The President’s actions on the evening of June 1, 2020, signal that we are soundly in the middle of yet another national security crisis — one that is the result of the President’s own actions, fueled by his racism, his violent tendencies, and his ignorance.
This is a national security crisis because the President of the United States, a position which for 75 years has also conveyed the status of the leader of the free world, is willing to deploy the US military against his fellow citizens, without understanding exactly who they are, or why they protest. The crowds in the streets in US cities are made up of people protesting another recorded killing of an unarmed black man by police and smaller numbers of people destroying property to make real protestors look threatening. No one can tell who’s who, and yet the President says he will call in the military, proving to world leaders that he cannot be trusted to make sound, fact-based decisions.
It is a national security crisis because it demonstrates that this President will lash out with military force against his fellow countrymen and women, the legality of which has never been settled, as a first resort. It is a course of action which smacks of desperation, cowardice and fear of looking weak. The President spoke few words of consolation to George Floyd’s family, and offered no words of comfort or unity to the American people. As citizens grew angrier and spilled into the streets in protest, the President lashed out, so much so that his violent threats earned him a warning from Twitter. With no experience in handling complex, multi-layered problems and a hair trigger response to any perception that he is not respected, the President’s frog jump to military action against his fellow citizens will, justifiably, alarm world leaders. This is not the way to foster strong international alliances.
And, it’s a national security crisis because there is no indication that the president takes governance seriously. To him, it might all be a reality show; a semi-scripted fantasy that allows him to swagger, and bluster and threaten, while he does nothing other than sit back, watch and Tweet. This President with no record of church-going, used the justifiable fury of the people protesting to stage a photo op, clinging to a Bible and heading to St. John’s church. It’s unclear what message he is trying to send; yet he saw this as a reasonable action. This seemingly irrational and presumptuous act is another signal to world leaders that they will always be walking on Jello with him.
If the President’s threats and taunts turn out to be a reality show, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing, it will demonstrate that he is all talk. Not only is he incapable of digesting facts, and then acting appropriately, it is evidence that he is incapable of negotiating, expressing empathy or responsibly using legitimate presidential powers to engineer a peaceful resolution. It will confirm that he is only playing at being President, leaving other nations to ignore and bully him — and this is a dangerous place for the US to be.
Vice President Joe Biden has decades of experience in the world of national security. He is deliberate, comfortable in his own skin, and understands that the population of the United States is diverse in background, cultures and skin colors. He is eager to listen to those with whom he differs, and protect those who don’t look like he does. Allies of the US are used to seeing and working with him; they know what to expect from him, and threatening his fellow citizens with any action of questionable legality is not something Biden will do. The security of the United States and the international order writ large, depend upon alliances, and sound, considered policies. President Trump’s actions prove, again, that he is a danger to the international community. This danger poses a security threat to all countries, and is a national security disaster for the US.
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Gail Helt and Brigham Bechtel contributed