The most important job the President is assigned in the Constitution is his role as Commander-in-Chief of the military. The President was given this role due to the obvious inadequacies of the preceding Articles of Confederation. Those Articles did not provide adequate national security safeguards against threats internal and external against the new Nation. Fearing a standing army, the Founders placed stringent checks on the President’s powers. For example, only Congress could declare war and they always had the power of the purse. It is not their fault that modern history has ceded much of these powers to the Presidency, but it is scary giving those powers to Donald Trump.
Much of national security may not even involve using the military, but through the use of foreign affairs management. Although one should use caution when taking Trump at his word, should he actually effectuate his foreign policy it is equally scary and dangerous.
The list of nonsense from his lips is seemingly endless. For a man who aspires to the highest office in the land and the titular leader of the free world, he has no real foreign policy experience, no military record and has famously said he gets advice from television talk shows. When pressed on who was actually advising him, he presented a who’s who list of “Who the hell are these people?” Robert Gates has said he does not feel comfortable with Trump’s fingers on the nuclear arsenal.
He promises to surround himself with the “greatest people,” but if his list of current advisers is any indication, one should not get their hopes up. Regarding the actual “greatest people,” they are running from him like roaches from an exterminator.
At virtually every juncture, he has challenged over 60 years of foreign policy held by Republicans and Democrats alike. If NATO countries don’t pony up more money on defense spending, who cares if NATO breaks apart? One assumes this is music to Putin’s ears. Ignorant of the tensions between South Korea and Japan, he has suggested that both obtain nuclear weapons to deter North Korea. He has even suggested that Saudi Arabia join the nuclear club.
If there is any coherence in his foreign policy and national security ideas it is that he would smash and demolish long-held alliances, abandon friends and allies, and leave the world at the mercy of predators and bad guys. Consider the fact that when he gave his “great” foreign policy speech, not a single close ally’s representative sat in that room. Even his campaign manager Paul Manafort has helped the kleptocratic ruler of the Ukraine.
Speaking of true foreign policy and military advisers, a real who’s who list signed an open letter against Trump in a copy of the National Review. They correctly noted that:
- His policies are unprincipled and swing from isolationism to military adventurism in the span of a single sentence;
- He openly endorses aggressive trade wars;
- He has threatened the Constitutional safeguards of Muslims through his rhetoric;
- His obvious utter contempt for Mexico;
- His insistence that Japan must pay more for American protection is akin to the activities of a “racketeer;”
- His embrace of foreign dictators like Vladimir Putin;
- His lies about American involvement in Iraq, and;
- His equation of business acumen with sound foreign policy.
As they said, in foreign policy “there is no recourse to bankruptcy court.”
Most disturbing perhaps are his comments on the Hugh Hewitt Show when asked what he would do if Pakistan suddenly became a rogue nuclear nation on his watch. After fumbling about how India would have to get involved and be a check on Pakistan, he then turned the subject to North Korea. When pressed by Hewitt whether he would use the military against Pakistan, he said he would not give his plans away. In other words, the only predictable thing about a Trump foreign policy is unpredictability.
When asked about a favorite time in history for the US, he cited the 1940’s obviously ignorant of world history. The Soviet Union had detonated an atomic weapon, China had fallen to the Communists, Truman was losing the opening salvos of the Cold War while his administration was riddled with Communists, and an Iron Curtain was falling across Eastern Europe. And this is the pinnacle of American foreign policy and national security in the mind of Donald Trump?
His very slogan is indicative of his mindset: “Make America Great Again.” This assumes that America is not great now and feeds into the apparent pessimism among Trump supporters which he exploits. A more accurate descriptive slogan should be “Make America Greater.”
And his ignorance knows no bounds. He complains about the Iran deal and then complains that Iran is now doing business with France for aircraft ignorant of the fact that the US maintains a boycott on doing business with Iran because of their sponsorship of terrorism. If Trump wants Iran to buy from Boeing instead of France, then he needs to convince Congress to lift that embargo. He bitches about the US being a debtor nation because we spend too much on the military and use that military to defend “ungrateful allies” ignorant of the fact that defense constitutes just 16% of the federal budget. He has claimed that Iran is North Korea’s largest trading partner ignorant of the fact that it is China, not Iran.
In most areas, but especially national security, foreign policy and the military- three important areas under that umbrella of Commander-in-Chief- Trump is a reflection of his supporters- ignorant and pessimistic. It is reminiscent of Jimmy Carter and his famous American “crisis of confidence” speech, often misnamed the “malaise speech.”
It took the sunnier optimism of Ronald Reagan to defeat Carter and, in the process, the Soviet Union. It was a shining moment for democracy and one our Founders would have proud of- democracy defeating an evil, despotic, tyrannical system of government.
The man is unqualified to be the leader of the free world and would be more at home in Putin’s Russia. Is it any wonder that admirers of Vladimir Putin populate his Twitter followers, not to mention racist white supremacists who worship a dead German fascist?
We can almost predict a Trump foreign policy and those predictions contradict his biggest applause lines. First, there will be no wall on the southern border and any one that is built will not be paid for by Mexico. Neither will we invade Syria and take their oil, resort to methods worse than waterboarding, or pursue families of suspected terrorists. Second, there will be no trade deals since he thinks they are all evil and he has no real plan to improve existing deals.
Third, failing in these areas of his campaign promises, he’ll propose other grandiose plans doomed to failure. Of course, he’ll blame others for that failure. Trump does not think small- everything is yuuuge and opulent. He thinks of foreign policy as one big real estate deal. And lest we forget, not every one of his real estate deals were a success. Fourth, he won’t attract anyone of stature in foreign policy expertise to his administration and will surround himself with B and C list players who will say “yes” to everything Trump proposes.
Fifth, as a result, one could expect high turnover rates as squabbling ensues within the administration. Publishers will be waiting at the gates with book deals. Expect Trump to threaten lawsuits against anyone who writes a book about his administration. Sixth, Trump’s narcissistic tendencies will get the worst of him as he will pursue failed ideas and avoid any good advice he receives which will be minimal at that. Unfortunately, by that time there will be irreparable damage to allies and friends.
Finally, confronted with his failures, he will resort to campaign mode and say something that will embarrass the country. He will no longer be the presumptive nominee, or the GOP candidate; he would be President and leader of the free world. As such, he would not be embarrassing the Republican Party- he’d be embarrassing the United States.
If there is one silver lining in this scenario it is that it would be one term and out for Trump. And God knows, there are at least 10 more-qualified Republicans waiting in the wings.