“So is he going to win?”
The question washed over me as I slumped in my hard plastic chair. I had passed the day walking through a town where most homes lay in ruins and human remains were strewn across a field, a day spent looking over my shoulder for soldiers and melting in the 110-degree heat. My mind was as spent as my body.
Under an inky sky ablaze with stars, the type of night you see only in the rural world, I looked toward the man who asked the question and half-shrugged. Everyone including me, I said, thought Donald Trump was going to flame out long ago. And he hadn’t. So what did I know?
At that point, I couldn’t bear to talk about it anymore, so the two of us sat speechless for a time. Finally, my companion looked back at me and broke his silence. “It can’t happen, can it?” he asked.
I had no answer then—March of this year—sitting in that ruined town in South Sudan.
I do now.
I thought about that March night as the election results rolled in, as The New York Times forecast showed Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning the presidency plummet from about 80% to less than 5%, while Trump’s fortunes skyrocketed by the minute.
As Clinton’s future in the Oval Office evaporated, leaving only a whiff of her stale dreams, I saw all the foreign-policy certainties, all the hawkish policies and military interventions, all the would-be bin Laden raids and drone strikes she’d preside over as commander in chief similarly vanish into the ether.
With her failed candidacy went the no-fly escalation in Syria that she was sure to pursue as president with the vigor she had applied to the disastrous Libyan intervention of 2011 while secretary of state. So, too, went her continued pursuit of the now-nameless “war on terror,” the attendant “gray-zone” conflicts—marked by small contingents of US troops, drone strikes, and bombing campaigns—and all those munitions she would ship to Saudi Arabia for its war in Yemen.