More on Trump’s Foreign Policy

Policies towards Iran and NK are both a mess.

“President Trump Meets with Chairman Kim Jong Un” by The White House is in the Public Domain, CC0

David Sanger has an analysis piece in the NYT has a piece with an extremely accurate headline (and which dovetails with my post from yesterday): Trump Bet He Could Isolate Iran and Charm North Korea. It’s Not That Easy.

Indeed.

The core problem may have been Mr. Trump’s conviction that economic incentives alone — oil profits in Tehran and the prospect of investment and glorious beach-front hotels in North Korea — would overcome all other national interests.

He dismissed the depth of Iran’s determination to re-establish itself as the most powerful force in the region. He also underestimated Mr. Kim’s conviction that his nuclear arsenal is his only insurance policy to buoy one of the last family-controlled Stalinist regimes.

Also, indeed.

The fact of the matter is, as important as economic levers can be, they are not the end-all of national self-interest. Further, they are not so simple as being based on a single transaction (or even set of transactions).

The North Korea example is clear: any foreign policy that fails to take into consideration the value that nuclear weapons have to the regime is going to fail. (Which is to say, I would note, any foreign policy that claims to be denuclearizing the peninsula is a fantasy).

Further, the notion that just upping sanctions on Iran, a country that is a regional power with aspirations to being even more influential, likewise fails to take into consideration even basic motivations. The historical fact that decades of sanctions have not caused the regime to fall might influence decision-making, but alas that would require a rudimentary knowledge of US-Iranian interactions since 1979.

One would think that a true deal-maker extraordinaire would be able to understand how the goals, motivations, and incentives that drive a given deal partner might be of use. But, alas.

“After three years of no international crises,” Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said on Tuesday, Mr. Trump is “facing one with Iran because he has rejected diplomacy and another with North Korea because he has asked too much of diplomacy.”

“In neither case has Trump embraced traditional diplomacy, putting forward a partial or interim pact in which a degree of restraint would be met with a degree of sanctions relief.”

To which I can only say, again, indeed. (In regards to NK, I would note, I think it is less that Trump relied too heavily on diplomacy as much as he relied too heavily on what he thinks diplomacy is, i.e., heads of states chatting).

Mr. Trump does not engage such arguments. He simply repeats his mantra that Iran will never be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons and that North Korea — which already has fuel for upward of 40 of them, much of it produced on Mr. Trump’s watch — has committed to full denuclearization, even though that overstates Mr. Kim’s position.

In fact, it not only overstates it, it totally misunderstands it.

Of course, despite some very early hope that a Trump administration might hire foreign policy professionals to run foreign policy we got Rex Tillerson and the dismantlement of much of the State Department.

And while Mike Pompeo has a resume that makes him look like a more standard Secretary of State, we get stuff like this:

His top national security officials, starting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, offer a somewhat more nuanced view, saying that over time Iran will realize it has no choice but to change its ways and expressing optimism that “Chairman Kim will make the right decision and he’ll choose peace and prosperity over conflict and war.”

Increasingly, though, such lines sound like a hope, not a strategy. That is Mr. Trump’s fundamental problem as he enters 2020. He does not have a comprehensive plan to unite the nation’s estranged allies into a concerted course of action.

The absence of a common approach is hurting the most in Iran. When Mr. Trump abandoned the 2015 nuclear deal — declaring it a “terrible” piece of Obama-era diplomacy because it did not create permanent restraints on Iran’s ability to produce nuclear fuel — his aides sounded confident that Europe, China and Russia would follow suit. They did not.

Hope is clearly not an effective foreign policy. Worse, it was profoundly obvious at the time that leaving the JCPOA was not going to be popular with allies and there was no reason to think that the rest of the world would fall in line. Ditto hopes about the ease by which Kim would capitulate.

Worse, those paragraphs underscore the degree to which US foreign policy has largely abandoned multilateralism as a tool.

The idea that because the US is the most powerful country and can, therefore, do whatever it wants without help is the way a child thinks about foreign policy. Assuming that we can just use threats and a few sanctions to scare the Iranians and North Koreans straight isn’t even as sophisticated as the Green Lantern Theory of IR. It is how a fourth grader thinks the world works. It’s “my dad can beat up your dad” (because my dad is rich) level reasoning coupled with some “you’re a poopyhead” rhetorical prowess (see, e.g., a certain twitter feed).

There is also Trump’s assumption that he is selling Trump Steaks as opposed to conducting global foreign policy:

The Iranians have made clear what Mr. Trump needs to do to reopen negotiations: Essentially return to the deal struck with Mr. Obama, largely by lifting sanctions Mr. Trump imposed starting in May 2018. There are signs Mr. Trump is eager to resume talks, including his effort to lure President Hassan Rouhani to the phone when the Iranian leader was in New York in September for United Nations meetings.

Just getting Rouhani on the phone is not going to solve this situation, and the fact that Trump thinks like this is part of why all of these things are a mess.

