Captain Willard [Martin Sheen]: Hey soldier…who’s in charge here?
soldier: ain’t you?
– Apocalypse Now
Low hanging fruit is the sustenance of anyone who is either professionally or personally driven to write. The low hanging fruit that has caught my attention over and over…especially in the past couple of weeks…is this growing narrative that Trump may actually be learning a little about international affairs and that his foreign “policy” platform of America First…that he campaigned on heavily…is starting to emerge. Stop…just fucking stop…regardless of those who work on US foreign and national security policy and their almost innate desire to find some sort of pattern within the chaos of Trump’s foreign “policy”…there is no policy…there is no strategy. There is no order in Trump’s foreign “policy”…it is just ever-increasing chaos.
Let’s pretend that you have 15 minutes with Trump to talk foreign policy…you might want to talk about intelligence reports, you might want to point out DoD concerns and studies on threats and near-peer competitors (Russia…China). You might talk about US treaties, trade agreements, and allies. This would be a wasted 15 minutes. If you realize that would be 15 minutes of wasted breath, you may choose to go academic on Trump. You might start talking in pedantic phrases and discuss the national security strategy (NSS) environment and the preferred process in which a NSS is developed, reevaluated, and then amended. Again…you just talked for 15 minutes and Trump is looking at you as if there is a dick growing out of your forehead. If you had 15 minutes and wanted to break foreign policy and NSS down for Trump you might resort to an oversimplification of US national interests…US national interests are the reason why you have to have a foreign policy and a NSS…and then you find yourself talking in simple terms and phrases.
The accepted standard for simplifying why nation-states do the shit they do is based on Terry Deibel’s Foreign Affairs Strategy: Logic for American Statecraft.
The national interests of the United States, indeed of any state, seem to fall naturally into four broad categories. [p.125]
Simply…and specifically…the national interests are:
- physical security;
- economic prosperity;
- value preservation at home; and
- value projection overseas. [p.126.]
All of these are basic and understandable concepts. Physical security means the nation, its citizens, its interests, its allies, and its infrastructure are secured from physical (and now cyber) attack and destruction. Economic prosperity means that the nation’s economy and the industries and services that provide America’s wealth is protected and nurtured in a manner that ensures profit and prosperity (ideally for all of the nation and not select individuals or industries). Value preservation at home is…and it is a little tricky at first to get…the concept that the governing political body defends and preserves the ideals that we, as a nation, identify as our values…the very things the Declaration of Independence espouses and the Constitution guarantees. Finally, value projection overseas means that we, as a nation, project our values and ideals through interaction with other nations and people…a perfect example is the ideal that the US promotes the concept of democracy abroad.
If you had 15 minutes to educate Trump, explaining why there is a need for a coherent foreign policy and a viable NSS may be the best route. Unfortunately, regardless of your 15 minutes of breaking complex shit into bite-able pieces of shit…Trump would still go forth and be completely tone-deaf on foreign policy and NSS.
Evidence of Trump’s inability to even remotely form a coherent and rational thought on foreign policy begins with the fact that there are individuals…smart foreign policy/NSS individuals that get more than 15 minutes of his time. SecDef Mattis and NSA McMasters are both very-well read and very-well educated on foreign policy and NSS. The mere fact that these two men have had multiple opportunities in the past 100+ of Trump’s administration to educate Trump and that he still fucks up every foreign policy issue is a testament to the horrifying fact that Trump has no fucking clue…and either he is purposefully ignorant or he is mentally unable to grasp foreign policy. A quick summary of some of Trump’s foreign “policy” statements and actions shows idiocy that masquerades as foreign policy.
- Korea…North and South…Trump swaggers about (as does members of his cabinet) talking about dealing with North Korea if “China doesn’t.” Trump and cabinet make statements about deploying a US aircraft carrier strike group to show the seriousness of US resolve, when in fact, the strike group had not been deployed for that mission at that time. Trump then makes statements about South Korea needs to pay for the US missile defense system that protects it…then Trump meets with China’s president and claims that there is a common understanding…
- Russia/Syria/NATO…Trump’s administration, campaign, and potentially his personal connection to Russian influence and blackmail is a developing story. Even without this cancerous and ever-growing stain on Trump…US foreign policy right now is a tossed boat among the rising waves close to a rocky shore. Trump says Russia will get out of Crimea and Ukraine…Trump talks about working closely with Russia on the Syria/IS issue…then Trump launches Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase…after informing the Russians of the attack…who in turn informed the Syrians. Within the last 24 hours, Trump has reiterated the idea that the US and Russia should and will start working closely on the Syrian issue. While Trump and his surrogates tell NATO to start paying their bill on defense of Europe…while handing…literally fucking handing…German Chancellor Merkel a fucking bill for what he says is the past and current amount Germany owes. With friends like us, who needs enemies?
- Iran…Trump rattles his sword at Iran…yet continues to either ignore or accept Russian-Iranian ties…or in other words…Trump and his surrogates either prattle in bellicose terms about Iran and its nuclear weapon ambitions…or it is dead silent.
- Trade/treaties…what trade deal or what treaty has Trump not promised to renegotiate? At what point did Trump come to the self-aggrandizing conclusion that is midnight musings on the “business” of foreign policy are a perfect substitute for decades of evolving US foreign policy?
- Regional relations…Mexico pay for the fucking wall! Brazil, please give a good deal on a Trump Tower. Canada…your milk is spoiled and your lumber is full of termites…trade war muthafuckas! Fences make good neighbors as Robert Frost wrote…don’t be surprised when Canada and Mexico build their own fucking wall.
Of course, articles in the Washington Post may talk about Trump’s evolving or learning curve toward the new GOP conservative concept of isolationism and dubbed “America First.” If conservative foreign policy experts and analysts want to believe that Trump is learning how to be a president and that his latest actions are examples of him seeing the light…then I am perfectly fine with watching them fool themselves. If flag-waving, chest-thumping Trump voters want to believe that this jester of a man…this fool…is America’s champion in the post-Cold War world…then fine (but first I want to ask these voters what the fuck “post-Cold War” means…because I’m willing to bet a year of my salary that most cannot articulate the paradigm shift in international relations which was the result of the Soviet Union’s demise and the expanding stature in which the US found itself in the late 90s).
In the end, we will all…every American…be better prepared for a long line of national security crisis after crisis that is happening now and will continue to happen as long as Trump is making the final decision (NATO you’re fired! Russia…wanna try to be our apprentice?…oh you want America to be your apprentice?)…and as long as Trump is shadowed by a US military officer carrying the nuclear football…there will be no peace of mind…there will be no breathing room…there will be no reduction in stress.
Unfortunately, America (with, what is beginning to appear more likely every day, Russian assistance) has elected a complete and utter idiot as its president…a man who cowardly avoided military service…failed…repeatedly…at his life long profession of “business.” At 70+ years, an idiot doesn’t suddenly become a stellar student of international affairs…at 70+…an idiot remains an idiot. Trump is in charge here…he just has no ability to lead or learn how to lead. Don’t hope for anything better and quit believing it might get better…it isn’t going to get better. We.Are.Fucked.