The Childlike Foreign Policy Stylings of Donald J. Trump

A bold new plan for security in the Middle East.

“#UNGA” by The White House is in the Public Domain

I have commented before (for example) that Trump’s approach to foreign policy is not dissimilar from what an elementary school-aged child might imagine it to be. The notion, for example, that he could just be friends with people such as Kim Jong Un and that would solve a multi-decade conundrum is simplistic as best. Or that killing a bad man (e.g., Suleimani) solves problems easily and cleanly is the kind of lesson kids learn in movies and video games, but do not reflect reality. *

A clear example of this was his out of the blue suggestion of adding the Middle East to NATO (nope: I am not making that up).

Via the AP: Trump wants NATO expanded to Mideast and renamed NATOME.

Speaking to reporters at the White House during an unrelated event, Trump said the U.S. had tamped down Islamic State militants, eliminating their control of territory and killing IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

“We did Europe a big favor,” he said.

“I think NATO should be expanded and we should include the Middle East, absolutely. … Right now the burden is on us and that’s not fair,” Trump said.

Trump said he also wants to see more NATO troops in the Middle East because problems there are international in scope. He said he spoke about NATO’s role on Wednesday during a phone call with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

“I think he was actually excited about it. I actually had a name. NATO, right, and then you have ME, Middle East. They would call it NATOME,” Trump said.

“I’m good at names, right,” he said and noted how the new North American trade agreement is called USMCA for the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

Even this deep into the Trump era, I see things like this on Twitter (as I did yesterday) and initially thought it had to be a joke. But no, here’s the video:

May I start by stating that it isn’t even a very good name (and that USMCA is a worse name than NAFTA). Setting aside foreign policy, Trump’s confidence that he is a master marketer is no in evidence. NAY-TOE-ME sounds like a made up Japanese car in a bad movie.

But, I digress.

One the one hand, this is just silly. It is Trump at a microphone spouting nonsense. His hardcore supporters likely have no understanding of what NATO is (save in the vaguest of terms), why it exists, or why expansion into the Middle East makes no sense. So, they probably just glide on by the statements. Some of his reluctant supporters who do have anywhere from a rudimentary understanding will be embarrassed, perhaps (and keep it to themselves) and dismiss this as “Trump being Trump.”

But having POTUS have at least a rudimentary knowledge of major international institutions (one which the US leads) and well as the basic differences between regions is kind of important.

NATOME is like your third-grader suggesting that the since NCAA football and NFL are both football, wouldn’t it be cool if they merged into the NCAAFL. In fact, that would be a less ridiculous suggestions since they at least play roughly the same game. (Maybe it is more like “why aren’t the Avengers in Star Wars? I have a great idea: the Jedi Avengers! I am so good with names!”).

I know this isn’t news to readers of this site, but from an objective point of view, no one would hire Trump for even the most rudimentary of foreign policy jobs. In all honesty, apart from things like reality TV host, I am not sure what job Trump could get based on his Twitter feed alone. And yet, he controls US foreign policy.

It is possible that Trump simply thinks that “NATO should be expanded and we should include the Middle East” means simply expanding their mission (not actually expanding NATO), but even that explanation (such as it is) would underscore a simpleton’s understanding of NATO (but, yes, I repeat myself). He has long demonstrated an utter lack of understanding of the role NATO plays or what is purpose is.

The word “expansion” as it applies to NATO has clear meaning and implications. If Trump doesn’t understand it, I guarantee that he can get Vladimir Putin to explain it to him.

While it is true that as an institution focused on European security there are potential missions for NATO forces in institutionally the Middle East, the idea of the Middle East being wedded to NATO misunderstands both the nature of NATO as a country-based (and largely values-based), collective security organization as well as the fact that the “Middle East” is a vast collection of countries that do not get along. Indeed, if the ME could behave like NATO, then that would mean that most of the problems in the ME had been solved.

And one thing is for certain (assuming Trump actually brought this idea up on the phone), Stoltenberg was in no way “excited” about the idea.

An alarming side note is that the administration is shrinking the size of the National Security Council staff, meaning even less experts voices influencing policy outcomes (via NPR):

President Trump’s national security adviser said tensions with Iran won’t slow his plans to shrink the size of the National Security Council.

In an exclusive interview with NPR, Robert O’Brien said he expects to have trimmed about a third of the ranks at the National Security Council by the end of next month.

“I think the reality is by the time we finish up, by the end of this month, end of next month, that we’ll probably have about 60 to 70 staffers who’ve gone back to their home agency,” O’Brien said.

I will confess that I do not know what an optimally-sized NSC staff would look like, but I do know that this does not seem like a great time to be trimming expertise. Along those lines, the piece notes:

The rapid change has raised concern among those who have served on the NSC, who believe the president needs a wide range of experts to study and give advice on the potential consequences of major actions, like the decision to order a drone strike on Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.

It was a move that past presidents, including George W. Bush and Barack Obama, had rejected because of the risks of war.

Further, the odds are good that this is driven by a desire more to limit possible leaks and whistle-blowers more than it is about real right-sizing.

…President Trump is wary of leaks and seems averse to advice and guidance like the kind of guidance traditionally given by the NSC.
It doesn’t help that some of the most damning testimony against Trump in the impeachment hearings came from people working for the NSC.

Of course, none of this much matters if the President thinks things like NATOME are viable.


*Not to mention the inability to understand the Kim is a very bad man himself, yet allowing the bad man to escape scrutiny by pretending to be Trump’s friend and sending him beautiful letters and whatnot.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, National Security, US Politics
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. An Interested Party says:

    That’s awfully rich of him to first trash NATO and now propose that the organization expand its mission…it’s as if he thinks of NATO like it’s one of the numerous contractors he stiffed in the past…what a pathetic tragedy to have this idiot being the president of the United States…

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  2. @An Interested Party: His mind works in baffling ways.

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  3. gVOR08 says:

    Hey, if Trump can get Kuwait, Israel, and Saudi Arabia to commit to going to war against Russia if Russia invades Latvia, I’m all for it. But I’m surprised he doesn’t want to call it MyNATO.

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  4. JohnMcC says:

    Will submit without checking — usually a bad policy — that NATO had a major role in the Libya operation that is/was so controversial in the previous administration. So one could say that involving NATO is no guarantee of success (cough).

