Trump Stuck Between Campaign Promise to End Wars and His Hawkish Megadonors

The purchase price of the entire US democracy? A modest $250 million

What a great system, totally worth starting wars and killing hundreds of thousands to spread it around the world (As if they were even doing that.)

President Donald Trump has repeatedly promised to withdraw the United States from its ongoing wars in the Middle East, and avoid the kind of military adventurism, like the Iraq war, that has destabilized the region. Trump’s track record, however, is largely detached from his promises — a disconnect perhaps at least partially explained by his largest campaign contributors’ consistent advocacy for U.S. military action in the Middle East and support for starting a preventive war with Iran.

Trump appears to understand that the American public is largely supportive of ending the endless wars in Afghanistan and the greater Middle East. “Great nations do not fight endless wars,” said Trump in his 2019 State of the Union Address to bipartisan applause. But Trump’s actions haven’t lined up with his words. Despite his reckless Syria withdrawal announcement and blessing a Turkish invasion into northern Syria, total U.S. troop levels there are expected to remain at around 900, a small reduction from the 1,000 soldiers in Syria at the time of Trump’s announcement. Meanwhile, despite Trump’s repeated claims that he’ll end the war in Afghanistan, U.S. troops will stay there “for several more years,” as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said last month.

Trump tearing up the Iran nuclear deal, moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and a mission creep in Syria that’s expanded stated U.S. goals from containing ISIS to an “effort to push back against Iran,” according to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, are also a far cry from moving away from Middle East military adventurism, as Trump has always said he wants to do.

Yet as a candidate for president, Trump talked a different game. At that time he broke with GOP/neocon orthodoxy on Iran and Israel. Then, his main critique of the Iran deal wasn’t its very existence — as was and is often the right-wing attack line — but that the Iranians weren’t buying enough commercial airliners from American companies, and instead spending more in Europe. And in another move that firmly put him on his own in the race, Trump even committed to being a “neutral” party on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. All of that changed, however, as Trump drew closer to clinching the nomination and as he turned to some of the Republican Party’s biggest donors to fund his general election efforts — thus evaporating his claim of being a “self-funded” candidate.

Three GOP megadonors, Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, Paul Singer, and Bernard Marcus contributed more than a quarter-of-a-billion-dollars to boost Trump’s 2016 campaign and support Republican congressional and senate campaigns in 2016 and 2018.

Candidate Trump even warned that the money from the biggest of these donors, billionaire Sheldon Adelson, comes with strings attached. In 2015, Trump mocked Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) for pursuing Adelson’s endorsement and financial support, saying, “Sheldon Adelson is looking to give big dollars to Rubio because he feels he can mold him into his perfect little puppet. I agree!”

Adelson, and his wife Miriam, are the GOP’s biggest donors, and they’re relatively transparent about why they are engaged in politics. The Adelsons contributed $35 million to the Future 45 Super PAC that supported Trump’s presidential bid and spent $205 million on GOP Republican House and Senate races in the past two political cycles.

Sheldon Adelson has a history of using his ties to U.S. politicians to shape U.S. foreign policy. In 2001, Adelson reportedly curried favor with the Chinese leadership and helped secure his casino license in Macau by calling Rep. Tom Delay (R-TX), then the House majority whip, and persuading him to halt Republican opposition to Beijing’s Olympic bid.

And those views can take an extreme militarist tone regarding U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Adelson publicly advocated launching a preventive nuclear attack on Iran as a negotiating tactic and following up with a threat to nuke Tehran, a city with a population of over 8 million, if Iran did not abandon its nuclear program. The Adelsons pushed the Trump White House to fulfill a campaign pledge of relocating the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and bankrolled efforts to push out then-national security adviser H.R. McMaster and replace him with John Bolton, who would take a harder line on Iran and oversee U.S. abrogation from the Iran nuclear deal.

Home Depot co-founder Bernard Marcus — who contributed $7 million to groups supporting Trump’s candidacy, over $13 million in campaign contributions supporting GOP House and Senate races in 2016, and nearly $8 million to GOP midterm campaigns in 2018 — also made clear that his political engagement is driven by a militarist worldview.

In 2015, Marcus slammed the Obama administration’s efforts to negotiate constraints on Iran’s nuclear program, because, he said, Iran “is the devil.” Marcus even once accused Holocaust victims of being weak and submissive in the face of their own mass murder in concentration camps, which he also referred to as “detention centers” and “concentration centers.” The Israelis, said Marcus, “weren’t like the other Jews” and “didn’t walk into the ghettos, didn’t walk into the concentration camps, didn’t walk into the ovens.”

Hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer had set himself apart from Marcus and Adelson, and was the biggest Republican megadonor to identify with the “never Trump” wing — that is until Trump won the election when he donated $1 million to Trump’s inauguration.

Singer rarely speaks publicly about his foreign policy views, but his money, alongside Marcus and Adelson’s, supports some of the most hawkish institutions in Washington, including the now defunct Foreign Policy Initiative and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies whose experts promote economic pressure and military strikes against Iran. Bundled together, employees of Singer’s hedge fund, Elliott Management, were the second largest source of funds supporting the candidacy of the Senate’s most outspoken proponent of preventive war with Iran, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), in 2014.

FDD donor rolls showed that by the end of 2011, Adelson contributed $1.5 million, Singer $3.6 million, and Bernard Marcus — who still sits on FDD’s board and whose family foundation continues to provide approximately one-third of FDD’s budge t—contributed $10.7 million.

