Home | About | Donate

How We Got Donald Trump: American Paths Chosen and Not (1989-2018)

How We Got Donald Trump: American Paths Chosen and Not (1989-2018)

Andrew Bacevich

The present arrives out of a past that we are too quick to forget, misremember, or enshroud in myth. Yet like it or not, the present is the product of past choices. Different decisions back then might have yielded very different outcomes in the here-and-now. Donald Trump ascended to the presidency as a consequence of myriad choices that Americans made (or had made for them) over the course of decades. Although few of those were made with Trump in mind, he is the result.


“Sanders robbing Clinton of momentum” ?

Try again.

How about Obama and Clinton (during campaigns and while in office) both frequently quoting and complimenting Ronald Reagan, the guy who accelerated us on the path to Trump at a speed that has not slowed down since ?


The GOP SCOTUS that gave politics to money with Citizen’ United. That destroyed the Voting Right’s Act. That ignored the effects of radical gerrymandering giving the House to the GOP. Half the tax dollar going to military/dark side with no public or other input. Vietnam that set up the empire and killed 55,000 Americans.
Massive lying propaganda from the right. Democracy is fragile and mostly gone in the US.


We can go back much further than 1989 with missed opportunities and wrong turns. What about: Wm Jennings Brian, Henry Wallace, and the assassinations of the Kennedy brothers?


Without Chaney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz, 9/11 would be just another day in history and no war on terror.


Yes. Bacevich is much too credulous about the official story/coincidence theory regarding 9/11.


Because of the movie and book “13 Hours”, I have become something of a Libya addict. The book especially begs the question - why were democrats involved in regime change, chief among them HRC, Secretary of State?

So I am wondering if Cynthia McKinney’s compilation is worth pursuing - to get at the truth not only about Libya, but about America’s future intentions as regards Yemen and Iran, among many others?

Thanks to Andrew Bacevich - it would be nice to hear his opinion on September 11/12, 2012, Benghazi & the murder of Ambassador Christopher Stevens !



Uugh. Perhaps we need a few dozen more investigations into BENGHAZI!!

I’ve read an ‘Atlantic Monthly’ report, some other views - it seems a bellweather episode and disaster.

Having almost gone to the States to enlist in the Marines myself (my father was an American Marine Hawaii WW II), having read “No Easy Day”, “Lone Survivor”, “American Sniper”, and Colin Powell’s “My American Journey” - well - my instinct tells me Libya is a way in to the deep state.

1 Like

I like Bacevich, but his points prior to 2000 are surprisingly weak. I also think that GM dropping their electric car program does not belong in this list. It took several more years to get the battery technology developed well enough to make an impact. Obama’s worst mistake, as Bacevich points out (and Bush shared guilt), was to give the big banks too much without adequate taxpayer guarantees and not prosecuting ANYONE for their crimes. This irritated a LOT of people. I also see Republican leaders such as McConnell doing huge damage to our nation.


"Why were democrats involved in regime change?"
I’m not positive, but I believe Libya was on Israel’s list of 5 in the region to be overthrown.
If I’m right, more than enough reason for our Israel boot licking congress.


True. Hard to believe Bacevich is not a progressive, since he wrote/writes in The Conservative, and I believe he’s admitted to being on Right. He actually opposes empire better and more virulently than progressives like Sanders or Warren. Kucinich was a better match with Bacevich in this regard. Bacevich even admits global warming exists. We need more conservatives like him. His stance on militarism is definitely conservative (literally), whatever political ideology he holds.


Libya has North Africa’s largest oil reserves, and it is high quality crude if I am not mistaken.

Libya was debt free, and had one of the highest standards of living in all of Africa, and was a de-facto leader and example in that regard.

Being from Sirte, literally half way between the ancient rival factions centered on Tripoli and Benghazi, democratic rule may not have been a possibility for Gaddafi.

Libya was a supporter of South Sudan and Marxism as outlined in Wikipedia:

Potentially mighty confusing - but - attention to detail can produce clarity.

Geopolitics is understandable.

The US has legitimate interests worldwide.

The problem is when you knowingly, covertly, and then openly contravene your own laws and those of the international community, all the while holding laws as sacred - in short - hypocrisy.


Right. And how about “Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the DNC corruptly undermining the momentum of Bernie Sanders?”


To say that this is an absolutely superlative piece of writing by Andrew Bacevich does not go far enough. It is beyond superlative, excellent, outstanding or any other adjective that I can summon up!