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  5. Mister Bluster says:

    His mind works in baffling ways.

    Let us review:
    All the ways Trump’s closest confidants insult his intelligence
    Start here:
    “Like an 11-year-old child”— Steve Bannon. The now estranged advisor also allegedly complained that he was “sick of being a wet nurse to a 71-year-old man.”

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  6. gVOR08 says:

    @JohnMcC: My impression, also without checking, is that the European NATO partners committed to the Libya intervention first and we followed. Partly a matter of us having all the good Command and Control aircraft and partly that as the leader of NATO, we needed to see where they were going and get in front.

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  7. JohnMcC says:

    @gVOR08: I am not alone in recalling it that way then. Perhaps it’s true. We’ll check the President’s tweets.

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  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    NATOME? That’s what he was talking about? I thought it was a misprint in a nonsense tweet. Now I know it’s just nonsense.

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  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @gVOR08: I recall Obama catching a lot of shit for letting others (France?) lead the way.

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  10. Andy says:

    I think this ties into my comments in the recent Iran thread. This is an example of Trump saying something ignorant that shouldn’t be taken seriously absent some action on his part. I don’t take it seriously because the prospect for this coming to pass is essentially zero and, based on the long history of similar ignorant statements, I feel confident in predicting that Trump will not actually try to make this happen. And even if he tried, it wouldn’t succeed. It just another brain-fart Trumpism that will be quickly forgotten with the next news cycle.

    The issue of NSC staffing is much more interesting and relevant. NSC staffing levels and the authority and reach of the NSC is actually a long-standing debate in national defense circles going back to well before the Clinton Administration.

    Beginning with the Clinton administration, the NSC has grown considerably in size and scope. In 1991 it only comprised 40 people – at it’s height under the Obama administration is was around 400. Presidents from Clinton onward expanded the NSC to give the President more direct control over foreign policy. This led to the White House creating policy and directing activities that used to be done by the departments and agencies, particularly State and Defense.

    This isn’t necessarily a bad thing and it’s natural that Presidents want more direct control over foreign policy because that’s one area where the Executive has wide latitude. But it’s also caused many problems and been the source of scandals such as Iran-Contra.

    So there’s always been a legitimate debate about the size of the NSC and how much authority it should have compared to the departments that actually implement policy. Too much NSC and you lose the on-the-ground expertise found in the various agencies and departments and you also get a lot more groupthink and the tendency for the NSC to be yes-men to the President’s wishes. A common complaint is a large NSC doesn’t limit itself to policy and coordination, but starts interfering in the operation and tactical details of policy implementation. A somewhat famous example is where one of Obama’s young NSC staffers tried to directly order the movement of drone assets and when this was refused, he complained about “civilian control of the military.”

    Too little NSC and the White House finds it difficult to get a massive federal bureaocracy to adjust and implement the President’s vision, especially for major strategic moves. And Presidents tend to also like the NSC because it’s more loyal to the President and is less likely to leak information. So for major foreign policy moves that require secrecy, Presidents tend to keep that within a small circle in the NSC. But that is also a two-edged sword. It’s also more difficult for Congress to conduct oversight of the NSC than federal agencies and departments (again, Iran-Contra being the best example).

    I don’t really know what the ideal is. I do think that the world is more complex and there are more issues that need to be monitored in the WH than was the case in the Cold War, but I think the Obama administration probably overly relied on the NSC which is one thing I think they realized – Susan Rice reduced the size of the staff by about 15% in Obama’s second term to make it more “lean and mean.”

    I don’t know what the current staffing levels are. Whether a 1/3 cut is wise or not depends on factors I don’t know. Trump seems to like centralizing authority, so it seems strange to me that he would want to reduce WH staff which will de facto give more authority and latitude back to agencies and departments and make it – theoretically at least – more difficult for his WH to manage and direct their activities.

    Robert O-Brien is too much of an unknown for me to predict how he will implement these changes and what the results will be. But, judging from the previous experience of this administration, I would at least expect some major road-bumps.

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  11. Gustopher says:

    “I’m good at names, right,” he said and noted how the new North American trade agreement is called USMCA for the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

    But… it sounds like US Marine Corps of America…. I know it’s a small, trivial aside, but I don’t think we can ignore the fact that he’s really bad at naming things. And I’ll include Barron on that.

    The man should not be allowed to have a pet.

    NATOME? It’s awful. The idea is awful and the name is awful. At least it isn’t North Atlantic Mideast Biregional Legal Agreement.

    Can’t he just backronym TRUMP into something, and then devote his days to whatever that is? That Really Urgent Mideast Peace. Trade Rationalization Until Market Price.

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  12. Mister Bluster says:

    The Really Underacheiving Moron President

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  13. Gustopher says:

    I think this ties into my comments in the recent Iran thread. This is an example of Trump saying something ignorant that shouldn’t be taken seriously absent some action on his part. I don’t take it seriously because the prospect for this coming to pass is essentially zero and, based on the long history of similar ignorant statements, I feel confident in predicting that Trump will not actually try to make this happen. And even if he tried, it wouldn’t succeed.

    Don’t we have a Space Force now?

    I think you disregard Trump and his blathering a bit too much. He spouts nonsense, and then often becomes convinced that he had a great idea.

    See Also: transgender military ban, trade war with China, abandonment of the Kurds…. the Wall…

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  14. Michael Reynolds says:

    It just another brain-fart Trumpism that will be quickly forgotten with the next news cycle.

    No, it won’t be forgotten, not by foreign leaders assessing US foreign policy. And that’s the relevant audience. Every time Macron calls his people together to ponder the question of whether France should support a US position his advisers will bring up the endless torrent of nonsense and lies and contradictions and conclude – correctly – that relying on an imbecile is not a good idea.

    Waving away Trump’s statements is absurd and an example of bending over backward in a way that neither you, nor I, nor any rational person has ever done for any previous POTUS. If Obama had uttered 1% of the FP imbecilities Trump has you and I and the entire world would be calling for a 25th amendment action.

    You keep digging a trench for Trump’s performance bar, lowering it and yourself in the process. Your judgment is corrupted.

