Forget the debate over the word “fascist” and whether it only applies to a handful of dead guys in Europe: What if I told you that Donald Trump is a psychopathic killer, one inclined to the use all the power and might of the American armed forces like a child with matches who has been unjustly deprived of a nap and is determined to set the world on fire?

I absolutely do not jest. Trump said this himself. It’s not enough to kill an alleged terrorist with an R9X Hellfire missile, slicing them to death with a half-dozen razor-sharp blades — you gotta get the wife and kids too. “You have to take out their families,” Trump said in 2015. Twice.

Trump then killed an eight-year-old girl: Nawar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen who died in a botched raid that the Republican strongman authorized within hours of taking office. (Nawar’s father, Anwar al-Awlaki, also a U.S. citizen, was a radical imam affiliated with al-Qaida who was killed in a controversial American drone strike in 2011.) As president, Trump escalated every conflict he could, setting records for the number of airstrikes he ordered in Somalia, Iraq and Syria. According to Airwars, a group that monitors violence in conflict zones, it is likely that thousands of civilians were killed under a man who to this day is sometimes referred to as an opponent of U.S. miltary action overseas.

Foreign policy is one area where an American president is from day one sort of a dictator, by default granted broad power to conduct lethal military operations, openly or in secret, without first obtaining congressional approval. Trump is running for president, which is to say he had that power once and he would like to have it again, but this time with a federal bureaucracy and military brass purged of any “deep state” liberals who might balk at doing something especially dumb and evil, like deliberately targeting noncombatants.

This is particularly relevant now that Gaza has been blown apart and the entire Middle East between Iran and Israel is a tinderbox. The last thing the world needs is another arsonist.

But that’s exactly how Trump is campaigning: as the man unafraid to set the world on fire. Consider the response to Iran’s missile attack on Israel, which was telegraphed by Iranian leaders as retaliation for Israel’s earlier strike on Iran’s embassy in Syria  and was effectively neutralized by a U.S.-led coalition that included British, French and Jordanian forces. President Joe Biden, in a call with Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu, urged restraint, basically telling Israel to take the win.

Trump, by contrast, blamed America. Apparently referring to Israel, he said, “They’re under attack right now. That’s because we show great weakness,” at a rally for his faithful in Pennsylvania. “The weakness that we’ve shown is unbelievable, and it would not have happened if we were in office.” These remarks were paired with an all-caps rant from his time as president, reshared on Truth Social, threatening that Iran would “SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES” if it didn’t behave better.

As The Guardian’s Sam Levine noted, “Trump’s message underscores how quickly he is willing to escalate tensions with foreign leaders during moments of conflict.”

Late Thursday night, Netanyahu decided he needed at least a fig leaf of escalation, ordering a strike on an airbase in central Iran that the Islamic Republic downplayed as much ado about nothing. Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, even further to the right than the prime minister, shared that assessment, lamenting that it was “weak” and not the “crushing attack” he and other hawks had wanted.

If Trump hadn’t lost the 2020 election by 7 million votes, he would be advising Netanyahu right now, not an administration that at least urged Israel to stand down and, according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, was “not involved” in the strike on Iran. And if he were to listen to his own supporters, he might not be content just telling Bibi to bomb the hell out of the Islamic Republic, with unqualified American backing, but go ahead and do it himself. “Iran has begun launching drone strikes on Israel,” Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., posted on social media. “[W]e must move quickly and launch aggressive retaliatory strikes on Iran.”

Trump is no wiser than Blackburn, which is to say that he too is mad and dim enough to start World War III after receiving a Newsmax push alert. He’s already touted his willingness to conduct foreign policy on the basis of what will thrill the MAGA base, reportedly exploring the idea of direct attacks on Mexican drug cartels.

“‘Attacking Mexico,’ or whatever you’d like to call it, is something that President Trump has said he wants ‘battle plans’ drawn for,” one source familiar with those plans told Rolling Stone. “He’s complained about missed opportunities of his first term, and there are a lot of people around him who want fewer missed opportunities in a second Trump presidency.”

With all the reasonable adults purged under Project 2025, there would be no one around to thwart this foreign policy of “Do Stupid S**t.” A second term would be staffed with extremists, absent any guardrails. How would such a team of far-right brutes respond to a serious terror attack? Would you want to find out?

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Ukraine, though: This is where Trump, man of peace, is said to shine. He’d end the war in a day, he’s said. His allies even claim there’s a plan.

“He will not give a penny in the Ukraine-Russia war,” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, a like-minded authoritarian, said after a meeting with Trump at Mar-a-Lago last month. “Therefore, the war will end, because it is obvious that Ukraine cannot stand on its own feet.”

The war will end because Ukraine is forced to surrender after being betrayed by America; this is how those who support such a policy describe it. Already Trump allies such as Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, campaigning for vice president in the pages of The New York Times, are pointing to Russian territorial gains — that is, Russian aggression exploiting Ukraine’s ammunition shortages, a direct result of Republicans stalling the latest aid package in Congress — as a reason to concede the whole fight.

What’s left unspoken, at least in public, is that Trump and his allies believe that military superiority determines justice: Might makes right. Fiona Hill, a former adviser to the ex-president, told The New York Times’ David Sanger that, while in office, “Trump made it very clear that he thought… that Ukraine, and certainly Crimea, must be part of Russia.” After all, Russia used to be a much larger empire and its government demonstrably likes Trump, so why shouldn’t he — through pure vanity, if nothing else — help them win it all back?

It’s true that Trump is an isolationist, at least in the sense that he abhors the international rules-based order, couldn’t care less about the U.N. or NATO and is profoundly uninterested in using military force to “help” anyone but himself. But don’t be fooled into thinking that would mean less bloodshed. A second term for this would-be dictator would mean that belligerent reactionaries around the globe — Putin, Netanyahu, himself — would have license to lash out and take whatever they believe is rightfully theirs. It would surely mean U.S. troops receiving permission from their commander in chief to carry out the sort of blatant war crimes that got disgraced Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher a presidential pardon.

In 2024, democracy is on the ballot, sure — but so is internationalism. Anyone who doesn’t want to see tanks on American streets or crossing national borders should be aware of the stakes. The first time was an ugly farce; the second will be a tragedy.

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