When the Republican foreign policy elite gets together these days, conversation quickly veers from challenges such as the Islamic State or North Korea to focus on two questions. How has Donald Trump come so close to becoming the party’s standard-bearer? If Trump were elected president, would any of them serve in his administration?
“It’s the only thing we can talk about,” said Eliot Cohen, professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University and a former George W. Bush administration official. He’s answered the second question by spearheading an anti-Trump petition, which now has signatures of 121 GOP national security experts.
Others are not sure how they would respond to a call from Trump. “Leaving any particular president completely alone and bereft from the best advice people could give him just doesn’t sound responsible,” said another former senior Republican official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
“I would never say never, but it’s hard to envision myself,” the former official said. Many of Trump’s foreign policy pronouncements — retreating from NATO, targeting the families of terror suspects and tearing up existing trade deals, among others — are anathema to the Republican national security mainstream.