Former top Obama administration advisers and other veterans of the Washington foreign policy establishment are forming a new group dedicated to opposing President Donald Trump’s “reckless” foreign policy, which they say has made America less safe over the past year.
The new organization, National Security Action, will be led by co-chairs Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security advisor in the Obama White House, and Jake Sullivan, one of Hillary Clinton’s longtime foreign policy hands.
Rhodes, a key architect of the Iran nuclear deal and the Obama administration’s policies in Libya and Syria, says the group will pool the expertise of former government officials and academics to promote an alternative to Trump’s foreign policy agenda.
“On behalf of the broader Advisory Council, we’ve stood up a nimble, campaign-like structure focused on putting forward an affirmative vision of American leadership,” Rhodes said in a statement Tuesday. “Given the enormous stakes over the next three years, we feel a sense of urgency about the need to substantially impact the public debate on national security and the future of America’s role in the world.”
National Security Action comprises mostly former Obama administration officials who served in the White House or at senior posts at the Departments of State and Defense, according to the group’s website. It also includes some senior George W. Bush administration figures, including Nicholas Burns, a career foreign service officer who was undersecretary of state for political affairs during Bush’s second term.
The largely center-left coalition intends to serve as an advisory group for Democratic politicians interested in countering Republican messaging on national security issues. It is expected to soon announce several key 2018 midterm races where it will focus efforts, reports the Washington Post.
Advisory board member Wendy Sherman, an undersecretary of state for political affairs under Hillary Clinton, says National Security Action will help Democratic candidates appeal to voters by highlighting what she says is a loss of American influence and prestige under Trump.
“There was a need for connective tissue,” Sherman told WaPo. “It’s connecting all the progressive groups and citizens that are very concerned about America’s place in the world, about our leadership in the world and that are very concerned about the institutions that ensure the rule of law in the world and our security and prosperity.”
In a statement announcing the group’s inauguration, National Security Action said the Trump administration’s foreign policy initiatives “are making the United States less safe and diminishing our standing and influence in the world,” but did not specify which policies it would target. Sullivan described the group’s mission in explicitly political terms, contrasting it with more research-minded organizations and think tanks.
“This is not a new think tank or policy shop,” he said. “Our role is to help shape the public debate on foreign policy and national security, holding Trump accountable and lifting up an alternative, affirmative vision. That’s what’s needed, and that’s why we’re here.”
Sullivan, also a key negotiator of the Iran nuclear deal, brings years of hands-on policy experience at the highest levels of the Obama national security team.
During the 2016 election, he was floated as the leading candidate for national security advisor in a Hillary Clinton administration. As director of policy planning in Clinton’s State Department, he was instrumental in crafting U.S. foreign policy towards Libya, Syria and Myanmar.
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