PROSPECTS FOR A “TRUMPIAN” FOREIGN AND SECURITY AGENDA: INCOHERENCE & IGNORANCE VERSUS THE REALITY OF OUR MESSY AND DANGEROUS WORLD


By Harry C. Blaney III

Image result for President-elect Trump

THE PROBLEM OF TRUMP THE MAN AND THE DEFICIENCY OF NO CREDIBILITY

Trying to understand what a Donald Trump foreign and security policy might be is like reading tea leaves in a very dark and mushy tea. There is no consistency, little true knowledge of diplomacy and security issues, and no cohesiveness to his many pronouncements. His formal documents and off-hand remarks and his stances are, to say the least, not very enlightening and often rather simplistic, silly, and dangerous.

There will be great efforts to have him look like a “statesman,” but if his campaign is any indication he will be, as they say, out of his depth and playing it “by the seat of his pants.” You can only do so much with a Teleprompter or printed talking points when you have no depth of knowledge and not a clue to what the other side wants and dangers of misunderstanding when tens of thousands of lives are at stake for example.   In this world, those empty grey cells will likely not be enough to ensure the security of our nation nor solve the deep and complex challenges of our conflict-filled messy world.

Subtlety, attention to detail, and seeing the other side of the equation have proven not to be Trump’s strong points. However bullying and lying are. What do we do with a leader that has told so many lies that it would be hard for a leader of another country to believe any word he says?

Further, he starts his new presidency with a set of positions that the rest of the world already sees as a disaster, not in their own national interest, and indeed a danger to the entire globe. Here are a few examples which we will examine in more detail in forthcoming posts:

– CLIMATE CHANGE:  His rejection of the Paris Global Warming accord which has now come into force. Not only will he not support that agreement despite the science, he does not even believe its reality that man made global warming and ignores its impact on our earth, and has even advocated churning out CO2 with more coal-fired power stations and expanded mining.

– THE IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL: His stated goal is to repudiate the Iran nuclear deal, which bars Iran from developing nuclear weapons for some 10-20 years and beyond. It will be a total disaster for the world’s security and that of Israel, as Iran would be within months of being able to build a nuclear bomb. Further, the alternative of a massive bombing campaign against Iranian targets would do little in the long run, exacerbate the situation, and create even more conflict in the region. Such an effort might draw us into a war we would not have to face with the agreement in place.

– NATO AND OTHER ALLIES: He said we would, in effect, not support NATO allies that do not pay fully for their defense. This is contrary to our NATO treaty obligations AND ALSO REGARDING OUR OTHER ALLIES IN Asia and elsewhere. His position undermines our defense credibility and deterrence power.

– TRUMP AND INTERNATIONAL LAW: Trump has said he supports torture and water boarding, but there is the Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions to which the United States is a party. He can withdraw from these conventions, but that would put our people still under danger of being found criminals if we carried out such horrific inhumane acts. Such action are in any case counterproductive and encourage terrorism. How is that for a moral American position and what it does to us as a presumptive leader of other decent countries?

– DEALING WITH ISIS AND TERRORISM: On 60 Minutes after the election, Donald Trump said he will destroy ISIS as he has said earlier, but gave little indication of how he might do this. He still maintained that he knows more than the generals.

There are facts on the ground which will not change after the election. Much has already been done by Obama’s strategy which has severely weaken ISIS without major commitment of U.S. combat forces on the ground and without huge loss of American lives. The concept behind that strategy is to let regional forces carry the fight to ISIS as they do have much to lose and they know the environment that they are fighting in. Our main contributions now are bombing, intelligence, training, and logistics.

What more can be done with an eye on also not ending up mired in a costly “endless war” with high costs of American lives and resources or unneeded and counterproductive destruction of civilian populations? The new president will have to weigh many options but also many major risks in an area he knows almost nothing about, but thinks he knows more than the generals or for that matter perhaps our diplomats and intelligence experts. Also, in the end, it will be politics and diplomacy that will be needed to create the conditions for lasting security and stability in the Middle East. Will he act before he learns and listens or will he act precipitously with high costs for all?

