If America chooses Donald Trump in November, having a President who recognizes nation-building has failed and should therefore be avoided would be a good thing. But whether it be he or Clinton, the next Commander-in-Chief must be far more judicious in the use of lethal military power abroad, and liberal in the use of American justice and values at home. Failing at either will continue the deterioration in the security for us all.
True, Trump lacks Clinton’s foreign policy knowledge; the candidates certainly differ in style; and a Clinton presidency would be more predictable than a Trump White House. And yes, there are no doubt areas of foreign policy—Russia comes to mind—in which a President Trump and a President Clinton might act with significant variance. But in broad strokes, the same pattern emerges from each candidate’s plans: More intervention. More wars of choice. More damage to U.S. credibility. More blood spilt and treasure spent. More years of reckless, dangerous foreign policy with nothing to show for it. In a Clinton vs. Trump race, foreign policy sanity is guaranteed to lose.
After 50 CENTCOM analysts signed on to a written complaint to the Defense Department Inspector General alleging that senior leadership was altering reports on the Islamic State, House lawmakers rightfully decided to establish an investigation looking into the claim. What they discovered after nearly a year of review is disturbing.
We don’t have to accept a reckless, haphazard foreign policy unconstrained by the Constitution or basic common sense. We don’t have to allow self-serving politicians to throw every problem the Pentagon’s way and then announce themselves as vote-worthy problem-solvers. We don’t have to blur the boundaries of war and peace, subjecting Americans to unconstitutional invasions of liberty and privacy at every turn.
The problem with Bolton isn’t his aversion to the UN, but his penchant for counterproductive war. Whereas Trump, for all his faults, has laid out a foreign policy that attempts to correct some of the mistakes of the past (even if it ultimately replaces them with new ones), Bolton remains immersed in the failed thinking of the Bush administration.
The risk of such a frustrating entanglement is all too real, and it is only compounded by the prospect of an incoming president of a less cautious temperament than Obama. After all, if you have unlimited hall passes, you might as well go down all the halls. Yet future eventualities aside, what is certain now is that more Americans have been put in harm’s way—and more spending piled on our nearly $20 trillion national debt without so much as a vote. That’s not “smart power at its best.” It’s out-of-control power at its most typical.
Liberty is not a gift from government, but inherent to the human person. Individuals are morally responsible to choose good. They must be free to make decisions for themselves. Every life has greater value than the grandest political empire.
However, American foreign policy cannot be centered on democracy promotion. The U.S. government is responsible to the American people. It should not risk their lives and take their money except when necessary to protect them—their society, homes, prosperity, and liberties. Military personnel are not gambit pawns to be sacrificed in ivory tower crusades.
Regardless of who wins the presidency, the nation would benefit if the new Administration were to adopt the foreign policies and concepts employed by the most effective of their predecessors. The foreign policies articulated and applied by two of America’s former Commanders-in-Chief are especially worthy of emulation today: George Washington and Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Whether we like it or not, the Islamic State will continue to survive and international terrorism will continue to be utilized by fanatical, ideological, or extremist individuals who believe it is effective to get a political point across by putting killing innocent people and paralyzing whole societies with fear. Even a quick and painless route of ISIL in Mosul and Raqqah will not alter that basic piece of common-sense. Politicians and national security officials in Washington need to start giving the American people the hard truth instead of setting up false expectations that not even the world’s greatest superpower can meet.
To expand the war on terror as we know it would be to allow ISIS to set the terms of engagement. Instead, to protect our national interests and ensure American security, Washington must shift its tactics toward prudence and restraint, refusing to be drawn into an inevitably fruitless and frustrating pattern of global interventionism.
To inform citizens, thought leaders, and policy makers of the importance of a strong, dynamic military—used more judiciously to protect America's narrowly defined national interests—and promote a realistic grand strategy prioritizing restraint, diplomacy, and free trade to ensure American security.