Of many ways a Donald Trump presidency could damage the United States, few are more immediately catastrophic than the risk to our national security.
This is not simplistic material. "Bomb the hell out of them" is the kind of line that might offer emotional gratification to some (thoughtless) audiences, but the kind of thought process lying behind it would be disastrous in practice. His bizarre choice of foreign role models would be hardly better. His ignorance of the importance of national security basics accepted by presidents of both parties for generations could put not only the United States but the whole world at risk.
Former Sweden Prime Minister Carl Bildt (not to the sort of person usually to comment much on an American election) twitted, "I never thought a serious candidate for US President could be a serious threat against the security of the West. But that's where we are."
Two statements from groups of foreign policy experts should be allowed to weigh in here.
One, from July, is an open letter signed by more than 150 foreign policy leaders saying, "On balance, Mr. Trump’s foreign policy would weaken America’s alliances and erode its power . . . Mr. Trump’s foreign policy vision has inspired alarm across the political spectrum in the United States as well as in allied capitals throughout the world. Many critics of his candidacy appear to have believed that they could blunt his momentum by lampooning his disposition and mocking his proposals. With less than four months before the United States elects its next president, however, it is evident that neither of those tactics has succeeded; it behooves Americans—policymakers, analysts, and citizens alike—to take Mr. Trump seriously and interrogate his vision of foreign policy."
That one is not to be confused with a statement signed a month earlier by more than 120 conservative foreign policy experts. They said:
We the undersigned, members of the Republican national security community, represent a broad spectrum of opinion on America’s role in the world and what is necessary to keep us safe and prosperous. We have disagreed with one another on many issues, including the Iraq war and intervention in Syria. But we are united in our opposition to a Donald Trump presidency. Recognizing as we do, the conditions in American politics that have contributed to his popularity, we nonetheless are obligated to state our core objections clearly:
His vision of American influence and power in the world is wildly inconsistent and unmoored in principle. He swings from isolationism to military adventurism within the space of one sentence.
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. Furthermore, it endangers the safety and Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of American Muslims.
Controlling our border and preventing illegal immigration is a serious issue, but his insistence that Mexico will fund a wall on the southern border inflames unhelpful passions, and rests on an utter misreading of, and contempt for, our southern neighbor.
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 since World War II.
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. We accept that views evolve over time, but this is simply misrepresentation.
One of the most recent television ads released by the Hillary Clinton campaign is a reprise of the famous "Daisy" ad offered in 1964 to devastating effect against Barry Goldwater. You can make a case, with the passage of time, that it unfairly maligned Goldwater. But its implications cannot malign Trump at all: As a prospective president, he is an imminent danger to this country and the world. - rs