Just not the way Professor George Will would.
George Will, writing in the Washington Post yesterday, said that if Donald Trump is nominated conservatives should help him lose all fifty states. Will wrote that they should do this in order to “…reap the considerable satisfaction of preserving the identity of their 162-year-old party while working to see that they forgo only four years of the enjoyment of executive power.”
Will is wrong, appallingly so. That’s obvious to anyone who values our national security more than the identity of the Republican Party.
The simple fact is that if Trump were to lose to Hillary Clinton, the nation would be doomed to four or eight years of governance by a person who is unfit to be president by any measure. Mrs. Clinton’s connivance with President Obama produced the most damaging foreign policy since Lyndon Johnson waded into Vietnam. That policy is Hillary’s proudest (and only) achievement. Her handling of our most closely guarded secrets, making them vulnerable to interception by every foreign government and terrorist group, is unforgivable as is her comprehensive corruption.
We know the rest. Hillary would pack the Supreme Court with more Kagans and Sotomayors. I’m told that Trump will soon announce a list of possible Supreme Court nominees that will please conservatives. Let’s hope he does.
It’s unimaginable that any of us would work for Hillary against Trump, even those of us who have been sharply critical of him. It’s time to accept that, unless something really strange happens, Trump will be the Republican nominee this year. Therefore it’s our duty to help educate him.
Trump is a businessman so he sees national security and foreign policy only from that perspective. He’s unfamiliar with how national security and foreign policy must be managed to the nation’s benefit. He doesn’t know how to pull the levers of American power to move the world. So we have to help him learn. Some of the people I know and trust are trying to influence him on these matters as evidenced in his foreign policy speech last Wednesday.
There were a lot of good points Trump made in that speech and some not so good. Let’s take them in the order he made them.
Trump’s adoption of the “America First” slogan is unfortunate. Though it has a good ring to it, the slogan is freighted with the history of the isolationist “America Firsters” of the 1930s. (That movement lasted until three days after Pearl Harbor.) A potential president needs to be aware of that kind of history and avoid connecting himself to it. Insertion of two letters to make it “Americans First” might help.
Trump was spot on in saying that our resources are overextended. One example suffices. As Fox News reported recently, only thirty percent of the Marines’ F/A-18 fighters are combat ready. The rest are worn out by nearly fifteen years of war. The Navy and the Air Force aren’t in much better shape.
He was also correct in saying our allies aren’t paying their fair share. But he said it in a way he should correct.
Trump said, “The countries we are defending must pay the cost of their defense and, if not, the U.S. must be prepared to let these countries defend themselves.”
As I’ve written many times, of the twenty-eight members of NATO only five of them — including us — are investing at least two percent of their gross domestic product to defense. However, Trump has repeatedly said that these allies should pay us to defend them, adding South Korea and Japan to those who should pay us protection money. That’s more than a bit backwards.
Trump’s position should be changed into a “tough love” message to NATO and our other allies who don’t invest in their own defense. We don’t want, and Trump shouldn’t imply, that these allies should pay us to defend them. Alliances and allies will be much stronger if the allies invest their own funds in their own defenses, linked to ours in operational capabilities and methods. He should say it in just that way.
As Trump said, our rivals (which he should call “adversaries”) no longer respect us and our allies no longer trust us. Most importantly, he said, we have no clear foreign policy goals. As he implied, we need a clear national security strategy that includes both the restoration of our military strength and economic prosperity. You can’t have one without the other.
Trump says he wants to get a return on our international investments. He should examine the $8 billion or more we invest in the United Nations each year which yields negative return. The UN is a sinkhole for our money that spends most of its time bashing the U.S. and our allies. It holds us up as a bad example to the rest of the members who are, for the most part, dictatorships, despotisms, and sponsors of terrorism. How about holding their feet to the fire?
Some of Mr. Trump’s solutions to our problems have some serious defects.
He said, “Containing the spread of radical Islam must be a major foreign policy goal of the United States. Events may require the use of military force. But it’s also a philosophical struggle like our long struggle in the Cold War.”
Mr. Trump is comprehensively correct in saying we can’t continue the nation-building strategy of George W. Bush. It is the worst mistake we made after September 11, 2001. We cannot succeed in building democracies in the Islamic world because that religion precludes the separation of church and state, without which democracy cannot succeed.
The conflict that radical Islam brought home to us on 9/11 is a struggle far more serious and deep than a philosophical argument. Philosophy is too benign a term to use. Socrates was a philosopher. Vince Lombardi had a philosophy that led his Green Bay Packers to victory.
This war is, at its center of gravity, an ideological battle that can only be won by publicly recognizing that Islam is as much an ideology as it is a religion. That’s contrary to the approach taken by two successive presidents and, as a result, they have failed dramatically in fighting the terrorist ideology.
Radical Islam cannot be contained. We have to defeat it in the ideological battle they are waging against us as well as in the kinetic war. As Marine Gen. Peter Pace said when he became Chairman of the Joint Chiefs in 2006, what we say and what we write is just as important as how well we shoot. Mr. Trump should embrace that statement and the reasoning behind it.
Trump rightly criticized Obama’s nuclear weapons deal with Iran as a bad deal but he didn’t say what he’d do about it. He may want to renegotiate it, but that will never fly with Iran or the European signatories. He’d do better to say that — because it’s not a treaty ratified by the Senate — it has no validity under our Constitution and law and that he’d revoke it on the first day of his presidency.
Trump also called for an easing of tensions with Russia. He wants to sit down to negotiate with Putin from a position of strength. But to what end? How can he negotiate from strength when we’ve been comprehensively weak on Ukraine and Syria where the Russians are most aggressive? When Russian combat aircraft dare to buzz our ships and do barrel rolls over our aircraft in the Baltic?
Does he intend to renegotiate Obama’s nuclear weapons limitation treaty with Russia? He should, because it made concessions we’d never made before such as including antimissile missiles in the weapons count. We need to hear what he’d like to do and in general what his goals would be in a negotiation with Putin.
Trump is, again, correct in saying we need to rebuild our military. But that doesn’t mean throwing money at the problem randomly. He needs to recognize that we need a national military strategy from which we can derive our military and intelligence budgets.
In October 2012, I described a conservative defense agenda in The American Spectator in the forlorn hope of helping Mitt Romney’s campaign. Everything I wrote then is valid now, and adoption of that agenda far more urgent. I hope Mr. Trump and his advisors will read it and take it to heart.