Sure, he calls himself the “most militaristic person” there is, and promises to make America’s already strong military even bigger and stronger and greater. But what precisely does he want to use it for? He says he has no intention of spreading American democracy at gunpoint — a la George W. Bush’s Iraq debacle (Trump rightly calls rivals like Marco Rubio, who want to escalate America’s involvement in Syria to counter Vladimir Putin, not “hawks but fools”). Trump also has no interest in engaging in humanitarian interventions to protect vulnerable populations — a la Obama’s Libya disaster.
Trump’s military would be used as leverage to strong arm the world into doing America’s bidding — whether that means forcing Mexico to build a wall on the Rio Grande, forcibly taking Iraqi oil as payment for getting rid of Saddam Hussein, imposing massive tariffs on companies that shift operations abroad, stopping China from “manipulating” its currency, or forcing South Korea and Europe to pay for America’s security guarantee. In his universe, there is no win-win. It is either exploit or be exploited.
Everything on that wish list is bonkers, with the possible exception of the last item. But what’s genuinely unhinged about it is that Trump is convinced that such policies can painlessly restore the American middle class. “All the Republicans are talking about, ‘We’re gonna cut, we’re gonna raise the age, we’re gonna do this, your Medicare, your Medicaid, your Social Security,'” he thunders. “I can bring wealth in so that we can save your Social Security without cuts.”