Donald Trump has plans for the Middle East

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Following Wednesday night’s MSNBC/NBS town hall forum with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump much criticism has been leveled at Donald Trump for many of the things he discussed. He lauded Russian President Vladimir Putin and called him a better leader than President Obama. Trump has been castigated by intelligence officials for his claim to have read “body language” during his August 17th classified security briefing and could thereby divine that U.S. intelligence officials were unhappy with President Obama for not following their policy recommendations. Others have questioned Trump’s strange statement regarding his recent visit to Mexico. During a press conference in Laos on Thursday President Obama even took the opportunity to repeat his claim that Trump isn’t “qualified to be president of the United States, and every time he speaks, that opinion is confirmed.”

However, one aspect of Wednesday’s forum which is seemingly not attracting much attention are Trump’s comments on his potential counterterrorism policy. Specifically, Trump was asked by a member of the audience (which mainly consisted of veterans) how he would prevent the “next ISIS” from forming. Here is Trump’s response:

“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 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.”

Answering a question from moderator Matt Lauer about how Trump would “take the oil”, he said:

“Well, you—you just, you would leave a certain group behind. And you would take various sections where they have the oil.

“People don’t know this about Iraq, but they have among the largest oil reserves in the world.

“You know, it used to be, to the victor belong the spoils. Now, there was no victor there, believe me. There was no victor. But I always said, “Take the oil.” One of the benefits we would have had if we took the oil, is ISIS would not have been able to take oil and use that oil to fuel themselves.”

This answer(s) is factually incorrect and logically inconsistent. First, Trump claims Iraq was somewhat stable, except not really, and the withdrawal of troops by President Obama destabilized the country and allowed ISIS to form. Being both stable and unstable is impossible, to begin with. Also, the formation of ISIS began before the United States ever invaded Iraq. And the official formation of the “Islamic State in Iraq” was in 2006, before the beginning of U.S. troop withdrawal. Yes, the formation of the “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)” did not occur until 2013 but this formation had very little to do with U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq.

Second, Iran is not “taking over” Iraq. Yes, Iran has gained greater influence in Iraq though efforts to combat ISIS. Iran has sent thousands of troops and militia to Iraq to assist in Iraqi offensives against ISIS. When other countries were unwilling to assist. Trump says he always opposed the Iraq War (he didn’t) but now that the U.S. did invade the U.S. must fully commit to establishing domestic stability in Iraq. A frequent criticism of U.S. foreign policy is the lack of an exit plan. That once the initial offensive is over the U.S. has no concrete plans for what to do next, as in Iraq. This leads to instability and a continuation of conflict. But Trump seems willing to only accept certain types of help from certain states. To a degree this is acceptable and viable, but only to a point. You either want to establish stability or not. And the U.S. is hardly interested in allowing Iran to establish a regional hegemony in the Middle East.

Finally, “take the oil” is not an exit plan. In fact, it’s not even an exit. The U.S. should leave troops behind in a foreign country they just invaded in order to pilfer that state’s natural resources?  How long would these troops remain in-country in order to take the oil? And how many? Wouldn’t these troops become targets for remaining opposition forces? Especially if the resources are so valuable to organizations such as ISIS.

Also, oil is not the only way ISIS makes money. ISIS has an expansive and efficient money-making operation. Preventing ISIS from gaining access to oil would have been a possible way to limit the scope and speed of ISIS’s spread throughout the Middle East, but not guaranteed and not definite. Taking the oil is also a good way to prevent the recovery of Iraq’s domestic and international economy. Is the United States taking the oil with the purpose of giving it back to Iraq in some way? Is the United States selling the oil for Iraq and giving Iraq the proceeds? Or, as Trump’s “the victor belong the spoils” line insinuates, is the United States taking the oil to offset the cost of the war? Therefore, Trump is advocating something which is not only a war crime but also leaves Iraq worse off.

Lauer also asked Trump if taking the oil was “the plan you’ve been hiding this whole time asking someone else for your plan?”

“No, but when I do come up with a plan that I like, and that perhaps, agrees with mine or maybe doesn’t, I may love what the generals come back with.”

“But you have your own plan?” Lauer presses.

“I have a plan. But I wanna be—I don’t want to… Look. I have a very substantial chance of winning. Make America great again. We’re going to make America great again. If I win, I don’t want to broadcast to the enemy exactly what my plan is.”

Trump either doesn’t have a plan as he originally states and subsequently lies about having a plan, or Trump has a plan but doesn’t want to share it on national television for fear that America’s enemies will hear the plan and act accordingly. Except Trump just stated his “take the oil” plan. Unless that was a misdirect. Or that plan is inapplicable because if elected President Trump will only invade countries without oil and he isn’t interested in plundering other natural resources.

To summarize, Donald Trump either willfully or in ignorance misrepresented and/or doesn’t understand: 1) The stability of Iraq following the U.S. invasion; 2) The formation of ISIS; 3) His opposition to the Iraq War; 4) The role of Iran in Iraq; 5) War crimes; 6) Where ISIS gets its money; 7) The viability to “take the oil” as an exit strategy; 8) Whether or not he actually has a plan.

And they say Trump doesn’t prepare.

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