If you believe the New York Times, we live in a world where business leaders are tiptoeing around Donald Trump. They’re afraid that they might become a target of his personal attacks. They see his treatment of people like Robert Gates, one of our nation’s most prominent and impactful civil servants, and shudder at the thought of being attacked too. They see that many Republican establishment politicians have “gotten in line” and supported their party’s nominee despite having serious misgivings about his leadership qualities, his vision for America, and his likely inability to get any of his proposals enacted if elected.
Where is our leadership? We’re talking about Chief Executive Officers, people who sometimes make millions of dollars a year and run global corporations that are far more successful than anything Trump has run. We’re talking about politicians who have been elected by the people to be leaders in Washington, DC and hold the purse-strings on trillions of dollars in spending and taxes. Are they afraid to get criticized by an insecure man who builds fancy buildings and sports a weird hairdo? Really?
Sadly, there is another category of leaders who have largely remained silent: military brass. As a veteran, I feel fortunate to have met, served with, and learned from many retired admirals and generals. These are wonderful men and women who have dedicated their lives to serving our country, often at the expense of their own families. I’ve had a number of personal conversations with these folks – including some of the most celebrated and accomplished military leaders of our era – and they all agree that Trump is not fit to lead the nation. That’s right, all of them. Yet most are unwilling to speak out publicly against Trump. Is it because of similar fears to those of our CEOs and our politicians?
Yes, Trump has a list of 88 retired military brass who are supporting his campaign. But look at the list – these aren’t the cream of the crop and most of them are not the leaders who understand the fight that we’re engaged in against terrorism. Most of them served decades ago, when the Cold War was “the fight.”
Learning how to fight terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan has taken over a decade to grasp. Our military was woefully underprepared when September 11 occurred. Entire “playbooks” had to be thrown out because what we did in places like Korea and Vietnam just didn’t work against terrorists. Trump now advocates that we should base our vote on the endorsements of people who wrote the old “playbooks” rather than the new ones. This would be a clear mistake.
Again, where is our leadership? What I am perceiving more each day is that we have a true leadership deficit in the United States. We have many powerful people with fancy titles who command troops in factories, board rooms, and on battlefields, but who are unwilling to take a stand when things matter most. Sometimes they cite personal fear and “not wanting to get involved” rather than doing what is right. Imagine if our junior military officers allowed similar fears to drive their actions – no one would serve and those who did would fail.
Two clear things need to happen before November 8. First, we need our nation’s CEOs, politicians, and former military leaders to issue a rallying cry, to wake up and to step up. Our nation needs you now, as much as ever before. We need you to speak truth to power, regardless of the consequences to you as an individual. Any response that you face on Twitter will be worth it if you help us reject an unworthy candidate. Second, to the younger leaders among us who are still building their careers, speak out now. If our leaders don’t step up, we need you to do so. There is no better way to position yourself for future success than to stand up to a bully at a time of need. I can handle being bashed on social media – and I know you can too.
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