This is perhaps the last piece I will write for NonDoc before the election in a couple of weeks, so I need to tell you something: For our foreign policy, this election will be more consequential than any we have had since 1960.
I don’t mean that in the way every politician means it at the end of an election campaign. Every election is “the most important ever,” especially if you’re on the ballot. But in a time of incredible global turbulence, this vote has consequences — not just for the United States, but for the whole world.
And these consequences will echo for decades to come.
Ukraine and Syria: The free world’s most pressing problems
Of all of the major challenges to peace and stability in the world, the United States and the family of democratic states now face two which are most pressing. First, what can we do to help Ukraine become the modern, democratic and European state its people desire it to be? Second, how do we extricate Syria from a situation that would frighten Thomas Hobbes — he who famously described life as being “nasty, brutish, and short.”
The common denominator between these two problems, the main reason why these conflicts have become as desperate as they are — the main reason that death and destruction rain down upon innocent civilians in both places — can be found in the twisted mind of one man in Moscow who wishes to see Russia considered a great power once again. Lacking “soft-power,” the kind of cultural influence that a country like the U.S. or France or even a minor power like Austria possesses, Russia is forced to attempt to muscle its way to prominence.
In Aleppo, Syria, where the suffering of the most innocent is indescribable, children are pulled from buildings that have been reduced to rubble by Syrian and Russian attacks. Even in the case of a jointly agreed U.S.-Russian ceasefire, it is now well-documented that Russian and Syrian government aircraft intentionally bombed a UN-aid convoy that was taking food and medicine to the traumatized people of that place. This war is no longer about Syria, Bashar al-Assad’s regime no longer being a functional and legitimate executor of a sovereign state’s power. This war has become about Russia and Syria’s strategic value as a Mediterranean port for the Russian navy.
In Ukraine, where a revolution sought to bring about the rule of law and the Europeanization of that state, Russia invaded in the country’s east with disastrous consequences, including the assassination at the hands of Russian militants of 298 people aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. Militants, it should be noted, who later used the credit cards of the victims aboard that flight. All that Ukraine has ever sought is to be a normal, sovereign state, free to choose its partners and to free itself from the corruption that made it so vulnerable to undue foreign influence. Instead, a war continues to simmer on European soil. With a couple of phone calls, it is possible that simmer could be ordered into a full boil.
Trump’s foreign-policy adviser a fraud
For all of his bluster and showmanship, Donald Trump has shown himself to be incredibly incompetent as a foreign-policy thinker. It’s why, after promising that he would hire only “the best and most serious people…top of-the-line professionals,” Trump has a foreign policy advisor with a fake Ph.D. who has now made himself into a willing conduit for Russian influence in the Trump campaign. Max Boot, a conservative foreign-policy advisor who worked for John McCain, Mitt Romney and Marco Rubio, a man of incredible talent, has become a leader of the “Never Trump” movement on the right. If Trump were serious about hiring only the best, truly a “top-of-the-line person,” Max Boot would be the guy. Instead, Boot and scores of Republican foreign-policy experts, like the venerable Brent Scowcroft, now spurn their party’s nominee.
A vote for Clinton is a vote for stability
There is not now, if there ever was, any evidence that Trump may be taken seriously as a candidate for the highest office in this country. We now face a choice as to whether we continue to lead the world’s democracies in military, economic and political power. For all of the nonsense that Hillary Clinton will be a step backward, or that she represents this or that or the other, for whatever the left of the Democratic Party could throw at her in the primary, the choice we now face could not be more clear nor could it be more vital. A vote for Trump or Gary Johnson or Jill Stein is a vote for a foreign policy that is unhinged from reality. A vote for Hillary Clinton — in spite of her many public faults — represents what the United States and the world need more than ever: stability that Trump can’t provide.
Someone has to stand up for Kiev and Aleppo. If not the United States, then whom? The whole world is watching.