This, like 2008, should be a moment where, even if you are licking your wounds, you should be proud of your republic as it moves to transition power from one Party to another, as we have for over two centuries. This is not a common occurrence in the history of man. It should always be a moment of pride, even for the defeated.
What is a bit unusual about this round is that the victor in the Presidential race is not all that popular with many in his own Party. Especially on the National Security side of the house, many were actively #nevertrump or simply refused to actively support him during the race.
Even your humble blogg’r was in the first category and then as the summer wore on, shifted to the second category. There are people I respect that were vocal #nevertrump to the end; like me being demur in the corner and keeping their vote to themselves; and many others who voted 3rd Party or even for the former Secretary of State and Senator Hillary Clinton. Heck, even a few people I respect came out in favor of Trump.
How, at least for those center-right to right in the NatSec community, do we stitch this all together in order to serve our nation?
One of the best articles on the topic as of late can be found over at WaPo by Richard H. Kohn. I am comfortable saying that for the purposes of this subject, I find myself in rough alignment with him.
He sets the table at the very start;
Dear Republican national security expert:Trump is a New York real estate developer. One thing that these types of businessmen do is to hire the best people they can to do two things; 1) Perform duties they are not interested in or 2) Advise them in areas that are critical to success, but are not in their personal skill set.
Like dozens of other prominent GOP national security leaders, you may have publicly opposed Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in harsh terms. (Or perhaps you found him appalling but kept your views to yourself.) Now that he will be moving into the White House, however, you must serve in a Trump administration if given the opportunity.
A president as seriously deficient in knowledge, experience and temperament as Trump is going to need a lot of help, and he will need it from the A-Team. Most national political figures have established ideas about policy and also know many individuals who are qualified and prepared to people their administrations. Given his demagoguery, inconsistency and changeability, Trump lacks a fixed agenda. He’s all style, no substance — a tabula rasa.
They are not shy about hiring the best they can find, and are not shy about firing sub-optimal performers or those who show signs of not being loyal. They have a good finger-tip feel for when they are being played, what ideas are a good gamble, and what ideas are not worth the risk.
Our best hope is that he sticks with that plan. Unfortunately, there are many that this nation needs that are stubbornly holding out in their dislike for Trump. I would offer this to this cadre; it isn’t really about you, it isn’t really about Trump. It is about our republic. It is about service. You are good. Use that gift to do good.
Simply put; if called to serve – you serve. Once there, if you find your assignments immoral, illegal, or impossible, then you resign. If called serve the nation to the best of your abilities inside the caveats in the prior sentence.
Pride and prejudice are hard things to deal with internally – but we all have them. It is recognizing them and being self-aware enough to control them that marks a mature mind. No one is perfect in that fight, but one must at least try.
Last, before going to work for a president who can be insulting, illogical, erratic, inappropriate and the like, it may be wise to find out the extent to which you would be expected to serve as a spokesperson or public defender of the administration’s positions, thinking and decisions. One has to be able to look oneself in the mirror every day and talk frankly to one’s family every evening. Once out of government, you want to be able to remember, and speak privately of your service with pride, firm in the belief that you emerged with your integrity, honor and reputation intact. All of the above, in fact, applies to experts in other fields as well — national security is just one of many areas of vital national interest in which the president will need significant help from people who didn’t want him to win.On active duty I served five different Presidents of two different political parties. I followed orders I did not believe in from people I did not particularly like or think were “correct” – but I did them to the best of my ability because that is what service is. I wasn’t serving myself or the President – I was serving my nation and its people as defined by the oath I took of my own free will.
Yes, Trump is a master of chaos with no core of belief. He would be a difficult boss. But as we mark another Veterans Day honoring those who have served our nation, you must not turn down a reasonable offer. At any point, you can go home, knowing that at least you tried. And that the country will be in your debt.
That is where we are. I hope a lot of the great people out there I know in the NatSec world who did not support Trump get the call, and I hope they at least agree to an interview. Our nation needs the best.
Pic by Shuwit.