How Likely are the GOP Presidential Candidates Top 10 to drag us into War?

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Fox Cable News announced its pick for the 10 Republican presidential candidates it will allow in its Thursday debate. These are candidates who are getting at least 3% support in a basket of opinion polls, including one commissioned by Fox itself. CNN will follow a similar procedure for the debate it will televise in September.

Now that we know the roster of the big ten, I thought we should review them on one key issue, of how likely they are to drag us into another war. And what is amazing is that sending US troops back into the Middle East and going to war there is virtually a plank in the GOP platform. After the disaster in Iraq, they are actually running on war and against diplomacy for the most part!

I think this saber rattling in part has to do with the advent of truly big money in US politics and the end of campaign finance limitations. Since the Republican Party is in general the representative of the 50% of the economy dominated by big corporations, and since arms manufacturers are among those big companies, the GOP has become increasingly the party of war and belligerence. If you actually drop those bombs, you have to order more, which is good for some businesses. In fact, one candidate who did not make the cut and is a notorious warmonger, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), is apparently mainly backed by military-industrial complex money. It is no surprise that he is perhaps the most aggressive candidate in his statements on foreign policy, though he has a lot of competition.

Here is how they stand on this key issue of war and peace, life and death:

Donald Trump (with a polling average of 23.4 percent):

    “America’s primary goal with Iran must be to destroy its nuclear ambitions. Let me put them as plainly as I know how: Iran’s nuclear program must be stopped–by any and all means necessary. Period. We cannot allow this radical regime to acquire a nuclear weapon that they will either use or hand off to terrorists. Better now than later!”

    I take “by any means necessary” to be enthusiasm for war on Iran, since their civilian nuclear enrichment program cannot be shut down by any other means.

    Trump has also urged a US bombing campaign against Iraqi oil refineries as a way of defeating Daesh (ISIL, ISIS). Since Iraq will need those refineries to rebuild after Daesh is defeated, bombing them wouldn’t be optimal. But there you have it.

former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (12.0 percent):

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (10.2 percent),

    Walker said “that not only would he undo any deal with Iran on his first day as president; he would do so even if our European allies wanted the deal to continue.”

    So, brinkmanship and unilateral action.

    Mr. Walker also said in February that that if he could take on union protesters of Wisconsin, he can take on ISIL. He seems to confuse exercizing first amendment rights with being a target.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (6.6 percent):

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson (5.8 percent):

    Rejects the idea of war crimes. He said: “If you’re gonna have rules for war, you should just have a rule that says no war,” he said. “Other than that, we have to win. Our life depends on it.”

    He also says that the Iran deal endangers all Americans and that he would reduce personnel cutbacks in the US military.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (5.4 percent):

    Says nuclear deal will “lead to war” and cause the death of “millions of Americans” by undoing the sanctions regime on Iran.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (5.4 percent):

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (4.8 percent):

    Has renounced containment as a policy toward Iran and now says the country is too dangerous for that policy to succeed.

    But the bigger and more powerful Soviet Union was contained. And is the alternative war?

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (3.4 percent):

    Says President Obama, having drawn a red line on Syria, should have “finished the job.”

    War in Syria, then.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (3.2 percent).


Related video:

The Young Turks: “Republican Debate Preview ”

35 Responses

  1. It is good for them, that America doesn’t have a draft! If there were a draft, and all citizens were required to served, it would be a different story. As, in the sixties people would be protesting and refusing to honor a draft. If the news media were not obeying orders, and started printing graphic photos of all these wars devastating destruction it would be a different story. If that day should ever come, there will be a repeat of sorrow much like there was of the German people after WWII.

    • Emma Goldman hit the nail on the head when she wrote (at a time of a volunteer military) that “conscription has created in Europe a deep-seated hatred of militarism among all classes of society.” And “it is the compulsory feature of militarism which has created a tremendous anti-militarist movement, feared by the European Powers far more than anything else.” 40% of our new gladiators-for-hire now come from the South and many of them see what they’re doing in the Middle East as Christian jihad. Just look up the comments of General Jerry Boykin. It was a mistake to return to a volunteer military.

      • … It was a mistake to return to a volunteer military.

        It was a mistake to keep a standing army… Volunteer or otherwise.

    • Is it any coincidence that it was conservatives who pushed for a voluntary military while many liberals favor universal service? Having a professional, voluntary army is one of the things the founders warned us against. They feared Bonapartism, the general on horseback taking over the government. They didn’t want a standing army, but a collection of state militias based on universal service which would provide defense in case of invasion. Instead we now see the military-industrial complex in full control of the GOP and most of the government.

    • It’s not the wins or losses that are important; it’s whether the defense contractors get paid.

  2. If you start a war, you get to be a war leader and will be mentioned ad nauseum in the history books. Too bad their legacy will be more like the hapless Roman emperors that dragged Rome into a barbarian nightmare.

  3. Alternative thought: how many Republican primary voters like cage match fights, professional wrestling, unlimited fighting bouts, etc.? Loud, testosterone-fueled braggarts posturing for the crowd are increasingly popular these days.

