On September 19, Donald Trump spoke for the first time at the United Nations General Assembly. If you didn’t see it, spoiler alert: it was a national embarrassment. Trump escalated his usual “America First” theme into a vision of foreign policy in which human rights are nonexistent and war is always the answer.
This is NOT acceptable. Let’s face it—we as progressives have too often ceded ground on foreign policy to loud and well-organized war hawks and fearmongers. But this alarming speech should be a signal for us to focus and mobilize on Trump’s disastrous national security and foreign policies in the same way that we have stood indivisible to resist his radical domestic policy agenda.
As Congress and the American public have slowly allowed the White House to gain more and more unchecked power over the last few years, it means that sacred progressive values—like privacy, inclusion, global peace and human rights—have eroded. This problem became a full-blown crisis in January 2017, when Donald Trump became president and the massive national security apparatus fell into his lap. He has made clear both through rhetoric and reality that he is unstable, reckless, and cannot be counted upon as Commander-in-Chief.
We know that Trump will continue to make us less safe if we don’t resist his dangerous national security and foreign policies. Indivisible is ready for this fight. As progressives, here are a few principles guiding us:
- War is rarely the answer. Especially under this Commander-in-Chief, there is no purely military solution that can solve our problems, eradicate terrorism, or shore up our security. In fact, when the U.S. leads with military force, we often make things worse by emboldening extremists, endangering already-vulnerable civilians or further de-stabilizing volatile situations.
- Even war has rules. Even though we’ve heard that “all is fair in love and war,” it’s not. There are clear laws and norms restricting the use of military force, and they don’t allow for many of the things Trump has said he wants to do—some of which amount to war crimes. It’s on progressives to urge accountability and rule of law in the face of reckless militarism.
- Endless war is inherently inconsistent with progressive values. It flies in the face of international norms, endangers vulnerable communities all over the world, threatens the chance for peace and real security, and creates an environment of dehumanization and destruction. The U.S. response after the attacks of 9/11 is a great example. It was the wrong approach under Bush, it was wrong under Obama, and it’s flat-out frightening under Trump.
- Lastly, “the global war” approach puts us all at risk. It’s not just about the use of military force. It’s also about the “us v. them” mentality that makes it much more palatable to give up key rights. Consider the policies justified in the name of “national security” in the last few years: the Muslim ban, the use of sham “commissions” instead of real courts to try terror suspects in Guantanamo, mass surveillance and an embrace of torture with impunity—these are all policies that progressives are fighting against, and expanded militarism will only bring more of the same.
These principles are even more important now that a volatile president is at the helm. So as Indivisibles, we must be ready to act. Fear is a powerful tool, but we won’t let Trump exploit it to gain dangerous new powers that put us all at risk. We will be ready to move if and when Trump tries to:
- Start new wars or escalate current conflicts. We already saw the Trump administration launch an unauthorized missile strike in Syria, with no comprehensive strategy or plan to achieve a coherent goal. We’ve also heard his warmongering with North Korea and we won’t let it stand unchallenged.
- Decimate the tools in our toolbox that keep us out of wars. Trump has already tried to gut the State Department and has failed to appoint qualified diplomats in key positions to carry the delicate relationships we hold with other countries. What’s worse, he’s all but promised to blow up the Iran nuclear deal—the signature foreign policy achievement of the Obama administration and the thing that’s standing in the way of a new war with Iran. We can’t let that happen.
- Trample on rights and liberties in the name of national security. Trump has told us multiple times that he’s a fan of using torture (which is a crime), and promised to “load Guantanamo up” with “bad dudes.” He’s already tried to ban Muslims from traveling in the United States and indicated during his campaign that he might be open to creating a registry of American Muslims. Bad foreign policy quickly finds itself taking root at home, too—it affects us all.
Some of our core progressive values are often put to the test in times of fear and conflict, but we can pass this test. In the same way that we have mobilized to block some of the most egregious pieces of Trump’s domestic agenda, we can and should resist his terrible foreign policy.
Indivisible is uniquely positioned to do just this. Trump and his defenders in Congress might not expect us to show up on national security issues and they may think they can do what they like without consequence—let’s show them just how wrong they are.