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Trump’s Foreign Policy Witlessness

Robin Wright asks the following in The New Yorker:  Why Is Donald Trump Still So Horribly Witless About the World?

Of course, the unfortunate answer is that he has no interest in understanding the world, nor any real grasp of the job he currently has.  This is well summed up in this quote from the piece:

“The President has little understanding of the context”—of what’s happening in the world—“and even less interest in hearing the people who want to deliver it,” Michael Hayden, a retired four-star general and former director of both the C.I.A. and the National Security Agency, told me. “He’s impatient, decision-oriented, and prone to action. It’s all about the present tense. When he asks, ‘What the hell’s going on in Iraq?’ people around him have learned not to say, ‘Well, in 632 . . . ‘ ” (That was the year when the Prophet Muhammad died, prompting the beginning of the Sunni-Shiite split.*)

“He just doesn’t have an interest in the world,” Hayden said.

This is sadly accurate and highly unlikely to change. It is also a horrible circumstance for President of the United States.  It is like hiring an attorney who has no interest in the law to defend you in court:  sheer madness.

And, of course, Hayden is no liberal squish predisposed to criticize a Republican President.  Indeed, Wright’s piece is based on interviews with members of Republican administrations:

Criticism of Donald Trump among Democrats who served in senior national-security positions is predictable and rife. But Republicans—who are historically ambitious on foreign policy—are particularly pained by the President’s missteps and misstatements. So are former senior intelligence officials who have avoided publicly criticizing Presidents until now.

[…]

I asked top Republican and intelligence officials from eight Administrations what they thought was the one thing the President needs to grasp to succeed on the world stage. Their various replies: embrace the fact that the Russians are not America’s friends. Don’t further alienate the Europeans, who are our friends. Encourage human rights—a founding principle of American identity—and don’t make priority visits to governments that curtail them, such as Poland and Saudi Arabia. Understand that North Korea’s nuclear program can’t be outsourced to China, which can’t or won’t singlehandedly fix the problem anyway, and realize that military options are limited. Pulling out of innovative trade deals, like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, will boost China’s economy and secure its global influence—to America’s disadvantage. Stop bullying his counterparts. And put the Russia case behind him by coöperating with the investigation rather than trying to discredit it.

All excellent advice.  All likely to unheeded by the administration.

The whole piece is worth a read.

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About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Kylopod says:

    He’s impatient, decision-oriented, and prone to action. It’s all about the present tense.

    That’s actually a common trait of sociopaths and psychopaths, even smart and knowledgeable ones. They live in the moment.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  2. James Pearce says:

    Their various replies: embrace the fact that the Russians are not America’s friends. Don’t further alienate the Europeans, who are our friends. Encourage human rights—a founding principle of American identity—and don’t make priority visits to governments that curtail them, such as Poland and Saudi Arabia. Understand that North Korea’s nuclear program can’t be outsourced to China, which can’t or won’t singlehandedly fix the problem anyway, and realize that military options are limited. Pulling out of innovative trade deals, like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, will boost China’s economy and secure its global influence—to America’s disadvantage. Stop bullying his counterparts. And put the Russia case behind him by coöperating with the investigation rather than trying to discredit it.

    What’s crazy is that none of Trump’s rivals during the primary or the general would need this advice.

    Well, maybe Huckabee, but the rest of them would just “get it” without having to be told.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  3. michael reynolds says:

    @Kylopod:
    A predator doesn’t need to know where the antelope spent its childhood, it only needs to know where the antelope is and whether it can be taken down.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  4. michael reynolds says:

    Hayden was of course being disingenuous suggesting Trump get the Russia thing behind him. It’s not the cover-up, it’s the crimes. Trump is unmistakably guilty of a cover-up, they could prosecute on that right now if he were a regular citizen. This is about money, Russian money. The Russians dangled, Trump snapped up the bait, and we are where we are today.

    I suggested from the start that Trump had untreated ADD and was probably a very slow reader, perhaps dyslexic. It’s not just that he doesn’t care, he simply cannot do the work. He is not capable of reading books or long briefing papers. He will never be capable of it.

    A psychopath (predatory, ruthless, incapable of empathy, narcissistic, pathologically dishonest) with ADD (inability to concentrate or focus) paired as it often is with dyslexia (great difficulty reading) and a mediocre IQ. Add a domineering and unloving father and you get the desperate insecurity, the need for constant reassurance.

