Wednesday, June 10, 2020

What's Next for the Right-of-Center National Security Community?

Four years ago, former George W. Bush administration State Department appointee Eliot Cohen (now Dean of the  Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University) and I placed an Open Letter on Donald Trump from GOP National Security Leaders in the online media and education forum “War on the Rocks”. In it, we laid out a case for Trump’s unfitness for office in the hope that his early primary momentum could be stopped. Ten dozen right-of-center national security experts of all ages and foreign policy approaches signed the letter, the overwhelming number of whom continue to support its assertions. Included among our warnings were words about Trump’s unmoored and inconsistent approach to foreign policy, his affinity for authoritarian dictators, and his basic and lifelong dishonesty. Additionally, we cited Mr. Trump’s own statements and concluded that he would use the authority of his office in ways that made America less safe, and that his expansive view of presidential power posed a threat to civil liberty.

Today, the Trump Administration is in deep trouble, unable to respond effectively to the COVID pandemic and now fanning the flames of race war as a re-election strategy. To say our warnings were prescient demeans the concept, as little we asserted took much imagination to conjure. We were right. But what to do now? How should the Trump-unfriendly right-of-center national security community move forward?

First, we should help defeat Donald Trump in November. A second Trump term would be a colossal mistake for this nation, and the unique cocktail of power and corruption he dispenses represents a continuing threat to the Republic. Then we must prepare for the future. Principled right-of-center national security thinkers must begin to prepare for the post-Trump era, one in which basic institutions and norms that have historically buttressed our power and influence will have to be strengthened, along with a number of friendships and alliances with international partners. Additionally, opportunities to cooperate with a Biden Administration must be explored, especially those that better posture the nation for continuing competition with China and Russia.

On the policy front, returning to the pre-Trump consensus is unlikely, but clinging to the GOP’s current fascination with nationalist populism cannot continue. Domestic missionary work is necessary, work that would help Americans who had been previously ignored  by the national security thinkers of both parties understand the value of free trade, the centrality of alliances, the importance of U.S. leadership in international organizations, and the need to build national strength across the whole of government for the competitions already underway.

The post-Trump right needs to prepare for a policy environment in which persuading others of the value of our ideas is the path to realizing them, putting the intimidation tactics of the racketeer behind us, as well as those who enabled them. There must be a reckoning in the post-Trump world, a time in which the right re-captures its emphases on ethics, values, and ideas, and systematically exposes the excess of the unprincipled who led it astray. Newly fashionable Trump-lite fan service dispensed by young and attractive faces peddling “re-alignment” should be exposed for what it is, a dramatic expansion of the power and reach of the government into areas of civil life where its influence should always be looked at with a jaundiced eye. Those warning us of the dangers of unbridled capitalism should be made to cite where exactly the bridles are, as what seems to bedevil growth and prosperity in this country—and consequently, our power and influence in the world—is a surfeit of bridles (regulation, crony-capitalism, tariffs) rather than an absence.

Rebuilding the right along classical liberal lines mixed with an updated post-Cold War primacy in the international sphere will not happen overnight, though the damage has been swiftly wrought. The hangover of Trumpism must not be allowed to weigh down a renewal, and the enablers of that decline must not be allowed to outrun their complicity. Those hoping for leadership in this new right must begin by immediately repudiating their support for Trump and Trumpism in all its forms, and they must rededicate themselves to the proposition that ideas, honesty, and persuasion comprise the best path to lasting change.


1 comment:

BigFred said...

So I guess my question is who from the right is a viable candidate to run against Trump? The Left screams about the base, and while I am not a fan I am sure that Biden would be worse, and I don't see anyone who can beat Trump, even if Biden pics a Black Female as a VP.

Newer Post Older Post Home