Candidate Roads not Taken

The first Clinton-Trump debate was last night. I think both candidates did about as well as I expected. Here are two arguments the candidates could have made but didn’t:

  • Clinton: when Trump said “we should have taken the oil” while in Iraq, Clinton should have called him on it. Such “taking” would require war and long-term occupation with lots of our own troops.
  • Trump: when Clinton called for an “intelligence surge” in the context of ISIS-inspired domestic terrorism, Trump should have called her on it. Her surge requires expanded spying on American citizens and weakens national cybersecurity.

I could not have done a tenth as well in the debates as either of them, but these are arguments I wanted to see.

Taking the Oil

Trump brought up “taking the oil” when criticizing our withdrawal from Iraq. Clinton replied as a Secretary of State would: we made an agreement with Iraq and we stuck to it. Being a nerd, she went into the details, which always sounds defensive.

Instead, she could have called him out on “taking the oil.” He even doubled down on this, suggesting we should have taken the Libyan oil too. Clinton should have spelled out just what Trump was suggesting: two wars of conquest.

It’s not like we load the oil on a magic carpet and fly it back to the US. It will take years to extract all that oil. Does Trump want us to sit there with an occupying army to extract Iraq’s national treasure? I doubt many of our allies, either in the region or elsewhere, would have supported this. Not even Israel would have supported such aggression, much less Saudi Arabia.

Intelligence Surge

While discussing global threats, Clinton brought up cyber-threats and the role of Russia in attacking the Democratic National Committee. She said, “and we are not going to sit idly by and permit state actors to go after our information. Our private-sector information or our public-sector information.”

A few minutes later, she called for an “intelligence surge” to fight domestic terrorism by ISIS. This surge would make our already extensive program of secretly collecting data even more gigantic.

I wish she’d picked a different strategy for fighting ISIS. Statistics show that you’re more likely to be shot dead by a toddler than killed by ISIS in the United States. We’re willing to tolerate gun-toting toddlers to protect gun ownership, but we’re sacrificing our privacy to address a much smaller risk?

There is a fundamental security tool we don’t use as extensively as we should: cryptography. While it won’t solve all of our cybersecurity problems, it would make our data much, much safer. But government eavesdropping programs (FBI, DEA, etc.) rely on our nation’s terrible cybersecurity. Strong measures face obstacles from these agencies.

Some observers fear that our poor national cybersecurity may be influencing this election.

Trump isn’t likely to take on privacy as an issue, unless he can divorce it from the terrorism boogey man.


2 thoughts on “Candidate Roads not Taken”

  1. Maybe now near-forgotten, but one of the lines raised in the run-up to the Iraq war was that it would pay for itself from the oil revenues raised. Something like a leveraged buyout of a country, but it didn’t pan out that way.

    I haven’t seen a meme going around yet about the alleged 400-pound hacker that allegedly might have penetrated the DNC, but expect it’ll arrive shortly. Like the 400-pound gorilla in the room, only different?

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