  4. what you say about Paul is accurate.
    But I rate him least likely to start a pre-emptive war of this bunch.

    Paul is less likely to start a vanity war than Clinton.

    Only Sanders is less likely than Paul to start an unnecessary war.
    in my opinion.

  5. A psychiatric evaluation of presidential candidates seems to be in order, but who would conduct it? The American Psychological Association? “Three senior officials lose their jobs at APA after US torture scandal: American Psychological Association framed the departures of its chief executive officer, deputy CEO and communications chief as ‘retirements’ and resignations” by Spencer Ackerman – link to

  6. I’m a Vietnam Veteran and I notice virtually all these idiots avoided the war. Graham is a reservist. Wow, I am impressed. They are all over compensating their cowardice.

    • Graham is, indeed, a reservist. More particularly, he’s a military lawyer. Based on that experience he demands that our young men and women pacify Iraq and Syria.

  7. Juan Cole:

    a) My position on ME involvement lies on the margins. The countries involved have all the bullets and other ammo they need to exterminate each other. The U.S. must stay out! Still, it is aiding and abetting the cause of freedom by bombing IS where it exists. What about Mr. Assad? We can offer moral support for the removal of Mr. Assad, but only with a complete program of what we want to follow. Nobody speaks of the net result, yet we have models, e.g., Libya, Yemen. We can offer encouragement, but extremist armies will not heed that, and meantime, the FSA, the regular army and many disparate ideologies are causing a blur across the once-peaceful landscape of Syria, albeit under the guns of a dictatorship.

    Should Mr. Assad resign? Who would fill the vacuum? Should the U.S. usher in ground troops? Who would they shoot at? What of virtually half the population? They are refugees in their own country, in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and wherever they can escape to.

    In conclusion, the U.S. should focus on assisting the refugees, offering counsel, med and food supplies. When the dust of battle has settled, they will remember American largesse, no matter who “wins” the most kaleidoscopic killing of our times, with opposing sides not even identified yet, and with regular fighters pitted against religious extremists that are repulsive to normal Muslims. Aside from ingrained hatreds and intolerance dating from 14 centuries ago, the people must recognize that each one of them has a “natural right” to his religious beliefs. Until that recognition arises through introspection and external observation, hatreds will continue to incubate in Syria and her neighbors. Families will be torn by war, neighborhoods destroyed, cities demolished and countries–they will become “Part II” of the topic of “The Ancient History of the ME” in less than 200 years of books, position papers, lectures and college courses. The greatest loss is always that of the human heart, distorted beyond measure because of the absence of “freedom of religion,” the feeling that an Arab can go to the church or temple of his choice, without a bodyguard, without worrying about what his friend or cousin or neighbor or employer may think. At that time he will have become transformed. He will be a new man, truly human because he has been allowed to think for himself–not dictated to by his neighbors or his sect or his country. He will walk the streets of Damascus, as Saul did just before he became Paul. He can visit the very house in Syria where Saul became Paul through baptism. Paul’s enemies at that time were Jews, who believed rightly that he had converted to Christianity, a metamorphosis unheard of, particularly by one such as Paul, who was in fact persecuting Christians as a soldier of the occupying Roman Empire.

    What eventually became of the Empire? Its leaders became converted to Catholicism–as it became known after A.D. 115–and then the citizens of the Empire, the largest ever developed in the entire history of the world. Peacefully, 33 provinces of diverse religious and ethnic identifications slowly began the peaceful conversion to Christianity. There was no suppression of beliefs. Those who chose to be Christians simply abandoned their earlier practices and beliefs and learned from priests and deacons the truths of the Catholic faith.

    Peace? It will begin with respect for each ethnicity’s and each individual’s personal beliefs, freely arrived at and openly practiced, evincing a true and correct respect for human nature and its indwelling convictions.

    • Dr Schwartz, I do not doubt the sincerity of your belief in your post, but I must take issue with the thrust of your post (esp.1st para.) where you paint a rather benevolent view of US Foreign policy as some thing devoted entirely to the cause of freedom. US Foreign policy has never been for the cause of freedom, it always had a selfish motive, even in the ‘glory’ days of the 50s and 60s; the motive being getting as many converts to its side during the cold war.
      The other implication is that Arabs are a cesspool of ethnic hatreds and have an extraordinary willingness to massacre each other (something we should let them do). This totally ignores the destabilizing role of first the colonial powers and then USA and modern day western powers. To say that in the 50s we intervened in Iran for the cause of freedom, or in Iraq during 2003, in Ukraine, Yemen, Libya or in various interventions in Latin America, would be insulting the intelligence of anyone with a slight interest in current events and certainly the readers of this blog.
      The implication that religious difference are the cause of various conflicts is also very superficial as a deeper analysis will always show it is about land, resources or plain and simple power. Yes, religion is the tool that is used to exhort the opposing factions.
      Finally, your prescription that we stay out of these conflicts is correct; however, I will not bet a dime on that proposition.

