Libya. Ukraine. Russia. The Syrian Red Line. Iran. Benghazi. ISIS. The Clinton “footprint” around the globe is not a clean one. The results are not stellar. We witness attacks in France, San Bernardino, and Orlando. We seek strong leadership, and a vision for the world that is anchored by American leadership. Foreign policy should not be a winning issue for Hillary Clinton; yet, it is.
Let’s play pure politics for a moment: election cycle after election cycle, Republicans paint Democrats as soft and weak. The tactic can get a bit disgraceful (re: Max Cleland), but other times we see a stark contrast between candidates and their visions for the world (re: Bush vs. Kerry). In modern electoral politics, Republicans have been the insurmountable bastion of national security. Conservatives build up a proud vision of the military, honor veterans, and value America as a global powerhouse. Active duty personnel and veterans have been some of the most reliably conservative voting groups. This was a settled area.
Then 2016 happened.
Donald J. Trump has managed to do what Al Gore, and John Kerry, and Barack Obama could not do: he has made the Democratic Party a “national security party.” He has ceded this ground to Hillary Clinton, albeit unknowingly. He’s simply unprepared to lead in a world beyond the gold on his tower. He speaks off the cuff, yelling like a bully in a cartoon. “Bomb the s**t out of them” is not leadership, and it isn’t a strategy. It’s oversimplified nonsense. He has created a policy vacuum in which her prior failings are glossed over because his incoherent ramblings overshadow all else. The 2016 foreign policy debate should have been “vision versus failure”; but with Trump as the nominee, it has become “experience versus absurdity.”
Mr. Trump has suggested banning Muslim immigration (in a world where we need Muslim cooperation), he has suggested auctioning off assistance to our NATO allies (in a world where are allies are multifaceted participants in the success we seek), he has insisted that he would force service members to obey illegal orders if he hands them down, and even went so far as to claim that he knows “more about ISIS than the generals do.” he is all-too-uninterested to learn about the complexities of our global society. The problem is not just that he lacks the knowledge; it’s that he lacks the will to obtain it.
He seems all-too-eager to default to nuclear weapons. Taking into account his admiration for brutal dictators and strongmen who funded terrorists and savaged their own citizens, I don’t think it’s too bold to say that our world can’t survive an authoritarian with a hair-trigger leading the greatest democracy on Earth.
When it comes to overlapping military and political experience, Dwight D. Eisenhower is the premier example. An Army General and Supreme Allied Commander, turned President of the United States. Ike spoke at length about his experience, and left an indelible (very un-Trump-like) impression:
“I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.”
(*Eisenhower address before the Canadian Club, Ottawa, Canada, 1/10/46: https://www.eisenhower.archives.gov/all_about_ike/quotes.html)
FIFTY REPUBLICAN National Security experts signed a letter vowing to oppose Mr. Trump. They have service backgrounds in intelligence, Homeland Security, Defense, State, etc. They aren’t exactly the Hillary Clinton fan club, but they value basic knowledge and an even temperament. Their claim:
“He is unable or unwilling to separate truth from falsehood. He does not encourage conflicting views. He lacks self-control and acts impetuously. He cannot tolerate personal criticism. He has alarmed our closest allies with his erratic behavior. All of these are dangerous qualities in an individual who aspires to be president and commander-in-chief, with command of the U.S. nuclear arsenal…We are convinced that in the Oval Office, he would be the most reckless President in American history. ”
That is a merciless assessment; but if anybody would know, they would.