The New York Times' Mark Landler and Maureen Dowd are baselessly claiming that Hillary Clinton would be more likely to bring the nation to war if elected president than Donald Trump, in part due to Trump's claims of opposition to the Iraq War. In fact, Trump supported the Iraq War, has refused to rule out using nuclear weapons in the Middle East and Europe, has floated military engagement with Iran, and called for U.S. invasions of Libya and Syria.
NY Times: Trump Is More Dovish Than Clinton, As Iraq War Shows
New York Times Magazine Feature Describes Trump As A “Reluctant Warrior” Compared To “Democratic Hawk” Clinton. Times White House correspondent Mark Landler reported that Trump has not “demonstrated anywhere near the appetite for military engagement abroad” that Clinton has, noting that Trump “loudly proclaims his opposition to the Iraq War.” From his April 21 article in The New York Times Magazine ,adapted from his new book, Alter Egos: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and the Twilight Struggle Over American Power:
As Hillary Clinton makes another run for president, it can be tempting to view her hard-edged rhetoric about the world less as deeply felt core principle than as calculated political maneuver. But Clinton’s foreign-policy instincts are bred in the bone — grounded in cold realism about human nature and what one aide calls “a textbook view of American exceptionalism.” It set her apart from her rival-turned-boss, Barack Obama, who avoided military entanglements and tried to reconcile Americans to a world in which the United States was no longer the undisputed hegemon. And it will likely set her apart from the Republican candidate she meets in the general election. For all their bluster about bombing the Islamic State into oblivion, neither Donald J. Trump nor Senator Ted Cruz of Texas has demonstrated anywhere near the appetite for military engagement abroad that Clinton has.
Neither Trump nor Cruz favors major new deployments of American soldiers to Iraq and Syria (nor, for that matter, does Clinton). If anything, both are more skeptical than Clinton about intervention and more circumspect than she about maintaining the nation’s post-World War II military commitments. Trump loudly proclaims his opposition to the Iraq War. He wants the United States to spend less to underwrite NATO and has talked about withdrawing the American security umbrella from Asia, even if that means Japan and South Korea would acquire nuclear weapons to defend themselves. Cruz, unlike Clinton, opposed aiding the Syrian rebels in 2014. He once supported Pentagon budget constraints advocated by his isolationist colleague, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. Thus might the general election present voters with an unfamiliar choice: a Democratic hawk versus a Republican reluctant warrior. [The New York Times Magazine, 4/21/16]
NY Times’ Landler On CNN: Clinton-Trump Election Would Feature “Hawkish Democrat Facing Off Against A Reluctant Republican.” Landler continued to promote the notion that Trump is less willing to use military force than Clinton during an April 28 interview on CNN Newsroom:
BROOKE BALDWIN (ANCHOR): On the hawkishness, how would they compare?
LANDLER: Well, I would argue that if you get past the rhetoric, and Donald Trump has very hot rhetoric, but if you look at what he said in that speech, he'd be fairly cautious and fairly reluctant to commit the American military. Hillary Clinton is, you know, I think, more ready to do that. I don't want to suggest that she doesn't want to use diplomacy first and that the military's a last resort for her, but look at the role she took in the Obama years, whether the debate is over Libya, arming the rebels in Syria, deploying troops in Afghanistan. She's tended consistently toward the hawkish end of the spectrum. And you might see a really interesting role reversal where you have a hawkish Democrat facing off against a reluctant Republican. [CNN, CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin, 4/28/16, via Nexis]
Maureen Dowd Described Trump As A “Quasi-Dove” Who Thought Iraq Invasion Was A “Stupid Idea.” New York Times op-ed columnist Maureen Dowd wrote that “Donald the Quasi-Dove” seems “less macho” than “Hillary the Hawk” on war and foreign policy, claiming that “the prime example of commander-in-chief judgment Trump offers is the fact that, like Obama, he thought the invasion of Iraq was a stupid idea.” From Dowd's April 30 column, headlined “Donald the Dove, Hillary the Hawk”:
Once you get beyond the surface of the 2016 battle of the sexes, with its chest-thumping versus maternal hugging, there’s a more intriguing gender dynamic.
On some foreign policy issues, the roles are reversed for the candidates and their parties. It’s Hillary the Hawk against Donald the Quasi-Dove.
Just as Barack Obama seemed the more feminized candidate in 2008 because of his talk-it-out management style, his antiwar platform and his delicate eating habits, always watching his figure, so now, in some ways, Trump seems less macho than Hillary.