I also need to comment on this, as much to critique the author as to comment on Trump’s foreign policy:

North Korea is a harder problem because Mr. Trump had initiated a bold and imaginative diplomatic process with Mr. Kim. By breaking the mold and agreeing to meet the North Korean leader face to face, he would be the first American president to do so since the end of the Korean War.

Look, I have noted before that I support direct talks with North Korea, but this is just ridiculous. Trump definitively did not initiate a “bold and imaginative diplomatic process with Mr. Kim.” He taunted the man on Twitter and then agreed to several photo ops, and now pretends like a joint statement is a “contract” (as Sanger notes later in the piece). I suppose one could call it “bold” in some since, but it was not imaginative (it was reality TV at best) and it was not a “diplomatic process” (the word “process” is key). I suppose a mold was broken, but to no productive end (unless one counts what Kim got out of it).

This is just someone trying to bend over backwards to find something good to say about a wholly ineffective foreign policy.

Perhaps Mr. Trump’s biggest miscalculation was over-relying on the personal rapport he built with Mr. Kim, and overinterpreting the commitments he received from the young, wily North Korean leader.

You don’t say?

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Iran, National Security, North Korea
Steven L. Taylor
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. Michael Reynolds says:

    Trump is an ignoramus. He knows nothing about history. Nothing. To make matters worse he’s also immature, stupid and yet utterly convinced of his own brilliance.

    He’s a whore.* Everything is transactional and he cannot even imagine that other people might not also be whores. He has no interest whatsoever in the United States, the American people, the country’s standing in the world, or our defense, let alone something as esoteric as the constitution or the rule of law. How could he? None of those things are about his personal bottom line.

    So, a stupid, ignorant whore has not done well with foreign policy. Was there a school of thought that what we needed to really sort things out was a stupid, ignorant whore?

    *Not to be confused with honest sex workers.

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  2. Kathy says:

    Even a hasty look at Trump is sufficient to diagnose the problem with his foreign policy: he doesn’t have one.

    One could, plausibly, claim he does. But, really, I don’t think that “do as I say, dammit!” is in any sense a real policy.

    The solution is more complicated than the diagnosis, as is usually the case. A good first step would be to remove the big problem sitting at the Oval Office pretending he has even a clue of what’s going on. But, unfortunately, this does not seem feasible until January of next year.

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  3. Jay L Gischer says:

    I have a friend who is somewhat conservative and has a place in Hawaii. He was at that place when the nuclear alert “woops” happened. He and his wife spent half an hour in their cistern (which happened to be empty) waiting for the worst to happen.

    He was super excited about all the headlines Trump was able to generate about meetings and process with Korea. It might have seemed empty to me, but it didn’t seem empty to him, it seemed relevant and on point. He doesn’t dig deep.

    This is why Trump is successful with this stuff. It reminds me of a poster that dates to the time I met this friend. https://despair.com/products/mediocrity

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  4. Moosebreath says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    “So, a stupid, ignorant whore has not done well with foreign policy. Was there a school of thought that what we needed to really sort things out was a stupid, ignorant whore? ”

    Yes, there are all of those people who think that the country should be run like a business. Turns out that doing that with foreign policy works out as well as putting money and power in the hands of business persons and expecting them to employ more workers and pay higher wages in this country, rather than hiring wherever labor is cheapest.

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  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I posted this in the AM’s Open Forum thread, it seems appropriate to repost it here:

    The mobbing of a US embassy has historically served as an emblem of America in decline, so the scenes around the embattled mission in Baghdad are a fitting end to the decade.

    Tuesday’s events are not quite as decisive as the 1975 helicopter evacuation of the embassy in Saigon, or the seizure of the Tehran embassy four years later. Iraqi forces did turn up eventually to protect the Baghdad mission. It turned out the ambassador was on holiday anyway, so he did not have to endure the humiliation of a rooftop escape. But the demonstration of US weakness, after spending $2tn in Iraq, was plain for all to see.

    The rioters, organised by the Iranian proxy militia Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH), brushed past Iraqi checkpoints, and there were members of parliament from the government bloc among them. Security forces who have had no compunction about firing tear gas canisters into the skulls of anti-Iranian protesters on Tahrir Square, stood by and watched molotov cocktails thrown at the US embassy. In its public pronouncements, the Iraqis put more blame on Washington than Tehran.

    For Iran, the embassy riot was the latest move in a deliberate strategy, to raise the costs of the US presence in Iraq and drive a wedge between the Iraqi government and Washington.

    The competition between the US and Iran for influence in Iraq would have escalated anyway as the threat from Isis declined. But the US effort to destroy Iran economically through its campaign of maximum pressure has meant the Iranians have nothing to lose.
    ……………………………………………….
    He was convinced that maximum pressure would bring Iran to the negotiating table as a supplicant, but instead it has added to the chaos.

