Anti-Imperialism/Foreign Policy

The Donald Trump dove myth: why he’s actually a bigger hawk than Hillary Clinton

By Zach Beauchamp


Hillary Clinton is, without a doubt, a hawkish Democrat. She has been consistently to the interventionist right of the party mainstream on issues like the Iraq War, the Afghanistan surge, and arming the Syrian rebels.

Donald Trump, by contrast, has criticized the Iraq War and the Libya intervention. He’s been skeptical of America’s commitments to defend traditional allies in Europe and East Asia, and said the Middle East in general is “one big, fat quagmire” that the US should stay out of.

This sure makes it sound like Trump is some kind of dovish neo-isolationist, a principled skeptic of military intervention. Clinton seems like a superhawk by contrast. Steve Schmidt, a prominent Republican strategist who ran John McCain’s 2008 campaign, put this theory well during an MSNBC appearance in early May: “Donald Trump will be running to the left as we understand it against Hillary Clinton on national security issues.”

But the problem is that the way “we understand” Trump’s national security position is bollocks. Trump isn’t a leftist, nor is he a pacifist. In fact, Trump is an ardent militarist, who has been proposing actual colonial wars of conquest for years. It’s a kind of nationalist hawkishness that we haven’t seen much of in the United States since the Cold War — but has supported some of the most aggressive uses of force in American history.

As surprising as it may seem, Clinton is actually the dove in this race.



4 replies »

  1. Not too convincing. If Trump were the hawk in this race the Kristols, the Kagans and the rest of the neocons wouldn’t be supporting Hillary.

    • Touche. But a problem with Trump is that he’s never held any offices so we have no track record to go by in terms of his voting record as a legislator or his use of executive power. Rhetorically,he’s all over the place.

      Regardless of how hawkish he may or may not be, that doesn’t mean that he’s the same kind of hawk as the neocons. The article gets that right. The neocons are specific kinds of hawks. They want a global Pax Americana that makes the world safe for American hegemony, a Greater Israel and the facilitation of global capitalism. Trump could well turn out to be a more old-fashioned kind of hawk, i.e. a raw neo-colonialist mercantiltist-nationalist that’s just about invading other societies and taking their stuff.

      • In some ways, that kind of imperialism may be superior to the neocon/liberal internationalist kind because it’s harder to legitimize from a propaganda perspective so it’s more easily exposed.

  2. Could be, I think Trump is mainly a con man. I would not believe half of what he says. He is authoritarian but mouths off things only his followers believe in.

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