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  15. Michael Reynolds says:

    I mean, let’s get real here, just because Herr Hitler says he wants to annihilate all the Jews, that’s not a serious policy proposal, that’s just a Hitler brain-fart that will soon be forgotten. Watch what Hitler has actually done, not what he says. Has he killed all the Jews here in 1939? No. See! He’s just playing to the cheap seats as he pursues his real policy of building autobahns.

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  16. Andy says:

    @Gustopher:

    I think you disregard Trump and his blathering a bit too much. He spouts nonsense, and then often becomes convinced that he had a great idea.

    The number of nonsensical things he’s said that have amounted to nothing dwarfs those things that he actually attempts, which is greater still than the few things he actually achieves. Taking everything seriously is a waste of time and furthermore it distracts attention from those things that are actually important. Yelling “fire” at his every inanity is actually counterproductive.

    When someone like Trump lies so often and says stupid things so often the importance of looking at probabilities and examining actual actions is even more important.

    It’s actually possible, with a tiny bit of thought and some observation, to determine what is and isn’t important.

    @Michael Reynolds:

    That a new record, I think, for invoking Godwin’s law. Convincing as ever!

    And I see you persist in making personal slights combined with platitudes in lieu of coherent arguments. At this point, Michael, I feel it is a waste of my time to respond to you any further.

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  17. An Interested Party says:

    This is an example of Trump saying something ignorant that shouldn’t be taken seriously absent some action on his part.

    Interesting how you dismiss this so easily, as if he were still the host of a reality TV show rather than being the president of the United States…it has the whiff of taking him seriously, but not literally, or perhaps it’s the other way around…one never truly knows with this president…

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  18. Jay L Gischer says:

    So, this is the way “information warfare” works. There’s lots of junk out there, said by people in the highest places, that doesn’t mean anything, except when it does mean something. It makes it very hard for people to sift through the junk and find out what’s actually going on, what people are actually thinking.

    Trump’s instinct is to not let people know what he’s actually thinking. There’s a time and place for that, but when it’s your policy vs everyone you meet on every day of your life, it’s kind of a problem.

    Yeah, most of the stuff Trump says is meaningless, but not all of it. This is incredibly divisive. Those who are threatened take the stuff seriously, while others think it’s ridiculous, and maybe even mock people for taking it seriously. This creates cracks.

    Not that I think Trump is an evil mastermind, planning all this out. It’s just what he’s done all his life, because there was nobody who could say “no” to him.

    I grew up with people with guns, and I’m quite comfortable with the idea of private gun ownership. I will note, however, that one big difference between my father and his brothers and their attitudes and the sort of front-line NRA supporter is that they never, ever spoke lightly of violence, particularly gun violence. There was no bluster and threat, no “second amendment solutions”, no “You’ll eat some lead”. If they said they were going to shoot you, they were going to shoot you, because they had a really good reason. I verified this with my sister, so it’s not just my recollection.

    It’s no surprise then, that I prefer this style of communication to a sort of shotgun blast channeling of an unfiltered id. But it makes him seem “authentic” to some, I guess.

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  19. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Andy:
    It probably is a waste of time because I’m not overawed by references to Godwin’s Law. I could sub in any number of other historical figures to make the same point.

    You’ve become nothing but another Trump apologist, albeit with accompanying throat-clearing meant to convince us that you’re objective. But this whole ‘Hey, let’s ignore what the most powerful person on planet earth says,” is ridiculous on its face. It’s a standard you never applied before to any president. It’s a standard you wouldn’t apply to your lowliest staffer. It’s a very special standard you’ve created that only applies to this president. It is therefore no standard at all, just special pleading.

    No, Andy, let’s not ignore what the asshat says. Let’s apply the same standard to him that you and everyone else applied to every other president in US history. Because that would be objective. Right? That would be logical. Right? That would be fair. Right?

    Making up a special one-time-only standard to rationalize away the damage this man has done to this country, and the danger he represents going forward, is not analysis, it’s hack work.

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  20. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Andy:

    This is an example of Trump saying something ignorant that shouldn’t be taken seriously…

    True, but look at all the other stuff that we hyperventilate about that won’t happen and, therefore, shouldn’t be taken seriously–M4A, free college tuition, wealth tax, election reform, upgrading the infrastructure, Green New Deal, addressing opioid addiction. There are lots of others. If you start treating all of these things as stuff that shouldn’t be taken seriously, it’s gonna destroy the blogosphere and then the internet will be all viral cat videos and Twitter and Instagram ads (as opposed to actual user comments). Who wants that?
    Seriously on the other hand, insightful comment. Thank you1

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  21. Kathy says:

    L’alliance c’est moi.

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  22. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Andy: I don’t have much problem with what you’ve written except for your first paragraph. I think you wave off Trump’s ramblings way too easily.

    What are your thoughts about Trump’s repeated, consistent attempts to undermine NATO? Can’t this be seen in that context, as yet another attempt to ridicule and undermine NATO, by suggesting it has the wrong scope, and that NATO is unfair to the US, and is a “bad deal”?

    How do you feel about this? It’s a lot more important than the size of the NSC staff.

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  23. Andy says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Interesting how you dismiss this so easily, as if he were still the host of a reality TV show rather than being the president of the United States…it has the whiff of taking him seriously, but not literally, or perhaps it’s the other way around…one never truly knows with this president…

    We have three years of history with this President. How many of his inanities have progressed beyond his mouth or Tweet? A very, very low percentage of them. Given this record, why should we treat them all the same?

    @Jay L Gischer:

    There’s lots of junk out there, said by people in the highest places, that doesn’t mean anything, except when it does mean something. It makes it very hard for people to sift through the junk and find out what’s actually going on, what people are actually thinking.

    Exactly! At a minimum, it’s easy to eliminate stuff that is obviously fantasy. Expanding NATO to ME countries is one of those things.

    Should he actually take action to try to make it happen, then that is the point at which it becomes worth it to spend time explaining what a stupid idea it is.

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  24. Andy says:

    Look, I get that there is a strong appeal to constantly highlight every single instance of Trump’s ignorance or outrage which come out sometime multiple times in a single day, and then explain why this is yet another example of why Trump is such a bad person and President.

    That type of reactive “analysis” has been going on for four years and nothing has changed.

