war on the rocks

#NatSec2016 Top Ten Reads, Ep. 1

May 26, 2016

Editor’s Note: Welcome to our new #NatSec2016 feature. We hope you enjoy it. You’ll be getting a list like this from Alex Ward every week. Alex’s #NatSec2016 column is also taking a bit of a different direction and will come out every other week. Tell us what you think in the comments section.

1. “Donald Trump Defends His National Security Positions as Hillary Clinton Attacks,” Wall Street Journal, Laura Meckler. In the words of the great philosopher Terrell Owens, “get your popcorn ready.” Clinton knows that national security is a “potential vulnerability” for the Donald and she’s hitting him where it hurts. Trump, with hurt feelings, lashed back, claiming Clinton “knows nothing about national security” and that “she’s incompetent.” Turns out the polling show only 27% of people think Trump has the right temperament to be commander-in-chief, and his recent marks seem to only reinforce that. As these two battle for the presidency, national security issues will surely come up. There’s even a chance Clinton may be to the right of Trump on some foreign policy issues. I honestly can’t wait for the debates, which start in September.

2. “Four Months After Fundraiser, Trump Says He Gave $1 Million to Veterans Groups,” Washington Post, David A. Fahrenthold. When people say journalism holds the powerful accountable, this is what they mean. After contacting many veterans’ groups, the Post found that Trump never delivered on his promise to give his own money and the $6 million he said he raised to any of them. Then, after reporters continued to question Trump about the issue, he announced something on Twitter: “While under no obligation to do so, I have raised between 5 & 6 million dollars, including 1million dollars from me, for our VETERANS. Nice!” Of course, he gave himself the obligation, but that’s another issue.

3. “Controversial Army General Rumored to Be on Trump’s VP List,” Military Times, Leo Shane III. Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and a Trump adviser, has made the vice presidential shortlist. As Shane points out, picking Flynn “could boost Trump’s weak national security and foreign affairs background.” That may backfire, though, as Flynn has favored close ties with Russia in the past.

4. “’Nobody Wants Chicago 1968’: Democratic Convention Fight Looms Over Israel, Foreign Policy,’Foreign Policy, Molly O’Toole. Bernie Sanders cares about the Israel-Palestine conflict and wants the Democratic Party’s platform to reflect a change in U.S. policy toward the crisis. Sanders wants a more “even-handed” approach, part of which he outlined in his Middle East policy speech. Sanders was granted five spots on the party’s drafting committee for the convention, and two of his picks, Rep. Keith Ellison and Cornel West, have been critical of Israel in the past. Expect Sanders’ crew to push for a policy that has Palestinians more in mind.

5. “Trump Leaving Neocons in Dust,” The Hill, Kristina Wong. While Trump may not be the “realist” some ascribe him to be, he is taking neoconservatives to task. Should Trump win or lose, the realist-neocon debate within the GOP will continue to rage.

6. “Bernie and the Cut-the-Military Brigade,” Wall Street Journal, Daniel Katz. According to Katz, Sanders’ arguments to cut military spending are “specious.” While he may have a point about the United States’ relative militaristic stance, his understanding of the budget numbers is a bit off. Katz aims to correct this, suggesting that “America is getting its security…at record low cost.”

7. “When Donald Trump Says His Foreign Policy is ‘America First’”—What Exactly Does He Mean?The Nation, Sherle R. Schwenninger, Heather Hurlburt, Stephen Kinzer, and Juan Cole. So we know that Trump is reluctant the United States involved abroad. When he says “America First” is the doctrine of his foreign policy, this is what we take him to mean. Yet, four writers have their own thoughts at The Nation, a publication that endorsed Bernie Sanders.

8. “Clinton, Sanders Supporters Differ Sharply on U.S. Global Role,” Pew Research Center, Rob Suls. As if you didn’t surmise it already, there are differences between Clinton and Sanders supporters. According to the Pew Research Center, these differences extend to foreign policy. When it comes to the question as to whether the world’s problems would be worse without U.S. involvement, 66% of Clinton’s supporters agreed compared to 49% of Sanders supporters. Also, Clinton fans believe the anti-ISIL campaign is going better than Sanders fans. So, there’s clearly a difference in worldview (literally). The whole survey is worth looking over, and it shows that the civil war in the Democratic party will continue on even in foreign policy, just like with the GOP.

9. “Hillary Clinton’s 3-Pronged Approach to Attacking Donald Trump on the Campaign Trail,” ABC News, Liz Kreutz. Who said foreign policy wouldn’t feature in this presidential election? Turns out Clinton will make foreign policy and national security central to her three-part strategy to get under Trump’s skin. She will try to label him as “dangerous” for the country and the world. Among his many positions, she will focus mostly on the banning of Muslims coming into the United States; the Mexico wall; and his praise for Kim Jong Un. Meanwhile, she’ll offer her foreign policy experience and bring up the Osama bin Laden raid, in which she played a major role.

10. “Realism Restrained: The Washington Playbook Strikes Back,” War on the Rocks, Emma Ashford. Ashford has a few takeaways from the Advancing American Security conference regarding the future of realism, a debate jumpstarted by Trump and Sanders’ candidacies, echoed by the American people. First, there seems to be a consensus about America’s relative safety in the world and the limits to U.S. power, especially when it comes to “the internal security or human rights policies of other states.” So, there was a general belief that the United States needs a more restrained foreign policy. These conclusions resonate more with Trump and Sanders’ proposals more so than Clinton’s. This presidential election, then, is about many things, but the future of the ideas animating U.S. foreign and national security policy is certainly part of it.

Image: Marc Nozell,  CC