Draining The Swamp

So, President-Elect Donald J. Trump, billionaire (he owns a mansion and a yacht), wants to drain the swamp of D.C. and Northern Virginia (I’m thinking the placeless Crystal City).

I think that particular phrase was used by some officials within the George W. Bush administration to describe what the invasion of Iraq was supposed to do — drain the “swamp” that is the Middle East of all of the terrible things that motivate Islamic extremism. Dictatorship, despair, war, a lack of economic opportunity. Toppling the government of Saddam Hussein was supposed to solve all of these problems.

It didn’t, of course. Neither did the Arab Spring.

Somewhere, maybe over at LRC, I wrote that while this was an interesting idea, Iraq was not the swamp we should be “draining” (as if this were simply an engineering problem to be solved by the Army Corps of Engineers). If we were really concerned about all of the things and places that gave birth to Revolutionary Islam, then the “swamp” we should be wading into was the muck of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan.

But we didn’t have the resources to tackle them, and the outcomes of that war, had we waged it, would have been far worse. All three countries had a total population of around 240 million in 2000, and occupying Pakistan alone would have been a fool’s errand which would have destroyed the the U.S. military and created tremendous new operating space for the revolutionaries.

So, if Trump takes on the real swamp that is D.C., he will likely get bogged down in it. The swamp … will swallow him whole and maybe even drown him.

More likely, though, he was go at the wrong swamp, claim it’s the right one, do a great deal of damage, and proclaim some kind of symbolic victory. Little of lasting value will be accomplished.

That won’t matter, of course. My guess is the incoming Trump regime will be at least as dank and fetid and disease infested as any swamp which has ever infested D.C. and Northern Virginia.

2 thoughts on “Draining The Swamp

  1. I worked for a small materials-testing company in Falls Church, VA in the late 70s. It was one of many small government contractors ringing the capital, collectively referred to as the “beltway bandits”. One day the president of the company took me along for a visit to some DOD manager whose unimpressive office was in “Crystal City”, which, as I understood it at the time, was a kind of annex to the Pentagon, catching the overflow of bureaucracy. We were trying to get funding for a modest program to develop aluminum reinforced with tiny silicon fibers randomly incorporated into the metal. “Composite materials” was a field of interest back then, I had tested aluminum reinforced with carefully ordered layers of boron fibers when I was in a work-study job at NASA Langley in So. Virginia in the mid-70s. After we left this guy’s office, my boss said to me, with his customary cynicism, “He’ll never give us any money. All his contracts go to that company in California. They fly him out there a couple of times a year and he likes California.”

    But I did meet one notable person in Washington who was selflessly dedicated to his job — a metallurgist who had developed laminated coins in the mid-60s. Nickle and silver had become too expensive, but laminating silvery alloys over cheaper metals turned out to be difficult. He finally succeeded with an “explosive bonding” technique. In the process, he had lost fingers on both hands. A cheerful guy, though.

  2. I think Trump is in over his head. That’s why he wants his son-in-law to come with to the security briefings. Someone has to explain to him afterwards, in simpler language, what that was all about.

    Never has a party, as an organization, been so demoralized by a sweeping victory. I wouldn’t be surprised to see before long Republican count-down clocks to the last day of Trump’s term as president. Until then, the Slough of Despond for everyone.

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