Critics Wait To See How Trump Manages Foreign Policy
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
During the presidential campaign, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump boasted about long lists of generals and military officials who were backing each of their campaigns. One person supporting Clinton, retired Army Colonel Peter Mansoor. He served 26 years in the military. He's a professor of military history at Ohio State University.
And Clinton, he had said, was the first Democratic presidential candidate he'd ever supported in his adult life. He's a longtime Republican but felt Donald Trump was just too dangerous. Well, now that Trump will be president, let's find out if and how Trump could win him over professor. Professor Mansoor is on the line via Skype. Good morning.
PETER MANSOOR: Good morning, David.
GREENE: So you said last spring that Donald Trump would be a foreign policy disaster. What's on your mind as disastrous?
MANSOOR: Well, he, you know, has very little background in national security or foreign policy. By his own admission, he doesn't read any books. He says he's his own best adviser. And that's, quite frankly, a terrifying thing.
GREENE: But if that's the worst thing, I mean, could he bring people in who would give you confidence?
MANSOOR: You know, he is bringing people in. By one account, Mike Meese, a retired brigadier general who's a Ph.D. in international relations, who I've worked with in the past, is heading up his national security transition. And I think that's great. The question is, will Donald Trump listen to people like this?
GREENE: Let's talk about one - one foreign policy challenge, which is ISIS. I mean, Donald Trump has said he is going to destroy ISIS. Could that be the kind of focused, intense talk that you want to hear from a president in a major war against a terrorist group? And then maybe he takes advice on actual policy from some of the people you're talking about.
MANSOOR: Yeah, I think destroying ISIS is actually the right goal. It was also the goal of the Obama administration. However, the question is how you're going to go about it. Beyond just ramping up the bombing campaign, Donald Trump has laid out no specifics. That actually doesn't bother me as much as his policies towards our allies, both in Europe and Asia. Those, quite frankly, are frightening.
GREENE: You're talking about some of the - some of the conversation about backing away from the NATO alliance, forcing allies to pay more or the United States won't work with them. Is that - that's what you're referring to?
MANSOOR: Precisely - backing away from the Article 5 commitment to defend our NATO allies if they don't pay up, and same with our alliances with South Korea and Japan. In fact, he's indicated he'd be OK with them getting nuclear weapons so we wouldn't have to extend our nuclear umbrella over those two nations. And that would also be very frightening.
GREENE: Let me ask you a question about NATO. I mean, forcing some NATO member nations to pay a higher percentage of dues is something that other people have brought up. If that's what he's really referring to and sort of a lot of the tough talk is just to put pressure on them, is that disastrous?
MANSOOR: No, that would - you know, if that's just a negotiating position, that would be fine. But it was unclear to me in the campaign whether Donald Trump knew that this 2-percent-GDP-towards-defense commitment was actually...
GREENE: And we should say that that's the funding structure for NATO.
MANSOOR: Correct. It was unclear to me whether he thought that money was going towards their own defense or would be paid directly to the United States. And the way I was reading his comments, he thought it was money that would be given directly to the United States.
GREENE: It sounds like you are less in a moment where you are calling this potentially disastrous and more in a wait-and-see mode and willing to see how this president operates when he takes office. Is that fair to say?
MANSOOR: I am willing to wait and see. He's the president-elect, fairly elected. And I think we need to give him space to let his policies play out. However, I do not take back anything I said during the campaign. It's - he's - he's going to be a potentially dangerous president. And I hope I'm wrong.
GREENE: All right. That's Peter Mansoor, a retired U.S. Army colonel who backed Hillary Clinton in the presidential election. Professor Mansoor, thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.
MANSOOR: Thank you, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.