    No one – almost certainly not even Trump – knows how he is going to respond.

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  6. Slugger says:

    I wonder what policies are in America’s interests on the Korean peninsula. I imagine that if you had told an American in 1940 that 33,000 American soldiers would die in a war in Korea in the next 15 years they would have been quite puzzled. The division into two nations was a product of the bipolar world following WW II. I doubt that this division is fixable now; although, as I understand some leftists in the South favor reunification. But one Korea or two, what is our interest there? Do we wish to contain China militarily, trade with low cost producers of quality goods, have access to mineral resources? To get those things, we need to understand what the Koreans want from us. The South Koreans want trade and low risk of war. The North Korean situation is complicated by the desire of Kim Jong-un to maintain control. Dialing back our military threats and giving Kim the chance to play the big shot might be the best option. Trump might be doing the right thing as painful as it is for me to write this. Vainglorious ignoramuses lead many nations; perhaps, we have to have one to get along with the others.

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  7. CSK says:

    @Moosebreath:
    But Trump can’t even run a business. He went bankrupt with his casinos, ffs. Trump Vodka was an epic flop. So were Trump Airlines, Trump Mortgage Company, Trump: The Game, Trump Tower Tampa, Trump Steaks, Trump Ice, Trump Menswear, Trump Mattresses for Serta, Trump University, GoTrump.com, Trump Comms…have I made my point?

    Who the hell goes broke peddling booze and promoting gambling????

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  8. Kathy says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    I can understand being excited and hopeful at a new, different approach to an old problem. I even dared hope Dennison might accomplish something, unlikely as that might be.

    I can’t comprehend clinging to hope when nothing comes off it. I can only wonder how skewed “news” coverage is in the wingnut bubble.

    I’m not an expert at poker, but I’ve played a bit. even i know if you make a bluff and get called on it, you either fold or double down. You don’t try to take back your bet, then try to make the same bet, then claim you don’t need to show your cards in order to win, then claim you’ve won, and then fold. The other players will eat you alive.

    Kim managed some photo ops, gained some legitimacy in the world stage, and obtained a few concessions. He also made King Cheeto look like a noob. When he ran out of concessions to obtain, he returned, I’m betting while laughing his ass off, to status quo ante.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if North Korea joins Russia in meddling in the 2020 election. Kim would miss Trump terribly.

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  9. DrDaveT says:

    @Kathy:

    Even a hasty look at Trump is sufficient to diagnose the problem with his foreign policy: he doesn’t have one.

    I would go further — I think applying the word ‘policy’ to anything Trump does is a category error, a basic misunderstanding of how he interacts with the world. ‘Policy’ implies some kind of coherence over time, persistence of goals, coordination of actions, etc. Trump doesn’t do any of that — he acts in the moment, based on perceived immediate advantage to himself*. In computer science, they call this a “greedy heuristic”, which seems appropriate.

    So, to talk about “Trump’s policies” is totally counterproductive, because it makes assertions about how and why Trump is acting that are demonstrably false and will lead to false conclusions. The sooner we stop using the language of normal governance as if it still applied, the sooner we’ll be able to deal realistically with Trumpistry.

    *Yes, @Michael Reynolds, transactional. Exactly.

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  10. mattbernius says:

    Again, no administration gets high marks on North Korea. And in part, this isn’t likely to change in the future because no one seems to want to be the first to admit that denuclearization isn’t an option.

    So at that point, the best one can hope to do is keep things neutral and kick the problem down to the next PoTUS.

    Sadly, because of Trump (and his supporters) absolute disdain for experts and bureaucrats, we have a situation where he has made the situation worse (and again, this was what the experts and bureaucrats predicted for the most part).

    And these sorts of issues are only going to get worse as the damage that his appointees have wrought at State becomes ever more apparent.

    Of course, these were the same supporters who warned us of the danger of Clinton dynasties and don’t bat an eyelid when he announces that Jared and Ivanka will represent the US at Davos.

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  11. Gustopher says:

    The North Korea example is clear: any foreign policy that fails to take into consideration the value that nuclear weapons have to the regime is going to fail. (Which is to say, I would note, any foreign policy that claims to be denuclearizing the peninsula is a fantasy).

    I agree with the main statement, but not the parenthetical.

    A denuclearized Korean Peninsula is doable, but very hard and take a long time. The North Koreans would have to stop viewing us (and other powerful actors) as a threat before they would give up that deterrence.

    A US position of “we are deterred enough to start a real dialog rather than just bluster and threats” would be the first step. Honestly, all the artillery pointing at Soul is likely enough of a deterrent.

    (Obama screwed that pooch a fair bit with the Libya intervention, by the way)

    But I am a bit of a peacenik.

    For the moment, I think our efforts should be at reducing the threat to nuclear proliferation. North Korea needs hard currency, and is desperate. If memory serves they are largely responsible for Pakistan getting the bomb, and we would like less of that.

