Foreign policy elites and experts rarely step out into the public spotlight to speak their minds but with the circumstances of the upcoming American election, 50 of the United States’ most senior Republican national security officials felt duty-bound to bend the rules.
Former top aides and cabinet members from the previous Bush administration banded together on Monday August 8, 2016, to sign a letter publicly declaring Donald J. Trump, the GOP Presidential nominee, unfit to be president, as he “lacks the character, values and experience” and would “put at risk [the] country’s national security and well-being.” Though prior complaints have been raised in smaller numbers by a number of Republican officials, this letter included the opinions of top level personnel who previously remained silent on the subject.
The letter cites Trump’s inability to prove to the nation that he understands the ethic of the Constitution, thus putting his moral authority into disrepute. Signatories to the letter argue that Trump isn’t even aware of the complexity surrounding diplomatic challenges, public policy issues, and economic minefields he would undoubtedly face were he to be elected. On this basis, the letter states that “from a foreign policy perspective, Donald Trump is not qualified to be president and commander-in-chief” and is unfit to wield “command of the US nuclear arsenal.” Equally as disconcerting, “Trump has shown no interest in educating himself” on foreign affairs.
Michael V. Hayden, former director of the CIA and National Security Agency (NSA), John D. Negroponte, former director of national intelligence and Deputy Secretary of State, and Robert B. Zoellick, another former Deputy Secretary of State, were among those who refused to sign an initial letter drafted during the Republican primaries in March by War on The Rocks, an online national security salon. However, after hearing that Trump invited Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s email server, in addition to his comments about abandoning America’s relationship with its most significant ally, NATO, they felt compelled to sign.
In retaliation to the letter, Trump reminded the world that many of the signatories had been responsible for orchestrating the invasion of Iraq back in 2003. Trump then blamed many of these top ranking officials for letting ‘the rise of ISIS’ take place and permitting ‘Americans to die in Benghazi,’ both of which occurred during President Obama’s tenure. He showed no mercy in vilifying the signatories, justifying that “the names on this letter are the ones the American people should look to for answers on why the world is a mess, and we thank them for coming forward so everyone in the country knows who deserves the blame for making the world such a dangerous place.”
It is unsurprising that some of the American public have championed hostility towards Donald Trump but this letter underscores that political elite of the highest echelons are slowly becoming aware of the magnitude of the Republican Party’s decision. Trump’s ploy to “upend foreign policy orthodoxy on anything from trade to Russia,” and his affinity for Russian president Vladimir Putin despite the Crimean annexation, speaks volumes about where his foreign policy is headed, one that reprimands moral authority and maintenance of human rights and international law.
The dichotomy between Trump’s aggressive nature and the GOP lashing out raises an important question: who will Trump turn to for “institutional memory” if he is elected in November? Irrespective of the validity of Trump’s comments about the signatories’ past mistakes, these individuals are the “party’s repository of experience of economic, diplomatic and military strategies.” And, Trump’s own foreign policy team is no shining beacon of hope, clearly devoid of any experience. Perhaps, these experts must be given the chance to write away their mistakes in order to concentrate on America’s future.
Trump remains adamant to engage in foreign policy that promotes peace over war, military reconstruction, and proves to the world that the US is unafraid to stand up to dictators.
Photo: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump (2013), courtesy of Gage Skidmore via Flickr. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.
Disclaimer: Any views or opinions expressed in articles are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the NATO Association of Canada.