He has a tender ego, pouty tweets, needy temperament and obsession with hand sanitizer, whereas she is so tough and combat-hardened, she’s known by her staff as “the Warrior.”
The prime example of commander-in-chief judgment Trump offers is the fact that, like Obama, he thought the invasion of Iraq was a stupid idea. [The New York Times, 4/30/16]
Trump Denied The Accuracy Of The Comparison. Chris Wallace asked Trump three times if it would “be fair” to call him a dove, and Clinton a hawk, and Trump denied the charge. From the May 1 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday:
CHRIS WALLACE (HOST): Let me pick up on this because when you talk about, you know, we need to stop spending money overseas and spend it at home, that sounds more like a liberal Democrat. And the question I have is you talk about the mess, your words, that Bush and Obama and Clinton have made in the Middle East, interventions in Iraq and Libya. It almost sounds like you would be -- as a general election candidate -- you would be criticizing Hillary Clinton from the left, that we should be less intervening in the rest of the world.
DONALD TRUMP: I want to rebuild our country. I want to rebuild our military, make it bigger, better, stronger than ever before. I want to take care of our vets. We have to handle education, we have to get rid of Obamacare. You know, our education system is a disaster, and we got to get rid of common core, which is just absolutely no good -- [CROSSTALK]
WALLACE: So would it be fair to say that Hillary Clinton will be the hawk in this race?
TRUMP: Chris, we have so many things to do with our country we can't have this anymore. We are spending all of our money in the Middle East, we are spending numbers that are crazy, and on top of that we're defending the world. We’re the policeman to the world.
WALLACE: Would it be fair to say that --
TRUMP: And this country can't afford to do it.
WALLACE: Would it be fair to say that Hillary Clinton will be the hawk in this race and you’ll be the dove?
TRUMP: No, I’ll tell you what, I’ll be much tougher than her, I will have much more respect than her from foreign countries. In fact I read today where they're very concerned with me, they feel I'm very strong, very tough and they're very concerned. So that's a little opposite of what you're telling me. That's a psychological thing which frankly is good, let them be a little concerned. Look, we're defending Germany, we’re defending Japan, South Korea, we’re defending Saudi Arabia with all of that money and we’re not getting properly reimbursed. We don’t have any money and we’re defending -- we're like the policeman to the world. What's going on is crazy. We are going to strengthen on our military big league, by the way it’s the cheapest money you can spend, and we have got to pull back because that is just a big mess. That's a revolution, that's a civil war, that's a religious war going over there. We're in the middle of it. For 15 years we've been wasting time, killing lives and I mean lives on both sides, OK? [Fox Broadcasting Co., Fox News Sunday, 5/1/16]
There Is No Evidence Trump Opposed Iraq Invasion
Trump Claims To Have Warned About Consequences Of Invading Iraq
In Foreign Policy Speech, Trump Says He Said He Opposed War In Iraq “For Many Years." Dowd stated as fact that Trump had opposed the war, while Landler noted only that Trump claims to have done so. Trump frequently makes such claims on the campaign trail. In his May 1 foreign policy speech delivered to the Center for the National Interest, Trump said he was a longtime opponent of the Iraq invasion:
Although not in government service, I was totally against the War in Iraq, saying for many years that it would destabilize the Middle East. Sadly, I was correct, and the biggest beneficiary was Iran, who is systematically taking over Iraq and gaining access to their rich oil reserves – something it has wanted to do for decades. And now, to top it all off, we have ISIS. [DonaldJTrump.com, 4/27/16]
Trump Actually Voiced Support For Invading Iraq
FactCheck.Org: “There Is No Evidence ... He Spoke Against The War Before It Started.” FactCheck.org has reported that it and its fellow fact-checking institutes were unable to confirm that Trump publicly voiced opposition to the Iraq invasion:
There is no evidence that we could find, however, that he spoke against the war before it started, although we did find he expressed early concerns about the cost and direction of the war a few months after it started.
Others have looked, but no one else — including PolitiFact and the Washington Post Fact Checker — has been able to find any evidence to support his claims, either. [FactCheck.org, 2/19/16]
In 2002, Trump Told Howard Stern He Supported Invading Iraq. Trump said he supported invading Iraq during a September 2002 interview with Howard Stern, as BuzzFeed reported:
For months, Donald Trump has claimed that he opposed the Iraq War before the invasion began — as an example of his great judgment on foreign policy issues.
But in a 2002 interview with Howard Stern, Donald Trump said he supported an Iraq invasion.
