Neocons declare war on Trump
No going back after that Bill. You can't just write in a name and STFU? Donald Trump calls the Iraq War a lie-fueled fiasco, admires Vladimir Putin and says he would be a "neutral" arbiter between Israel and the Palestinians. When it comes to America’s global role he asks, “Why are we always at the forefront of everything?"
Even more than his economic positions, Trump's foreign policy views challenge GOP orthodoxy in fundamental ways. But while parts of the party establishment are resigning themselves or even backing Trump's runaway train, one group is bitterly digging in against him: the hawkish foreign policy elites known as neoconservatives.
Story Continued Below
In interviews with POLITICO, leading neocons — people who promoted the Iraq war, detest Putin and consider Israel's security non-negotiable — said Trump would be a disaster for U.S. foreign policy and vowed never to support him. So deep is their revulsion that several even say they could vote for Hillary Clinton over Trump in November.
“Hillary is the lesser evil, by a large margin,” said Eliot Cohen, a founder of the Project for a New American Century, a neocon think tank which promoted a muscular U.S. role in the world. Trump's election would be “an unmitigated disaster for American foreign policy," Cohen said, adding that "he has already damaged it considerably.”
Cohen said he would "strongly prefer a third party candidate" to Trump, but added: "Probably if absolutely no alternative: Hillary."
In a March 1 interview with Vox, Max Boot, a military historian at the Council on Foreign Relations who backed the Iraq War and often advocates a hawkish foreign policy, said that he, too, would vote for Clinton over Trump. "I'm literally losing sleep over Donald Trump," he said. "She would be vastly preferable to Trump."
A group of Republican foreign policy experts plan to publish a blistering letter attacking Trump on Thursday, according to the Financial Times. They include Cohen; Peter Feaver, a former senior national security aide in George W. Bush's White House; Robert Zoellick, a former deputy to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; and Dov Zakheim, a former Bush Pentagon official.
Several other neocons said they find themselves in an impossible position, constitutionally incapable of voting for Clinton but repelled by a Republican whose foreign policy views they consider somewhere between nonexistent and dangerous — and disconnected from their views about American power and values abroad.
"1972 was the first time I was old enough to vote for president, and I did not vote. Couldn't vote for McGovern for foreign policy reasons, nor for Nixon because of Watergate," said Elliott Abrams, a former national security council aide to George W. Bush who specializes in democracy and the Middle East. "I may be in the same boat in 2016, unable to vote for Trump or Clinton."
Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, something of a dean of Washington neoconservatives, said he would seek out a third option before choosing between Trump and Clinton.“If it's Trump-Clinton, I'd work with others to recruit a strong conservative third party candidate, and do my best to help him win (which by the way would be more possible than people think, especially when people — finally — realize Trump shouldn't be president and Hillary is indicted),” Kristol wrote in an email.
Kristol and Abrams have advised Florida senator Marco Rubio, the preferred choice of several neoconservatives, who admire his call for "moral clarity" in foreign policy and strong emphasis on human rights and democracy.
Alarm brewing for months in GOP foreign policy circles burst into public view last week, when Robert Kagan, a key backer of the Iraq War and American global might, wrote in the Washington Post that a Trump nomination would force him to cross party lines.
“The only choice will be to vote for Hillary Clinton,” Kagan warned. “The party cannot be saved, but the country still can be.”
In an interview, Kagan said his opposition to Trump "has nothing to do with foreign policy."