Eliot A. Cohen is a highly respected Republican who served as Counselor to the United States Department of State under Secretary Condoleezza Rice from 2007 to 2009. He originally came out encouraging fellow #NeverTrump Republicans to seriously consider taking jobs in the Trump administration.
Along with several other well thought of members of the party, Cohen argued that GOP foreign policy folks should set aside their understandable reservations and assist the administration, because that is their moral responsibility. The incoming team has a stunning lack of preparedness, which has been reported, but cannot be emphasized enough.
During their private White House meeting on Thursday, Mr. Obama walked his successor through the duties of running the country, and Mr. Trump seemed surprised by the scope, said people familiar with the meeting. Trump aides were described by those people as unaware that the entire presidential staff working in the West Wing had to be replaced at the end of Mr. Obama’s term. (Source)
In addition, Trump has made multiple statements during his campaign that show a complete ignorance of foreign policy and international law. From May:
Donald Trump defended waterboarding, torture and killing terrorists’ families at the Fox Republican debate Thursday, all positions for which he’s drawn criticism during the course of his campaign.
When asked about former CIA Director Michael Hayden’s recent comments that the military could defy unlawful orders to torture or kill civilians, Trump said, “They won’t refuse. They’re not going to refuse, believe me.” (Source)
Trump also advocated repeatedly that the United States should take the oil out of Iraq, despite international law that says taking or seizing civilian goods is a war crime. This does not even take into account the logistical nightmare of actually implementing such a plan.
“You heard me, I would take the oil,” he said. “I would not leave Iraq and let Iran take the oil.” (Source)
Despite one hundred and twenty-two Republican foreign policy leaders and experts signing a letter denouncing Trump, and men like Michael Hayden, Robert Kagan, and Richard Armitage stating they would vote for Clinton, we still ended up with President-elect Trump. And men like Mr. Cohen have argued that because we fear Trump and his surrogates, those same people have a moral duty to serve. Ross Douthat explains:
For the next four years, the most important check on what we’ve seen of Trump’s worst impulses — his hair-trigger temper, his rampant insecurity, his personal cruelty — won’t come from Congress or the courts or the opposition party. It will come from the people charged with executing the basic responsibilities of government within his administration. (Source)
However, in a completely unexpected reversal today, Eliot Cohen tweeted this following communication with Trump’s transition team:
After exchange w Trump transition team, changed my recommendation: stay away. They're angry, arrogant, screaming "you LOST!" Will be ugly.
— Eliot A Cohen (@EliotACohen) November 15, 2016
There is so much in that statement. But the most important takeaway is this: A highly respected GOP leader, considered “thoughtful and measured”, just warned his friends and colleagues that his original recommendation to work with this administration should be ignored. They should instead avoid it completely.