The first requirement of America’s commander-in-chief is to keep our country safe. Donald Trump says as president he will ensure we have a stronger military, defeat ISIS and make our country safer. The fact is that his proposals and temperament will make us less safe.
A resurgent Russia under an unpredictable dictator and an expansionist China both require that our military be adequately sized, equipped and trained. A strong military is expensive, and competes with domestic programs for funds. The problem is Trump’s plans for increased military funding would fall victim to his tax cuts.
The Trump tax cuts would grow the national debt by $10 trillion in 10 years. That would be on top of the $8 trillion debt increase already baked into existing budget projections. Thus, within a decade, our debt would almost double to $37 trillion.
AS A 20-YEAR veteran of Washington’s budget wars, I know that a looming $37 trillion national debt would make it impossible to increase military funding. In the face of extreme revenue decline, Republicans and Democrats in Congress would not cut programs such as Social Security and Medicare to the levels required to expand military funding. Financial markets would not lend endless streams of money to an America that places tax cuts for the wealthy above willingness to repay its debt.
Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen once stated that “Our greatest national security threat is the national debt.” Trump’s unprecedented expansion of the debt would ignore Mullen’s wisdom, and seriously degrade the military.
In the case of ISIS and the Middle East, all the combatants, including our allies, are Muslim. Insulting the religion of your allies with repeated hateful comments is monumentally senseless. To defeat ISIS, America’s president needs to exercise diplomacy, not demagoguery. It is better to support our allies and their troops than to risk replacing them with hundreds of thousands of American boots on the ground.
BUT THE WORST risks of a Trump presidency are his national security ignorance, intellectual arrogance and unstable temperament.
His lack of knowledge of more than half a century of successful bipartisan nuclear weapons policy is stunning. It is as though he has never read a newspaper beyond the commercial real-estate section. For example, he suggested that South Korea and Japan start developing their own nuclear weapons. Also, according to media reports, when briefed by a Republican national security expert, he repeatedly asked why we couldn’t use nuclear weapons first.
Our nuclear policy has always been to limit the number of countries having nuclear weapons, and not use them ourselves unless faced by an existential threat. Essentially our goal is to keep the nuclear genie in the bottle, for after the first mushroom cloud, no one can predict what will happen.
TRUMP IS NOT only ignorant about national security, but somehow he believes he has nothing more to learn. He won’t read briefing books, says he gets his information from the Internet and says he knows “more than the generals.” That statement is not only an insult to our generals and the military they lead, but shows his arrogance; lack of understanding of the American military; and propensity to shoot from the hip.
In early August a group of 50 national security officials in Republican administrations, including former secretaries of homeland security and a director of the CIA, wrote in an open letter that they could not vote for Trump. An excerpt: “Donald Trump is not qualified to be President and Commander-in-Chief. Indeed, we are convinced that he would be a dangerous President and would put at risk our country’s national security and well-being.” The entire letter is essential knowledge for all voters, and can be read by Googling “statement by former national security officials.”
THE COLD WAR has been over for 25 years, and perhaps we have discounted the possibility of a nuclear holocaust. We dare not, for such a catastrophe would end America as we know it.
Having served on submarines carrying nuclear weapons and participated in nuclear weapons targeting studies, I am familiar with their terrible power. I know the person who controls the use of these weapons should be knowledgeable, deliberate, calm and intelligent. America cannot have an uninformed, intellectually lazy, thin skinned, hip-shooting demagogue in charge of our nuclear arsenal.
(The writer is a retired U.S. Navy
officer. He lives and writes in Savannah.)