“And what is Aleppo?”
– Libertarian Party Candidate Gary Johnson
What's your plan to fight ISIS?
The plan, man! What’s the plan?
I am this morning reminded as I often am of that scene in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.
You know the one.
Sure you do.
Max, Savannah Nix, and the Feral Kids have kidnapped Master and along with Pig Killer busted out of Bartertown's power plant dungeon. They're barreling madcap down the train tracks through the blasted wasteland in a ramshackle makeshift pig-shit powered steam locomotive. Max works his way up the side of the train, fighting Tina Turner's post-apocalyptic punk-metal roadies all the way and finally reaches Pig Killer at the controls of the engine.
"So, what's the plan?" Max shouts over the roar of the slipstream.
Pig Killer grins in unbelieving mirth. "Plan?" He laughs in delirious glee. "There ain't no PLAN! Hahahahahah...."
God, I love that scene.
I'm not really sure what the point of last night's "Commander In Chief Forum" was, unless NBC wanted to publicly confirm how utterly incompetent Matt Lauer is as a journalist. It was 30 minutes of, "So, Scumbag Lying Hillary, tell us more about your criminal email scheme to destroy America," and 30 minutes of "Gee, Awesome Donald, you're so dreamy!" Lauer repeatedly cut Clinton off and repeatedly failed to follow up on Trump’s increasingly bizarre and ridiculous statements.
If they still teach forum moderation in Journalism School, this would be a good example of how not to do it.
Somewhere wedged in between Trump's gushing schoolgirl man-crush on Vladimir Putin (and honestly, was it just me or did anybody else expect Trump to go full on Tom Cruise couch jumping at that point? I LOVE HIM! I LOVE HIM! No? Just me then) and the ten billionth recounting of Clinton's email server, somebody in the audience asked Trump, "What's your plan to fight ISIS?"
What's your plan to fight ISIS.
What’s the plan?
What’s your plan to fight ISIS?
That question shows just how little Americans, including a lot of veterans who ought to know better, actually understand about the Islamic State and the ongoing mess in the Middle East.
What's your plan?
Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan: Have we anything resembling a plan?
Herger the Joyous: Ride till we find them. Kill them all.
-- The Thirteenth Warrior, Touchstone Pictures, 1999
As if it's that simple.
As if “ISIS” is even the right label.
As if you could just sum up a solution to two thousand years of sectarian violence in a Tweet. I mean, think about it, Lauer wouldn’t give Clinton two minutes to explain her goddamned email, right? But Trump is going to give us the war plan in the same amount of time? Sure, why not.
As if "ISIS" was just this one little unified group of easily identified shitheads confined to one little chunk of land instead of a vast nebulous entity spread across half a dozen countries and mixed in with millions of innocents.
As if the "ISIS" of January when the new president is sworn in would still be the same "ISIS" of today, right now. As if the enemy is all, “Whoa, hang on, flag on the play. Let’s us just wait for the new guy over there in America. It’s only fair!” As if the tactical situation would be unchanged between then and now. The international situation unchanged – including no further actions by Trump’s beloved Putin between now and then. The terrain, the weather, the supply routes, the intelligence, the bases and strongholds, the available assets, all unchanged. Trump claims to be some genius real-estate mogul, but even real-estate doesn’t work like that. Is this guy really so naïve that he thinks the vastly more complex world of war and geopolitics remains static from day to day?
As if you can formulate an actual workable plan to deal with a staggeringly complex problem without detailed information, without a full assessment of available assets, without the consultation of Congress (you know, the people who have to fund and authorize such an adventure), without some kind of actual national strategy which includes military and nation-building options and contingency plans for when the enemy doesn't roll over and cooperate.
As if you can do all of this by firing the nation’s top generals and running it all yourself from the Resolute Desk, apparently by using your vast Hitler-like military genius.
As if it was just "Okay, you military guys, listen up. Here’s what we’re gonna do: Bomb some shit. Yeah, bomb some shit. And, uh, some fighter jets! And Tanks! And SEALs! Yeah! Green Berets! Kill 'em. Kill 'em all. God Bless America! High fives all around! Profit!”
