The Last Ditch ‘NeverTrump’ Ploy: A Stupid War With Iran
Let’s say you hated Donald Trump. First for personal reasons. He embodies everything that you at once detest and envy:
- The tan, confident jock guys in high school who dated the really hot girls. You pretended not to care, as you sat veal-white under the flickering fluorescent library lights, fiercely underlining passages in Ayn Rand, Nietzsche, or Trotsky.
- The business majors in college, who yawned through the Humanities classes which you found so fascinating, you sometimes out-talked the professor.
- The hedge fund managers and real estate magnates those same guys became, showing up at your ten-year reunion in their $1000 suits, the vulgarians. It didn’t bother you, though. You just sat with your friends from the school paper, talking about how empty the inner lives of those “money-grubbers” must be.
You Deplore the Deplorables
But even more, you loathe what Donald Trump represents. The people he represents:
- Bible-thumping hayseeds who think Jesus talks to them. And that every tiny embryo frozen in a fertility clinic is as important as adult Ivy grads working on K Street, like you.
- Gun-toting, flag-waving cranks who go to Civil War battlefields on vacation. Then teach their creepy sons to murder innocent deer in the woods.
- Empty-headed Dress Barn customers who got married at 23 and pregnant at 24, then again and again with unseemly frequency. Who live in the suburbs in Flyover Country watching “The Hallmark Channel” or “Duck Dynasty” while making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on Wonder Bread from Costco for their home-schooled, no-necked monsters.
- Dopey, weight-lifting hyper-patriots who still listen to AC/DC, who picked the Army over college, and do all the heavy lifting in our country’s wars. Because America has no other use for people like them. It’s so much more efficient to build things over in China.
If that’s how you think about Donald Trump and his supporters, you may already be a NeverTrump neoconservative. You’ve probably got a charter subscription to The Bulwark.
You Tried Everything to Keep Control of the GOP
You first backed Jeb! in the primaries. Then panicked and switched to Rubio. Then Kasich. You signed private appeals on heavy stock stationary to Mitt Romney, begging him to enter the primaries. Getting desperate, you brought yourself round to choking down Ted Cruz as nominee, despite all his oogedy-boogedy about “Jesus.”
Then all that failed. So you worked with Bill Kristol to try to steal the nomination from Trump at the GOP convention. Sure, if that had happened, whoever accepted the booby prize as nominee would have lost in 48 states. Hillary Clinton would have won in a landslide, getting both houses of Congress, too, as resentful Trump backers stayed home.
And yeah, that would have been bad for America. It might have put Al Sharpton or Gloria Allred on the Supreme Court. It could have depressed your 401k.
But keep your priorities straight. You and the “right sort of people” would have kept control of the GOP. That is, the sort of people who got invited to the A-list John McCain funeral, the last and poshest one, where the Obamas even appeared.
You could have spent the next four years as you had the previous eight: churning out fund-raising letters to dupes in Red States about the need to fight the Democrats.
Then You Tried to Help Hillary Win
So you backed Evan McMullin, in a desperate attempt to peel off Utah’s electoral votes, and hand the White House to Hillary. When Ross Douthat compared voting for Trump to pro-lifers shooting abortionists, just a week before the election? You forwarded that and similar columns like crazy. You wrote pieces yourself about the “danger to democratic norms.”
All of that went nowhere. The rubes rebelled, and on November 6, the inmates took over the asylum.
Then You Backed Rod Rosenstein’s Coup Attempt
That didn’t mean giving up. You urged Paul Ryan to hold on as Speaker of the House, and obstruct Trump on immigration. And you encouraged talk of the “Russia collusion” scandal, and demanded the appointment of someone like Mueller. You used back channels to reach one member of Trump’s cabinet, and urged him to back Rod Rosenstein in that projected coup declaring Trump “mentally unfit” for office.