    What is the point? It’s not hurting Trump. It swamps the public with a constant barrage of outrages that they just tune out. They don’t know when something actually serious comes along (the cry wolf syndrome) because they’ve been swamped with inanities. Continuing on this path after four years into an election year seems to be the proverbial definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

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  25. Gustopher says:

    @Andy:

    We have three years of history with this President. How many of his inanities have progressed beyond his mouth or Tweet? A very, very low percentage of them. Given this record, why should we treat them all the same?

    How do you distinguish them?

    Would you have thought that repeating crazy theories about Ukraine being the real people interfering in the last election would progress to attempts to extort that country into phony investigations? Or that it would become the general view of all Republicans?

    Or that we would cancel a presidential visit to Denmark at the last minute because they don’t want to sell us Greenland?

    Exactly! At a minimum, it’s easy to eliminate stuff that is obviously fantasy. Expanding NATO to ME countries is one of those things.

    And the Space Force!

    Should he actually take action to try to make it happen, then that is the point at which it becomes worth it to spend time explaining what a stupid idea it is.

    I’m sure the Kurds in Syria have a different view.

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  26. MarkedMan says:

    @Andy:

    How many of his inanities have progressed beyond his mouth or Tweet?

    Percentage-wise? As you said, a small number. But in absolute quantity? A horrifyingly large number. Is Trump as unsuccessful at hitting his targets as a falling-down drunk shooting at his enemies with a pistol? Just because that drunk misses 99% of the time doesn’t mean it’s safe to ignore him when he pulls the gun out…

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  27. Slugger says:

    “Nay to me” doesn’t strike me as a good name.
    I wonder which middle eastern nations are being considered by Trump for membership. Libya, Lebanon, Jordan? Not Iraq; they just told us to GTFO. Not Qatar; the Sauds don’t like them. Ooh, I got it…Israel; they like us.
    When I was in college I read The Satyricon. Mr. Trump and I are the same vintage. He must have read it as well but considered it a how-to book.

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  28. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Gustopher:

    At least it isn’t North Atlantic Mideast Biregional Legal Agreement.

    I don’t know, I think it has a nice ring to it. What’s your objection? //

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  29. steve says:

    Andy- I think your point about ignoring NATOME is valid. It isn’t going to happen. As you probably know I am not worried about the Green New Deal or M4A (as proposed by Warren or Sanders) as they arent going to happen either. They are just pandering during an election.

    But I think there is a difference here. The guy who is POTUS, not just some wannabes, is saying stuff that belies an incredible ignorance of the rest of the world and he is 3 years into his presidency. That ignorance certainly influences how I see his actions. I see no reason to believe he grasps the consequences of what he does and he appears to completely believe he can charm or bully his way out of everything. (In real estate he just sued.)

    Steve

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  30. Andy says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    What are your thoughts about Trump’s repeated, consistent attempts to undermine NATO? Can’t this be seen in that context, as yet another attempt to ridicule and undermine NATO, by suggesting it has the wrong scope, and that NATO is unfair to the US, and is a “bad deal”?

    In short, with NATO trump is expressing a somewhat mainstream view very very badly. I don’t think “undermining” NATO is the right way to look at it. Trump doesn’t want to withdraw from NATO (after all, this blog post is about his supposed desire to expand NATO), and his administration continues to support NATO actions, US deployments, training, etc. On the ground, not a lot has changed. But consistent with his America First view of the world, he believes NATO countries are taking advantage of the US – ie. the US is getting a “bad deal” from the alliance. It’s similar to how NAFTA and other trade agreements were a “bad deal” in his view. Ultimately I think Trump wants a “better” deal with NATO that is “fair” to the US.

    Some background:

    Many people since the end of the cold war have questioned the purpose of NATO going forward since NATO was originally designed as an anti-Soviet alliance to protect Western countries that were weak and rebuilding after the devastation of WWII. NATO’s founding purpose ended with the cold war. The post-cold-war expansion of NATO, a primarily American priority under the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations, is at its practical limit but the question NATO’s purpose for remains. It’s turned into a de facto anti-Russian alliance but Russia is a weak country and is no ability to conventionally threat any of the core European states. NATO seems to have become more of an idea designed to keep NATO members from fighting each other.

    But even if NATO had a coherent purpose (and I think it does with some adjustments), there is a legitimate debate that predates Trump regarding whether NATO is a “good deal” for the US especially with respect to the ratio of burden-sharing among members of the alliance. Every recent administration has complained publically and privately to our NATO partners that they are not pulling their weight because they don’t invest enough in defense and lack the capabilities to meaningfully contribute. NATO leaders have consistently promised to rectify this, but their legislatures and populations don’t agree.

    The result is a massive capabilities gap between the US and the rest of the alliance. This was amply demonstrated in the war against Libya which the Europeans wanted but could not, even collectively, prosecute on their own. Even for major powers like France, the US still provides a lot of logistical support for their forces in Africa. During the various Balkans crises, NATO forces were not able to deploy and sustain operations without US support and assets. There are tons of examples.

    Every recent administration pointed this out as a problem and obliquely stated that the US is subsidizing Europe’s defense. Europe is no longer poor or war-torn or threatened by the USSR. They are certainly rich enough to take a greater role, but they like the current arrangement for reasons that should be obvious.

    Trump is, in short, making this same argument, but much more crudely and rudely and he’s much more aggressive and threatening about it.

    I don’t think Trump’s tactics will work and think they are counterproductive. Pissing off allies isn’t going get them to change. IMO, however, the goal of reforming NATO so it’s not so reliant on US capabilities is a necessary change. Europe should have the capacity to at least conduct independent operations in its sphere without significant US support.

    The trick is how to get NATO to make this change and what to do if other NATO countries refuse.

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  31. Andy says:

    @Gustopher:

    How do you distinguish them?

    Would you have thought that repeating crazy theories about Ukraine being the real people interfering in the last election would progress to attempts to extort that country into phony investigations? Or that it would become the general view of all Republicans?

    You distinguish them first by evaluating if they are actually possible. Then you look at whether the statements or ideas are being backed up by actions or actual policy changes. Your example illustrates my point. Trump took action on the Ukrainian consipracy theories and now he is impeached for it. They weren’t merely words. We had reporting on Guliani’s activities very early on. Few paid close attention until it blew up. Why? My guess is because that early reporting was drowned by all the irrelevancies. I follow the news pretty closely and I missed those early reports.