– TRUMP AND CHINA: It can’t help but be a clash, but the constraints on the reality of continued trade and their importance as well as cooperation on key issues like North Korea. All the constraints and realities should give some pause to hasty actions by both sides. But it may not if China is aiming for a predominant role in the Pacific and sees Trump as leading America to global weakness. Trade and economics and security are deeply intermixed and the question must be asked if both sides see the advantages of cooperation rather than confrontation. Up to now Trump seems perhaps to often favor confrontation and the American economy may suffer as well as China’s from such a strategy. But absent a creditable presence and strong economic and military ties in the Pacific region, China is likely to be even bolder to gain predominance.

– RUSSIA/PUTIN:  Trump and Russia remain a hazard zone for both sides. Things can go very badly quickly depending on the reaction of just two people: Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump.  Will Putin push too hard, and test the mettle of neophyte Trump? Will Trump think he can make a deal with Putin? But at what cost to American leadership and security or that of our allies? On the agenda is the question of continued sanctions on Russia for the annexation of Crimea and invasion of Eastern Ukraine, and not least how to deal with Russia’s violence to civilians and military action on behalf of Syria’s Assad, who has committed butchery of much of his own people with Russian help..

NUCLEAR WEAPONS: Of high importance is trying to deal with key nuclear weapons issues. That includes the future of the Iran nuclear deal which Trump has said he will scrap. But also it must address the danger of nuclear war which is the most important issue that needs some kind of understanding between the two largest nuclear nations. Putin seems to think that the nuclear weapons and his military are his high cards which he has used to some success and a way to intimidate America and the West generally. What might Trump do to offer a counter action to obtain a mutually cooperative and fair “deal?” More belligerence from both sides and greater risk of military confrontation is one option, or some measure of cooperation and backing away from dangerous actions is another. In the end, a key question is whether Putin sees in Trump an easy pawn, a partner in his goals. or make deals that can complete his ambitions and harm the West without any cost? For Trump the question is whether he even understands the high risks for all. The whole world will be asking what kind of “deal” can come out of this mix.

There are many other questions that will need to be examined in forthcoming posts on this site, and we will examine in more detail in the coming weeks these and the cited topics here. A key will be who Trump advances as high level national security and foreign affairs officials. However, their influence might be either as bad or even if they are more reasonable, Trump might not listen or even want to learn.  We have seen that Trump seems to desire to act compulsively without thought of the long-term harm.

One thing is certain with Trump: we likely will be living in a world sliding quickly into unknown conflict and chaos.

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4 thoughts on “PROSPECTS FOR A “TRUMPIAN” FOREIGN AND SECURITY AGENDA: INCOHERENCE & IGNORANCE VERSUS THE REALITY OF OUR MESSY AND DANGEROUS WORLD

  1. Anonymous November 14, 2016 / 10:11 PM

    Harry,
    I think your blog takes Trump literally, whereas my sense is that he is best taken seriously but not literally, and risks being pushed in the wrong directions if taken literally. especially in these early, highly uncertain days. The most critical dimension of his national security strategy will be his personnel appointments; these will tell us a lot.

    • Harry C. Blaney III November 28, 2016 / 9:59 PM

      Thank you for that thought and many have the same hope. But I ask you to examine the kinds of people he has chosen for national security issues, and the appointment of a racist like Bannon to one of the most powerful White House positions, and the recent attack on Romney and the massive drag to the Alt-Right of his team. Tests to come will be his policy toward Cuba, towards Putin’s Russia, NATO, and not least nuclear weapons and going to war or helping peace and security for the globe.

  2. Charles Ketcham November 14, 2016 / 9:21 PM

    Harry: What most of us fear is the loss of independence and uniqueness among the traditional branches of government. We are left with no discernable witness or wisdom in the realms of morality, legislation, or executive leadership. These, in turn, point to an even more devastating possibility; the loss of significant linguistic meaning which is absolutely vital to the expression, development, and continuation of democracy. Dark Ages, indeed.

    • Harry C. Blaney III November 28, 2016 / 9:41 PM

      I agree that we face deep dangers with a Trump that likely will undertake actions and policies that hurt democracy and what we can call decent and informed dialogue and the greatest reflection and caution. Given what we see of his appointments your concern is justified about independence and uniqueness of our branches of government.

      Already the most brutal dictators abroad are over joyed about Trump — a bad sign for the global progress of democracy and human rights. On “linguistic meaning” I remember a lecture by Paul Tillich when he lamented the loss of decent German dialogue and meaning of words under Hitler. Trump can even speak a decent phrase or sentence. His words are still often filled with hate even after he tried to soften them.

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