    I may be letting my NeoLiberal underbelly show, but I do think trade reduces the conflict between nations. Sanctions, then, are likely to do the opposite.

    And Kim is a loon, but a fat loon who probably has diabetes. We should be plying him with foie gras and refined sugar.

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  12. Kathy says:

    @CSK:

    Who the hell goes broke peddling booze and promoting gambling????

    It depends. These days Vegas, which has to have more slot machines per square meter than any other city on Earth, has large casinos resorting to parking fees and resort fees to make money (really). This after having invested in “family friendly” attractions, party scene clubs, and fine dining.

    But these days legal gambling in the US is rather widespread. Partly from Native American casinos like Foxwoods and plenty others, partly competition from online gambling sites.

    But The King of Fools went broke in Atlantic City when it was the only legal gambling option serving NYC, which I gather is a rather large city with a sizable influx of visitors.

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  13. @Gustopher:

    A denuclearized Korean Peninsula is doable, but very hard and take a long time.

    To truly denuclearize the peninsula in a way that would meet current (and foreseeable) definitions would include removing South Korea from the protection of the US’ nuclear umbrella. Unless the US itself denuclearizes, this really can’t happen in any appreciable sense.

    And, further, I can see no scenario in which anything like the current regime in NK would agree to give up nukes.

    So, sure, it is possible, but the reality is that no policy that is currently even remotely doable would contain any kind of denuclearization.

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  14. CSK says:

    @Kathy:
    That’s the point–he went broke when it was very, very hard to do so. Trump is not a successful businessman. He’s “a clown living on credit.”

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  15. Kathy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    To truly denuclearize the peninsula in a way that would meet current (and foreseeable) definitions would include removing South Korea from the protection of the US’ nuclear umbrella. Unless the US itself denuclearizes, this really can’t happen in any appreciable sense.

    Yeah, the wording of such a treaty would be odd, to say the least. “In the event of an attack on South Korea, the USA reserves the right to intervene to the full extent of her military capabilities excluding nuclear weapons”?

    But, you know, I wonder if Kim really wants that kind of denuclearization. Wouldn’t it leave the whole peninsula open to China? With nukes of his own, he can deter the US and China. So the demand to denuclearize the peninsula may just be his way of meaning “no” while saying “sure, let’s talk about it.”

    The only means I see for North Korea to give up its nukes is to give up the country first. Much like East Germany did, minus nukes, in the 90s.

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  16. gVOR08 says:

    I was just going to make my usual comment that speaking of Trump’s policy is a category error. But via Balloon Juice, Catherine Rampell has four suggested New Year’s resolutions for the media. #2 is relevant here.

    Don’t spend more time analyzing an idea that the president proposes than he spent coming up with it.

    This one is hard, I know. Sometimes Trump says things that are just so wrong, in so many ways, that it’s difficult to resist the urge to enumerate all the details of their wrongness.

    But a 4 a.m. cyberbullying toilet tweet about Kim Jong Un doesn’t necessarily mean there’s an actual, deliberate shift in diplomatic strategy. A blurted parenthetical about how he’d love to pass a middle-class tax cut, the biggest tax cut ever, doesn’t mean he seriously plans to propose such a thing. Let’s not pretend a secret plan actually exists and then conjure up tea leaves for experts to read.

    Don’t impute more seriousness or thoughtfulness than ad-libbed drivel deserves.

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  17. Here’s the problem with these “this isn’t policy” assessments. Policy is simply what governments do, or choose not to do. Hence, all of this is policy whether we think it deserves that description or not.

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  18. Kathy says:

    @CSK:

    I agree. But I’m a bit bothered by the assumption that casinos are like a branch of the mint.

    Yes, the games are rigged so the house has an advantage in all of them. Casinos also don’t allow advantage play by various means (I actually saw someone I know, being told to leave a casino a few years back at the Main Street Station in Vegas). Thy consider it cheating, which it isn’t. They also watch over actual cheats. They also devalue games all the time (*)

    But for all that, given plentiful gaming options, making money off a casino is just not as easy as it once was.

    (*) Once it was common to find positive expectation video poker machines, ones where the player has the advantage, and also ones with a high payoff along the lines of 99.7% return (average). Not so much these days.

    If you play Blackjack, be advised that 6:5 for a blackjack is not real Blackjack. You want tables that pay 3:2, should you find any. There’s a whole litany of other relevant rules, but this is the most important one (and the others are not posted, except when does the dealer hit).

