Donald Trump has failed. Our national cohesion and security can’t wait another five years.
America is in crisis, and our national security is becoming a casualty. President Donald Trump’s abject failure to lead has left us weaker as a people and as a global power. The world watches our overdue reckoning with systemic racism and they see a president with an impulse for photo ops and force. They watch, and see things like an American police officer beat an Australian cameraman after Trump tweets “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” They watch, and America’s international standing suffers. Allies and partners wonder whether this America will stand with them to meet common threats to free people. Autocrats wonder if this America will look away when freedom is repressed and U.S. interests are threatened.
The United States needs a new president, one who seeks to heal our divisions, grow Americans’ prosperity, and strengthen our society. When we are stronger together at home, we can advance our security interests abroad.
The next five years will be pivotal for U.S. national security. The coronavirus pandemic lays bare the fragility of our health security. Climate change threatens generations of Americans. And authoritarian states are developing sophisticated weaponry, flouting other nations’ sovereignty, killing, jailing, and interning their own people, and leveraging modern technology to undermine our democracy. We must build a new American foreign policy fitted to the global challenges we face. Three imperatives stand out.
First, we must secure America’s edge in the global economy by investing more substantially in the drivers of U.S. competitiveness: science and technology, research and development, STEM education, access to higher education, 21st century infrastructure like 5G-capable networks, clean energy, and a robust public health system. We also need a smart immigration policy. The United States should once again welcome foreign-born talent that pose no risks to our national security and encourage them to stay and build enterprises here in America. Yes, we must protect key technologies essential to our security, but we can do so while also maintaining the open economy that drives our prosperity. This is a moonshot moment and we need the national leadership, call to action, and smart investment plans to inspire and enable America to recover, compete, and win.
Second, we must repair the damage to our alliances. From tackling climate change to ensuring the integrity of international borders, our network of alliances magnifies our influence and multiplies the resources at our disposal. Trump is squandering this unique strategic advantage. We can and should ensure allies are meaningfully contributing to common goals, but the current course is upending these vital relationships entirely — significantly raising the risk that American service members and taxpayers will bear the burden of unilateralism.
Third, we need a national security enterprise that is matched to future challenges. Civilian capabilities form the centerpiece of America’s influence abroad, beginning with an expanded, experienced, and diverse diplomatic corps. Other priorities include sure-footed economic statecraft, robust humanitarian, development and global health assistance, cutting-edge information and cyber capabilities, investments in our resiliency, a strong intelligence community, and science and technology expertise. Innovation in our military capabilities is also vital. Chinese and Russian defense investments and activities threaten our ability to secure American interests to a degree unseen in thirty years. Today, the Defense Department is not keeping pace with these developments, even as the Trump administration has increased defense spending year-over-year. The United States must out-think and out-innovate its military competitors rather than simply seek to outspend them.
This agenda requires skilled leadership in the White House. It requires:
The ability to unify us rather than drive us apart: We agree with former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. The nation needs a president who can help the country transcend its deep divides and restore rather than destroy the respectful civic discourse on which our democracy depends.
Experience: We need a president who knows how to pull together the expertise needed to address our most critical challenges, be it confronting systemic racism, dealing with COVID-19, or making the strategic investments needed to restore American economic competitiveness.
Disciplined decision-making: We need a president who insists on hearing the facts, however unpleasant or contrary to his views, leverages America’s diversity, and creates a leadership climate that empowers people to speak truth to power.
Commitment to putting the needs of the country before his own: We need a president who understands that every day – and particularly in times of crisis – the needs of the American people come first, ahead of his polling numbers, his personal political fortunes, and his ego. We need a president who tells the truth.
Respect for the core tenet of a non-partisan military: We need a president who understands that the armed forces take an oath to support and defend the Constitution, not to serve as partisan pawns and political backdrops. When Defense Secretary Mark Esper called for dominating the battlefield during largely peaceful protests, and a National Guard helicopter obligingly used battlefield tactics to disperse them on the streets of our nation’s capital, it gravely imperiled the compact between citizens and their military that is central to American democracy. And when a president reaches into the military justice system to pardon a convicted war criminal, it undermines good order and discipline and the military’s ability to hold its own accountable.
With years to meet these fitness standards, Donald Trump has failed. He doesn’t pass muster for company command, let alone for commander in chief. We will need Vice President Joe Biden to rebuild global trust in the credibility of America’s promises and the strength of our will to uphold them. He can be the commander and chief the American people need and deserve. Our national cohesion and security can’t wait another five years.