Robert Kagan made the first splash. In the hawkish opinion pages of The Washington Post, Kagan declared that, in a presidential contest between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, he’s voting for the Democrat. Then came Max Boot, the sometimes cartoonishly über-hawkish pundit, who declared in the neoconservative Weekly Standard that a Trump presidency would sink the country. Then the always cartoonishly über-hawkish Bill Kristol pressure group, the Emergency Committee for Israel, made ahilariously ignorant ad attacking Trump. It was starting to look like a Project to Reclaim the New American Century That We Forfeited Thanks to Our Iraq Misadventure and Our Unwillingness To Rebuke a Party That Let Its Grassroots Run With Hateful Ideologies.
And that was before the erstwhile Project for a New American Century revived its favorite modus operandi, the sign-on letter, for the anti-Trump campaign. On Thursday morning, a number of Republican foreign policy thinkers, led by the neoconservative scholar Eliot Cohen, wrote an open letter decrying Donald Trump as a force within their own party. In conclusion, the letter states:
Mr. Trump’s own statements lead us to conclude that as president, he would use the authority of his office to act in ways that make America less safe, and which would diminish our standing in the world. Furthermore, his expansive view of how presidential power should be wielded against his detractors poses a distinct threat to civil liberty in the United States. Therefore, as committed and loyal Republicans, we are unable to support a Party ticket with Mr. Trump at its head. We commit ourselves to working energetically to prevent the election of someone so utterly unfitted to the office.
As of press time Friday, the letter had 108 signatories.
Like the PNAC sign-on letters, not all the thinkers therein are neoconservatives, but they weigh heavily on the list. There are the old PNAC hands Kagan, Tom Donnelly, Gary Schmitt, Reuel Marc Gerecht,Ellen Bork, and Randy Scheunemann; other sometime PNAC signatories like Boot, Cohen, Eric Edelman, Daniel Blumenthal, Seth Cropsey, Aaron Friedberg, Daniel Pipes, Ruth Wedgewood, andJeffrey Gedmin (Robert Zoellick, who is not a neocon, also signed PNAC letters and the Trump letter); and other neocons not affiliated directly with PNAC, such as Michael Rubin. Other hawks who work frequently on neoconservative initiatives but perhaps aren’t themselves neocons, such as Ray Takeyhand Michael Singh, among others, also appear on the list. Though not all the figures on the list are hawks, many of the GOP national security experts are, and many are housed at hawkish and/or neoconservative think-tanks, such as the American Enterprise Institute, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, the Foreign Policy Initiative (a sort of PNAC 2.0 in its own right), and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
There’s one glaring, notable absence: Bill Kristol himself. How strange that, following his clownish ECI ad, Kristol didn’t get on this letter. One wonders if he recognizes how toxic he has become. There are plenty of Iraq hawks on the list, but Kristol would have stood out among them as one of the war’s most loud-mouthed boosters.