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  19. senyordave says:

    I lived in NJ until 1995, and went to the casinos on average probably five times a year. Trump had three casinos, Trump Plaza, Trump Castle, and Trump Taj Mahal. Trump Plaza was vintage Trump – kind of glitzy, started looking run down fairly quickly, not much to offer other than the name, mediocre food that was way overpriced. The Trump Castle was actually a decent place, but it was in the marina area far from the Boardwalk, and it was never the preferred place among the hotels in the marina area (I believe there were three). The Trump Taj Mahal was a joke from the start. It was like the hotel equivalent of Donald Trump. Fake oplulence, gaudy chandeliers, poor food (the buffet was absolutely awful). There was no good about the Trump casinos, other casinos had specials to raw you in (I remember for years the Sands had a good raw bar that had cheap ber and very reasonably priced oysters, with half price happy hours).
    Trump casinos were, for the most part, schlock. They made no attempt to distract you from the fact that their chief goal was to separate you from your bankroll. That is the objective for all casinos, but some do a better job of giving you the sense that you rae getting some value in return for losing your money.
    Here is a link to a Politico story about a casino analyst who criticized the Taj mahal casino, was fired for his criticism under pressure from Trump, and sued and won.
    https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/04/donald-trump-marvin-roffman-casino-lawsuit-213855

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  20. CSK says:

    @Kathy:
    One of Trump’s Atlantic City casinos was 3 billion dollars in debt at the end of its first year in operation.

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  21. inhumans99 says:

    @CSK:

    I know…George Clooney creates Casamigos Tequila and sells it for a cool 700 million + a potential additional 300 million depending on the future performance of the company, and Trump creates a brand of Liquor and goes bankrupt, wait…what, how the heck does that happen.

    The “Libtard” George Clooney creates a Billion dollar company and the hero of the right bankrupts every single company that had his name attached to it, we really are living in the Upside Down if Libtards that create billion dollar companies are some of the most reviled folks by a large percentage of the American population.

    We certainly live in interesting times.

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  22. Gustopher says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    To truly denuclearize the peninsula in a way that would meet current (and foreseeable) definitions would include removing South Korea from the protection of the US’ nuclear umbrella. Unless the US itself denuclearizes, this really can’t happen in any appreciable sense.

    I think the North Koreans are looking more for a deterrent from our conventional forces than our nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are a cheaper and more effective deterrent than a massive army. If the North Koreans feel secure, they don’t need the nuclear deterrent— or at least as large of a nuclear deterrent.

    Of course, they are also likely worried about China and Russia too.

    There’s no way to go from where we are now directly to a denuclearized peninsula. But, I think we can get to a spot where there is a more visible path. We might not care then, though. But even if we don’t achieve denuclearization, each step down that path is going to make the region safer, and set a precedent for the other trouble spots.

    In the meantime, every military adventure we have in the world gives everyone else a reason to get nuclear weapons, and we don’t weigh that in with the rest of the costs.

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  23. CSK says:

    @inhumans99:
    The principle problem with Trump Vodka was that he priced it at $100 a fifth back when the other premium vodkas were selling for about $20 or less. Vodka is vodka. Who would be idiotic enough to pay $100 for Trump Vodka just because it had his name on the bottle? Clearly, no one.

    This is the trouble with Trump’s marketing: The people who can afford to buy the overpriced crap he peddles know better than to do so, and the people who think the Trump brand is “classy” can’t afford it.

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  24. Guarneri says:

    https://hotair.com/headlines/archives/2020/01/iraqi-state-tv-quds-force-commander-soleimani-killed-u-s-airstrike/

    In other news, Barack Obama has offered a plane full of cash and to don his kneepads…………..if it could be helpful, you see.

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  25. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    To be contrarian just for a minute, meeting with Kim could have been a bold an imaginative move in the hands of someone competent and who would have been operating within the parameters of a coherent and thought out foreign policy. But no, given that the agent in question was Trump, it was not anything at all comparable to the description in the subject piece.

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  26. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Slugger: Don’t know what our interest was or is, but, as I understand it our reason for being there was as the guarantor of the cease fire agreement which Seung Man-rhee declined to sign on behalf of South Korea. As I understand, neither he nor Kim Il-sung was interested in a cease fire. The difference was that the UN agreed to guarantee the armistice on behalf of the South Koreans, whereas Stalin suggested that Kim could be replaced by someone who would sign if Kim’s principles were that strong. (Turned out they weren’t. 🙁 Not that I blame him for wanting to keep breathing.)

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  27. de stijl says:

    A child’s understanding of relationship dynamics.

    He is not underprepared. He in is incapable of being prepared. He lacks the ability and capacity to be prepared.

    People voted for this man. On purpose. Thought he was the best choice.

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  28. Mike says:

    @Guarneri: Do we know who launched this strike? US?

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  29. Gustopher says:

    @Guarneri: And a shaky, but stable peace in Iraq is now in danger of collapse, we have likely once again rallied Iranians to their government and set back prospects of reform, and given them reason to pursue nuclear weapons as fast as possible.

    This is not good news. This is a major escalation. American lives will be lost because of this. Civilian lives will be lost because of this.

    The Saudis are likely pleased though, while they churn out Wahhabist extremists. Netanyahu is probably furiously masturbating to news reports. And America, the only superpower, is doing the bidding of someone else’s national interest.

