The following is an excerpt from the new book, Trust Betrayed: Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and the Selling Out of America’s National Security, available now:
As Americans, we need a strong leader to lead not only us, but the world as well. He or she must understand the world as it is, with a view based in reality. Our goal is a more peaceful world for our descendants and ourselves. We can use both soft and hard power to achieve this, in a push-pull balancing act orchestrated by robust leadership.
Our foreign aid should form part of our soft power???and I???m sad to say that right now, we are not taking advantage of what we already give. For example, the United States is the second-largest donor of aid to Yemen, but you really wouldn???t know it if you lived there. As a result, anti-American attitudes are probably more common there than they should be.
I find this fact amazing. The U.S. is home to the best marketers on the planet???people wear Michael Jordan T-shirts in the Congo and drink Pepsi in Paraguay???yet none of these professionals??? efforts seem to be employed (or at least successfully employed) in demonstrating to people abroad how we are helping them. It seems absurd that we give foreign aid packages to so many???without making sure they know whom to thank.
Let???s use the talents of what is arguably the most American industry ever to let the world know where the help is coming from. That???s probably a better strategy for winning hearts and minds than broadcasting to them, through self-aggrandizing leaks to the New York Times, that our president is personally approving every single drone strike in their country.
When it comes to hard power, we should immediately rescind sequestration???the draconian and untargeted cuts made to our military in 2013 because Congress failed to reach an agreement on cutting the budget in any more rational way. Any runner knows it is much easier to keep up than catch up. We can definitely find savings in the Pentagon budget, but the sequestration cuts are indiscriminate. Leaders need to roll up their sleeves and find the savings, not take the easy way out and place the burden on the backs of our brave men and women.
Our men and women serving are the best in the world, and they represent the one percent of us who voluntarily go forward on our behalf. We should never take them for granted. Our way of life and our reluctant role in the world ultimately rest upon them. That is the reality.
International terrorism???including by transnational actors???has become increasingly common. American leadership is needed to convince our allies to help us, because it tells them we will have their backs when they need us. We need a leader whose policies aim at the root
cause, rather than addressing the symptoms. An ever expanding kill list and unaccountable drone strikes may kill a few terrorists here and there, but they also serve as better recruitment for terrorist groups than Guantanamo Bay ever did. The next president should be able to assure the American people without hesitation that there will never be drone strikes on our own soil and???given easy proliferation???should forge international law on armed drone usage. This is our responsibility.
The various groups we face in asymmetrical warfare???ISIS, al Qaeda, and so forth???will adapt and take on new strategies over time. If we make the decision to engage them, we must do so wholeheartedly??? and wipe them out. ???Unbelievably small??? is not a word that any American leader should use to describe one of our military operations. That???s a sign that we???re not serious.
And American leaders must not be afraid to call Islamic terrorism what it is. Leadership matters. We must be clear, principled, and consistent; this will embolden our allies to do the same. This includes our Islamic allies, who as Muslims can in some respects play a much more robust role in discouraging Islamic terrorism through persuasion than we can by simply striking back. But of course, this would require being a true ally to our traditional Muslim allies???not selling them out for an uncertain relationship with Iran, whose regime is fomenting unrest in their countries and funding terrorism to this day.
Being on a team means you are interdependent???not independent, trying to go it alone. We can change our policies only if we elect someone who truly believes in our team, its greatness, and what we can achieve together. We haven???t had that kind of leader in the last six to seven years, and that fact has helped remind Americans, war-weary as they may be, that these issues do matter. We cannot afford another president???whatever his or her party, and whatever his or her view of world affairs???who plays politics with our national security and foreign policy for personal gain the way Obama and Clinton have, subordinating what matters to what does not.
But we can always start again. We fall down, but we can rise again, dust our knees off, and press ahead. This is who we are. This is how we started, and it will be how we move forward. We must elect someone who, no matter what the challenge, will stand shoulder to shoulder with us as Americans, seeking our interests first, proving to our allies that they have no greater friend than us, and convincing all others that they can make no worse enemy.