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“Donald Trump’s Bar-Stool Foreign Policy”: Disastrous In A Man Who Sits In The Oval Office

The best reason for conservatives to withhold their support from Donald Trump is that he cannot be trusted to lead America’s foreign policy or command its military. For many this is so self-evident given Trump’s character and the lack of normal political constraints under which he operates, that there’s no need to elaborate. But some need convincing.

Many of Trump’s supporters are happy that he seems to have taken on the foreign policy orthodoxies of his party. They want an America that doesn’t waste trillions of dollars in fruitless efforts like turning Iraq into a democracy, or helping Libyan rebels only to see that country become an operating base for ISIS. They know that Hillary Clinton’s instinct is to use American air power in the name of human rights even if it leads to pro-Islamist outcomes, whether in Kosovo or Libya. In fact, I want and believe the same things.

But there aren’t strong reasons to believe Trump is any better than Clinton when it comes to making peace. In fact, he may be much worse.

Trump supported all the dumb wars and interventions that he now claims to have been against. He supported President George W. Bush on invading Iraq. Though he says he was against it, Trump supported the intervention in Libya in the most anti-realist terms possible when he said, “We’ve got to go in and save these lives.” He is just all over the place, saying that we shouldn’t be involved in Syria, and then a few minutes later saying that the U.S. should create safe zones in Syria.

The simple explanation for these changes is that Donald Trump hasn’t ever thought hard about foreign policy; he simply has an instinct for where public opinion is at any moment on any given war and runs ahead of it. That’s fine for someone holding forth at the bar stool. It’s disastrous in a man who sits in the Oval Office.

Almost the entirety of the foreign policy establishment is against Donald Trump. That includes not just the hawkish neoconservatives, but also the foreign policy realists who would be the only group of advisors that could shape Trump’s “America First” foreign policy into a real alternative to the last 25 years of post-Cold War interventionism. He would simply be disarmed of the kind of expertise needed to run America’s foreign policy. Getting his way with the full-time employed members of the State and Defense Departments will prove difficult and lead to upheaval or administrative gridlock, at best.

Trump has named a handful of under-qualified foreign policy hands. Some of them are quite alarming in themselves, like Walid Phares, who has repeatedly sounded the bell that Muslims have a secret plot to take over America and impose sharia law.

Trump seems to believe any and every conspiracy theory that passes by his nose — not just that vaccines cause Down syndrome or that Barack Obama may be a secret Kenyan. He has said he believed that Obama struck a deal with the Saudis to keep oil prices low ahead of his re-election in 2012. If you thought that it was bad when the Bush administration came to believe its own bad intelligence, imagine what a Trump administration would do when the president wants to believe something. Beyond that, Trump has promised that American military members will commit war crimes and other acts of torture on his say-so, merely because he is Donald Trump.

America is already too quick to use its military power to try to shape outcomes in far-off places throughout the world. This defect would only be exacerbated if a person with Trump’s twitchy sense of honor and aggression steps into the role of commander-in-chief.

The very fact that most of the elected officials of the Republican Party — including those that once called Trump a “cancer,” a “con artist,” or an “erratic individual” who can’t be trusted with America’s nuclear arsenal — have lined up to endorse him or even become his vice president shows that our political class is unlikely to resist him doing something truly dangerous if he is perceived as popular. Too many, when faced with the choice between their high principles and Trump, chose Trump as an expediency. We should not tempt them with a choice between their president and the security of our nation.

 

By: Michael Brendan Dougherty, The Week, May 30, 2016

June 2, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Foreign Policy, U. S. Military | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Please Don’t Mainstream Trump”: The Risks Of Declaring Trump A Morally Acceptable Leader For Our Country Are High

Donald Trump’s Republican primary triumph means that this cannot be a normal election. Americans who see our country as a model of tolerance, inclusion, rationality and liberty must come together across party lines to defeat him decisively.

Many forces will be at work in the coming weeks to normalize Trump — and, yes, the media will play a big role in this. On both the right and the left, there will be strong temptations to go along.

Refusing to fall in line behind Trump will ask more of conservatives. Beating Trump means electing Hillary Clinton, the last thing most conservatives want to do. It would likely lead to a liberal majority on the Supreme Court and the ratification of the achievements of President Obama’s administration, including the Affordable Care Act. Conservative opposition could deepen a popular revulsion against Trump that in turn could help Democrats take over the Senate and gain House seats.

But the risks of declaring Trump a morally acceptable leader for our country are higher still, and shrewd Trump opponents on the right are already trying to disentangle the presidential race from contests lower on the ballot.