Now all of that has failed. Trump’s a successful president. The economy’s humming along. ISIS has been destroyed, at the cost of few U.S. lives. Even without the House of Representatives, Trump seems to have found a lever to pull on immigration. Namely, his deal with Mexico, backed by the threat of tariffs. And Trump managed all this in the face of more hatred and obstruction than any newly elected president since Lincoln. He might well beat the opinion polls again, and win re-election.
Then They Came for the Magazines
Worst of all, from your point of view? Trump’s brainier allies are founding new magazines like Human Events and publishing books like Tucker Carlson’s. They’re putting some intellectual heft behind the president’s gut instincts. And calling for a meatier definition of “Americanism” and “conservatism” than the thin gruel of abstractions you and your pals imposed in the 1990s. They’re even defending nationalism and populism, which you thought you’d buried with Pat Buchanan’s presidential hopes.
They’ve got to be stopped. President Trump must not succeed, and get re-elected. His backers must not keep control of the GOP’s mailing lists and Xerox machines. And the crop of new writers and thinkers that are rising to eat your lunch? They must be discredited. Tarred as extremists and hate-mongers. Banned from Facebook, Twitter, Youtube — heck, even email if you can manage it. Maybe when Kamala Harris is president — and yes, you might have to swallow that, but it will be worth it — she’ll find a way to imprison them, like those crackpot pro-life reporters.
Time to Wag the Dog
But how to derail a successful presidency? Get the president to mire the U.S. in a stupid, protracted war. A war that doesn’t just have a simple aim, like kicking Iraq out of Kuwait. No, those are too easy to end. You need to land Trump in an open-ended conflict where the goalposts keep moving forward. A war for “democracy,” to “spread freedom” to some part of the world that never had it, doesn’t want it, and will fight like hell to reject it. A place like … the Middle East.
And here comes the easy part. You’ve got plenty of experience here. You and your pals wrote the playbook for entering the Iraq War. That conflict swallowed George W. Bush’s presidency whole. Can anyone remember a single other thing he did? Trump probably clinched the nomination when he dared at a GOP debate to say what so Americans are thinking: We were lied into that war.
So it’s time to lure Trump into this one. No, Iran is not a genuine threat to American safety, any more than Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11, or developing nuclear weapons. Shi’ite Iran is surrounded by Sunni rivals who hate it more than they hate Israel. (And that’s saying something.) Israel has nukes sufficient to flatten the place, and (understandably) few qualms about using them. Read conservative Christian expert on Islam Timothy Furnish here at The Stream on how unlikely Iran’s leaders are to commit collective suicide.
But most Americans don’t know jack about any of that. They do know that Islam is hostile to their freedoms, and that Iran took American hostages more than forty years ago. So they’re primed to take offense at the stupid things tried by the mullahs in Tehran. They’re ready, you hope, to swallow every violent act by Shi’ites anywhere in the world aimed at anyone, as a “clear and present danger to America.” It might even help them vent their anger about all the caravans marching into the U.S. through Mexico.
The Real War: Against the Deplorables
So you’re ready to rev up that war. At best? The U.S. will successfully conquer Iran, and impose a new regime there that’s eager to hire you and your friends to come give high-priced lectures about “liberal society” and “democratic norms.” That probably won’t happen, though. More likely, such a U.S. invasion would be as messy, dragged out, bloody and expensive as the Iraq War. And Trump will lose to the Democrat.
His brand of vulgar nationalism will land in the dumpster. The bible-thumpers will get back down on their knees, where they belong, and beg for scraps as they did before 2016. They’ll be good and desperate, considering how President Buttigieg or Gillibrand has promised to treat them. And you’ll be back in control of the GOP’s Xerox machines, its magazines, and mailing lists.
The world will be right-side up again. The GOP elephant might shrink to the size of a Shetland pony. But at least you’ll be in the saddle.
This article has been updated.
Jason Scott Jones and John Zmirak are co-authors of The Race to Save Our Century.