    And the Space Force!

    Space Force is not a new idea – it’s been actively debated in defense circles for years. It was probably inevitable. It wasn’t a crazy idea, though I think it was premature. The President doesn’t have the authority to make a new service – but Congress accepted it and passed it into law with big bipartisan majorities so now it’s real. Again, Trump didn’t just blather about Space Force. He took action and issued directives to make preparations and had his allies in Congress get it into the Defense bill to make it a reality.

    I’m sure the Kurds in Syria have a different view.

    Yes, that’s an example where criticism is completely appropriate. Again, it’s not merely words, it’s an action and one that was likely given Trump’s previous attempts to pull out or reduce the foot print in Syria.

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  32. Andy says:

    @steve:

    I think your point about ignoring NATOME is valid. It isn’t going to happen. As you probably know I am not worried about the Green New Deal or M4A (as proposed by Warren or Sanders) as they arent going to happen either. They are just pandering during an election.

    I think that’s a good comparison. Note that I’m not saying we should ignore what politicians say completely, only that we can evaluate and prioritize the importance of what they say and respond appropriately.

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  33. MarkedMan says:

    While I think that all the points you raise are interesting and worth a discussion in the open comments section, raising them in a discussion of Trump inevitably makes it feel like you are giving him credit for having rational thoughts. In fact, that’s about the only reason I seem to disagree with you. My takeaway is that you think there is some kind of there there when it comes to Trump. I think that Trump is a moron and has always been a moron. If you start out a discussion by saying, or seeming to say, that Trump has plans or thoughts I can’t get past that. Trump has emotions and urges and harebrained ideas. He has no capacity to actually think about anything.

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  34. Andy says:

    @MarkedMan:

    While I think that all the points you raise are interesting and worth a discussion in the open comments section, raising them in a discussion of Trump inevitably makes it feel like you are giving him credit for having rational thoughts.

    Yes, we seem to live in a binary world where any nuance is a heresy that must be punished.

    I’m not going to submit to that kind of thinking nor accept that the country is destined to be divided into two opposing and hostile camps. I’ll continue to analyze and make my own judgments based on what I believe to be objective and fair criteria while knowing that I can’t ever be truly objective and fair.

    Since this blog and the commentariat is almost wholly anti-Trump with many who, like you, have a hard time giving Trump credit for anything, I understand and accept that I’m going to get a lot of pushback when I come into these threads.

    If you start out a discussion by saying, or seeming to say, that Trump has plans or thoughts I can’t get past that.

    This is one thing that I’m curious about. I hear that a lot, but I also hear others state that Trump has all these nefarious plans designed to achieve some agenda. To me, these two views appear to be in opposition.

    My own view, as stated in the previous thread, is that Trump has operating patterns. He’s not merely a pinball bouncing around, and he’s obviously not a deep planner or thinker, but he has themes and patterns that fairly consistently guide and inform his actions.

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  35. NW-Steve says:

    @Andy: @Andy:

    Exactly! At a minimum, it’s easy to eliminate stuff that is obviously fantasy. Expanding NATO to ME countries is one of those things.

    Your postulate seems to be that a) because little of what he puts out there comes to fruition, and b) because much of it is “obviously fantasy”, are without consequence. I’d propose that you are wrong on both scores.

    In response to a): what he isn’t doing is actually working on structures to keep the world stable going forward, or balancing the budget, or anything else of the slightest positive value, because he is too busy and focussed on the “obvious fantasy”.

    In response to b): the fact that the world is now looking at us (and yes, they do) and seeing an ineffectual and obvious fantasist as our chosen leader seriously dilutes our standing and influence in the world, at every level. Nobody has any idea what our values or strategic interests are, and even if they thought they did they would (quite justifiably) distrust what they think they are seeing and hearing.

    Both of those realities carry a very real cost, both to us and to the rest of the world. Your proposition that this president’s stances and actions are without consequence because they are ineffectual and laughable just doesn’t pass the most superficial test, IMHO. It is entirely possible for a leader to do great damage by what they don’t do.

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  36. CSK says:

    Trump has famously said that he trusts his gut instincts far more than he trusts the experts in any given field (except when one of them happens to confirm his pre-existing notions). Put that together with the fact that he’s incapable of absorbing any printed material longer than a page, and won’t sit still for an oral briefing longer than 60 seconds, and what you get is a toddler at the helm. What makes it worse is that he’s easily manipulated by the worst people around him. Of course his foreign policy is a farrago of nonsense. So is what passes for his domestic policy.

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  37. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Andy:

    Continuing on this path after four years into an election year seems to be the proverbial definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

    Additionally, it is the living breathing definition of “sucking the air out of the room for the reason you noted earlier in the paragraph:

    It swamps the public with a constant barrage of outrages that they just tune out.

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  38. Gustopher says:

    @Andy:

    Few paid close attention until it blew up. Why? My guess is because that early reporting was drowned by all the irrelevancies. I follow the news pretty closely and I missed those early reports.

    (Clearly we do not follow the same news)

    I do think that Trump creates a smokescreen of gibberish that clouds his actions until it is too late — preventing any kind of national debate or consensus forming, and preventing our allies and adversaries from having reasonable expectations about how we will react to things they do.

    It’s a hell of a way to run a country. Massive division domestically, and a decent chance of stumbling into war, and a destruction of the norms that hold up our representative democracy.

    I don’t think that ignoring what Trump says until he actually does something is the right approach though. Because by then it’s usually too late.

    I agree that NATOME, the Windows ME of NATO, is useless gibberish… to a point. There are regional organizations and world organizations that should have a role, and he is ignoring them (and possibly ignorant of them), and not using America’s power to interact with those organizations and get our goals met with less blowback.

    NATO Millennium Edition is a strong indicator that he is going to continue fucking things up in the Middle East, not consult with our allies, and act impulsively and rashly. Because there’s no organization that he knows of that he can work with. If there was, he wouldn’t need to invent one.

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  39. MarkedMan says:

    @Andy: Trump has plans the way an 11 year old boy has plans. A more accurate description would be urges or schemes.

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  40. @Andy:

    In short, with NATO trump is expressing a somewhat mainstream view very very badly.

