Donald Trump has dictatorial tendencies. He believes in Great Men, and he believes he is The Great Man; his word is law, his orders holy writ. If he commands men to obey, they will, leaving their decency and morality behind.
And why not? So far, it’s working.
During last night’s debate, Trump strayed into full-blown Mussolini territory. Asked about his stated position that he would kill the families of terrorists – not as collateral damage in a strike intended to kill the terrorists, not as part of a broadened rules of engagement that would allow soldiers freedom to defend themselves, but merely as a measure of revenge – Trump doubled down. More importantly, when asked by Bret Baier what he would do if members of the military refused to “carry out some of your campaign promises…because they’ve been trained to turn down and refuse illegal orders,” Trump answered, “They won’t refuse. They’re not going to refuse me. Believe me.”
Baier persisted, “But they’re illegal.”
Trump answered that ISIS was chopping heads off. True. But that does not mean that American soldiers can legally or morally go full My Lai on civilian villagers. Nonetheless, Trump stated, “I’m a leader. I’m a leader. I’ve always been a leader. I’ve never had any problem leading people. If I say do it, they’re going to do it. That’s what leadership is all about.”
No, actually, that’s what fascism is all about. And when Trump says that American soldiers will carry out illegal orders just because he gives them, he destroys the credibility of the American military. As military veteran David French tweeted last night:
Not one person I served with in Iraq would kill a mother and child on order. Not one. It's murder, plain and simple.— David French (@DavidAFrench) March 4, 2016
An order to kill children -- on purpose -- would break the relationship between the military and its civilian commander-in-chief.— David French (@DavidAFrench) March 4, 2016
Once during my deployment, a terrorist picked up a small child to use as a human shield. No one fired. Everyone was appalled. #NeverTrump— David French (@DavidAFrench) March 4, 2016
I will not leave this topic -- by declaring that our warriors would follow orders to murder women and children, Trump slanders our soldiers— David French (@DavidAFrench) March 4, 2016
Trump’s statements on the military raise an ugly, frightening question: what happens if American soldiers are ordered to do evil things? Americans believe that our law enforcement officers and soldiers will not go along with such evil. That’s what the Nuremberg trials were all about. Trump obviously thinks differently
And yet this is a man who says he respects the American military.
Trump believes he is above man, above morality. But the military disagrees. Saddling the military with someone who would ask them to kill women and children illegally should be unthinkable.