On August 17, Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump outlined his strategy for defeating the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
He would order American forces to take over the oil fields that ISIS has seized in Iraq.
Trump outlined his plans for future military operations against ISIS on NBC’s “Meet the Press” with Chuck Todd.
Trump said he never advocated a U.S. war with Iraq, but it happened, and “it was a big mistake” because it “destabilized” the Middle East.
“Now we’re there, and you have ISIS….And ISIS is taking over a lot of the oil in certain areas of Iraq.
“And I said, you take away their wealth. You go and knock the hell out of the oil. Take back the oil. We take over the oil, which we should have done in the first place.”
After taking over the Iraqi oil fields, said Trump, “we’re going to have so much money.
“And what I would do with the money that we make, which would be tremendous, I would take care of the soldiers that were killed, the families of the soldiers that were killed, the soldiers, the wounded warriors that are–see, I love them.”
Actually, Trump’s idea forms the plot of The Profession, a 2011 novel by bestselling author Steven Pressfield.
Pressfield made his literary reputation with a series of classic novels about ancient Greece.
In Gates of Fire (1998) he explored the rigors and heroism of Spartan society–and the famous last stand of its 300 picked warriors at Thermopylae.
In The Virtues of War (2004) he entered the mind of Alexander the Great, whose armies swept across the known world, destroying all who dared oppose them.
Finally, in The Afghan Campaign (2006) Pressfield–this time from the viewpoint of a lowly Greek soldier–refought Alexander’s brutal, three-year anti-guerrilla campaign in Afghanistan.
But in The Profession, Pressfield created a plausible world set into the future of 2032. The book’s own dust jacket offers the best summary of its plot-line:
“The third Iran-Iraq war is over. The 11/11 dirty bomb attack on the port of Long Beach, California is receding into memory. Saudi Arabia has recently quelled a coup. Russians and Turks are clashing in the Caspian Basin….
“Everywhere military force is for hire. Oil companies, multi-national corporations and banks employ powerful, cutting-edge mercenary armies to control global chaos and protect their riches.
“Even nation states enlist mercenary forces to suppress internal insurrections, hunt terrorists, and do the black bag jobs necessary to maintain the new New World Order.
“Force Insertion is the world’s merc monopoly. Its leader is the disgraced former United States Marine General James Salter, stripped of his command by the president for nuclear saber-rattling with the Chinese and banished to the Far East.’
Salter appears as a hybrid of World War II General Douglas MacArthur and Iraqi War General Stanley McCrystal.
Like MacArthur, Salter has butted heads with his President–and paid dearly for it. Now his ambition is no less than to become President himself–by popular acclaim. And like McCrystal, he is a pure warrior who leads from the front and is revered by his men.
Salter seizes Saudi oil fields, then offers them as a gift to America. By doing so, he makes himself the most popular man in the country–and a guaranteed occupant of the White House.
And in 2032 the United States is a far different nation from the one its Founding Fathers created in 1776.
“Any time that you have the rise of mercenaries…society has entered a twilight era, a time past the zenith of its arc,” says Salter.
“The United States is an empire…but the American people lack the imperial temperament. We’re not legionaries, we’re mechanics. In the end the American Dream boils down to what? ‘I’m getting mine and the hell with you.’”
Americans, asserts Salter, have come to like mercenaries: “They’ve had enough of sacrificing their sons and daughters in the name of some illusory world order. They want someone else’s sons and daughters to bear the burden….
“They want their problems to go away. They want me to to make them go away.”
And so Salter will “accept whatever crown, of paper or gold, that my country wants to press upon me.”
More than 500 years ago, Niccolo Machiavelli warned of the dangers of relying on mercenaries:
“Mercenaries…are useless and dangerous. And if a prince holds on to his state by means of mercenary armies, he will never be stable or secure; for they are disunited, ambitious, without discipline, disloyal; they are brave among friends; among enemies they are cowards.
“They have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to men, and destruction is deferred only so long as the attack is. For in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy.”
Centuries ago, Niccolo Machiavelli issued a warning against relying on men whose first love is their own enrichment.
Steven Pressfield, in a work of fiction, has given us a nightmarish vision of a not-so-distant America where “Name your price” has become the byward for an age.
Both warnings are well worth heeding.