Whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton captures the White House, we will continue down the path of self-ruination driven by the multi-trillion dollar military-industrial-counterterrorism complex (MICC) that de facto rules the country with the acquiescence of both major parties encouraged by an uninformed and docile public.
A Trump or Clinton presidency will continue worse than useless trillion-dollar wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Somalia, Libya, and against Al Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) globally. Either presidency will escalate military tensions with China over the South China Sea that could erupt into war; and, with Russia by strengthening NATO's military presence in Poland, the Baltic States, Rumania, and Bulgaria notwithstanding their irrelevance to national security.
Ms. Clinton has never missed an opportunity to champion presidential wars not in self-defense since she entered the White House as First Lady more than two decades ago. Among other things, in 2008, she boasted that if she were president she would obliterate Iran if it attacked Israel despite the absence of a defense treaty or congressional authorization. She parroted Julius Caesar after orchestrating the 2011 Libyan war and the overthrow and murder of Muammar Gaddafi in the aftermath of his abandonment of WMD: "We came, we saw, he died."
Libya immediately fell into hydra-headed civil war. It gave birth to ISIS in Sirte, a refugee crisis in Europe that continues to convulse the European Union, and the terrorist assassination of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens in Benghazi.
Mr. Trump is also a child of our multi-trillion dollar MICC. During his 2016 presidential campaign, he has bugled that, "I am the most militaristic [candidate]," and that he would "bomb the hell out of [Iraq]" and "take the oil." As regards ISIS, Trump has elaborated: 'We really have no choice. We have to knock out ISIS. I would listen to the generals, but I'm hearing numbers of 20,000 to 30,000 [combat troops]."
Even if Clinton and Trump were not so overtly belligerent, any promises they might make to recede from the perpetual warfare state demanded by the MICC would be empty. President Woodrow Wilson campaigned in 1916 with the slogan, "He kept us out of war." After the election, he quickly initiated a messianic war to make the world safe for democracy.
President Harry Truman promised the United States Senate that he would never commence war under the auspices of the United Nations without congressional authorization. Then he did the opposite over Korea.
President Lyndon Johnson deceived the American people into believing he was the peace candidate in 1964 against Barry Goldwater by concealing his plans for escalating the Vietnam War.
President Richard Nixon's 1968 secret plan to end that war was a hoax.
President Jimmy Carter decried an inordinate fear of communism, but proceeded to declare that shutting off oil from the Persian Gulf would be treated as an act of war against the United States. He further armed the future Al Qaeda perpetrators of 9/11 after the Soviet Union's doomed 1979 invasion of Afghanistan.
President George W. Bush campaigned against nation-building in 2000. But by his second inaugural, he was eagerly pledging to pay any price and bear any burden to rid the world of tyranny and tyrants.
President Barack Obama campaigned in 2008 promising to end wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But thousands of troops remain in both countries, while Obama continues wars in Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Pakistan, and against ISIS and Al Qaeda.
The MICC's self-identity is world domination through perpetual war and a global projection of force. It seeks a risk-free existence by dragnet military surveillance of citizens; imprisonment without accusation or trial; targeting the "not-yet-guilty;" playing prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner to kill suspected international terrorists based on secret evidence; undertaking preemptive wars on the theory that it is better to inflict massive injustice that creates new enemies than to take a tiny chance of being a victim of injustice; exalting men and women with excellence in killing, injuring, or torturing other humans; and, scorning the deliberative faculties, including the search for truth and justice without ulterior motives.
If national salvation is to come at all, it will come by congressional assertion of its supreme constitutional prerogatives over national security generally and war in particular by public pressure. Congress has everything to lose and nothing to gain institutionally by gratuitous conflicts. No war has ever crowned a legislator with a monument. Liberty and justice depend on equilibrium among the three branches, not on hopes that men and women will become angels.
We are repeating the error of Cicero in our preoccupation with presidential elections as the elixir for our national afflictions. Cicero believed that supporting Octavius against Mark Antony would be the salvation of the Roman Republic. But both craved limitless executive power, and the Republic was replaced by Caesar Augustus' Empire.
The fault then and now is the cravenness and irresponsibility of the legislative branch.