Donald Trump’s alpha male persona and tough statements have convinced many voters that he is the best person to be our commander-in-chief. The perception is that his real-estate negotiating skill and harsh threats would make America’s enemies – from ISIS to Russia
to China – cower and do his bidding.
But many of us are concerned that his declarations will make us less, not more, safe. Renounce all Muslims? Use more harsh torture? Use nuclear weapons? Are these the proper policies for the United States to ensure our safety?
FORTUNATELY, A group of Republican national security leaders have assessed Trump’s statements and policies. These 100-plus veterans of Republican administrations, former Cabinet members, retired flag officers and respected national security analysts have signed a letter addressing the prospect of Donald Trump as commander-in-chief.
Although they disagree among themselves on some issues, they are united in their opposition to a Trump presidency. Their disturbing conclusions are quoted in part below.
• “His advocacy for aggressively waging trade wars is a recipe for economic disaster in a globally connected world.”
• “His embrace of the expansive use of torture is inexcusable.”
• “His hateful, anti-Muslim rhetoric undercuts the seriousness of combating Islamic radicalism by alienating partners in the Islamic world making significant contributions to the effort.”
• “Similarly, his insistence that close allies such as Japan must pay vast sums for protection is the sentiment of a racketeer, not the leader of the alliances that have served us so well ...”
• “His admiration for foreign dictators such as Vladimir Putin is unacceptable for the leader of the world’s greatest democracy.”
• “He is fundamentally dishonest. Evidence of this includes his attempts to deny positions he has unquestionably taken in the past, including on the 2003 Iraq war and the 2011 Libyan conflict.”
• “His equation of business acumen with foreign policy experience is false. Not all lethal conflicts can be resolved as a real-estate deal might, and there is no recourse to bankruptcy court in international affairs.”
• “Therefore, as committed and loyal Republicans, we are unable to support a party ticket with Mr. Trump at its head. We commit ourselves to working energetically to prevent the election of someone so utterly unfitted to the office.”
The entire letter and list of signers can be viewed by Googling “open letter on Donald Trump from GOP national security leaders.”
MANY TRUMP supporters will discount this letter as merely the words of Washington insiders – the ones who have created the mess we’re in. These supporters ignore the reality that international security issues are very complicated and cannot be solved with simplistic solutions.
Muslim sects killing one another, a Russian dictatorship expanding its military and political influence, and China attempting to increase its influence over the South China Sea are not new issues. As much as we would like, we may never “solve” those problems. The Republican signers of the letter understand the complexity in navigating those treacherous waters, where a misstep can make the situation far worse.
This attraction to a political rookie for president is puzzling to me. Having worked in Washington for nearly 30 years on active duty in the Pentagon and at the National War College, then as a civilian working with the Pentagon and Congress, I have learned that good politicians are grown, they don’t just materialize from nowhere. As respected Republican CIA Director and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said, politics today is a profession, not a hobby.
Part of the fascination with Donald Trump is we are not accustomed to autocratic demagogues as presidential candidates. Consider Latin America’s unfortunate experience with populist autocrats Juan Perón in Argentina and Hugo Chávez in Venezuela.
Although Perón and Chávez were leftists and Trump says he is from the right, a Wall Street Journal article discussed their surprisingly similar manipulative techniques:
• creating fear from a real or imagined enemy (Muslims) to arouse voters;
• denigrating the media (Megyn Kelly) as unfair and persecuting;
• displaying the alpha male personality (referencing his genitals) with an underlying threat of violence, (“punch them in the face”);
• bypassing political parties (Washington establishment) by creating a cult of personality through direct television contact with voters.
PERóN AND CHáVEZ drove their countries into the ground, but this had little impact on the rest of the world because Argentina and Venezuela were not nuclear-armed superpowers. A badly led America could create disaster for the entire world.
The national security experts from Trump’s own party are correct. We cannot afford to put our nuclear weapons and national security in the hands of a trainee so utterly unfit to be president of the United States.
(The writer is a retired U.S. Navy officer. He lives and writes in Savannah. His e-mail address is EdConant420@gmail.com.)