Yeah, but see, the worst part is this: that really is Trump’s whole damned plan:
“Part of the problem that we’ve had is we go in we defeat somebody and then we don’t know what we’re doing after that, we lose it, like, as an example you look at Iraq what happened how badly that was handled. And then when President Obama took over and likewise it was a disaster. It was actually somewhat stable I don’t think it could ever be very stable it’s a war we never should have gone into it in the first place but he came in and he said, “When we go out” and he took everybody out and really ISIS was formed. This was a terrible decision and frankly we never even got a shot. And if you really look at the aftermath of Iraq Iran is going to be taking over Iraq they’ve been doing it and it’s not a pretty picture. The, and, and I think you know, ‘cause you’ve been watching me I think for a long time I’ve always said shouldn’t be there! But if we’re gonna get out take the oil if we would have taken the oil you wouldn’t have ISIS because ISIS formed with the power and wealth of that oil.”
That, that right there was Trump’s actual answer to the question, “What’s your plan to fight ISIS?”
That rambling incoherent stream of unconscious, that goddamned gibberish, was his answer.
What’s your plan, Commander?
Well, see we go in, right, and we defeat some people and then we don’t have a plan for after that. Sad.
Okay, thanks for the history lesson, Professor, but what’s your plan?
Well, Iraq, see, I supported it but I didn’t support it and we won and it was stable but also not stable. We shouldn’t have gone in but we shouldn’t have left. And that’s how Gazpacho is made!
Yes, yes. But what’s your plan?
Iran is taking over Iraq. Not pretty! Not pretty! They’re doing it. People tell me they’re doing it. Sad!
I got it. But again, what’s your goddamned plan?
Take the oil! We should take the oil. In Iraq. Because ISIS, which is the Islamic State in FUCKING SYRIA, somehow something something Iraq invasion vague hand waving Putin squirrel Assad.
Jesus H. Christ, man, what’s the plan?
Plan? There ain’t no plaaaan ahahahahahahaha!
It’s just goddamned gibberish.
Trump is ramshackle makeshift train wreck carrying a cast of pig-shit covered lunatics down the tracks into a wasteland.
If you take Trump’s statement apart, line by line, and you get rid of all the digression and all the filler and the non sequiturs, the only coherent thing you can parse from his response is this: Kill ‘em all, take their stuff
Kill them all, take their stuff.
That’s not a plan for defeating the Islamic State, you lunatic! THAT’S THE ISLAMIC STATE’S PLAN.
Kill them all, take their stuff.
Trump isn’t talking about defeating ISIS, he’s talking about pillaging Iraq.
Trump is actually talking about invading a country and looting it.
No wonder this guy admires a Russian despot. Because that’s some shady Cossack shit right there.
How does this work?
No really, I’d like to hear the details.
We … take the oil? Right. Okay. How?
No, that’s not a rhetorical question. Trump disparaged Obama for not taking Iraq’s oil on the way out. But how would we do that? Do we drill new wells, build massive new pipelines, and then what? Pump the country’s entire oil supply to a fleet of giant supertankers waiting offshore? How long does that take? Who pays for the wells and the pipes and ships – do we maybe just enslave the Iraqis and make them build it? And the other Gulf States are gonna what? Just watch us sail away with the booty, with enough oil to completely collapse the world market and completely destroy their economies? I guess we’ll have to fight our way out of the Gulf. Good thing giant lumbering tankers don’t make easy targets. No. What do we do with it? Billions upon billions of barrels of oil, where does it go? To refineries in America? They don’t have that kind of capacity. To storage tanks? Do we just park it offshore for a while? Who cashes out on this? Do Americans get a cut? Sure, we’ll all be Saudi Sheiks. Or do we just give it to Exxon? Here you go, fellas, Merry Christmas! Maybe we give it to Putin?
And what if the natives resist? Do we send in Colonel Quaritch and his fleet of flying tanks to burn down the big tree they all live in? Because it’s looking a lot like Trump got his entire plan from watching Avatar.
So, we take the oil from Iraq, we kill all the big blue natives, and somehow this magically ends the war in Syria and stops global terrorism.
I guess Trump never watched the end of the movie.
Maybe it’s just me.
Jake Sully: This is how it's done. When people are sittin' on shit that you want, you make 'em your enemy. Then you're justified in taking it.
-- Avatar, 20th Century Fox, 2009 (Director’s cut)