    Riddle me this, Guanoberries — why do we prefer chaos over a strong Iran that is perpetually 2 years away from nuclear weapons?

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  30. Gustopher says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: To be more contrarian, Trump opened the door for someone competent to deal with North Korea as equals.

    Republicans will howl if President Biden/Warren meets with Kim after Kim so rudely snubbed their hero, but no one else will care.

    Trump is a lot like a major natural disaster — a horrible tragedy for all involved, and an opportunity to rebuild things in a new way.

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  31. Slugger says:

    @Guarneri: The policy in Korea is confusing to me as I showed. Our enmity with Iran seems contrary to our interests. We backed an Iranian strongman, the Shah, in order to block Soviet power in that region. The USSR is gone, but I don’t understand pushing Tehran closer to Moscow. The Saudis want us to oppose Iran, but the Saudis are the financiers behind radical Wahhabi groups like alQaeda. Allying ourselves with a big oil producer who is not Sunni makes sense to me. Our conflict with Iran only makes sense if you assume that the USA and Saudi Arabia have identical interests.

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  32. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Guarneri: Ironic, you come to this forum nightly with Trump kneepads, apple gags, with butt plugs still inserted to yell at us about disrespected your man….who’d let you get gang banged in the joint for a carton of smokes. You’d scream Obama’s name then too wouldn’t ya?

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  33. EddieInCA says:

    @Guarneri:

    At the risk of getting banned. FVCK YOU!

    This is a major escalation! Americans will die as a result. Alot of Americans. The Iranians are going to hit us in non-military ways that will draw blood. It will be terrorist attacks which we won’t see coming.

    This is bad. And you’re celebrating it, you morally bankrupt cretin. You come here hoping to troll the libs, but this has real world implications. Americans. Will. Die. Because of what Trump did tonight. Most of them will be non-combatants, on vacation somewhere, enjoying a day or evening, as the bomb vest explodes near them.

    I’d be very, very careful at any large public events in the next six months.

    I’m thankful I have a passport from another country I can use for the foreseeable future.

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  34. de stijl says:

    In the mid aughts I foolishly thought the totality of Bush 45 ‘s idiotic actions and subservience to Cheney would serve as a corrective example of how and why not to elect an imbecile neophyte to the big chair.

    Fuckers did it again.

    (Joyner, this is why your enlightenment is crap on toast. This was bound to happen. You enabled it.)

    Your ride was on a downward spiral since Nixon. Ups, I guess, for hopping off now. Rational people would have hopped off long ago.

    Donald fucking Trump is President and the de facto leader of the Republican party. I did not make that happen. You did.

    Donald fucking Trump is now Republicanism.

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  35. Lit3Bolt says:

    @EddieInCA:

    What’s hilarious is that there is zero whiplash from the Trump BDSM crowd from “Donald the Dove, He Who Will End Endless War” to “Donald the Trump-War-God, Here To Smite The Infidel.” He is simultaneously the Prince of Peace and the God-King of War to Retardpublicans. I use the word Retard purposefully, because that is what Republicans have shown me throughout my life: They are retarded intellectually, morally, spiritually, financially, politically, and figuratively, in that they never mean what they say, and they never say what they mean. Their entire existence is a subtextual Freudian universe of being both oppressed peasant and aggrieved King in their own minds.

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  36. wr says:

    @Guarneri: I’m sure you’ve already been to the recruiting station for volunteer for the war you’re cheerleading… haven’t you?

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  37. An Interested Party says:

    The Democrats need to start asking the American people, “With American lives on the line, do you really want a stumbling bumbling fool as commander-in-chief?”

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  38. @Guarneri: Like I said in the post, “It is how a fourth grader thinks the world works.”

    Because, of course, if we blow up the bad man and show the world how strong we are, that’ll make Iran do whatever we want them to do and we, because we are so strong, will be able to control how events unfold.

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  39. mattbernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    Here’s the sad reality — Drew doesn’t care. All he’s interested in is pissing off the libs. That’s it.

    Mostly I feel sorry for his family and close people. Someone that invested in being an asshole cannot possible keep it reserved to just the internet.

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  40. de stijl says:

    @mattbernius:

    Perhaps it behaves decently in the real world and reserves his / her id driven rage for on-line.

    One can hope, anyway.

    Assholishness is a civil sin.

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  41. gVOR08 says:

    @An Interested Party:

    The Democrats need to start asking the American people, “With American lives on the line, do you really want a stumbling bumbling fool as commander-in-chief?”

    The American people were OK with being led by a stumbling, bumbling fool when W invaded Iraq and launched us on the path to here. But, maybe, just maybe, they’ve learned.

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  42. de stijl says:

    @gVOR08:

    We haven’t.

    The official motto may be E Pluribus Unum, but the unofficial one is let’s throw good money after bad. As an official policy, we believe in magical thinking.

