Plenty of conservatives are balking at the prospect of voting for Donald Trump, and not just the NeverTrumpers. There is also the “Hardly Ever” Trump contingent, some of whom, like me, are still making up their minds.
One option I would thought have no conservative would choose is to vote for Hillary Clinton. Yet, some conservatives intend to do just that. As far as I can tell, they consist mainly of what Professor Robert Kaufman calls “Reagan Internationalists.”
But Kaufman argues in the Wall Street Journal that this crowd “delud[es]” itself if it believes that Clinton will be better than Trump on issues of foreign policy and national security. His argument seems pretty strong.
Among the items Kaufman asks us to consider are these:
Hillary Clinton named the ill-fated reset with Mr. Putin, subverting Ukraine’s independence and imperiling America’s Eastern European NATO allies fearful of becoming Mr. Putin’s next target.
She also blocked efforts to place the murderous Boko Haram on the State Department’s list of international sponsors of terrorism, fostering the Obama administration’s fictitious narrative that killing Osama bin Laden had ended the war on terror.
Mrs. Clinton—emblematic of the administration’s unwillingness to acknowledge radical Islam as a danger—blamed the attack on the Libyan Embassy on a Coptic Christian video denigrating Islam rather than on the obvious culprits and their Islamist motivations timed for the anniversary of 9/11.
She fatuously called Syria’s Bashar Assad a reformer with whom we could do business, and she touted the absurd notion that American “smart power” could substitute for American resolve, moral clarity and military might.
Mrs. Clinton remained silent, too, on President Obama’s systematic, unwise and dishonorable obsession with putting distance between the U.S. and a democratic Israel while conciliating the worst and most anti-American regimes in international politics.
Candidate Clinton still defends an indefensible Iran deal she advocated as secretary of state that puts Iran on the autobahn to crossing the nuclear threshold while tranquilizing Americans to the gathering danger.
The “reset” suggests that Clinton may be as bad as Trump on Trump’s worst issue — Putin. Her support for the Iran deal makes Clinton seem even worse than Trump on the more general issue of how to deal with our adversaries.
As secretary of state, Mrs. Clinton bears heavy responsibility for the debacle in Libya. She was the administration’s leading proponent for American intervention under the auspices of the United Nations, NATO and the Arab League, bypassing the Congress. Libya has become a breeding ground of Islamist terrorism because America’s mission was ill-defined and its withdrawal premature.
Nor did Mrs. Clinton resign on principle when Mr. Obama prematurely withdrew from Iraq, failing to negotiate a status of forces agreement that would have retained a sizable American presence—something the president could have achieved had he wanted it. On the contrary, Mrs. Clinton voiced no public objection to Mr. Obama’s catastrophic decision precipitating Iraq’s collapse, with ISIS and a revolutionary Iran filling the vacuum.
Nor, despite her allegedly private misgivings, did Mrs. Clinton resign on principle or object publicly to Mr. Obama’s bungling and vacillating policy toward a Syrian civil war that has metastasized into a murderous, regional and sectarian civil war and a humanitarian refugee crisis wreaking havoc not just the region but also in Europe and the U.S.
Kaufman doesn’t sugar coat things when it comes to Trump, about whom he writes:
Donald Trump has repudiated the main staples of Reagan’s moral democratic realism, routinely disdaining the value of alliances with fellow democracies such as NATO, Japan, South Korea and India; advocating conciliation rather than firmness toward an increasingly authoritarian and expansionist Vladimir Putin; and ignoring the gathering military danger of a Chinese tyranny’s military buildup aimed at dominating East Asia, the world’s most important geopolitical region for the 21st century.
The internationalist conservatives who oppose Mr. Trump on foreign-policy grounds have a point. But they shouldn’t fool themselves that they will get something better with Mrs. Clinton.
Nor, it seems to me, should Clinton’s domestic agenda, much of which is well to the left of what Trump is espousing, be a matter of indifference to Reagan Internationalists.