Donald Trump's Disdain for Foreign Policy Expertise & its Impact on the Iranian Crisis
Donald Trump has done about all he can to undermine expertise & experience in our intelligence services, the FBI and the State Department. He makes foreign policy on the fly, based on his "gut" feelings, eschewing the advice of those that actually know things. Richard North Patterson, of the Council on Foreign Relations said it best in December, even before Trump made the unfortunate decision to assassinate the top Iranian military commander, Qasem Soleimani.
The Bulwark: "For nearly three years, we have seen the consequences of this worldview. He disparages our intelligence agencies when they reach conclusions which displease him. He treats the State Department with contempt, compelling an exodus of career professionals and eviscerating our diplomatic capacity. He replaces the language of democracy with venality and vulgarity, He greets the world’s autocrats as his geopolitical kin. The global image of America has become the gargoyle visage of a bigot and bully.
Trump bullies and insults our long-term allies while he cozies up to dictators and strong-men. And he has forced the adults, like Secretary of Defense James Mattis, out of his administration when they opposed his more inane whims.
The Atlantic, Thomas Wright: "Trump grew frustrated with the so-called axis of adults, who sought to preserve a mainstream foreign policy. He replaced these officials with people who are too sycophantic or weak to stand up to him. In John Bolton, his erstwhile national security adviser, Trump thought he had a sycophant. But when Bolton pushed back, Trump forced him out, too. As one former administration official put it to Politico, this is not “an A Team or B Team”; what you’re “really getting down to [is] who’s left that will say ‘yes.’”
And so, Trump has now down-sized his administration to folks that will parrot his fantasies and fabricate obvious lies to help him keep face. Consider these statements from administration officials regarding Soleimani.
VP Mike Pense on Twitter about Qasem Soleimani: "Assisted in the clandestine travel to Afghanistan of 10 of the 12 terrorists who carried out the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States."
First, there were 19 rather than 12 hijackers and Soleimani was not even remotely involved. Al Qaeda is a Sunni Muslim organization and Iran's government is Shi'a. And in the world of Islam that matters quite a bit.
Axios: "Soleimani is not mentioned whatsoever in the "9/11 Commission Report." The report concludes there is no evidence that Iran nor Hezbollah were aware of the 9/11 attacks."
Or Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on CNN: "Pompeo says US has “every expectation” that people “in Iran will view the American action last night as giving them freedom.”
One would think that the Secretary of State in a self-proclaimed "nationalist" administration would have some idea how nationalism works. The attack on Soleimani will undermine Iran's protest movement, buoy the hardliners in the government, and lead to a crackdown on dissent. None of that is in America's best interests.
So, why assassinate Soleimani? Does President Trump think it will cow Iran into submission? Does he want to shift the public's attention away from his impeachment? Or, was it simply a whim? In any case, it makes little strategic sense and could have tragic consequences.
Jonathan Stevenson of the International Institute for Strategic Studies summed it up quite well yesterday.
New York Times: ... "The killing of General Suleimani arose outside of any coherent policy context, and without adequate contemplation of near- or long-term strategic consequences. Mr. Trump’s move looks like either an impetuous act of self-indulgence or, somewhat more probable, a calculated attempt to bury his domestic political troubles. Whatever the precise reason, the act itself is irreversible, and will have serious consequences — precisely why it merited the systematic deliberation that it clearly did not receive."
That isn't to say that Soleimani was a good guy or didn't deserve his fate. He was a violent, loathsome character, but the world is awash with such men and he has already been replaced with an equally bellicose commander, Brigadier General Esmail Ghaani, Soleimani's hand-picked deputy. And Ghaani's reputation will likely rest on the success or failure of his retaliation against the United States.
So, now, the central question is whether Donald Trump and his team of "yes men" thought through and planned for all the possible consequences of their attack, and do they have a viable plan to avoid a war after Iran responds [and they will] to Soleimani's assassination. You would have to be an starry-eyed Trump acolyte to believe he has thought that far ahead. The Pentagon will provide Trump with a list of targets to hit once Iran responds but that is exactly the tit for tat escalation that could lead us into another Middle East debacle.
And a war with Iran would be far more wide-ranging and destructive than our 2003 misadventure in Iraq.
Council of Foreign Relations President Richard N. Haass: “Make no mistake: any war with Iran will not look like the 1990 Gulf war or the 2003 Iraq wars. It will be fought throughout the region w a wide range of tools vs a wide range of civilian, economic, & military targets. The region (and possibly the world) will be the battlefield.”
But, we will have Donald Trump, Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo leading us, so everything should be fine....right?
By: Don Lam & Curated Content