It is, quite simply, a classic critique of modern US History. It deserves to be printed, as either prologue or epilogue, in revised versions of every American history text at High School level up to, and including, Post-graduate studies. It has the insight and honesty of a Howard Zinn. The first 5 paragraphs alone have more substance than a whole years worth of cable “news”.

Thank you, Professor Bacevich! Thank you Common Dreams!


Militarized everything - the military as ‘god’ - needs to be examined much more deeply. The ‘endless war’ meme has never been anything other than a shell for shell games in the news. Its vacuous repetition suddenly becomes dense with understandable sequences of events and changes in public engagement when something like the COUNTER COUNTERINSURGENCY MANUAL is read.

Petraeus militarizing and debauching the concepts in the social sciences in the Counterinsurgency Manual should have been seen, discussed and recognized as the intellectual version of his infidelity with the woman writing the biography about him.

This bizarre and largely ignored insertion and his return with Trump deserve considerably more attention than it has ever received.

from the above link -
… In other words, just as the military has a code of conduct, so too do the social science disciplines. As numerous contributors to the volume make clear, the two are not compatible, and their combination in counter-insurgency has resulted in what Roberto González estimates to be a $190 million corporate boondoggle.

González, Andrew Bickford, and Hugh Gusterson draw attention to how the militarization of knowledge about human behavior, beliefs, and social interactions can only distort any notion of knowledge as social scientists understand the term. More importantly, because insurgencies by their very nature are intimately linked to the ordinary population of the “host nation,” the “people” become as much of a problem and a target as the insurgents. Rather than being a resource for furthering human understanding, militarized social science produces the “people” and their practices as objects to be worked on and manipulated. Disturbingly, as Gusterson adds, none of this is particularly new. The current configuration is reminiscent of the Cold War era, when the physical and social sciences were enrolled into “national security” projects, and thick networks of social relations were made between the military, universities, and private enterprise. In Vietnam, for example, the social sciences were used as applied, instrumental knowledge, the purpose of which was to break the National Liberation Front’s underground network. Social scientists were part of teams producing “actionable intelligence” in a program with the cumbersome title “Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support.”

It should come as no surprise, therefore, to see a reductive and distorted view of social scientific theory and methodology evident in the intelligence chapter of the Counterinsurgency Field Manual. As David Price points out, these sections are a hodge-podge of plagiarized passages from the writings of numerous well-known anthropologists and social-cultural theorists. Moreover, the dubious ethics in the construction of the intelligence chapter is paralleled by the tortured logic of Sarah Sewell’s defense of counterinsurgency in her introduction to the University of Chicago Press’s publication of the manual. Greg Fledman points out that Sewell, the Director of Harvard’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, seems less concerned with rights and more with counterinsurgency’s promise to provide stability in “ungoverned space.” Here she is one with Pentagon planners who worry about the “non-integrating gap,” the two-thirds or more of the world that the US military monitors, intervenes in and occupies through its thousand or more bases and through its combat commands, the most recent of which is AFRICOM. As Catherine Bestman explains, countering terrorism is the ostensible purpose of AFRICOM. The more plausible reason for its existence, Bestman argues, however, has to do with oil and China’s growing presence throughout Africa.

The military security apparatus of the United States, as many contributors note, is supported with virtually limitless unchallenged resources. In a country where professional and college sports receive more print and visual media coverage than Iraq and Afghanistan, we get only hints of the many military operations underway to deal with “ungoverned space.”


"How we got Donald Trump. "

Two words.

Deceitful Duopoly.


Thank you Nighthawk for your glowing review of this well constructed article.

1 Like

“Instead, urged on by the uber-hawks in his own administration, he embarked upon a misguided ‘Global War on Terrorism.’ No single action played a greater role in paving the way for Donald Trump to become president.” Bacevich likely omitted the logically following sentence: "That was the very idea."
And notice, not one word from the super-patriot former “vice president” about any of this. He’s far too discreet, and far too rich from what he has wrought, to say anything.

It sounds like you are not recognizing Andrew’s style of writing for what it is:

Do you think Andrew thinks we are stuck with Trump because of all these reasons he lists here? Of course not - he is listing them to specifically throw them out and offer a real explanation.

I like Andrew quite a lot - I don’t think he is some perfect progressive, but in a world where not 100% of the poeple are going to be progressive anytime soon, is important to have clear thinking people who basically want the world to get better - if we had more people like him, we could do just that.