    Trump is easy to understand because he lacks the capacity or desire to mask his weaknesses. He’s a stick figure with everything exposed. It’s part of what makes this whole clusterfuck so depressing: his voters can’t even claim they misread him except by admitting that they were brainwashed and not too bright to start with. It’s the sheer, undeniable stupidity and/or nastiness of Trump voters that has them glued to Trump. Sun Tzu thought you should leave an opposing army a way out, a line of retreat, but in this case they’ve cut themselves off.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  5. michael reynolds says:

    Can someone rescue me from moderation? Thanks.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  6. Mikey says:

    Well, to be fair, he’s every bit as witless about everything else he’s supposed to be doing as President.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  7. TM01 says:

    Blah blah blah.

    The last guy embraced our enemy Iran and alienated our allies Poland and Israel. He let Mubarak be overthrown and helped put a soon to be overthrown himself Muslim brotherhood dictator in power in Egypt. Then toss in Libya and qaddafi, which made zero sense. And cozying up to Russia with a stupid Reset button. Allowing the JV team ISIL to thrive.

    And he was supposedly a genius.

    Trump is a very welcome change from all that.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 20

  8. al-Ameda says:

    @TM01:
    Speaking of ‘no context’ blah blah blahs …

    The last guy embraced our enemy Iran …

    The previous Republican president, by way of undertaking an ill-advised and completely unnecessary war in Iraq, completely destabilized the region, sowed the seeds of what we now know as ISIS, and ceded control of the region to Iran.

    Barack Obama was a welcome and necessary relief from THAT.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 1

  9. Kylopod says:

    @TM01:

    Then toss in Libya and qaddafi, which made zero sense.

    That’s right. As Obama said at the time:

    “Gaddafi in Libya is killing thousands of people, nobody knows how bad it is… You talk about things that have happened in history; this could be one of the worst. Now we should go in, we should stop this guy, which would be very easy and very quick.”

    Oops.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  10. michael reynolds says:

    @Kylopod:
    Like shooting fish in a barrel.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  11. CSK says:

    @michael reynolds:

    The hardcore Trumpkins will never admit they were duped, and not just because the humiliation would be unendurable. It goes beyond that. They not only identify with him, they’ve merged their identities with his. Attack him, you attack them. The same thing happened when they were Palinistas. Only now the phenomenon is on steroids.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  12. wr says:

    @TM01: “He let Mubarak be overthrown ”

    When he should have sent in hundreds of thousands of troops to occupy Egypt and prop up the dictator? That what you had in mind?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  13. de stijl says:

    @TM01:

    Cheney & co. did more to elevate Iran regionally than Iran could ever have done own their own. We eliminated a Sunni dominated government in Iraq where they comprise 15 – 20% of the population. We actively pursued a policy is de-Ba’athification virtually ensuring a Shia dominated Iraq.

    The Iraq War could not have played out better for Iran than if they had planned it themselves. *Which may be literally be true.*

    Curveball and Chalabi conned the Bush crowd and it worked out perfectly for Iran.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  14. Kari Q says:

    @TM01:

    Even if all you said was true, Trump is not an improvement. He’s an international laughing stock:

    the world’s diplomatic community has gone from throwing its hands in the air to now leaning back in their chairs and laughing, albeit morosely, at Trump’s cringe-worthy display of diplomacy during the infancy of his presidency.

    “He’s the opposite of Teddy Roosevelt,” that official quipped to Guajardo about Trump. “He speaks loudly and carries a small stick.”

    “Everyone I’ve spoken to around the world is laughing,” Guajardo said.

    Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/white-house/article165303667.html#storylink=cpy

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  15. Mikey says:

    @Kari Q: Last month I spent a couple weeks in Germany. The derision there is universal. I’ve been connected to Germany, by work and family, for over 30 years, and in all that time I have never seen an American President so thoroughly disrespected. People asked me straight out, “what are you Americans thinking? How could you elect such a complete zero?” Even in the Bush (43) days that didn’t happen.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @TM01: Ahhhh yes, Limiting Irans Nuclear Program = making love to the Ayatollah.

    Reality isn’t even calling you anymore, it is glad you left and has barred the door so you can’t get back in.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  17. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @TM01:

    The last guy embraced our enemy Iran

    And with that you lose any credibility you might have had.
    Bush and Cheney handed control of the region to Iran.
    Obama did what he could to reverse that.
    You lack of understanding, beyond easily debunked talking points from Fox News, indicates you are no smarter than the low IQ occupant of the White House.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  18. Not to mention: “Trump Recertifies Iran Nuclear Deal, but Only Reluctantly

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0