Every election needs an organizing catchphrase and that goes doubly for the Republican presidential race, with 16 candidates having entered the fray and more on the way. I think I have the perfect one for the moment: “You’ve been Trumped!” After all, one striking thing about the Republicans, now that they’ve morphed into the party of war, is that any new candidate is obligated to out-militarize his opponents, no matter what they've claimed they’d do. This has given the old World War I trench-warfare phrase going “over the top” (that is, over the parapet to attack) new meaning.
Take for example Donald Trump. On entering the race, he promptly Trumped his competitors by claiming that he was nothing short of a military genius and swearing that, for our present war in the Middle East, he would instantly find a “General Patton” or a “General MacArthur,” that is, a leader capable of finally putting our military in the win column. But for him generals were a secondary concern because Commander-in-Chief Trump has his own unstoppable plan for destroying the Islamic State. Here’s how he put it: “Take back the oil. Once you go over and take back that oil, they have nothing. You bomb the hell out of them, and then you encircle it, and then you go in. And you let Mobil go in, and you let our great oil companies go in. Once you take that oil, they have nothing left." Encircle it, yes!
And the ante’s only going up. By now, saying that, on your first day in the Oval Office, you’ll tear up the Iran nuclear accord (should it pass Congressional scrutiny in the first place) is chump (or possibly Trump) change -- and so is the idea that American ground troops must be sent into Iraq War 3.0. Candidate Rick Santorum made headlines by calling for 10,000 of them to be dispatched to Iraq and was promptly Trumped by Senator Lindsey Graham, who saw his 10,000 in Iraq and raised him 10,000 more in Syria, and they both were Trumped by Senator Marco Rubio who threatened to deploy “devastating” American air power while riffing off a bloodcurdling line from the action movie Taken: “We will look for you, we will find you, and we will kill you.” (Duck, ISIS!)
Former New York Governor George Pataki (“[S]end in troops, destroy their training centers, destroy their recruitment centers, destroy the area where they are looking to plan to attack us here, and then get out.") essentially Trumped himself by merely calling for American ground troops to head for ISIS's territory, as did Ohio Governor John Kasich speaking with New Hampshire voters a day after entering the race as number 16. (“Let’s just do it!”) But give credit where its due, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (number 15), who once compared fighting ISIS to fighting labor unions in his state, Trumped them all by insisting that he would not only tear up the Iranian nuclear accord on day one of his presidency, but that, between his swearing in and the inaugural ball that night, he might well launch military action, assumedly against Iran. To the rest of the Republican field: You’ve been Trumped!
And you know how it is once things get rolling, so sit back and wait for the next Trump card to be played in the theater of the absurd that is now “mainstream” Republican thinking about American-style war. It’s over the top for us all, it seems. In that context consider State Department whistleblower Peter Van Buren’s take in “The Balance of Power in the Middle East Just Changed” on what, amid all the sound and fury, the bottom line really is on the nuclear accord with Iran.