    I think there was a time one could have said that, but the reality is that NATOME underscores he doesn’t understand NATO itself well enough to express an actual viewpoint.

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  41. BTW, it is a profoundly weird position (to me, anyway) to suggest that it isn’t noteworthy that the President of the United States is spouting nonsense about the Middle East within a week of him almost starting a new war in said region.

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  42. @NW-Steve:

    In response to b): the fact that the world is now looking at us (and yes, they do) and seeing an ineffectual and obvious fantasist as our chosen leader seriously dilutes our standing and influence in the world, at every level. Nobody has any idea what our values or strategic interests are, and even if they thought they did they would (quite justifiably) distrust what they think they are seeing and hearing.

    Both of those realities carry a very real cost, both to us and to the rest of the world. Your proposition that this president’s stances and actions are without consequence because they are ineffectual and laughable just doesn’t pass the most superficial test, IMHO. It is entirely possible for a leader to do great damage by what they don’t do.

    Yup.

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  43. (BTW: this reminds me of the conversation with the guy who always insisted that we should ignore Trump’s tweets because they didn’t matter)

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  44. CSK says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    Is Trump aware that NATO stands for North Atlantic Treaty Organization?
    Perhaps not. Paul Ryan had to explain to him who John Boehner was. Trump’s exact question, 4 years ago, was: “Who’s John Boehner?

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  45. CSK says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    Ah, yes. The inimitable James Pearce.

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  46. Kathy says:

    @Andy:

    Yeah, remember how he totally did not throw a tantrum or cancelled a visit to Denmark, when the Danish PM did not take his idea to buy Greenland seriously?

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  47. PJ says:

    @Andy:

    That a new record, I think, for invoking Godwin’s law. Convincing as ever!

    Mike Goodwin, 08/13/17:

    By all means, compare these shitheads to Nazis. Again and again. I’m with you.

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  48. Andrew says:

    Trump’s leadership is that of a man who doesn’t know of and can not find a woman’s g-spot.
    Yet, will gladly take credit for the fake orgasm.

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  49. Stormy Dragon says:

    Trump is spooked because Iran demonstrated the risk of US soldiers dying as a consequence of the increased tension in the region and polling shows that a war with Iran would be widely unpopular. His “solution” is to pull out all the US soldiers and replace them with European soldiers (because he thinks NATO is some sort of US Auxilliary where other countries give us their soldiers and we get to do whatever we like with them) so he can go on making a dog’s breakfast of the region with zero negative domestic consequences.

    And he thinks this is actually going to happen because he think Europe loves him and will be happy to send their soldiers to die in his bungling.

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  50. An Interested Party says:

    It’s not hurting Trump.

    Hasn’t it? He has no support beyond his rabid base of cultists…others see all of this and are appalled by this disgrace…

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  51. Andy says:

    @NW-Steve:

    Your postulate seems to be that a) because little of what he puts out there comes to fruition, and b) because much of it is “obviously fantasy”, are without consequence. I’d propose that you are wrong on both scores.

    I think what he says and tweets definitely have consequences. But it seems rather obvious to me that the consequences of a brain fart about something that is impossible and is forgotten in one news cycle are of far less concern than actual actions and policy that are relevant and enduring. Yet the Twitterverse and many in the media treat them all essentially the same.

    I guess I don’t understand why treating actions more seriously than words is so controversial here. In my view, actions are what really matter when it comes to government action.

    @CSK:

    What makes it worse is that he’s easily manipulated by the worst people around him.

    People keep saying this, but his advisers quit or are fired with regularity because they aren’t doing what he wants.

    I don’t understand a theory that, on one hand, states that Trump is ego-centric in the extreme and believes in his own instincts above all others and that he thinks he is the smartest, most capable person in the room, yet he is somehow simultaneously easily manipulated by all these underlings that he considers to be inferior. It doesn’t make sense to me.

    And John Bolton, to give one example, tried very hard to manipulate Trump’s foreign policy actions and look at what happened to him.

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  52. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: The fact that the President ” is spouting nonsense about the Middle East within a week of him almost starting a new war in said region” is noteworthy. The content of that gibberish may be noteworthy only to the degree to which it might be considered on topic, credible, and/or representative of a policy that the administration could be expected to follow through on or be able to get cooperation on. My take is that this particular gibberish is not noteworthy on the content level.

    The fact that significant quantities of what the President says is gibberish is noteworthy and sad; particularly because there’s no reason at this point to believe that the nation will be able to vote him out of office.

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  53. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Andy:

    It swamps the public with a constant barrage of outrages that they just tune out. They don’t know when something actually serious comes along (the cry wolf syndrome) because they’ve been swamped with inanities. Continuing on this path after four years into an election year seems to be the proverbial definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

    I would say explain that to trump, but I know he wouldn’t listen to you.

    Really tho, how is it good for trump that he keeps doing exactly the above day after day after day? Maybe DEMs are attacking him in the wrong way, but I don’t see how pretending he didn’t just say something really stupid is their path to electoral gold.

    Please, explain this to me.

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  54. Andy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    BTW, it is a profoundly weird position (to me, anyway) to suggest that it isn’t noteworthy that the President of the United States is spouting nonsense about the Middle East within a week of him almost starting a new war in said region.

    I didn’t say it wasn’t noteworthy, I said it wasn’t that important and we shouldn’t take it very seriously for reasons already stated. I agree this nonsense is not important compared to almost starting a new war in the region which begs the question of why this post is about the former and not the latter. I don’t see the utility or value in spending time discussing nonsense when there are plenty of exigent issues.

    Additionally, we’ve had Trump for three years. The world is accustomed to this sort of thing from him. I don’t think there is much actual cost of the “world looking at us” to yet another Trump brain fart like expanding NATO to the ME. Trumpisms are baked in. If anything, we should start to be concerned if Trump STOPS his regular nonsense-spouting. The rest of the world rolls their eyes at a lot of this stuff, we can too.

    @Kathy:

    Yeah, remember how he totally did not throw a tantrum or canceled a visit to Denmark, when the Danish PM did not take his idea to buy Greenland seriously?

    Yes, I remember and that was genuinely newsworthy because of Trump’s actions, not merely his words.

    It’s interesting that all the examples people are bringing up are when Trump actually did something. No one seems to remember the hundreds if not thousands of other examples where Trump said something dumb, twitter and the media gnashed over it for a week, and nothing more happened.

