In January, Heather Hurlburt and I had a long conversation at Bloggingheads in which Heather argued that if Trump were to become the Republican nominee, GOP foreign policy hands would eventually bandwagon and sign up to his campaign — because that’s what foreign policy advisers do. As Trump’s campaign gathered steam, I suggested that this might not actually happen.
As well as his controversial views on immigration and hostility to trade deals, many members of the foreign policy community fear that a Trump administration would damage relations with allies such as Japan, South Korea and Germany. They also fear that he is too sympathetic towards authoritarian rivals of the U.S., such as Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
The push to highlight concerns about Mr Trump and his foreign policy statements is being spearheaded by Eliot Cohen, a former top state department official in President Bush’s administration, and Bryan McGrath, a retired navy officer who advised Mitt Romney during his 2012 run for the White House.
Last night War on the Rocks published the open letter declaring that Donald Trump’s policy pronouncements rendered him unfit for office:
Mr. Trump’s own statements lead us to conclude that as president, he would use the authority of his office to act in ways that make America less safe, and which would diminish our standing in the world. Furthermore, his expansive view of how presidential power should be wielded against his detractors poses a distinct threat to civil liberty in the United States. 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.
See The Post story by Thomas Gibbons-Neff here.
The R in RINO still counts for something, so I was happy to add my name to the list.
As the letter rocketed around social media last night, a contingent of people argued, in essence, that neoconservatives ginned this up because Trump isn’t as big a fan of Middle East conflicts. Why bother with a petition about Trump when Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio aren’t all that different?
I don’t speak for any other signatories, but speaking for myself, I do see a huge difference between Trump and the remaining GOP candidates. At Lawfare, Benjamin Wittes has an excellent essay spelling out all of the ways Trump really is the worst of the worst. This part stood out in particular for me:
Trump has done more than any single person to undo two presidents’ earnest and consistent protestations that the United States is not at war with Islam. I have my doubts about whether Guantanamo has really been a major recruiting tool for the enemy. I have no shred of doubt, by contrast, that a promise to bar Muslims from the United States by this country’s president would be a major recruiting tool for the enemy. It certainly would be if I were running ISIS or Al Qaeda! These groups are premised, after all, on civilizational confrontation between Islam and the West. What better evidence could there be that the West is locked in a battle to the death with the umma than the insistence by the President of the United States— or even the Republican nominee for President of the United States — that no Muslim should be allowed to enter the country? What better way to make it impossible for critical Arab and Muslim allies to work with the United States? Why on earth would any sane Muslim cooperate with the law enforcement, intelligence agencies, or military of a country that would exclude him from its shores on the basis of his religion?
There’s also the tiny matter of Trump’s suggestions of how to deal with the families of terrorists, which prompted former CIA director Michael Hayden to suggest that military officers would have to refuse to follow President Trump’s orders:
During his appearance on “Real Time,” Hayden cited Trump’s pledge to kill family members as being among his most troubling campaign statements.
“That never even occurred to you, right?” Maher asked.
“God, no!” Hayden replied. “Let me give you a punchline: If he were to order that once in government, the American armed forces would refuse to act.”
As Mark Kleiman noted in response to this:
Hayden’s partisan loyalties, insofar as he has them, are more likely to be Republican than Democratic. When someone in that position calmly announces on national TV that the stated plans of the almost-presumptive GOP Presidential nominee are unlawful and would be disobeyed, that’s news. …
It’s possible to be too cynical, even about American politics in the Twenty-teens. Many Republican voters, and a big chunk of what might be called the Permanent Republican Party — the Republican political class and its associated corps of donors, influentials and potential nominees to senior positions — are sincerely patriotic and devoted to keeping the country strong militarily.
Look, this isn’t rocket science. I don’t want to see a president elected who would torpedo America’s standing in the world and trigger the worst civil-military conflict since Truman fired MacArthur in the process.
Every major party candidate still running has an element of their foreign policy platform that I find objectionable. Donald Trump has managed to collect all those objectionable policies into one portfolio, however. His foreign policy platform is uniquely awful. And his campaign is actually promoting violence at home as well.
And that’s why I signed the letter.