In an opinion article at the Los Angeles Times
, neoconservative author James Kirchick
sought to draw parallels between the attempted coup d’etat against Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in which elements of the military rebelled against his government, to the choice he projects American military would have if faced with “illegal” orders from President Donald J. Trump.
Kirchick, who has written in the past for the conservative National Review magazine, laid out a possible scenario should Trump win in November. “Americans viewing the recent failed coup attempt in Turkey as some exotic foreign news story -- the latest, violent yet hardly unusual political development to occur in a region constantly beset by turmoil -- should pause to consider that the prospect of similar instability would not be unfathomable in this country if Donald Trump were to win the presidency.”
Kirchick is a fellow at the Foreign Policy Initiative and is the author of the forthcoming book, The End of Europe, to be published by Yale University Press. FPI's Board of Directors consists of former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Eric S. Edelman, Dan Senor, Editor of The Weekly Standard William Kristol and Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Robert Kagan. The latter two were project directors of the neoconservative Project for the New American Century.
Of Trump, he wrote: “Trump is the most brazenly authoritarian figure to secure the nomination of a major American political party. He expresses his support for all manner of strongmen, and his campaign manager, Paul Manafort, has actually worked for one: former Ukrainian president and Vladimir Putin ally Viktor Yanukovich.” In the opinion piece, Kirchick asserts that Manafort “put some of the tricks he learned overseas as a dictator whisperer” by allegedly using “underhanded tactics to avoid a roll call vote on the convention’s rules package and quietly removing language from the party platform expressing support for Ukraine’s democratic aspirations.”
Kirchick accused Trump of suggesting that he would order the military to commit war crimes and will not brook any resistance. Kirchick then asks readers to imagine “a situation in which Trump commanded our military to do something stupid, illegal or irrational. Something so dangerous that it put the lives of Americans and the security of the country at stake.” Here he noted that Sen. Marco Rubio, one of Trump’s primary rivals, said this year that he would not entrust “the nuclear codes” to an “erratic individual.”
Going further, Kirchick suggested that members of the military, “who swear to uphold the Constitution and a civilian chain of command, would be forced to choose between obeying the law and serving the wishes of someone who has explicitly expressed his utter lack of respect for it.”
Noting that retired Gen. Michael Hayden, who served as director of the CIA and the National Security Agency under President George W. Bush, has said, “I would be incredibly concerned if a President Trump governed in a way that was consistent with the language that candidate Trump expressed during the campaign,” Kirchick quotes the general as saying that if American military are ordered to kill the families of terrorists, the military would refuse.“If he were to order that once in government, the American armed forces would refuse to act.” The military is not obliged to comply with an unlawful order, said Hayden.
In the past, when a general showed disregard for a president, it resulted in the officer’s dismissal. Such was the case when Gen. Douglas MacArthur publicly criticized President Harry Truman for denying permission to bomb China during the Korean War. Despite the public’s lionizing of MacArthur, Kirchick wrote: “Truman’s decision endures as one of the most important in the history of American civil-military relations.”
But looking prospectively, Kirchick declared: “Trump could pull a reverse-Truman, firing a general who refused to bomb.”
Arguing that the scenario is not impossible, Kirchick accused Trump of “open racism and blatant lying,” and of normalizing “so many once-outrageous things.” Under a President Hillary Clinton, wrote Kirchick, a “bombing run or -- heaven forbid -- a nuclear strike on a country just because its leader slighted her” is unimaginable. Senator Rubio might detest her, wrote Kirchick, “but he cannot honestly say that Clinton, a former secretary of State, should not be trusted with the nation’s nuclear codes.”
Therefore, wrote Kirchick, “Trump is not only patently unfit to be president, but a danger to America and the world. Voters must stop him before the military has to. “
Kirchick has previously worked for The New York Sun, the New York Daily News, and The Hill. A leading voice on American gay politics and international gay rights, he is a recipient of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association Journalist of the Year Award. He has also written for The Weekly Standard, The American Interest, The Virginia Quarterly Review, World Affairs, Commentary, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Daily Beast, Ha’aretz and the New York Daily News.