SFS On Topic: 2016 Race to the White House

New York Times, Damon Winter

Photo credit: Damon Winter (New York Times)

With Election Day quickly approaching, the topic of the 2016 presidential race has SFS faculty in the media providing analysis and commentary.

Professor Irfan Nooruddin discussed the political currents in the United States, which led to Donald Trump becoming the Republican nominee with India Today.

Risk that Donald Trump Poses

Professor Daniel Byman, in an op-ed for the Washington Post, commented on the risk posed by Trump in matters pertaining to the Islamic State, and how the topic of terrorism has been discussed in the current presidential election. Byman noted that, despite the rhetoric of the Republican presidential candidate, ISIS is in fact in retreat.

“Despite relatively few deaths since 9/11, Americans’ fear of terrorism has not diminished,” said Byman. “Unfortunately, when politicians like Trump play up the threat it exaggerates the impact of even small attacks, making the Islamic state seem more powerful than it is.”

John - McNeill_0University Professor of History John McNeill graded Donald Trump on the “11 attributes of fascism” in his recent op-ed for The Washington Post, drawing parallels between the candidate and fascist leaders like Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler.

According to McNeill, these attributes include “hyper-nationalism,” “militarism,” “glorification of violence and readiness to use it in politics”, and “fetishization of masculinity.” “He is semi-fascist,” McNeill writes, “More fascist than any successful American politician yet, and the most dangerous threat to pluralist democracy in this country in more than a century.”

Mark-Lagon_0SFS Centennial Fellow Mark Lagon, advisor to Republicans for Clinton 2016, and former U.S. Ambassador-At-Large to Combat Trafficking in Persons from 2001 to 2009, analyzed the candidate’s competence from a foreign policy perspective in The Hill. Lagon stated his preference for Clinton as presidential candidate, because “true leadership combines our [American] interests and values.”

With regards to the Republican presidential candidate, Lagon said, “This risky rascal is incapable of delivering steady, sturdy, stable statesmanship affording Americans room to forge better lives for themselves and their families.” He likened Trump’s stance on foreign policy to “Snapchat,” with a short time horizon, and criticized his method of assessing opponents and allies based only on their personalities.

Kroenig-teaser-imageAssociate Professor Matthew Kroenig also analyzed Trump’s foreign policy, together with Samantha Vinograd (SSP’07), former Director for International Affairs and Iraq at the National Security Council, on Politifact.com. Kroenig was advisor on the Marco Rubio campaign, who signed an anti-Trump letter in the spring of 2016. Both Kroenig and Vinograd focused on the topic of Russia and President Vladimir Putin.

Kroenig referred to Trump’s policies as the “most pro-Russian policy seen from a major presidential candidate”, and sympathetic to the Kremlin. Vinograd criticized the failure on the part of the Republican presidential candidate, to condemn Putin’s military takeover of Crimea, “letting Putin off the hook.”

Professor Angela Stent, Director of the Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies, also focused on the issue of the U.S. relationship with Russia, and detailed the role Putin has played in the 2016 presidential election to CNN. She stated that not only is it a means by which the Russian president hopes to distract Russia’s citizens from the bleak economic situation, but also as a form of “payback” for what Putin believes was U.S. intervention in the December 2011 demonstrations against him.

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U.S. Relationship With Iran and North Korea

Several SFS faculty members analyzed the risks associated with the Republican presidential candidate, with regards to the American relationship with other nations currently exhibiting tension with the United States.

Professor Ariane Tabatabai commented on the future of the Iran Nuclear Deal, and U.S.-Iran relations, depending on who wins the presidential election. In The New York Times‘s Opinion Pages, Tabatabai stressed the need for Washington and Tehran to “strengthen the foundations of the nuclear deal and ensure its longevity.” She also noted the stark differences in each presidential candidate’s approach to the deal, with Clinton pledging to continue its implementation, and Trump condemning it.

Victor_Cha_thumbnailProfessor Victor Cha, Director for Asian Affairs at the National Security Council from 2004-2007, assessed the recent spike in North Koreans weapons testing, linking their timing at least in part to the current elections in the U.S. Cha spoke with the Associated Press analyzing Pyongyang’s perspective on foreign relations with the U.S. He stated [North Korea] clearly is wanting to “demonstrate they are a nuclear weapons state to the president [of the United States]”, whoever may be next.

Dozens of G.O.P National Security Officials Sign Anti-Trump Letter

In August, dozens of G.O.P National Security Officials drafted a letter in opposition to Trump. This letter opened by stating:

“The undersigned individuals have all served in senior national security and/or foreign policy positions in Republican Administrations, from Richard Nixon to George W. Bush.”

It continued, stating: “We know the personal qualities required of a President of the United States. None of us will vote for Donald Trump.”

Professor Michael Green, who served on the National Security Council from 2001 to 2005 as the Director for Asian Affairs and then Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and Senior Director for Asia, was a signatory in this letter. He spoke on the reasoning behind his signing of the letter in an interview with the Asahi Shimbun, a national newspaper of Japan.

At first, I was not going to say anything, even though I personally oppose Trump and would vote for Clinton. But I thought publicly I would be very neutral. Although I would not join and never wanted to join a Trump administration, I did want the ability to influence or try to give some information or advice to his government, if he wants. However, he said so many unacceptable things, to me personally, about Muslims, Mexican-American judges, women and our allies. These are very dangerous remarks in a president. I wanted my children and grandchildren to know that even though I worked for every Republican candidate, I would not support Trump because the things he says are so narcissistic and insulting and un-American. So I publicly announced I could never support him. -Professor Michael Green

Georgetown Events on 2016 Election

panel-hamilton-eventSeveral events at Georgetown this semester have discussed the 2016 presidential elections. The first panel in September focused primarily on foreign policy in the presidential election, and was hosted by student group the Alexander Hamilton Society, and included Professor Byman and Dr. Colin Dueck, Professor at George Mason’s School of Policy. The event was moderated by Professor Kroenig.

The second panel, on October 18, hosted by the Center for International and Religious Studies at SFS-Qatar, invited Professor Joshua Mitchell and Professor Clyde Wilcox, who centered their discussion around such questions as what gave rise to Trump’s enormous success in taking the Republican nomination, and why the current gap between the two candidates in the polls is as narrow as it is.

Finally, on October 20th, the Center for Jewish Civilization hosted a symposium on Jewish voters in the presidential election. Speakers at this event included Georgetown’s Director of Jewish Life Rabbi Rachel Gartner, Jennifer Rubin from The Washington Post, Dr. Michele Swers from Georgetown’s Department of Government, and Elliot Abrams from the Council on Foreign Relations.

The overall goal of the event was to bring together members of the Jewish community with various political beliefs, with the intent of bringing to the fore the issues the community cares about most. These issues included foreign policy and gun violence.

Georgetown’s location in Washington, D.C. brings faculty who are engaged in public policy and impact the dialogue on foreign affairs. With Election Day approaching, these faculty members have taken this dialogue to the media, to fuel further discussion on the important issues facing the next U.S. Administration.