Three streams of Republicans are likely to oppose Trump: those to his right on trade and government spending; neoconservatives who oppose his “America First” noninterventionist foreign policy; and the remaining moderates and others in the party alarmed over his outbursts on, among other things, torture, immigration, race, women, Latinos, Muslims, Vladimir Putin and, lest we forget, Obama’s birthplace, Ted Cruz’s father and John McCain’s military service. These honorable and brave conservatives should not lose their nerve under pressure from conventional politicians or the very lobbyists and big donors Trump likes to denounce.

The fact that Trump draws opposition from the most ideological parts of the Republican Party heightens the temptation on the left to cheer his apparent victory. As someone who has argued that the right has long been on the wrong path, I understand this urge.

It’s certainly true that his feat vindicates much of what progressives have said about the conservative movement. Republican leaders have a lot to answer for, and not only the incompetence and timidity of their stop-Trump efforts.

They have spent years stoking the resentment and anger on the right end of their party that fueled Trump’s movement. They ignored the material interests of their struggling white working-class base and also popular exhaustion with foreign commitments fed by interventionist misadventures. Along with many Democrats, they underestimated the anger over trade agreements that accelerated the economic dislocation of the less well-off.

After this election, the GOP will need an extended period of self-examination. But no one on the left should applaud the rise of Trump as representing a friendly form of “populism” — let alone view him as the leader of a mass movement of the working class. He is no such thing. He is channeling the European far right, mixing intolerance, resentment and nationalism.

There will be much commentary on Trump’s political brilliance. But this should not blind us to the degree that Trumpism is very much a minority movement in our country. He has won some 10.6 million votes, but this amounts to less than a quarter of the votes cast in the primaries this year. It’s fewer than Clinton’s 12.4 million votes and not many more than the 9.3 million Bernie Sanders has received.

But never again will I underestimate Trump, having done this a month ago, rashly predicting he would lose the Republican nomination. I clearly had an excess of confidence that Cruz could rally anti-Trump voters and thought a series of wildly outrageous Trump statements would do more harm to his candidacy than they did.

I was dead wrong as a pundit, allowing myself to get carried away by my confidence that, at the end of it all, Americans would see through Trump. I still devoutly believe they will do so, once the campaign moves out of the Republican primaries, but I now know how urgent it is to resist capitulation to every attempt to move Trump into the political mainstream.

My friend, the writer Leon Wieseltier, suggested a slogan that embodies the appropriate response to Trump’s ascent: “Preserve the Shock.”

“The only proper response to his success is shame, anger and resistance,” Wieseltier said. “We must not accustom ourselves to this. . . . Trump is not a ‘new normal.’ No amount of economic injustice, no grievance, justifies the resort to his ugliness.”

Staying shocked for six months is hard. It is also absolutely necessary.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, May 4, 2016

May 9, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Foreign Policy, Media, National Security | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“His Global Brainless Trust”: Donald Trump’s New Foreign Policy Advisers Are As Rotten As His Steaks

A Christian academic accused of inciting violence against Muslims. A former Pentagon official who blocked investigations into Bush administration bigwigs. And an assortment of self-professed experts probably few in established foreign policy circles have ever heard of. These are the minds advising Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on foreign policy and national security.

Trump, who has been pressed for months to name his council of advisers, revealed five in a meeting with the Washington Post editorial board on Tuesday: Keith Kellogg, Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, Walid Phares, and Joseph E. Schmitz.

Few of these names will register with most voters, or many experts in Washington. None of them are especially sought after for foreign policy views and national security expertise in the nation’s capital—which may be why they’re attractive to Trump.

Trump revealed little about what specific advice they’d given so far, or how any of them may have shaped Trump’s surprising new position that the U.S. should rethink whether it needs to remain in the seven-decades-old NATO alliance with Europe.

Sounding more like a CFO than a commander-in-chief, Trump said of the alliance, “We certainly can’t afford to do this anymore,” adding, “NATO is costing us a fortune and yes, we’re protecting Europe with NATO, but we’re spending a lot of money.”

U.S. officials, including former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, have said that European allies have to shoulder a bigger burden of NATO’s cost. But calling for the possible U.S. withdrawal from the treaty is a radical departure for a presidential candidate—even a candidate who has been endorsed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It also wasn’t clear how Trump’s arguably anti-interventionist position on the alliance squared with his choice of advisers. The most well-known among them is Phares, a politically conservative academic who has accused President Obama of “appeasement” toward radical Muslim terrorists and called for more U.S. military intervention in the Middle East.

