In a recent interview with Laura Ingraham, Trump just blurted out that he is essentially selling the use of American troops to Saudi Arabia for billions of dollars. It sounds a lot like a Mafia protection racket. He also lied and said that they had already sent us a billion dollars, which the Pentagon says is not true.
“We’re sending more [troops] to Saudi Arabia, and Saudi Arabia is paying us for it,” Trump said. “I said ‘Listen, you’re a very rich country. You want more troops? I’m going to send them to you. But you’ve got to pay us.’”
This is pretty much as direct a quid pro quo as you can get — an offer to do something on the condition of getting paid. And since what is supposedly being paid for is U.S. military personnel, critics argued that Trump was turning American forces into a de facto mercenary army.“He sells troops,” said Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI) on Twitter.
Trump even went further with his claim, saying the payment was already sent to “the bank,” though he didn’t specify which bank, and Ingraham didn’t press him.
“They’re paying us,” Trump said. “They’ve already deposited $1 billion in the bank.”
According to a statement from the Pentagon to Vox, however, none of this is right.
It said the Defense Department “has engaged Saudi Arabia on contributing to US activities that support regional security and dissuade hostility and aggression,” and that the country had agreed. However, it doesn’t look like any money has actually changed hands, as the Pentagon said that “discussions are ongoing to formalize these contributions.”
If there is good reason to use American troops to protect an ally against an external threat, then make the case for it and do it. But it isn’t the right thing to do because they’re willing to pay us to do it. We make joint defense alliances for a host of geopolitical reasons; financial gain should never be one of them. But for Trump, everything is transactional.