In the interview, which took place on Sept. 11, 2002, Stern asked Trump directly if he was for invading Iraq.
“Yeah, I guess so,” Trump responded. “I wish the first time it was done correctly.”
Trump has repeatedly claimed that he was against the Iraq War before it began, despite no evidence of him publicly stating this position. On Meet the Press, Trump said there weren’t many articles about his opposition because he wasn’t a politician at the time. [BuzzFeed, 2/18/16]
The Day After The Invasion, Trump Told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto That The Iraq Invasion “Looks Like A Tremendous Success.” The day after the invasion began, Trump called it a "tremendous success” in an interview with Fox News. From BuzzFeed:
Donald Trump, faced with his own words from 2002 that directly contradict his claim he opposed an Iraq invasion early on, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Thursday night he opposed the war by the time it started.
But in an interview with Fox News’ Neil Cavuto one day into the Iraq invasion, Trump did not express his opposition to war, and said it appeared to be “a tremendous success from a military standpoint.” Trump predicted the war would continue to be great for Wall Street.
“Well, I think Wall Street’s waiting to see what happens but even before the fact they’re obviously taking it a little bit for granted and it looks like a tremendous success from a military standpoint and I think this is really nothing compared to what you’re gonna see after the war is over,” Trump told Cavuto on Friday, March 21, 2003, the audio of which was obtained by BuzzFeed News through Vanderbilt University.
“I think Wall Street’s just gonna go up like a rocket, even beyond, and it’s gonna continue and, you know, we have a strong and powerful country and let’s hope it all works out,” continued Trump. [BuzzFeed, 2/19/16]
Trump Has Repeatedly Suggested He Could Use Nuclear Weapons As President
Trump Refused To “Rule Out” Using Nuclear Weapons To Fight ISIS. Trump said he would not “rule out” using nuclear weapons in the Middle East to combat ISIS fighters during an April 28 interview on NBC’s Today. [Politico, 4/28/16]
Trump Refuses To Rule Out Using Nuclear Weapons In Europe. Trump said while he doesn’t think he’ll use nuclear weapons in Europe, he is “not taking cards off the table” during a March 30 town hall with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews:
The option of using nuclear weapons, either in the Middle East or Europe, should never be taken off the table, Donald Trump said Wednesday.
During a town hall meeting in Wisconsin, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews asked Trump, on a quest to become the Republican presidential candidate, if he could rule out the use of nuclear weapons in Europe.
“I’m not going to take it off the table,” Trump said. When Matthews asked again whether Trump might use nuclear weapons in Europe, the real estate mogul responded: “No. I don’t think so, but … I am not taking cards off the table.”
When Matthews suggested Wednesday that no one wants to hear a potential U.S. president talking about using nuclear weapons, Trump responded: “Then why are we making them?” [Politico, 3/31/16]
Trump Also Suggested Japan, South Korea May Need Nuclear Weapons. Trump said he would “consider” allowing Japan and South Korea to have nuclear weapons if president, claiming North Korea “probably” already has them. From a March 26 New York Times interview:
Donald Trump would consider allowing Japan and South Korea to build their own nuclear arsenals instead of depending on the U.S. for their protection against North Korea and China, he said in an interview with The New York Times published Saturday.
“There’ll be a point at which we’re just not going to be able to do it anymore,” Trump said, pointing at what he calls a “severely depleted” military.
Trump said the U.S. cannot always “be the policeman of the world” and said North Korea “probably” has nuclear weapons
“And, would I rather have North Korea have them with Japan sitting there having them also? You may very well be better off if that’s the case,” he said.
“We have a nuclear world now,” he said, while also criticizing the U.S.’s agreement with Japan. [The Hill, 3/26/16]
Trump Said He Would Consider Using Military Force Against Iran
Trump: “I Would Want To Help Saudi Arabia” By Taking Military Action Against Iran. During the January 4 edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor, host Bill O’Reilly pushed Trump to say whether he would take military action in Iran to defend Saudi Arabia. Trump claimed that while he wants to remain “unpredictable,” the U.S. “would have to … defend certain groups” in Iran with military force “depending on what the deal is”:
BILL O'REILLY (HOST): If you are elected president, are you going to take military action against Iran? Are you going to do something to that country?
DONALD TRUMP: Well, I would want to help Saudi Arabia. I would want to protect Saudi Arabia. But Saudi Arabia is going to have to help us economically. They were making, before the oil went down -- now they are making half. But they were making a billion dollars a day.