To his detractors, Phares is a rare combination of lightning rod and dog whistle. His various claims about a creeping, underappreciated jihadi “apocalypse” against the West will find quarter with Trump’s broad suspicion of Muslims and his call to ban foreign Muslims from entering the U.S.

In a 2008 essay in the conservative Human Events, Phares warned that in the following four years, “Jihadists may recruit one million suicide bombers” and that by 2016, they would have 10 million and “seize five regimes equipped with the final weapon,” referring to nuclear weapons.

This isn’t Phares’s first time as a presidential adviser. As The Daily Beast reported in 2011, Phares’s work co-chairing the Middle East policy team for then-GOP candidate Mitt Romney—who has recently vowed to fight against Trump’s nomination—prompted the Council on American-Islamic Relations to call on the candidate to ditch Phares, whom it called “an associate to war crimes” and a “conspiracy theorist,” citing his ties to a violent anti-Muslim militia.

Mother Jones reported that in the 1980s Phares, a Christian who was then active in Lebanese political groups, trained militants in ideological beliefs to justify a war on Muslim and Druze factions, prompting a former CIA official to question why a man with ties to foreign political organizations was advising a U.S. presidential candidate.

Phares has his supporters, chiefly in neoconservative foreign policy circles and among conservative pundits and analysts. But those connections drew scrutiny in 2012 when the group Media Matters for America alleged that Phares’s connections to the Romney campaign weren’t properly identified when Phares was working as a consultant for Fox News.

Another Trump adviser, Schmitz, has served in government, as the Defense Department inspector general. Schmitz was brought in during the first term of President George W. Bush with a mandate to reform the watchdog office, but he eventually found himself the subject of scrutiny.

“Schmitz slowed or blocked investigations of senior Bush administration officials, spent taxpayer money on pet projects and accepted gifts that may have violated ethics guidelines,” according to an investigation by the Los Angeles Times in 2005. Current and former colleagues described him as “an intelligent but easily distracted leader who seemed to obsess over details,” including the hiring of a speechwriter and designs for a bathroom.

Schmitz also raised eyebrows for what the paper’s sources described as his “unusual” fascination with Baron Friedrich Von Steuben, a Revolutionary War hero who’s regarded as the military’s first inspector general. Schmitz reportedly replaced the Defense Department IG’s seal in its office across the country with a new one bearing the Von Steuben family motto, Sub Tutela Altissimi Semper, “under the protection of the Almighty always.”

 

By: Shane Harris, The Daily Beast, March 21, 2016

March 22, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Foreign Policy, National Security | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Clash Of Republican Con Artists”: Is Trump More Fraudulent Than The Establishment Trying To Stop Him? Not Really

So Republicans are going to nominate a candidate who talks complete nonsense on domestic policy; who believes that foreign policy can be conducted via bullying and belligerence; who cynically exploits racial and ethnic hatred for political gain.

But that was always going to happen, however the primary season turned out. The only news is that the candidate in question is probably going to be Donald Trump. Establishment Republicans denounce Mr. Trump as a fraud, which he is. But is he more fraudulent than the establishment trying to stop him? Not really.

Actually, when you look at the people making those denunciations, you have to wonder: Can they really be that lacking in self-awareness?

Donald Trump is a “con artist,” says Marco Rubio — who has promised to enact giant tax cuts, undertake a huge military buildup and balance the budget without any cuts in benefits to Americans over 55.

“There can be no evasion and no games,” thunders Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House — whose much-hyped budgets are completely reliant on “mystery meat,” that is, it claims trillions of dollars in revenue can be collected by closing unspecified tax loopholes and trillions more saved through unspecified spending cuts.

Mr. Ryan also declares that the “party of Lincoln” must “reject any group or cause that is built on bigotry.” Has he ever heard of Nixon’s “Southern strategy”; of Ronald Reagan’s invocations of welfare queens and “strapping young bucks” using food stamps; of Willie Horton?

Put it this way: There’s a reason whites in the Deep South vote something like 90 percent Republican, and it’s not their philosophical attachment to libertarian principles.

Then there’s foreign policy, where Mr. Trump is, if anything, more reasonable — or more accurately, less unreasonable — than his rivals. He’s fine with torture, but who on that side of the aisle isn’t? He’s belligerent, but unlike Mr. Rubio, he isn’t the favorite of the neoconservatives, a.k.a. the people responsible for the Iraq debacle. He’s even said what everyone knows but nobody on the right is supposed to admit, that the Bush administration deliberately misled America into that disastrous war.

