As Confessore writes it up, the words of the veterans do seem surprising, at least at first:
Perhaps most strikingly, they welcome Mr. Trump’s blunt attacks on America’s entanglements overseas.But gradually we realize that what the veterans are picking up from Trump is not skepticism about war per se:
“When we jump into wars without having a real plan, things like Vietnam and things like Iraq and Afghanistan happen,” said William Hansen, a former Marine who served two National Guard tours in Iraq. “This is 16 years. This is longer than Vietnam.”
“He calls it out,” said Joshua Macias, a former Navy petty officer and fifth-generation veteran who lives in the Tidewater region of Virginia, where he organized a “Veterans for Trump” group last year. “We have intense emotion connected to these wars. The way it was politicized, the way they changed the way we fight in a war setting -- it’s horrible how they did that.”The way they changed the way we fight in a war setting -- that's one of the real problems these guys have with candidates and officeholders other than Trump:
“This war became so politicized, so P.C.,” [Iraq War veteran William] Hansen said. Mr. Trump might take them to war again, he had concluded, but Mr. Trump would not hold them back.More:
“Under George, all we could do was straight right hooks and a couple of uppercuts,” Mr. Hansen said. “When Obama took over, we could only do straight lefts -- and we had to say ‘we’re going to punch you’ first.”
... many heard in Mr. Trump’s voice a return to the days of big military budgets and boundless manpower. His sweeping denunciation of Washington elites echoed their own grumbling.It's this myth: that we don't spend enough on the military, and that if we did spend enough, we'd never have to go to war -- we'd just have to intimidate people:
... [Trump] seemed to be speaking a different language, [Vietnam veteran Daniel] Cortez said in a recent interview, more like the one veterans themselves spoke. Mr. Trump argued for a military that was bigger and better equipped but also used more sparingly.Of course, every Republican presidential candidate apart from Ron and Rand Paul talks about "peace through strength" and massive increases in the military budget. Trump adds the idea that war can never turn bad for Americans if the troops are allowed to take the gloves off, but that's fairly common on the right as well. What's impressing these veterans might be Trump's incessant denunciation of "political correctness," which they presumably hear as time for some extremely liberal rules of engagement. If you think that's pacifism, you're missing the point.
“Mr. Trump is a breath of fresh air because he is promoting peace through strength,” Mr. Cortez said.
Yes, these veterans surprised us by rallying to Trump even after he denounced the Iraq War. But they feel embarrassed by that war:
“Nobody likes to say that George W. Bush was a bad president,” said David Fuqua, who spent four years in the Marines and served in Afghanistan in 2011. “Having to defend the rationale for the Iraq war for so long, and then to have someone on the stage talk about how it was a mistake, touched a real nerve.”But Confessore tells us, "They were repelled by liberal antiwar politics and felt little in common with the war’s most prominent critics." They're not against war and huge military buildups. They just want the wars to go better. Trump persuades them that he can make that happen -- and I fear that he believes his own BS.
Trump isn't wary of war. When did he turn against the Iraq War? When it started to look like a failure. Trump hates failure (yes, despite his vast experience of it). He'd torture or carpet-bomb civilians or take a conventional conflict nuclear if he thought it would mean avoiding failure. That's why he's dangerous. (Of course, he'd do those things under many other circumstances, because he lacks normal human empathy, and because his ass isn't on the line.)
His backers in the veterans' community understand that he's a failure skeptic much more than he is a war skeptic. They know he promises to turn any war brutal. They understand him better than many political insiders.