Attacks on democracy hinder national security

Israelis have likened the brutal assault from Gaza to the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. “At Dawn We Slept” was a title of a book about that intelligence failure. As Israel investigates the complacency that left it open to a bloody invasion, Americans must ask themselves — are we also sleeping?

Americans, like Israelis until a few days ago, think they are safe, that our enemies are contained. How else explain the ease with which MAGA Republicans tolerate Donald Trump’s ongoing verbal aggression against America’s military and intelligence establishments that are supposed to protect us?

Most recently, he said that Gen. Mark Milley should be executed. Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Milley was the highest-ranking military officer in the U.S. Department of Defense.

Milley responded that Trump disrespected the military. Furthermore, he would have to “take appropriate measures” to protect himself and his family from the former president’s thugs. If they were foreigners, we’d call them terrorists.

Trump has smeared the U.S. intelligence community as well, going so far as to revoke the security clearance of former CIA director John Brennan. Brennan has called Trump “imbecilic” and “treasonous.”

Can you imagine what our enemies hear in these attacks on our security infrastructure by a man who polls say is the leading Republican candidate for president? We’re used to inflammatory, unhinged rhetoric from Trump, but not that used to it.

Then you have Tommy Tuberville, the Republican senator from Alabama who is blocking military nominations over abortion. Including officers in line to command U.S. forces in the Middle East. Tuberville says the current explosive situation will change nothing. Thus, a former football coach is single-handedly endangering our nation’s defense.

MAGA Republicans, meanwhile, have virtually closed down the House of Representatives. There is no majority leader at a time when the U.S. must respond to foreign crises, not only the new one in Israel but also the ongoing Russian assault on Ukraine. Legislatively, no one is home.

There are parallels with Israel’s leadership under Benjamin Netanyahu. Uri Misgav, a writer for Haaretz, has put the blame for the current security failure on the shoulders of the MAGA-like prime minister.

In his subservience to the religious right-wing settlers, Israel had devoted an entire battalion to protecting a prayer session on the main street of Harawa, a Palestinian town on the West Bank. Misgav wrote that Netanyahu’s government has weakened Israel and its security services “while diverting huge sums of money to the ultra-Orthodox and settlers, who do not contribute to the state’s security, but rather, often harm it.”

Netanyahu’s efforts to hobble the democracy set off massive street protests. Some military reservists got so angry they threatened to not show up for duty. Fortunately for Israel, the horror of the attack from Gaza dissuaded them. Israel was able to call up 300,000 reservists.

But some now ask whether Hamas saw this as a time of instability and distraction, and perhaps a good time to invade.

America is engrossed in its own right wing’s efforts to weaken the democracy. Worse than that, the radicals sought to destroy it through a Trump-led coup d’etat against the elected leadership.

Not only do these attacks on democracy deflect attention from national security, but they drain the public’s sense of common cause worth fighting for. Time and time again, authoritarian regimes lose wars to democracies.

Vladimir Putin evidently assumed that a democracy that allowed gay pride parades must be feeble. Therefore, the “manly” forces of Russia would overrun Ukraine in days. He’s now being humiliated by that democracy, whose military is a fraction of his.

The lesson for Israel should be an alarm for us: Attacks on democratic institutions endanger national security.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com.