Oh, and it’s Ted Cruz, not Mr. Trump, who seems eager to “carpet bomb” people, without appearing to know what that means.

In fact, you have to wonder why, exactly, the Republican establishment is really so horrified by Mr. Trump. Yes, he’s a con man, but they all are. So why is this con job different from any other?

The answer, I’d suggest, is that the establishment’s problem with Mr. Trump isn’t the con he brings; it’s the cons he disrupts.

First, there’s the con Republicans usually manage to pull off in national elections — the one where they pose as a serious, grown-up party honestly trying to grapple with America’s problems. The truth is that that party died a long time ago, that these days it’s voodoo economics and neocon fantasies all the way down. But the establishment wants to preserve the facade, which will be hard if the nominee is someone who refuses to play his part.

By the way, I predict that even if Mr. Trump is the nominee, pundits and others who claim to be thoughtful conservatives will stroke their chins and declare, after a great show of careful deliberation, that he’s the better choice given Hillary’s character flaws, or something. And self-proclaimed centrists will still find a way to claim that the sides are equally bad. But both acts will look especially strained.

Equally important, the Trump phenomenon threatens the con the G.O.P. establishment has been playing on its own base. I’m talking about the bait and switch in which white voters are induced to hate big government by dog whistles about Those People, but actual policies are all about rewarding the donor class.

What Donald Trump has done is tell the base that it doesn’t have to accept the whole package. He promises to make America white again — surely everyone knows that’s the real slogan, right? — while simultaneously promising to protect Social Security and Medicare, and hinting at (though not actually proposing) higher taxes on the rich. Outraged establishment Republicans splutter that he’s not a real conservative, but neither, it turns out, are many of their own voters.

Just to be clear, I find the prospect of a Trump administration terrifying, and so should you. But you should also be terrified by the prospect of a President Rubio, sitting in the White House with his circle of warmongers, or a President Cruz, whom one suspects would love to bring back the Spanish Inquisition.

As I see it, then, we should actually welcome Mr. Trump’s ascent. Yes, he’s a con man, but he is also effectively acting as a whistle-blower on other people’s cons. That is, believe it or not, a step forward in these weird, troubled times.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, March 4, 2016

March 6, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP Primaries | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Trump-Led Party Is Unsupportable”: First Republican For Hillary Clinton Over Donald Trump Emerges

By this point, the vast majority of conservative intellectuals have publicly denounced Donald Trump. Most of them depict Trump as an ideologically alien force, more liberal than conservative, whose very affiliation with the GOP is to be dismissed as an inexplicable mistake. But Robert Kagan’s anti-Trump column today differs from those others in two important respects. First, he connects the rise of Trump to the Republican Party’s generalized anti-Obama hysteria. He calls Trump “the party’s creation, its Frankenstein monster,” attributing his rise to “the party’s wild obstructionism,” its “accommodation to and exploitation of the bigotry in its ranks,” and — most daringly — its “Obama hatred, a racially tinged derangement syndrome that made any charge plausible and any opposition justified.” Republicans have challenged the party’s failure to develop legislative alternatives, but none of them have attacked its strategy of massive uncompromising opposition to the entire Obama agenda. (Except David Frum, who was quickly fired from his think-tank post.)

More daringly, Kagan does not merely denounce Trump, or even swear he will never support him (as other conservatives have done). He states plainly he would vote for Hillary Clinton over Trump. And that, of course, is the only real statement that has force in this context. It is one thing to staunchly oppose a candidate in the primary, but however fierce your opposition, there is always room to come home to the party if you lose the primary. Kagan is connecting Trump to the GOP’s extremism and saying that a Trump-led party is unsupportable. That is the sort of opposition that could turn a Trump defeat into an opportunity for internal reform.

Now, Kagan is a bit atypical. A prominent neoconservative intellectual, he has moved closer to the center and defended aspects of the Obama record. It is also interesting that Kagan, like Frum, hails from the neoconservative tradition. The neoconservatives were originally moderate liberal critics of the Democratic Party, who objected to its leftward turn in the 1960s and 1970s and began their exodus from the broader Democratic Party around the McGovern campaign. Most of them are deeply enmeshed in the conservative movement now and have views about the role of government indistinguishable from those of other conservatives. But, eventually, some faction will break loose from the GOP and form the basis for a sane party that is capable of governing. Who knows? Maybe that faction will be the one that moved into the party a half-century ago.

 

By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, February 25, 2016

February 26, 2016 Posted by | Conservatives, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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