This past Friday, The New York Times reported that Russia had secretly paid bounties to Afghan militants for the scalps of U.S. soldiers, news that shocked and disgusted Americans across the country. To make matters worse, the report also stated that President Trump was briefed in early March by an intelligence report, yet, he chose to do nothing. While the political merry-go-round will continue to spin as the President’s allies attempt to defend him and his critics will rightfully express the outrage one feels towards someone who has committed high treason, one of the most important issues that this story brings to light is an inept President who has a poor track record on matters of national security.
It should not surprise us that an impeached President who sought to leverage federal aid for dirt on a political rival, and whose campaign was accused of colluding with Russia would decide not to punish a hostile foreign power, but here we are. Russia should be heavily sanctioned for this unacceptable action, and any congressman who disagrees should be considered complicit, but how has the administration handled matters of national security since January 2017, and how much damage has the President done?
Before his presidency even began, Trump’s National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, was found to have exchanged messages with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kisylak, an act that he lied about to the FBI and was later indicted for. Trump also hosted Kislyak in May of 2017, where he revealed highly classified information to the ambassador on the United States’ surveillance of the Islamic State.
At the time, a former U.S. official stated that “Trump seems to be very reckless and doesn’t grasp the gravity of the things he’s dealing with, especially when it comes to intelligence and national security. And it’s all clouded because of this problem he has with Russia.”
Three years later, this still rings true, as the President is not only accused of negligence against one hostile foreign government, but several. A recent CNN article found that after to listening to hundreds of calls with the President and foreign leaders, several prominent U.S. officials were convinced “that the President himself posed a danger to the national security of the United States,” citing Trump’s cozy relationship with foreign dictators, a hostile manner with allies, and bi-weekly calls with President Erdogan of Turkey. Iran’s administration even requested Interpol to arrest President Trump, a request that was swiftly denied, but nonetheless conveys a fraught relationship between the two countries after Trump decertified the Iran nuclear deal and brought us to the brink of war in mid-January of this year.
In July of 2018, Trump responded to a question of Russian interference by denying reports from our own intelligence agencies, stating that, “President Putin says it’s not Russia. I don’t see any reason why it would be.’’ Clearly, the President has a disdain for facts and evidence, and didn’t do himself any favours when he first said this, but such statements distract from the more tumultuous, behind the scenes destruction, that he causes to himself and the reputation of our country.
In a recent book by John Bolton, the former National Security Advisor describes that the President was often woefully underprepared when meeting with dictators, often because he refused to read briefing material. In a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Trump was not only woefully under-educated about basic policy issues between the two countries, but openly encouraged the construction of China’s re-education camps for Uyghurs, ethnic minorities, and political prisoners.
Especially in a time of crisis where dictators, like Putin and Erdogan, are attempting to grab power by jailing journalists and limiting public demonstrations, America and the rest of the world needs intelligent and decisive leadership, the kind that the President of the United States is unable to provide.
‘‘With almost every problem, all it takes [in his phone calls] is someone asking him to do something as President on behalf of the United States and he doesn’t see it that way; he goes to being ripped off; he’s not interested in cooperative issues or working on them together; instead he’s deflecting things or pushing real issues off into a corner,’’ said a U.S. official.
As we’ve seen throughout the past three months, weak and ineffective leadership can cost peoples’ lives, whether it’s on a battlefield in the Middle East or during a global pandemic. As European cases of COVID-19 dwindle, U.S. cases continue to skyrocket due to the President’s inability to lead and open encouragement to ignore public health officials. Most Americans could care less about the actions that a normal President would take to ensure our nation’s security at home and abroad, but these aren’t normal times, and our greatest national security threat is not Putin, but a virus that we have the tools to beat.
Trump has pissed off damn near everybody in the past five years that he’s spent in the public eye, which is why we’re in a perfect time for a revolution. Racial justice is only the first of many issues that America will discuss before the upcoming election, and in the words of Sinclair Lewis, “So much in a revolution is nothing but waiting.” So how do we rid ourselves of a treasonous traitor who trumpets tyranny through racism, misogyny, and bigotry? Vote. How do we elect leaders that enact policies that will move America forward? Vote. And how can we kick out politicians who hold outdated views? Vote. We’re fighting for the soul of America, and regardless of what you consider your top priority, you can assume that it’s at stake.