The concept of a 'circular firing squad' is well-known. Basically, it's when critics of a particular person or idea damage themselves by their criticism. The Republican establishment doesn't seem to have taken that lesson to heart.
A number of alleged 'GOP national security leaders' (whom I've never seen or heard formally 'anointed' or appointed as such by the GOP) have published an 'Open Letter on Donald Trump'. It's apparently meant to damage Mr. Trump and diminish his appeal to 'thinking' members of the Republican party. Instead, I think it exposes the short-sightedness and blinkered vision of those self-appointed 'leaders'. (I might add that I'm neither a fan nor a supporter of Mr. Trump; I simply try to keep an open mind on the state of politics in this nation.)
Let's take a few examples from the letter, and see whether they hold up. The text of the letter is in italics, and my response in normal print.
- His advocacy for aggressively waging trade wars is a recipe for economic disaster in a globally connected world. Oh, yeah? Then why is it that other countries are aggressively waging trade wars with the USA (e.g. China in steel, Saudi Arabia in oil, etc.)? They clearly don't regard it as a 'recipe for economic disaster'. Perhaps, if they were threatened with retaliation in kind, they'd be less eager to target US commerce and industry.
- His embrace of the expansive use of torture is inexcusable. On this point, I happen to agree, because I'm a retired pastor and have a Christian perspective on the use of torture. However, why single out Mr. Trump for criticism on this point when previous US presidents initiated the 'expansive use of torture', including using foreign/third-party 'proxies' to do their dirty work (through the process known as 'extraordinary rendition') and the use of 'black sites'? Mr. Trump has, in so many words, merely undertaken to continue the same policies - policies I don't recall having seen criticized in the past in a similar 'open letter' signed by the same 'leaders'. An oversight, perhaps?
- His hateful, anti-Muslim rhetoric undercuts the seriousness of combatting Islamic radicalism by alienating partners in the Islamic world making significant contributions to the effort. Furthermore, it endangers the safety and Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of American Muslims. Mr. Trump's rhetoric is no better or worse than that found in everyday discourse throughout the USA. I disagree profoundly with such rhetoric - I've written extensively on the subject - but after recent incidents it's unavoidable, whether or not it 'alienates partners'. Radical Muslim fundamentalists have made that inevitable by their actions. Any US president failing to take such action would be regarded as ineffectual at best, and at worst a traitor to his oath of office, by the citizens of this country. Mr. Trump's words do no more than express that reality.
- Controlling our border and preventing illegal immigration is a serious issue, but his insistence that Mexico will fund a wall on the southern border inflames unhelpful passions, and rests on an utter misreading of, and contempt for, our southern neighbor. And what did Mexico build - at its expense - on its southern border in 2010? That's right . . . a wall. If Mexico can wall off its southern neighbor in that way, it's surely legitimate for the USA to do the same. As for Mexico paying for a US border wall, why is it needed? Because Mexico won't stop the flow of illegal aliens crossing its northern border into the USA. In fact, Mexico has agreed to speed up the flow of illegal aliens across its territory. If Mexico was exerting itself to stop them, I'd agree that it would be unreasonable to ask Mexico to pay for the wall. However, Mexico isn't exerting itself at all - in fact, it provides guidebooks to those seeking to cross the US border. Furthermore, its economy benefits to the tune of about $23 billion every year from money (a.k.a. 'remittances') sent back to Mexico by illegal aliens in the USA. Sorry. Mexico's the root of the problem; therefore, I have no issue with expecting Mexico to pay at least part of the costs to mitigate it.
- ... his insistence that close allies such as Japan must pay vast sums for protection is the sentiment of a racketeer, not the leader of the alliances that have served us so well since World War II. Oh, really? According to the Heritage Foundation: 'On average, 22 percent of all U.S. servicemen were stationed on foreign soil during 1950–2000'. The costs of doing so were borne almost exclusively by this country. Why is it 'the sentiment of a racketeer' to insist that nations benefiting from the presence of US forces should pay at least part of the costs of that benefit? Why should the burden be borne entirely by the US taxpayer?
- His admiration for foreign dictators such as Vladimir Putin is unacceptable for the leader of the world’s greatest democracy. I can only quote Winston Churchill during World War II: "If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favourable reference to the devil in the House of Commons." The USA made common cause with Stalin during World War II, and Stalin was a far more bloodthirsty and ruthless tyrant than Mr. Putin. We'll doubtless ally with more such tyrants in future, if our national interest requires it. That's the nature of realpolitik.
- He is fundamentally dishonest. Evidence of this includes his attempts to deny positions he has unquestionably taken in the past, including on the 2003 Iraq war and the 2011 Libyan conflict. We accept that views evolve over time, but this is simply misrepresentation. I agree on the 'misrepresentation'. However, where is the signatories' condemnation of Hillary Clinton for her many lies and misrepresentations? Mr. Trump is doing no more and no less than any other candidate for political office in modern times . . . but I don't see them calling out other candidates for that.
- His equation of business acumen with foreign policy experience is false. Not all lethal conflicts can be resolved as a real estate deal might, and there is no recourse to bankruptcy court in international affairs. Agreed on the last point. However, given the current disastrous state of US foreign policy, how can Mr. Trump possibly do worse? At the very least, businessmen understand a cost/benefit analysis - something politicians don't seem to grasp, because they personally never have to pay the cost (in money or blood) of their decisions.
I find this 'open letter' disingenuous and self-serving. I think it's yet another example of the GOP 'establishment' trying to knock out a candidate they can't control. I have no idea whether or not Mr. Trump would make a good President, and I'm neutral about his candidacy; but I'm not likely to be persuaded either way by such letters. Voters can tell 'hit jobs' when they see them . . . and this letter has 'hit job' written all over it. It's yet another example of what Bob Lonsberry calls "spitting in the voters' faces". (Go read his whole article at that link. It's good.) I think he's right.