Michael Brendan Dougherty wonders if more Democrats will start caring about our illegal and unnecessary wars once Trump takes office:
In less than two weeks, Trump will assume the office of the presidency. He will inherit from Obama a U.S. military engaged in conflicts across the Islamic world. Will Democrats who either cheered or ignored these patriotic exercises of American power suddenly find it in themselves to oppose these wars as racist, imperialist actions of an arrogant unilateral superpower gone rogue?
There will be stronger political incentives for Democrats to challenge Trump in matters of war than there were during Obama’s presidency, but there may be less dramatic change than Dougherty suggests. Apart from a few honorable exceptions in Congress and a few in the media, no one in Washington cares or even pretends to care about what the U.S. has been helping the Saudis do to Yemen, and that total indifference and/or pro-Saudi whitewashing will almost certainly continue in the coming year. Most Democrats aren’t going to want to call attention to the atrocious war that Obama enabled for almost two years, and most Republicans never even feigned concern when Obama was doing this and will do their best to ignore it once Trump is president. As Dougherty notes, there have been some critics of Obama’s shameful Yemen policy from the left, and I assume they will continue to condemn our disgraceful support for the pummeling and starving of Yemen, but most of our representatives and most of the public just ignore all of it.
What about our other wars? The war on ISIS is unauthorized, open-ended, and has produced limited results, but it remains broadly popular and has the backing of most people in both parties. Perhaps there will be a Tim Kaine-led push to get a proper debate and authorization vote, but Congress has had over two years to do this and hasn’t done anything so far. The war in Afghanistan has been all but forgotten by members of both parties, and there is no reason to expect a change there. Unless Trump commits the U.S. to a large-scale ground war or proposes to start a new war against yet another government, he probably won’t encounter much opposition in waging the wars he has inherited. That is Obama’s legacy: normalizing perpetual war while pretending to end wars, and launching wars without authorization so that there is no debate or serious scrutiny of the president’s wars.