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  55. Andy says:

    @PJ:

    Mike Goodwin, 08/13/17:

    By all means, compare these shitheads to Nazis. Again and again. I’m with you.

    Bad advice. Comparing Trump to Nazi’s, if nothing else, just isn’t very smart if one’s goal is to sway others. It’s a very quick way to make reasonable people think you’re crazy.

    @An Interested Party:

    Hasn’t it? He has no support beyond his rabid base of cultists…others see all of this and are appalled by this disgrace…

    His poll numbers haven’t moved much since shortly after taking office. So no, the constant repetition does not seem to be hurting him.

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  56. CSK says:

    @Andy:
    Because narcissists like Trump are extremely manipulable. All you have to do is tell them they’re great. Putin paid Trump a compliment back in 2015-16. Trump has been slobbering over Putin ever since.

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  57. Andy says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    I would say explain that to trump, but I know he wouldn’t listen to you.

    Really tho, how is it good for trump that he keeps doing exactly the above day after day after day? Maybe DEMs are attacking him in the wrong way, but I don’t see how pretending he didn’t just say something really stupid is their path to electoral gold.

    Please, explain this to me.

    I’m not an expert in political campaigns.

    But it seems to me one would want to focus efforts on an opponent’s core weaknesses that will affect the interests of swing voters and the nominally “independent” voter – that portion of the electorate that decides elections. Picking at every tweet or every statement just dilutes the message.

    And let’s face it. Most people are not on Twitter or political blogs and most people are unaware and uninterested in whatever nonsense the President said about NATO in the Middle East. The only people even aware of this are people like us who are news and political junkies. No one else gives a shit.

    Secondly, you don’t play to the opponent’s strengths. The news cycle, despite the negative press, helps as much as it hurts Trump. He loves the attention and can effectively use it. It means he is the story and other candidates and issues get pushed out. It gives him the initiative. He’s able to change the narrative at will and the press will immediately follow. Letting him suck the air out of the room isn’t a good strategy. After four years it’s clear – to me at least – that the constant analyzing and fact-checking and gnashing at Trump’s every remark and Tweet isn’t hurting him anymore. Hence his stable poll numbers. One could argue that’s what allowed him to get the nomination in the first place.

    I’m sure there are more and probably better strategies. But it seems obvious the status quo isn’t working for Trump opponents.

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  58. An Interested Party says:

    His poll numbers haven’t moved much since shortly after taking office.

    Exactly the point…he has done nothing to expand his base…and his shooting off his mouth and rage Twittering the most ridiculous things plus the fact that all of this is widely broadcast to everyone certainly can’t be helping him…

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  59. Ken_L says:

    Trump has very few original ideas that he hasn’t been spouting for years. An ‘Arab NATO’ was one that he first mentioned back in early 2017, during his trip to Saudi Arabia. It’s only a small step to convert ‘Arab NATO’ into ‘NATOME’. After all, he doesn’t recognize any threats against Europe that are likely to require a military response.

    He basically wants other countries to act as American foreign policy surrogates but at their own expense. Thus NATOME will fund itself, while Japan and South Korea can either have their own nukes or rent America’s military at a price that gives Washington a profit. Quite what the US military that he comically claims he just spent two trillion on buying hardware for is supposed to do in this brave new world isn’t clear; deter the client states from turning on the imperial overlord, I suppose.

    The neo-cons in his administration seem to be playing him like a fiddle, maneuvering him ever closer to war with Iran with a truly Orwellian talking point about ‘bringing the troops back home’ while despatching more and more of them to the Middle East.

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  60. Andy says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Exactly the point…he has done nothing to expand his base…and his shooting off his mouth and rage Twittering the most ridiculous things plus the fact that all of this is widely broadcast to everyone certainly can’t be helping him…

    All of which was true in 2016 and he still ended up winning.

    I just looked up his favorability numbers and they were a whopping 41.8% the week before the 2016 election – exactly what he is at this week.

    Going into this next cycle he’ll have all the advantages of incumbency, especially if the economy stays strong. And he’ll have a lot more money than 2016 where Clinton outspent him by a huge margin.

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  61. Gustopher says:

    @Andy:

    I don’t understand a theory that, on one hand, states that Trump is ego-centric in the extreme and believes in his own instincts above all others and that he thinks he is the smartest, most capable person in the room, yet he is somehow simultaneously easily manipulated by all these underlings that he considers to be inferior. It doesn’t make sense to me.

    It does take some skill to manipulate someone. And, when that someone realizes that they are being manipulated, they will lash out and end things and speak poorly of the manipulator, often while pretending to have never been manipulated.

    I’m guessing you either haven’t dated much, or have been pretty lucky. (Or have never recognized when you’re being manipulated… which would also be pretty lucky I suppose).

    Trump likes flattery and pageantry, and he’s quite naive and brittle. Look at his fondness for men in uniform calling him “sir”, and his relationship with Kim Jong Un.

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  62. @Andy:

    which begs the question of why this post is about the former and not the latter.

    You’ve written more words about it than I did 😉

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  63. Kathy says:

    @Andy:

    It’s interesting that all the examples people are bringing up are when Trump actually did something. No one seems to remember the hundreds if not thousands of other examples where Trump said something dumb, twitter and the media gnashed over it for a week, and nothing more happened.

    Ok. Can you tell what stupid, outrageous idiocy that Trump says will translate into actual stupid, outrageous action?

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  64. Andy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Touche!

    I tried to steer things toward the NSC in my first comment but, thankfully for everyone, no one really enjoys a Saturday debate on the inside baseball of appropriate NSC staffing levels.

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  65. An Interested Party says:

    I just looked up his favorability numbers and they were a whopping 41.8% the week before the 2016 election – exactly what he is at this week.

    And he was helped by the fact that his opponent had a favorability rating almost as shitty as his…presumably that won’t happen again…

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  66. Andy says:

    @Gustopher:

    You’re right, I was pretty lucky. I didn’t do well with dating until I met my wife.

    I think your explanation of manipulators makes sense. And I’ve seen the dynamic you’ve described a couple of times in the work environment.

    What do you think are the best or typical examples of someone successfully manipulating Trump into doing something that he later regretted? Kim Jong Un? It will certainly be interesting to see how Trump reacts to North Korea’s inevitable backslide.