    Bring on the apocalypse.

    Come, come nuclear war.

    I love Morrissey the lyricist but he is indeed a shitty person. Every day is like Sunday. Such a fall. It hurts when heroes abase themselves.

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  43. Just nutha ignint crackerd says:

    @EddieInCA: Your response is why we need to stop paying attention to Guarneri. Like Rush Limbaugh, his schtick is old and worn out. He’s lost his relevance to this community and proven that he is intellectually bankrupt. He has no credibility compared to the Drew of several years ago–and he was a doof then–and the only thing he has left is the ability to outrage and get good reasonable people like you to lower yourself to his level by shouting “FVCK YOU” at him.

    You are light years ahead of him in intelligence, humanity, success, and probably economic security, too. Just ignore him and scroll by. When he stops getting our attention, he’ll move back to Red State or wherever to get the attention of the fawning droolers who will say that he’s a genius because they can’t follow a word that he says (but hates brown people, so they know he’s a real ‘Murkan).

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  44. de stijl says:

    @de stijl:

    A few years back. 2015? Around there.

    The NFL authorized and funded some ads where Everyday Is Like Sunday was the audio, because NFL games happen on Sundays apparently. Those carefully edited lyrics over video of big ass goons smashing other goons in slo mo.

    Some intern googled “Sunday” and that song showed up.

    And they went with it. Fascinating. Disturbing.

    Apathetic nihilism. Content and tone.

    That the NFL decided to use a Morrissey song was super cool. That one was a stretch. Super duper stretch. It contained the word “Sunday”.

    That intern did not understand context, nor did her boss, nor did his boss, etc. Up the line.

    That ad actually made it onto to the air and was repeatedly shown.

    Fascinating!

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  45. Teve says:

    Didn’t Carnival Cruises use Lust for Life in commercials?

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  46. de stijl says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    How do you have an empty cistern in Hawai’i? One of the rainiest places on earrh?

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  47. de stijl says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    How do you have an empty cistern in Hawai’i? One of the rainiest places on earth?

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  48. de stijl says:

    @Teve:

    Yes. Yes they did.

    Freaked me out. Co-written by Bowie, produced by Bowie.

    Iggy Pop should not promote shitty cruises, unless the money was exceptionally good. In which case, I entirely approve.

    His time had passed. Any revolutionary act either had happened already or it was never going to happen at all.

    Buy your retirement either way!

    I look forward to the day when Ruby Soho is used to sell either jewels or south of Houston real estate.

    Tim Armstrong needs to get paid. He’s a good dude.

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  49. de stijl says:

    I love Brave.

    Yes, Disney’s animated Brave.

    Mum, yur a baar!

    Kelly MacDonald is the best. Trainspotting and Brave. That’s a career.

    I love the wee laddies.

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  50. de stijl says:

    @de stijl:

    Tim Armstrong should totally buy up some property in SoHo and make it into a boutique hotel.

    A hotel called…

    You guessed it, Ruby Soho.

    That would be awesome and I would totally stay there.

    Olympia, WA is a paean to NYC, and a fervent desire to leave it. Great song. Really great. Top 5 great.

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  51. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Here’s the problem with these “this isn’t policy” assessments. Policy is simply what governments do, or choose not to do.

    You are not Humpty Dumpty; words do not mean whatever you want them to mean. It is no more true that “policy is simply what governments do, or choose not to do” than it is true that “golf is whatever you choose to do with a golf club”*.

    We have a separate word policy, distinct from action or response or whim, for a reason. That word has been understood to imply a plan or system for action or management, beyond the acts themselves, since the 14th century.

    *Tiger Woods will vouch for me on this one.

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  52. de stijl says:

    @inhumans99:

    Maybe cuz Clooney chose not to poison the pool by stiffing the contractors?

    Just sayin’

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  53. de stijl says:

    Caught a show on Vice called Hustle.

    It is The Profit (Marcus Lemonis), but different.

    It was with a Bronx based clothing company. John Henry Matos fills the role of Lemonis. Dude is good.

    I did semi-similar things back when. Not for a company, but at the scale of let’s optimize your action x.

    Btw, I slightly contributed to the 2008 mortgage crisis accidentally. I helped them push refi loans more effectively. I’m very sorry. I did get paid very well.

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  54. @DrDaveT:

    You are not Humpty Dumpty; words do not mean whatever you want them to mean.

    No, I am a political science professor, and that is what the word means.

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  55. @DrDaveT: I mean, gee whiz, give me some credit.

    And, clearly, there is a difference between good, well thought out policy and poorly formulated, ill-conceived, and horribly executed policy.

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  56. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    No, I am a political science professor, and that is what the word means.

    I defer to your superior knowledge of how the word is used as a term of art by political scientists. It is demonstrably not how the word is used (or has ever been used) in everyday English. If we can agree that Trump does not in fact have any overarching plan or system, I will not insist on the specific word.

