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11/15/2016

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Aaron Lercher

Singer's argument misses the audience, or else it flatters them. The latter is worse, because that audience will be seduced by the feeling of being part of something big.

Potential higher-level Trump Administration officials won't choose on the basis of Singer's reasons. Instead they are more likely to have specific ambitions. These people set the directions of policies.

Potential middle-level Trump Administration officials are Singer's real audience. They do not set policy direction. They are replaceable by other "qualified folk," (other conservative Princeton and Stanford graduates) unless they have exceptional abilities and ambitions that can be harnessed to make things even worse. Executive branch officials are not like doctors: they have have bureaucratic supervisors, and not much room for independent action, unless, again, they are particularly ambitious and are picked to do the dirty work.

As for those relatively good Trump policies, such as maternity leave, if it is really turns out to be a good policy, then many trained people should be able to do the work. No one is so special.

I don't think the fact that other "qualified folk will be found" makes it useless to resist normalization. For the most part those making this choice aren't the same as those resisting.

As for those few potential resisters are also potential Trump Administration officials, anyone in that group who joins the Trump Administration will become caught in internal conflicts within the Administration, because they won't share its overall direction. If the Trump Administration continues in its current direction, then these "moderates" will have to choose to leave later, when, as the OP mentions, they will have already made commitments, making it hard to leave.

David Wallace

This is very dependent on the stakes.

For something like maternity leave policy, I think Aaron Lercher might well be right, but it matters that ultimately maternity leave - while really important - isn't important *enough* to trade off against the risk of lasting damage to American democracy. If necessary it can wait a couple of years until Trump can be seen to be governing rationally, or (more likely) four or eight years till he's out of office.

At the other extreme, if you are a midlevel expert on Korea, or China/Taiwan, or Iran, or Russia and the Baltics, I think you have a duty to serve if you think there is any chance you can make a difference. There were going to be really difficult crises in these regions even under an experienced and competent White House. Under Trump, the risks are terrifying.

I guess that would change (and Arendt-type objections would come into play) if you thought that the US under Trump would be an actively malevolent force in the world. (If, as with many academics, you thought it was an actively malevolent force already, you probably aren't a Republican-leaning foreign policy expert so this doesn't apply to you anyway!) I'm writing on the assumption that ignorance, incompetence, manipulability, and panic in the face of crisis, are the likely risks in a Trump foreign policy, not malevolence.

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Here's a link to my past blogging (and discussions involving me) at: New APPS.

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