Trump's Thin Skin vs. Clinton's Thick Head

Jacob Sullum
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Posted: Jun 08, 2016 12:01 AM
Trump's Thin Skin vs. Clinton's Thick Head
Hillary Clinton warns that Donald Trump is "temperamentally unfit" to be commander in chief, and she may be right about that. But Clinton's eagerness to wage war suggests she is ideologically unfit for the job.

"This is not someone who should ever have the nuclear codes," the former secretary of state said last Thursday, "because it's not hard to imagine Donald Trump leading us into a war just because somebody got under his very thin skin." Given Clinton's record of supporting pretty much every proposed and actual use of military force during her career in public life, it is even easier to imagine her leading us into war for reasons unrelated to national security.

In a speech that was billed as a major foreign policy address and a sharp rebuke to her Republican opponent in this year's presidential election, Clinton mentioned Iraq twice: once in reference to the country's "sectarian divide" and once in reference to ISIS "strongholds" there. She did not mention that the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, which she supported as a senator and did not repudiate until 2014, ripped that sectarian divide wide open, creating the chaotic conditions that allowed ISIS to take over those strongholds.

"We honor the sacrifice of those who died for our country," Clinton said, "by carrying out a smart and principled foreign policy." The 4,400 or so members of the U.S. armed forces who died during the Iraq war did not die for their country; they died for George W. Bush. Their sacrifice did not make this country (or Iraq) any safer.

That's leaving aside the 134,000 civilians who were killed during this Clinton-endorsed war, along with more than 16,000 Iraqi allies of the United States and some 27,000 insurgents -- not to mention the cost to American taxpayers, which is expected to total more than $2 trillion. For more than a decade, from 2003 until 2014, that was Clinton's idea of "smart and principled foreign policy."

Clinton learned nothing from the catastrophe in Iraq. As secretary of state, she was instrumental in pushing President Obama to pick sides in Libya's civil war, overthrowing another Middle Eastern dictator and creating another lawless zone hospitable to terrorists.

Testifying before Congress last October, Clinton described the Libyan intervention as "smart power at its best." Speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations a month later, she insisted "it's too soon to tell" whether the operation created more problems than it solved.

I don't want to say that no one else on Earth shares that view, but it is not widely held. Michael T. Flynn, who ran the Defense Intelligence Agency from 2012 to 2014, offered a more common assessment when he told The New York Times, "This was not a failure. This was a disaster."

Unfazed by the Libyan debacle, Clinton pushed for more aggressive U.S. involvement in Syria's civil war. She argues that Obama made a big mistake by not following her advice.

Trump, whose inconsistency is his main consistency, did not always oppose U.S. intervention in these countries, and last Sunday he waffled again on Libya. But during his campaign for the Republican nomination, he repeatedly warned that toppling dictators, no matter how nasty they are, tends to have unanticipated costs that swamp the benefits -- a possibility that seems never to cross Clinton's mind.

Trump says "we can't continue to be the policeman of the world." Clinton wants "a strong, confident America that leads," which is code for unending meddling.

Even as first lady, Clinton was pushing wars completely unrelated to national defense. She urged her husband to bomb Serbia (which he did) and, according to both of them, intervene in Rwanda (which he didn't).

"A president has a sacred responsibility to send our troops into battle only if we absolutely must, and only with a clear and well-thought-out strategy," Clinton said last week. She has already failed that test, over and over again.