By now, American military veterans who have supported Donald Trump in the past should admit that he has forfeited their support.
It should not be enough any more that Trump is not Hillary Clinton. It should not be enough any more to enjoy his macho swagger and his ability to bring chaos and confusion to the establishment. It should not be enough that he is a Republican rather than a Democrat.
And certainly it should not be enough that Trump tames and exploits veterans by the counterfeit currency of insincere rhetoric, which all politicians offer. On the other hand, we have plenty of reasons to speak out against him.
First, Trump has frequently attacked or ridiculed veterans and their families. Veterans should denounce his shocking attacks on Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who earned his Combat Infantryman Badge and Purple Heart in two decades of service to our country.
Second, Trump has ridiculed and ignored advice from senior leadership at the Pentagon. His abrupt announcement about withdrawing all troops from Syria was made at the request of Turkey, not with advice from the Pentagon or our intelligence agencies. The Pentagon had to retreat quickly to get out of Turkey’s way, actually destroying American equipment that it had no time to move in an orderly fashion. Is this not humiliating to veterans?
Third, Trump has embraced our real and potential enemies. He praises Vladimir Putin, expresses love and admiration for Kim Jong-un, and routinely makes concessions to both. He joined Kim in criticizing America’s routine joint training with South Korea. That training helps protect about 25,000 U.S. service personnel in South Korea.
Fourth, Trump has criticized and subverted our longtime allies and alliances, the ones that have helped achieve and keep relative peace for 75 years. Trump and Putin both want a weakened, fragmented, shrinking, ineffectual NATO.
Recently, quite a few active duty military personnel openly expressed outrage that Trump abandoned our most trustworthy and trusting Middle East allies, the Kurds, to ethnic cleansing doom. If active duty personnel have the probity and courage to do stand up for our allies, veterans should have enough probity and courage to do the same.
Given all this, we should be very alarmed at the prospect of Trump deciding by himself how to respond to the next big, urgent international crisis when it comes, as it will surely come. Trump impulsively decides matters based on his own interests, on misperceptions caused by his profound ignorance of history, and on telephone advice from dictators who do not think of America First.
I have long been surprised that some veterans who call themselves patriotic conservatives unquestioningly support a five-time draft dodger, although many of them had for decades expressed contempt for draft dodgers, at least before Dick Cheney, who said he did not serve because he had other priorities, and before Trump’s five draft deferrals possibly bought from his father’s doctor.
I have no quarrel with draft dodgers who had ethical or religious grounds for not wanting to serve. More than a few of the men I served with in Vietnam were draft dodgers, just not successful ones. Quite a few Vietnam-era veterans enlisted in other branches to avoid being drafted into the infantry, as some have told me.
Every veteran knows the importance of military virtues: loyalty, integrity, honesty, selflessness, and courage. We should do again what those virtues require, and should not be afraid of Trump calling us losers, never-Trumpers, deep-state spies, socialists, or traitors.
Veterans who still value and want to live those military virtues, and who place America’s national interest above any political party or politician, should openly and often admit that Donald Trump has forfeited every veteran’s support.
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