      • The various Arab and non-Arab populations of the Middle East, with their even more varied permutations of Muslim and other religions, did pretty much manage to maintain a civil peace between each other for many centuries (though always under the various imperial structures of the time). Off the top of my head without any research, I’d date this beginning way back like Bronze Age or more, up until our own late 20th Century and early 21st Century times.

        Subtract 50 from 2015, that’s 1965, the current level of inter-social tension,widespread warfare and refugees, certainly didn’t exist then. The roots of the current situation were visible ten-to-fifteen years later, 1975-80.
        I don’t blame the US alone, many selfish actors have acted, but it is certainly an untruthful insult to see the populations of the Middle East as particularly prone to inter-communal hatred and warfare.

      • One needs to be careful when throwing around generalizations. You write, “US Foreign policy has never been for the cause of freedom, it always had a selfish motive. . .:” First of all, every nation should pursue policies that are in its best national interest. To do otherwise would mean that that country could lose it sovereignty or parts of it. A nation thus has to be selfish when it involves vital national interest. Secondly, your view of US foreign policy is very myopic. I think it can be persuasively argued that Woodrow Wilson’s 14 Points were mostly to promote freedom. FDR and Churchill with the Atlantic Charter also is similar. The founding of the UN, likewise. There are many times the US has followed policies that are not necessarily for its specific benefit, but for a greater good. The intervention in Bosnia is a recent example. President Roosevelt’s mediation in the Russo-Japanese War also fits this bill. I could cite many other examples. I can also cite many examples of the opposite, such as Dollar Diplomacy in Central America and most post WWII interventions. To be accurate, each instance must be examined and judged on its own particulars and merits. To do otherwise, and paint a broad brush stroke gives others the impression that those who do that are mindless ideologues.

    • In conclusion, the U.S. should focus on assisting the refugees, offering counsel, med and food supplies. When the dust of battle has settled, they will remember American largesse, no matter who “wins”.
      At last a note of sanity. Well said. We are witnessing about five human catastrophes of war and mass migration. It is urgent!

  8. Really frightening, even for the USA. War is assumed to be just an alternative taken for no reason at all, despite all the failures the USA has demonstrated especially in recent years. None of these gentlemen has the slightest clue about foreign policy, about peace or negotiations, about the welfare of the US public, let alone anyone else on the globe.

  9. nick dibbler

    @TheYoungTurks In fairness, Hillary is just as likely to continue or expand the 7 countries the US is bombing right now.

  10. The American public is sick of wars that end up disasters money lives and destruction ….she will not go to war. ,unless attacked…what a republican president may do is to back up and furnish the necessary. Bombs for israel to make the attempt the destruction of irans nuclear capabilities

  11. U2Rocks

    Not at all, if we keep them out of office!! “: How Likely are the GOP Presidential Candidates Top 10 to drag us into War?

  12. War hawks like the idea of fighting Iran because they think the US can win and win easily and cheaply — unlike the USSR, which was a formidable opponent that could have inflicted real damage on the US. Americans are the world’s bullies, picking fights with what they see as weaker countries that they dislike but afraid to tackle anybody who might hit back. (Not that Iran would be a pushover anyway, and the US already demonstrated that it couldn’t even pacify Iraq or Afghanistan with the all-volunteer Army, but that’s irrelevant to perceptions.)

  13. I would not trust any one of these damn idiots with a book of matches or a pair of round tipped elementary scissors.

  14. DP

    @cenkuygur the fact that these people are even being considered to lead this country is mind boggling.

  15. I am not sure this is the right question. I think the question is whether we can find leadership that is willing to drag America OUT of war.
    America has been in love with military power since WWII. The number of American skirmishes post WWII are astonishing!
    Gunboat (and/or aerial bombing) diplomacy is America’s most revered diplomacy. There are plenty of belligerent pots boiling right now, and they will continue to boil for the foreseeable future, no matter who (or what party) is president.

  16. I think it will all depend on the kind of war, aside from who is elected next year. Women, that non-thuggish half of humanity, cannot be depended on for going into those wrecking and killing sprees known as wars, or for continuing them, and lest it be forgotten, H. Clinton is a woman. Meanwhile, from the U.S. point of view, the regular types of war are going out of fashion, and that leaves pushbutton wars as the sprees of choice for quite a distance into the future. By that I mean such tactics as the newly and quickly developing use of drones, and the Republicans are so invariably and heavily committed to regression in all things that most likely they will try to work against that trend, to the point that “boots to the ground” might become their new refrain.

    –Until the day when someone pushes his own button that will blow a U.S. destroyer, cruiser, or even an aircraft carrier right out of his home waters thousands of miles from Virginia.

    Americans do not take kindly to being called to account for having indulged in crimes against humanity, and so much weeping and wailing will ensue from that event that one would think the caldera under Yellowstone Park had finally caught up with its timetable and had covered the U.S. with six inches of ash and perpetual winter.

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