Clinton Versus Trump on War with Russia
By Eric Zuesse
Strategic Culture Foundation
September 6, 2016
Posted Quemado Institute
September 8, 2016
The biggest difference between the two major-Party U.S. Presidential candidates is that Hillary Clinton wants to continue the Obama-Administration’s policy of regime-change in nations that aren’t hostile towards Russia (such as Iraq, Libya, Ukraine and now Syria), and that Donald Trump doesn’t. Trump wants to focus U.S. national-security policies instead upon eliminating jihadists (a problem that the U.S. and Saudi governments actually gave birth to in Pakistan and Afghanistan starting in 1979, in order to cripple the Soviet Union — which ended in 1991). Trump says that the Cold War is over, but Hillary says «Russia must pay a price».
However, neither candidate has provided any fleshed-out position on the matter. Hillary Clinton doesn’t need to do so, because she has already shown by her actions in public office, that she has consistently favored overthrowing heads-of-state who were either neutral or else downright friendly toward Russia, of which there have been four cases that are especially prominent: Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Viktor Yanukovych, and Bashar al-Assad. Clearly, fighting Russia is Hillary Clinton’s top foreign-policy priority. However, Donald Trump can be evaluated only by what he has said, and by the consistency of his statements on the matter. He has consistently said: America must, for the first time since the end of the Cold War, concentrate its national-security focus upon only one enemy: jihadism — no longer international communism (which ended anyway).
Whereas Hillary Clinton has always been eager to sell arms to the owners of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, and other fundamentalist-Sunni monarchies that fund jihadists around the world, but has been hostile toward Russia, Donald Trump could, conceivably, cut off all arms-sales to the Middle East, and he might even be willing to establish friendly relations with Russia — the nation that leads the world in the war against jihadists. That would mean either ending or fundamentally transforming NATO. (Clinton is a strong supporter of NATO, because it’s the anti-Russia military club.)
Though neither candidate has spoken at length about the matter, each of the two candidates has been well-represented on it by articulate surrogates; and the ones we’ll quote from here will be Paul Wolfowitz supporting Clinton, and Fred Reed supporting Trump.
In Germany’s Spiegel on August 26th, was «Republicans Against Trump: Bush Advisor Wolfowitz Says He’ll Likely Vote for Clinton». Regarding the Syrian war, Wolfowitz attacked Donald Trump for placing a higher priority on defeating jihadists than on overthrowing Bashar al-Assad (an ally of Russia): «The Western alliance should have supported the Sunni opposition [almost all of whom are jihadists] against the [secular] Assad regime from the beginning». Spiegel’s interviewer noted: «Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump criticized the war in Iraq [which both Wolfowitz and Hillary supported], too. He has announced he wants to stop ‘current policies of nation-building and regime change’ — precisely the policy you backed». («Regime-change» refers to U.S. replacing nations’ leaders who aren’t hostile toward Moscow, by leaders who are hostile toward Russia.)
Wolfowitz replied: «It would be a huge mistake to abandon democracy promotion». («Democracy promotion» is the phrase for anti-Russian; it presumes that there’s still a Soviet Union and that its Warsaw Pact and communism still exists, and that the U.S. is still a democracy and that it still opposes Russia on some principled democratic basis, not purely on a desire for raw conquest.) Wolfowitz has never opposed, but always supported, sending U.S. weapons to Saudi Arabia and the other fundamentalist-Sunni tyrannies. (In this, too, his record is similar to Hillary’s.)
When Wolfowitz was asked about his championship of invading Iraq during the G.W. Bush Administration, in which he was Donald Rumsfeld’s #2 and very prominently argued for invading Iraq and slaughtering people there, he said, «I believed after 9/11, there was reason to get much tougher about the fact that Saddam was blocking the inspections for weapons of mass destruction. He was harboring terrorists». (None of that was true, except that Saddam was reluctant to have U.N. inspectors come in and announce publicly that he had no remaining WMD, which fact he feared might embolden Iran to take advantage of his regime’s vulnerability and so to attack Iraq.)
The interviewer said: «Today we know that he did not possess weapons of mass destruction at the time of the Iraq war».
Wolfowitz replied: «I wasn’t in charge of the intelligence services». (Similarly, Hillary has claimed that all intelligence said that Saddam had weapons.) Hillary even had voted for the Iraq war resolution because both Russia and China were opposed to invading Iraq, and Wolfowitz had previously been on record as saying, «One thing we did learn [from the Persian Gulf War in 1990] is that we can use our military in the region — in the Middle East — and the Soviets won’t stop us. And we’ve got about 5 or 10 years to clean up those old Soviet client regimes — Syria, Iran, Iraq — before the next great superpower comes on to challenge us». Wolfowitz is a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton on foreign policy.
Russia then became Wolfowitz’s subject:
SPIEGEL: Trump seems to be particularly willing to find a new partner in Russia.
WOLFOWITZ: Putin is behaving in a very dangerous way. And Trump sounds as though he would simply sit back and allow that to go on. I worry about where that would end up.
SPIEGEL: Donald Trump has also questioned NATO’s importance to the United States. Can you understand him on this point?
WOLFOWITZ: No, because NATO is still very important for us, it is still the most remarkable alliance in history.
Then there was this:
SPIEGEL: Recently, 50 former senior Republican security officials declared Donald Trump to be a security risk. Is he?
WOLFOWITZ: Yes, he is.
