Trump's military spending won't make America safe again

Trump: We have to start winning wars again
Trump: We have to start winning wars again

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Trump: We have to start winning wars again 01:21

Story highlights

  • Timothy Stanley: Trump's opposition to intervention has exploited anger at failed wars
  • He says anti-war advocates need to ensure Fortress USA doesn't launch new conflicts

Timothy Stanley is a historian and columnist for Britain's Daily Telegraph. He is the author of "Citizen Hollywood: How the Collaboration Between L.A. and D.C. Revolutionized American Politics." The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.

(CNN)Donald Trump wants to reshape the American state. Not shrink it, as conservatives promised in days of old, but redefine its priorities.

Hence his promise to cut funding on aid, diplomacy, climate change, etc. -- and dramatically increase the money that goes to the military. By an astonishing 10%, or $54 billion. That's a lot of lead, and Republicans as well as Democrats should be asking questions about it.
    Timothy Stanley
    "Hold on a second," you might ask, "doesn't hiking military spending contradict Trump's promise to stop America playing world policeman?"
    Not necessarily. In principle, Trump wants to spend big bucks for very different reasons than Ronald Reagan or George W Bush did. They wanted a strong military in order that it could be projected everywhere fast.
    Trump, by contrast, wants to turn the United States into a giant fortress. No army, hopefully, ever goes out; no army, fingers crossed, ever gets in.
    At the same time as he invests in new equipment, he'll also be demanding that NATO members pay up more, reducing aid, probably shredding the State Department, trying to ban whole classes of migrants on the basis of alleged security threats and erecting a wall along the Mexican border.
    So just because Trump appears to be giving the war hawks the money they want does not mean he is endorsing their global strategy. On the contrary, sealing up the United States is supposed to reduce the likelihood of another 9/11 and, the world prays, another Iraq War.
    But does the country really need more bombs to do this?
    The most serious threat is China, which is projecting its power within the Pacific region. But its goals still appear to be revanchist: designed to reclaim bordering territories that it believes to be its own.
    Russia remains a military paper tiger. It has a huge arsenal of nuclear weapons, granted. But its conventional capabilities are limited. When its only aircraft carrier recently chugged into the Mediterranean, European spectators were shocked to see it billowing black smoke -- like a dilapidated steam engine.
    Russia does pose a threat, as we know all too well, online. Political piracy and industrial espionage are the biggest challenges from the old Cold War players -- and they necessitate clever investment in intelligence.
    The same goes for Islamist terrorism. The UK has shown that domestic terror threats can be beaten by infiltration, data gathering and shared intelligence. The best offense against terrorism is prevention: breaking up cells, stopping radicalization, reaching out to young Muslims.
    Trump is right that political correctness has incubated extremists, but practical experience also shows that working sensitively with Islamic communities reaps benefits.
    Geore W. Bush offers easy criticism of Trump
    Geore W. Bush offers easy criticism of Trump

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    Geore W. Bush offers easy criticism of Trump 01:41
    There's a certain class of Trumpite who regards himself as a crusader against Islam. This approach is wrong and could backfire horribly.
    Fiscal conservatives would do well to ask if these spending priorities are correct. Libertarian conservatives have to ask if they're happy with Trump handing a massive check to the military industrial complex -- a group no more deserving of taxpayer largesse than the banks or Planned Parenthood. Finally, anti-war campaigners of all stripes should beware of the potential for mission creep in Trump's crusading rhetoric.
    Yes, he wants to build a fortress. Yes, he wants the rest of the world to police itself. But he also wants to crush ISIS. He has spoken about the possibility of taking Iraq's oil.
    He famously refuses to discuss strategy, leaving everything on the table. Who knows? He may find himself drawn toward the logic of saying that it's better to fight America's Islamist enemies "over there" than "over here."
    For while Trumpism is about skepticism toward globalization, it's also about making America great again -- and that remains measured, for many, in its ability to kick ass.
    I see nothing in Trump's psychology or language that implies his opposition to intervention is shaped by a close reading of constitutional history or the pacifist's fear of causing harm.
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    Just look at the language the President used when previewing this boost in military spending: "We must ensure that our courageous servicemen and women have the tools they need to deter war and when called upon to fight in our name only do one thing, win. We have to win. We have to start winning wars again."
    Trump's opposition to intervention on the campaign trail has, however, cannily exploited popular anger at failed wars. Given that he is now demanding stratospheric sums of money to rearm America, anti-war conservatives and liberals must work hard to ensure that Fortress USA does not become the launchpad for a new generation of conflicts.