#NatSec2016 Top Ten Reads, Ep. 2


Editor’s Note: Welcome to the second installment of 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. “National Security Speech,” Hillary Clinton. This is about as Def Comedy Jam as a real political speech gets. In a speech billed as Clinton’s opening foreign policy and national security doctrine salvo, it was more of a Trump roast, claiming “psychiatrists” likely analyze him, his ideas for the country are “dangerous,” and that he doesn’t have the right “temperament” to be president. Many of her argument, especially about nuclear weapons, were reminiscent of the 1964 president election where Lyndon Johnson launched his broadsides against Barry Goldwater, essentially claiming a nuclear war would break out with Goldwater in the Oval Office. Still, Clinton gave six policies she would pursue related to foreign policy: 1) “be strong at home” (hello, Sanders voters!); 2) “stick with our allies;” 3) “embrace all the tools of American power;” 4) “be firm but wise with our rivals;” 5) have “a real plan for confronting terrorists;” and 6) “stay true to our values.” These stand in stark contrast to Trump’s foreign policy priorities.

2. “Trump’s Memorial Day Message: ‘We Don’t Win with the Military,’” Foreign Policy, Molly O’Toole. On Memorial Day, Trump told an audience of Rolling Thunder bikers that “we don’t win with the military.” Despite Trump’s malleable foreign policy, he seems to hold the view that our leaders are not using the U.S. military correctly. Clearly he believes he could change that.

3. “Exclusive: Hillary Clinton and Her Staff May Have Compromised Counterterrorism Ops with ‘Sloppy’ Communications,” Newsweek, Jeff Stein. Bill Johnson, a former political adviser to special operations at U.S. Pacific Command, says that his “secret plans” to kill a Filipino Islamist separatist leader were “repeatedly foiled.” He lays the blame on the email habits of Clinton and her team, claiming he’s eliminated all other options. However, he admits that he has “no proof.” Oh. Well then. Guess you should decide for yourself.

4. “Donald Trump’s Bar-Stool Foreign Policy,” The Week, Michael Brendan Dougherty. This article makes the case that voters only need one reason to not vote for Trump: “he cannot be trusted to lead America’s foreign policy or command its military.” Why? Because his opinions directly correlate with public opinion and not conviction or hard thought. It works for the “barstool,” but not the Oval Office, he says.

5. “Hillary Clinton Broke the Rules: Our View,” USA Today, Editorial Board. USA Today’s Editorial Board claims the report by the State Department’s Inspector General shows that Clinton’s actions are “a threat to national security, one that she repeatedly ignored despite multiple warnings.” For her to regain voters’ trust, he will have “to explain how she could make such a reckless decision.”

6. “Can the World Survive a Perpetually Combative President Trump?Politico Magazine, Aaron David Miller. Trump has a “kill-or-be-killed view of the world,” and that “won’t help him or the United States,” believes Miller. The GOP frontrunner does not like to be pushed, and when he is pushed, he responds without measure. That’s not the way to conduct foreign policy, and it’s a reason many, including Miller, question Trump’s ability to be commander-in-chief.

7. “The Truth about Populism and Foreign Policy,” Foreign Affairs, Stephen Sestanovich. The author doesn’t believe Trump and Sanders have awoken some populist urge in Americans when it comes to foreign policy. “On many of the most important issues,” he says, “the big story is still disagreement between the parties.” This is very noticeable in the partisan split over defense spending, for example. Whether you buy his argument or not, it’s a useful counterpoint to many arguments predicting the rise of foreign-policy populism in the United States.

8. “Intelligence Briefings for the Presidential Nominees,” Cipher Brief, Michael Morrell. Once the two parties officially have presidential nominees, they are offered intelligence briefings. How does this work, and how does this inform their campaigns? Michael Morell, former acting director at the CIA, provides some interesting, well, intel. Most interestingly, and against most media speculation, the candidate “is offered a on-time intelligence briefing…They do not receive a daily briefing.” That may come as a relief to some.

9. “Why U.S Adversaries Love Trump,” National Review, Tom Rogan. Trump received another dictator’s endorsement this week, this time from Kim Jong-un. This seems happen a lot. Why is this the case? As Rogan claims, Trump “popularity reflects strategic assessments.” In other words, Trump’s desire to remove the United States from NATO and take U.S. troops out of South Korea benefit Russia and North Korea, respectively. Why wouldn’t they want Trump as president?

10. “’American Alone’: Trump’s Unilateralist Foreign Policy,” War on the Rocks, Alex Ward. Shameless self-promotion here. I got sick of hearing people say Trump is both a pacifist and wants American disengagement for the world. It’s clear that he has a disposition toward that view, but his policies do not reflect it. Instead, he advocates for unilateral American engagement in the world in many dangerous ways. Don’t let him, or others, fool you.


Alex Ward is an Associate Director of the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security where he works on U.S. defense policy, strategy.

Image: Mark Nozell, CC

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