WOLFOWITZ: He says he admires Putin, that Saddam Hussein was killing terrorists, that the Chinese were impressive because they were tough on Tiananmen Square. That is pretty disturbing. [George W. Bush’s lies about ‘WMD in Iraq’ never disturbed Wolfowitz at all, but Bush’s invasion of Iraq did vastly more harm than China’s leaders did or might have done by crushing their U.S.-backed domestic opposition in Tiananmen Square. In fact, it might have been the correct thing to do, under the circumstances, especially now viewed in retrospect. For Wolfowitz, there is no retrospect, other than continued self-justification and refusal to change his now-obsolete prejudices.]
Wolfowitz made clear that he wouldn’t be voting for Trump. He closed by saying, «I might have to vote for Hillary Clinton, even though I have big reservations about her». He didn’t volunteer, and wasn’t asked, what those «big reservations» were. However, on foreign policy, he seemed to be 100% in agreement with Hillary Clinton. Not only had she voted in the U.S. Senate for his invasion of Iraq, but she has been the Democratic Party’s super-hawk ever since.
Exactly the opposite view was stated by Fred Reed, who headlined, «Hillary, Trump, and War with Russia: The Goddamdest Stupid Idea I Have Ever Heard, and I Have Lived in Washington». He argued that:
A good reason to vote for Trump, a very good reason whatever his other intentions, is that he does not want a war with Russia. Hillary and her elite ventriloquists threaten just that. Note the anti-Russian hysteria coming from her and her remoras.
Such a war would be yet another example of the utter control of America by rich insiders. No normal American has anything at all to gain by such a war. And no normal American has the slightest influence over whether such a war takes place, except by voting for Trump. The military has become entirely the plaything of unaccountable elites.
Reed noted that Hillary also talks a hard line about imposing America’s will in the waters off the Chinese coast, in the South China Sea: «Can you name one American, other than the elites, who has anything to gain from war with China? What has any normal American, as distinct from the elites and various lobbies, gained from any of our wars post Nine-Eleven? Hillary and her neocon pack have backed all of them».
On 29 February 2016, Zaid Jilani headlined «Neoconservatives Declare War on Donald Trump», and afterwards this «war» has been joined by virtually all neoconservatives: they’ve become perhaps as solid a Hillary Clinton bloc as are black voters — maybe even more solid.
The issue between Trump and Clinton, regarding the military, is that Trump wants to focus against jihadists, whereas Hillary wants to focus against Russia. Not only does the focus determine the target, but it determines what the alliances can be. It affects everything in international affairs. It profoundly affected Hillary Clinton’s actions while she was the U.S. Secretary of State, and it will profoundly affect the type of person who will be occupying the Oval Office starting in 2017; so, it will affect not only the future and character of our nation, it will affect whether or not there will be a nuclear war.
This is an existential issue, not only about what type of nation this is, but about whether we’re so insanely resistant to ending the Cold War, as to force the matter to (if not beyond) the brink of nuclear confrontation, which would be «existential» in the deepest sense of the term. That’s what’s at stake in this election. Existence is at stake. And the character of this nation is at stake. Do we really want to play a game of «nuclear chicken»? Even though Russia certainly wants to end it, and the lies of America’s leaders, not of Russia’s, caused this?
Any American who places domestic issues at higher priority than war/peace and foreign affairs in this election, seems to me to have wrongly focused priorities, petty ones actually, because with Hillary Clinton, clearly the expansion of NATO right up to Russia’s borders isn’t sufficiently aggressive to suit her cravings. How much beyond that will Russia be able to tolerate? How much farther should the U.S. continue to surround Russia, before Russia will have ‘had enough’, and either capitulate to rule by the U.S. aristocracy, or else blitz-attack the U.S. so that the U.S. won’t be able to blitz-attack Russia? Should Russia have tolerated as much of this U.S. aggression as it has been tolerating, with the expansion of NATO right up to Russia’s borders?
Unfortunately, the issue of whether there will be a nuclear war with Russia has become raised not by Russia’s actions, but by the actions of American Presidents during the past few decades, actions to bring U.S. forces right up to Russia’s borders — the very type of threat against Russia that U.S. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy had refused to accept from the communist Soviet Union against America in 1962.
The next U.S. President is thus going to have to determine whether that has been sound policy; and, whether to continue it, or instead to reverse it. If the policy won’t be reversed, then how much farther can it be pursued, before nuclear annihilation becomes the next step? Is continuing it a good idea?
Shouldn’t this issue be the focus of the present U.S. Presidential contest? Not since 1962 has nuclear war been such a real and present danger — and it is certainly an existential danger. The only differences are that, this time around, the aggressor is the U.S., and that it has no ideological reason, merely lying excuses, and actual ulterior motives (whatever those are, or have been).
This issue is entirely unnecessary, because Russia has never invaded nor threatened to invade the U.S., but American foreign policy since the end of the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact has tragically made this issue the one that trumps all others in 2016. If American voters are at all smart, they will recognize that the press-focus on other issues is distraction from the central issue, not really honest journalism.
If the public aren’t interested in this issue, then that’s not because of the issue; it’s because the press aren’t focusing on it. After all: most people dread nuclear war. They don’t want it — especially not now, long after communism is dead and gone. They just don’t know that the danger of its happening has never been so high as it is today — even though the capitalism-versus-communism thing ended long ago. If they don’t know about it, then, of course, it’s not an issue for them. But that’s not their fault — it’s the fault of dishonest ‘news’ media, who are hiding it from them, because this is the central issue.
Eric Zuesse is an American writer and investigative historian. He has authored a number of articles for Strategic Culture Foundation.