Trump and Republican members of Congress are effectively bound to take the words of these hawkish donors under consideration when soliciting campaign funds. In some cases, Trump and other Republicans appear to be torn between their instincts to avoid needless wars and campaign megadonors who hold radical foreign policy visions and expect their campaign dollars to shape the foreign policy of the politicians they fund.

Source: Responsible Statecraft

  1. CHUCKMAN says

    I find this a rather feeble effort to still defend Trump on war and violence. A kind of “if only” approach. Or, “the devil made me do it.” Not convincing.

    The case against Trump is much stronger than the writer makes it.

    Yes, money dominates American politics. The Supreme Court has ruled “money is free speech.’

    I’ve written very pointedly on the topic, as here:

    But a man who was genuinely driven by motives for peace would have managed to do something to make that strongly understood, but he has not, not at all.

    Just for a start, he might seek money in other quarters. Everyone knows from the beginning the cost of taking money from Adelson, but Trump keeps going back to the same well.

    And a dedicated man of principles would perhaps settle on being a one-term president who had achieved something rather than a two-term yes-man.

    Sorry, I see nothing genuinely anti-war about Trump.

    I wish it were otherwise, but it is not, and I am someone who closely follows world affairs through many information sources.

    In the beginning, despite the bad taste his personality left in the mouth, I supported him for exactly the reasons of decreasing war and improving relations with Russia.

    He has done nothing worth mentioning towards either goal.

    I know he has a powerful establishment warning and telling him not to do this or that, but still he makes himself out as tough guy, a rather foul-mouthed one, one who can stand up to anyone, so where are his results?

    He has given away, with no legal authority, a good part of Palestine to the most war-mongering government on earth.

    He has started new severe hostilities with the government of Iran, a government which threatened no one and is widely known to have met its every obligation under the nuclear agreement Trump arbitrarily tore up, an act again in favor of the world’s most belligerent government.

    He has launched war-like sanctions against Iran, causing its innocent people great deprivation and harm, and he accompanied these with serious military threats – the movement of fleets and nuclear bombers – and he even used the indefensible word, “obliterate,” towards Iran’s 80 million people.

    He appointed some of the most belligerent men in America to high posts – Elliott Abrams, John Bolton, and Mike Pompeo – from which they did little but threaten and lie.

    He has almost turned sanctions and tariffs into a new form of war.

    He overthrew an elected government in Bolivia and tried exactly the same in Venezuela, causing great harm to millions of ordinary citizens. He has also stolen Venezuela’s assets abroad, just as he’s stolen Syria’s oil, and laid a deadly blockade causing much hardship for millions.

    He completely supports the government of Israel’s unrelenting oppression of millions of Palestinians, never saying a word about matters like the outright ambush killing of several hundred in Gaza.

    He loyally supports a murderer Crown Prince. His own CIA Director told him the Prince was responsible for Khashoggi’s grisly murder, but Trump just smiles broadly and is photographed shaking hands with the man, and sells him literally tens of billions of dollars in weapons, certainly a tool for peace in the region, as we see with the killing of thousands of women and children in Yemen.

    The favored Prince has also been busy on the home front with violent attacks on Shia Muslim minorities and a huge increase in executions, including even the execution of teenagers.

    Trump never says a word against the mass killer running Egypt either. It just happens that Israel is rather fond of Field Marshall el Sisi just as it is of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince. Israel’s government likes Arab neighbors who suppress their people.

    Trump’s antics in Syria have been close to absurd. He bombed people a couple of times on the basis of clearly falsified chemical-weapons incidents. He withdrew in the northeast only to reoccupy with armored strength Syria’s oil fields, making sophomoric jokes about liking to steal oil. Of course, what he’s really doing is accommodating Israel yet again, to weaken Syria for its postwar rebuilding.

    The War in Afghanistan has been a disgrace from the beginning, and Trump still has yet to do one real thing to end it. He talks of a withdrawal, but this reportedly involves a rather small fraction of the American troops there who have done nothing but kill peasants for eighteen years. It’s a cheap gimmick for his election. Not a genuine policy.

    Trump of course has threatened many others, from North Korea to Nicaragua and Cuba.

    He has continued running tanks up against the Russian border in Europe. He destroyed the INF Treaty, an important part of the international architecture for peace in Europe. He has worked tirelessly to militarize space with the creation of a new branch of America’s military, the so-called Space Force.

    This is an anti-war President? You sure could have fooled me.

    He has been killing and bombing and threatening and sanctioning for all of his three years. Indeed, with sanctions, he has almost created a new form of hybrid warfare, and he’s using it against almost everyone, traditional friends and opponents, creating animosities and instabilities that could easily break out into new wars.

  2. Séamus Ó Néill says

    Isn’t American democracy a beauty to behold, bought and paid for by Zionist war-hawks, who would oversee the destruction of the entire planet, rather than live at peace with their neighbours. Its right and fitting that both America and Israel are heading for certain oblivion through bankruptcy and the amoral degeneration of both their societies. The world will be much safer and more peaceful in their guaranteed absence !

  3. JustPassingThrough says

    adelson, marcus. moskovitz, singer.
    interesting pattern.

    and on the other side
    soros, etc.

  4. stevek9 says

    All three men, are Jewish Americans.

  5. RedBaron9495 says

    Too much Jewish participation in U,S politics from top to bottom…’s also creeping into British & German politics too.

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