Trump Is Unfit to Be Our Commander in Chief

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A U.S. soldier from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment is dropped off for a mission near Jalalabad in Afghanistan on December 20, 2014. The author, a colonel who has commanded troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, writes, "As a veteran of the Afghan and Iraq wars, and a registered Republican, the thought of Trump sending Americans to war deeply unnerves me." Lucas Jackson/Reuters

On June 11 2010, two of my teammates were killed by a suicide bomber in southern Afghanistan. They were in the local bazaar, along with Afghan police, to purchase medical supplies for Afghans in need.

The bomber was a young boy. Mentally disabled, the poor child had no idea what was about to happen when the insurgents strapped the bomb to his tiny chest and covered him in the blue burqa. The boy, my two teammates, three Afghan police officers and four Afghan civilians died that day.

Parents, siblings, loved ones and friends had precious lives ripped from them, forever. The staff sergeant was to be married when our tour was over. The sergeant first class left behind a daughter the same age as my younger daughter. Lives were ended and lives were changed. No one who knew them will ever be the same.

The loss of life does not change the fact that war can, at times, be necessary. It does, however, remind us of the solemn responsibility of those who lead America's sons and daughters into war. That ultimate responsibility lies with the commander in chief. The president alone has the authority to send America's most treasured possession into harm's way.

As a veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and as a registered Republican, the thought of Donald Trump being entrusted with that responsibility deeply unnerves me.

Trump is a bully. When he wins a primary, the people of that state are wonderful, amazing, and smart. But, when states like Iowa do not adorn him with the victor's crown, they immediately become stupid. When a reporter with a physical disability fails to back up one of his outlandish claims, Trump's bruised ego compels him to mimic the reporter's disability while verbally berating him.

Bullying is un-American. It doesn't come from a sense of strength or confidence. It is an expression of fear and insecurity; not the traits required for a commander in chief.

No wonder, then, that Trump is also a fear-monger. He repeatedly incites the darker side of our nature. Whether the supposed threat comes from the Mexican rapists, Muslim terrorists, or expletive deleted Chinese , Trump seeks to cut the world into an us-them dichotomy, where virtually everyone is "them"—an existential threat to the besieged American "us."

My interpreter in Afghanistan was an Afghan Muslim man. Thankfully, he was neither a bully nor a fear-monger. Throughout our tour of duty, he continually set aside his own safety for the safety of my team and me. In his service to American forces and a better future for his country, he endured rocket attacks, IEDs, and a suicide vehicle bomber. He watched a colleague die engulfed in flames. He witnessed the severed body parts of fellow interpreters sent back by the insurgents as a reminder of the fate that awaited him and others who dared to work with the Americans. Through it all, he did not waiver. His bravery was obvious, yet my interpreter's humility remained always evident as he embodied the traits so often admired in America—a quiet confidence, true to his word, willing to set aside his own welfare for that of another.

Donald Trump embodies none of those. To listen to his words and watch his actions, it would appear Trump is the anti-American. Quiet confidence has given way to bullying, truth has been overcome by buffoonish claims, and the only person Trump appears to care about is himself. Imagine Trump ordering America's sons and daughters into harm's way in an attempt to satisfy his outsized ego, as he himself bears none of the threat and none of the cost.

It has been said that every country gets the government it deserves and that in a democracy the people get the leaders they should. In the American political system, the linkage is organic—as our highest leader, the president is a reflection of us.

I hope we don't deserve Donald Trump as our commander in chief.

Colonel Erik Goepner is retired from the U.S. Air Force. During his military service, he commanded units in Afghanistan and Iraq. Currently, he is pursuing a Ph.D. in public policy at George Mason University.