O'REILLY: Yes, but you're dodging my question. Would you take action against Iran militarily if you are president?
TRUMP: Depending on what the deal is, I would have to do that. I would defend certain groups of people over there. The deal we made with Iran is a disaster. The deal we made for $150 billion is a total disaster.
O'REILLY: So you would revoke that deal.
TRUMP: And you know that Iran is going to have a nuclear weapon very soon. Bill -- Iran is going to have a nuclear weapon very soon. And they have already violated their deal. The deal is -- the ink isn't even dry, and they have already violated the deal and a lot of people are calling for sanctions.
O'REILLY: If you go in, if you're elected -- look, come on, the election is this year. If you are elected president and you don't like the deal, you are going to scrap the deal, now are you going to bomb their nuclear facilities? Are you going to do that?
TRUMP: Bill, I'm going to do what's right. I want to be unpredictable. I'm not going to tell you right now what I'm going to do. The problem is we have a president that says we are going to get out of Iraq on such and such a date. Everybody pulls back. And then as soon as we leave they go in. [The Hill, 1/5/16]
Trump Supported U.S. Military Intervention In Libya He Now Criticizes
Trump Now Claims Libya “Falls Apart” After Removing Dictator. During his April 27 foreign policy speech, Trump suggested President Obama and then-Secretary of State Clinton’s actions in Libya caused “civilians to suffer” and helped “unleash ISIS”:
One day we’re bombing Libya and getting rid of a dictator to foster democracy for civilians, the next day we are watching the same civilians suffer while that country falls apart.
We're a humanitarian nation. But the legacy of the Obama-Clinton interventions will be weakness, confusion, and disarray.
We have made the Middle East more unstable and chaotic than ever before.
We left Christians subject to intense persecution and even genocide.
Our actions in Iraq, Libya and Syria have helped unleash ISIS. [DonaldJTrump.com, 4/27/16]
At The Time, Trump Encouraged Intervention In Libya To Prevent “One Of The Worst” Massacres And “Save These Lives.” In a 2011 video unearthed by BuzzFeed, Trump urged the U.S. to invade Libya on a “humanitarian basis.” Trump claimed it would be “very easy” to remove Muammar Gadhafi and “stop this horrible carnage”:
Donald Trump often rails against U.S. intervention in the Middle East that topples dictators whose exits lead to unstable regional consequences like the rise of ISIS and other terrorist groups.
The comments are a sharp contrast for Trump from 2011, when, on his video blog, he pushed hard for the United States to intervene in Libya.
“I can’t believe what our country is doing,” said Trump on his video blog. “Qaddafi in Libya is killing thousands of people, nobody knows how bad it is, and we’re sitting around we have soldiers all have the Middle East, and we’re not bringing them in to stop this horrible carnage and that’s what it is: It’s a carnage.”
Trump said Libya could end up one of the worst massacres in history, and it would be very easy to topple Qaddafi.
“You talk about things that have happened in history; this could be one of the worst,” he said. “Now we should go in, we should stop this guy, which would be very easy and very quick. We could do it surgically, stop him from doing it, and save these lives. This is absolutely nuts. We don’t want to get involved and you’re gonna end up with something like you’ve never seen before.” [BuzzFeed, 1/19/16]
Trump Called For Sending Tens Of Thousands Of Ground Troops To Syria
Trump: “We Really Have No Choice” But To Send 30,000 Troops. During the March 10 Republican presidential debate, Donald Trump advocated sending anywhere from 20,000 to 30,000 ground troops to Syria, in order to “knock out ISIS”:
Donald Trump's assertion that the United States has “no choice” but to send 20,000 to 30,000 combat troops to fight ISIS in the Middle East raises a slew of complicated questions, military analysts said Friday.
It also represents an about-face.
In October, Trump spoke of potential perils.
“Everybody that's touched the Middle East, they've gotten bogged down,” Trump said on NBC's “Meet the Press.” “I don't want to see the United States get bogged down. We've spent now $2 trillion in Iraq, probably a trillion in Afghanistan. We're destroying our country.”
At the CNN-hosted debate Thursday night, the Republican presidential front-runner sounded a different note.
“We really have no choice. We have to knock out ISIS,” he said. “I would listen to the generals, but I'm hearing numbers of 20,000 to 30,000.”
But military analysts say sending U.S. troops to fight ISIS raises complex issues, some of them strategic, many political and others simply logistical. [CNN.com, 3/11/16]