    And, clearly, there is a difference between good, well thought out policy and poorly formulated, ill-conceived, and horribly executed policy.

    Certainly. And there is a difference between having a stupid, ignorant, unlikely-to succeed plan and having no plan at all. That’s the difference I (and others) have been trying to point at.

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  57. @DrDaveT:

    And there is a difference between having a stupid, ignorant, unlikely-to succeed plan and having no plan at all. That’s the difference I (and others) have been trying to point at

    The notion that withdrawing from the JCPOA, killing Suleimani, or holding photo ops with Kim aren’t example of policy actions makes no sense. (I am not sure, BTW, that any those things equate to “no plan at all”).

    Just because they are bad policies or poorly thought out policies, doesn’t make them non-public policy actions. All of that fits perfectly well into the English usage of the term.

    The notion that policy only exists when it is well thought out is simply incorrect.

    Sometimes I understand your interest in arguing over a concept or term and in other cases (like this one) it just feels like unnecessary digging in.

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  58. Moreover, it isn’t like we disagree about the shitshow that is Trump’s actions and decisions.

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  59. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    The notion that withdrawing from the JCPOA, killing Suleimani, or holding photo ops with Kim aren’t example of policy actions makes no sense. (I am not sure, BTW, that any those things equate to “no plan at all”).

    If you do not distinguish between something being a “policy action” and it simply being an action, what use is the word ‘policy’? Why speak of policies at all, if every action is by definition a policy? Why not simply speak of actions?

    The notion that policy only exists when it is well thought out is simply incorrect.

    Fortunately, I never said that. “Well thought out” is your phrase, which you keep substituting for my various formulations.

    Just because they are bad policies or poorly thought out policies, doesn’t make them non-public policy actions.

    Assuming you mean “bad actions” and “poorly thought out actions” here, so as not to assume your conclusion, I still think you’re missing the point. (No single action is a policy, just as no one number constitutes a sequence.) What makes those actions not be policy actions is that they do not arise from any underlying stable generative mechanism. If Trump were choosing his actions using a Magic 8 Ball, would you still refer to them as reflecting some underlying policy? Or would you say that every new random action constitutes a new policy, repudiating all of the others?

    I still can’t tell whether you believe Trump has actual policies, beyond his transactional selfish reflex responses, or whether you think it’s impossible for anyone (even Trump) to be that unguided by any sort of overarching plan, or whether you think even uncorrelated reflexive responses deserve the name ‘policy’, or what.

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  60. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Moreover, it isn’t like we disagree about the shitshow that is Trump’s actions and decisions.

    Indeed. On this we agree completely.

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  61. @DrDaveT:

    I still can’t tell whether you believe Trump has actual policies, beyond his transactional selfish reflex responses, or whether you think it’s impossible for anyone (even Trump) to be that unguided by any sort of overarching plan, or whether you think even uncorrelated reflexive responses deserve the name ‘policy’, or what.

    You are wanting “policy” to mean a coherent doctrine or some well thought governing philosophy.

    It is possible for policies to be incoherent or underdeveloped.

    I am at a loss to understand why this is difficult to see.

    If Trump were choosing his actions using a Magic 8 Ball, would you still refer to them as reflecting some underlying policy?

    To take this semi-seriously for a second, asking the Magic 8 ball would be a design rule or a policy process, but the policy would be what was done. “Magic 8 ball, should I kill Suleimani?” and getting a “yes” is a process. Killing Suleimani is a policy action. The sums of the policy actions in the region make up US foreign policy in the Middle East.

    I would note that the subtitle of this post declares US foreign policy in Iran and NK to be a “mess.”

    unguided by any sort of overarching plan, or whether you think even uncorrelated reflexive responses deserve the name ‘policy’, or what.

    When the government acts it is a public policy action, inherently. The killing of Suleimani is no less consequential, nor any less a policy action, because Trump lacks a coherent strategy.

    Really, you are basically seeking to withhold a term because you don’t respect or like Trump (or you are misusing the term, making “policy” to mean well-developed strategic thinking).

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  62. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    You are wanting “policy” to mean a coherent doctrine or some well thought governing philosophy.
    […]
    Really, you are basically seeking to withhold a term because you don’t respect or like Trump (or you are misusing the term, making “policy” to mean well-developed strategic thinking).

    I have found references supporting both your and my position on this. Let us set it aside.

    I do still think you are still failing to grasp that there is an important distinction between having a poorly-developed or incoherent strategy and having (literally) no strategy at all, or only having a strategy that is unrelated to the purported goals of the actions. To borrow from the Magic 8 Ball thought experiment, you noted (and I agree) that choosing to use the Magic 8 Ball to make decisions would constitute “a design rule or a policy process”. I believe that Trump does have a stable and consistent decision process — he does whatever appears to him at the moment to further his personal interests. This is a more important fact than whether the resulting actions can or cannot properly be called ‘policies’.

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