS is a con job, a flip-flop which we’ll come back to.
An ominous sign that Trump envisions a dictatorial presidency arose a few hours later, at an NBC “commander in chief” event in Manhattan where veterans asked Trump and Hillary Clinton questions.
Speaking of ISIS, Trump denigrated America’s top military officers. “The generals have been reduced to rubble” under President Obama, adding that they have been “reduced to a point where it’s embarrassing to our country.” He said nothing about the continual degrading of ISIS, whose territory has shrunk in Syria and Iraq, under attack plans drawn by these generals.
The most disturbing part came when host Matt Lauer followed up about Trump’s statement earlier that he would give “my generals” 30 days to come up with a plan to destroy ISIS even though he claims to already have a plan. Lauer asked Trump to square his statements about his supposed secret plan with what his new promise to solicit a plan from the generals he had just denounced. Trump replied, “They’d probably be different generals, to be honest with you.”
Those are chilling words, especially from a man who has written at length about how he prizes absolute loyalty above all else. In his book Think Big, Trump told how he revels in making miserable those who simply decline to do him a favor because they consider his request unethical, a policy I explain at length in my book The Making of Donald Trump.
History is full of dictators who seized power by replacing the military commanders whose allegiance was to country with those who pledged allegiance to one man. Trump, who has exactly zero experience in public service, continually says that he alone can solve America’s problems.
Like his responses at the evening forum in New York, parts of his Philadelphia speech hours earlier were non sequiturs. Early on he declared, “Unlike my opponent, my foreign policy will emphasize diplomacy, not destruction.” Yet just a few lines before he had said, “Immediately after taking office, I will ask my generals to present to me a plan within 30 days to defeat and destroy ISIS. This will require military warfare, but also cyber warfare, financial warfare, and ideological warfare.”
So which is it, diplomacy or war?
In a speech read off a Teleprompter, and spoken mostly in modulated tones with only brief bouts of bombast, Trump called for massive increases in military spending for both personnel and weapons. Much of the speech seemed drawn from the Heritage Foundation, a marketing and advertising house for those American oligarchs who want to spend more on war and as little as possible on a social safety net, and to cut taxes on capital.
Trump called for more Navy ships, about 90 more jet fighters (which cost up to $337 million each) and a 20 percent increase in the size of the Army. The costliest part of Trump’s plan for more war involves the Army.
Trump wants to increase the Army by 90,000 soldiers to 540,000 GIs. He did not give many details, including how he would get deficit hawks in Congress to authorize the money.
Based on the current Army budget we can reasonably assume the annual costs would be in the neighborhood of $50 billion a year.
That equals about $600 a year more in federal spending for each family of four. But that is only the initial cost and it assumes that none of these soldiers would see combat.
If the additional soldiers are sent into combat the figures would shoot upward. The Pentagon has acknowledged that it costs between $800,000 and $1 million to maintain soldiers in Middle East combat zones while one 2013 estimate put the cost at $2.1 million per soldier in Afghanistan.
Soldiers wounded in battle will add to future costs—medical care, physical rehabilitation, pensions and other costs, some of which will continue into the 22nd century. (The last Civil War pension was paid in 2013—to the disabled child of a Union soldier born late in his life.)
We know that if Trump wins and gets his way there will be more war because Trump loves war.
“I love war,” he declared at Iowa Central Community College last November. “I’m good at war,” he added then. “I’ve had a lot of wars of my own. I’m really good at war. I love war in a certain way, but only when we win.”
Trump has never been close to combat, but he does have a Purple Heart. He got it from an admiring old soldier at a campaign rally. During the Vietnam War, Trump did not volunteer like, say, Al Gore or John Kerry, two other rich boys who could easily have escaped military service. He didn’t even serve at home like, say, George W. Bush, who was in the Air National Guard.
Trump got education deferments. After graduating, his doctor wrote a note about a bone spur on a foot, making him safe from the bullets and bombs in Vietnam. Trump said last year he cannot recall which foot.
Trump has been urging war for decades. In 1987, on a “Today” show clip rebroadcast on the Aug. 10, 2015, “Morning Joe" show, he said that if a single shot is fired by Iran at a U.S. ship the American military should invade Iran, "take over" its oil and “let them have the rest” of their country.
Last year Trump said he stood by those long-ago comments, including stealing oil from Middle East countries. “I am the most militaristic person there is,” Trump declared proudly on “Morning Joe.”
“I am the most militaristic person there is,” Trump proudly declared Aug. 10 on Morning Joe.
In his Philadelphia speech Trump also declared that he would order the military to come up with a plan to swiftly destroy ISIS, a plan he would give them 30 days to design.
How curious that Trump would say that given his earlier statements. He said he has his own plan to defeat ISIS and didn’t need the advice of any of those military officers that taxpayers have poured money into educating in the art of war. Trump, after all, told us in his nomination acceptance speech that he alone can save us.
“I know more about ISIS than the generals do,” Trump said in Iowa last November.
Back in 1984 Trump declared that “it would take an hour-and-a-half to learn everything there is to learn about missiles” before adding “I think I know most of it anyway.”
This from a man who, in the December Republican primary debate, was unable to even grasp a question about the nuclear triad, offering up gibberish rather than knowledge. Sen. Marco Rubio had to explain to Trump that America can deliver nuclear weapons three ways—by submarine or land-based missiles or by bombers.
Read his Philadelphia speech, including its line about “one God,” and then ask yourself if you want Donald Trump to have the nuclear launch codes. And as you ponder that touch your wallet because if Trump has his way your wallet is going to be a lot thinner.