In Defense of Strategic Pluralism

For the past three weeks, we have seen what the Trump Administration will stand for. And to be frank, it has been an alarming three weeks.

Through executive orders and inflammatory rhetoric, President Trump has called to question some pretty basic tenants of American governance: the sanctity of our constitutional checks and balances, the value of the post-World War II international system, and the strategic value of pluralism.

His attacks on specific judges and the judicial branch on the whole, as well as his attempts to preemptively scapegoat them for the next attack on the U.S. homeland, are a dangerous test of the separation of powers. His executive orders hostile to our allies, alliances, and international institutions threaten to dismantle the liberal internationalist vision the Greatest Generation built at such cost and with such vision. And his refugee and Muslim ban executive order doesn’t just make us less safe or undermine the fight against terrorism — it shows a disdain for our national character.

All of these misguided and ill-conceived actions demonstrate the simple fact that President Trump and his trusted advisors do not understand that the U.S. stands tallest when we live our values. They do not subscribe to the idea, bolstered by history, that the strength and power to create a better world derives from a nation’s ability to make allies instead of enemies, advance justice on multiple fronts, and approach the world with strength and grace in equal measure.

This is why we must resist President Trump’s attempt to redefine sources of America’s strength, security, and greatness.

This is not kneejerk partisan umbrage or dramatization, either. I went to war twice for former President Bush because even though I disagreed with him on almost every policy and position, I believed he was trying to protect our nation and advance our role in the world. President Trump, meanwhile, is different: in his administration’s first three weeks, he has acted not in the national interest, but with sporadic bursts and bucks against our institutions that smack of self-interest, strategic ignorance, xenophobia, and even white nationalism.

American pluralism is not a weakness we must address. It is our most powerful strategic asset: the source of our security, economic dynamism, and global leadership. Based on that recognition, we must now respond to the injustice and fear that the Trump Administration has sowed both at home and abroad. We must put forward a positive vision strengthened by equality, diversity, and inclusivity in order to combat the twisted, damaging vision put forward so haphazardly by President Trump and his advisors.

We must fearlessly enter the public square and defend both who we are and what we stand for. We must take President Trump, Steve Bannon, and Kellyanne Conway literally and seriously — and then fight against their false claims and flawed policies with a more powerful message.

At Dulles International Airport on 28 January 2017, this Iraq veteran who won four Purple Hearts came to support the protest, saying, “This is not what I fought for.”

Luckily, we have an advantage. Our message stems from our Truman community — from the phenomenal, inspiring veterans, frontline civilians, policy experts, and political professionals who have fought, sacrificed, and achieved great change both within and on behalf of the United States. You demonstrate every day that America’s greatness emerges out of the fact that we welcome women and men of every race and creed, from every shore, to become part of and build a nation worthy of their dreams and ideals. You remind us that when our enemies face us on the battlefield, they face a united front of the best and bravest sons and daughters of every corner of the world who are willing to bleed for a nation founded on freedom, equality, and justice for all.

The purpose of this nation is to offer a vision of a better world to every human being the world over, to each person suffering and looking for a new home. But we know from all those who came before us that greatness is not self-evident or pre-ordained; this is a vision we must struggle to earn, advance, and preserve every day, despite the inevitable pain and loss.

This is no small task. We stand against those who have come to fight, and who have won, with unprincipled arguments and “alternative facts.” The path ahead requires all of us to stand up, grab ahold of our values, and resolutely wield them like a sword. The bedrock character of our country is at stake, and our neighbors are counting on us to be fearless.

Standing shoulder to shoulder, we must send a resounding, enduring message to ourselves and others around the world that Americans deeply and overwhelmingly reject President Trump’s twisted vision of our country. We stand for a better world, and we will defend it.

Michael Breen is the president and CEO of the Truman National Security Project. He served as a U.S. Army officer in Iraq and Afghanistan and is a co-founder and board member of the International Refugee Assistance Project.




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We unite veteran, frontline civilian, political, & policy leaders to develop & advance strong, smart & principled solutions to global challenges Americans face.

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