    @Kathy:

    Ok. Can you tell what stupid, outrageous idiocy that Trump says will translate into actual stupid, outrageous action?

    You first evaluate if they are actually possible. Then you look at whether the statements or ideas are being backed up by actions or actual policy changes, or whether they are consistent or in-line with previously taken actions or policy. With someone like Trump who says outrageous things all the time, and frequently says things that demonstrably aren’t true, it becomes very important to monitor what his administration actually does or prepares to do. You don’t have to completely ignore the inanities, but it’s important to keep your eye on the ball and save the bulk of your powder for the important stuff.

    But that is all really my own fantasy that is never going to happen. The incentives, particularly on Twitter and among the media, don’t support it and I admit it’s wishful thinking – at best.

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  67. Andy says:

    @An Interested Party:

    And he was helped by the fact that his opponent had a favorability rating almost as shitty as his…presumably that won’t happen again…

    We can only hope – and also hope the next candidate learns from the Clinton campaign’s many strategic errors and own-goals.

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  68. MarkedMan says:

    @Andy: And it was an interesting point and could have led to a good discussion. But you sidetracked it by a) putting it into a blog post about trumps child-level foreign policy and b) implying that Trump would be aware of the significance of NSC staffing levels. If you want to talk about NSC staffing levels, great, put it in an appropriate thread and divorce it from your posts speculating on Trumps intellectual capability and, who knows, maybe it will generate an interesting discussion

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  69. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Andy: I asked you a yes/no question and you gave me six paragraphs in reply.

    I don’t think Trump phrased what he said badly at all. He doesn’t like NATO. I don’t base this one one statement, or even a dozen. He doesn’t like it, he never says good things about it. He’s trying to undermine it. I think he believes that pulling out is something he couldn’t get away with, or he would try. Apparently he’s sold you on that, but you don’t seem to be able to say that straight out without six paragraphs and a disclaimer about how “he says it badly”.

    I don’t think he says things badly. I think he isn’t trying to please or persuade me at all. He’s trying to sell his base on the idea that “NATO is bad”. So he says things in a way that they can understand and relate to. I have no pull with his base at all, being an “intellectual” and a “coastal elite”. You might, but you appear to want to either ignore these efforts, or perhaps even endorse them at arms-length.

    If you think I’m mischaracterizing you, feel free to correct me. It shouldn’t take six paragraphs.

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  70. inhumans99 says:

    @CSK:

    Ding, ding, ding…we have a winner. Folks, Andy is basically James P., ignore everything President Trump tweets, it distracts from the “important” stuff he says that we should focus on, and then one of his tweets we were told to ignore turns into reality and we are told that if we only ignored all the other stuff he said on twitter we would have been able to block whatever cruel/immoral/unethical thing our President plans to push through (with help from his Supreme Court, if needed).

    The funny thing is that Andy gets to use hindsight to decide what us libtards should have ignored from President Trump’s twitter feed and what we should have focused on…how convenient. Andy is a troll, a troll who knows how to string two sentences together and avoids the usual troll indicator of someone who loves to copy/paste from whatever right wing leaning site they get their marching orders from (or just regurgitates what John Solomon wrote somewhere on the internet) but make no mistake he is basically James P in sheep’s clothing, and Michael Reynolds, Steven Taylor, Doug M, James J, and others on this site if you would choose not to engage with trolls like James P or Guarneri, than you need to stop getting into a dialogue with Andy.

    He is starting to sound like a broken record repeating that we should ignore the President’s tweets as they are not serious, but some very intelligent folks on this site then explain why even if 49 out of 50 tweets (heck, maybe all 50) sound goofy and will never ever be taken seriously by the GOP’s Base there is always the possibility that one of these tweets turns into a policy the White House wants to implement so we do indeed need to pay attention and not be so dismissive of the Presidents tweets. Andy is having none of that and just replies in a way that makes him sound oh so intellectual (one should look at his actual actions, not his tweets…which mean nothing, I tell you, they mean nothing…of course, until they mean something), but then Andy can always say but that was one tweet out 30, but I bet Andy could not tell you with a straight face that the one tweet that actually influences policy is the one he was paying attention too as he was ignoring all those other crazy tweets of President Trump…just stop engaging with Andy, he is in many ways worse than James P and Guarneri, those guys know what they are and put on a sheet eating grin when they are told that all they care about is pawning libs, but Andy is the guy who gets indignant when you call him a troll and crosses his arms and says we are just typical libtards who are not open to what the other team has to say….this is baloney, Andy, just admit that you are trying a more sophisticated approach to trolling liberals but I quickly started to think to myself…hey, this dude sounds like Jame P as I read your posts on this thread and others.

    It is interesting that I am not the only person on this site who started to wonder if you were simply another troll, albeit one dressed in a really great looking tuxedo.

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  71. Andy says:

    @MarkedMan:

    And it was an interesting point and could have led to a good discussion. But you sidetracked it by a) putting it into a blog post about trumps child-level foreign policy and b) implying that Trump would be aware of the significance of NSC staffing levels. If you want to talk about NSC staffing levels, great, put it in an appropriate thread and divorce it from your posts speculating on Trumps intellectual capability and, who knows, maybe it will generate an interesting discussion

    First of all, I never implied (or meant to imply) that Trump knows anything about NSC staffing levels. I have no idea what he knows about that but I suspect it’s not something he thinks about.

    Second, I’m not sure why you’re objecting to commenting on that topic. NSC staffing levels was content in the original post. I responded to that content and it appears no one else did. Which is fine, as it’s a boring topic.

    @Jay L Gischer:

    I asked you a yes/no question and you gave me six paragraphs in reply.

    Let’s review:

    What are your thoughts about Trump’s repeated, consistent attempts to undermine NATO? Can’t this be seen in that context, as yet another attempt to ridicule and undermine NATO, by suggesting it has the wrong scope, and that NATO is unfair to the US, and is a “bad deal”?

    Two questions, the first one wasn’t yes or no. The second one is contingent on the assumptions inherent in the first. I thought I answered both in those six paragraphs.

    I’m sorry I’m not good at brevity, but I’ve learned that if I don’t explain my view completely and clearly, then people tend to make uncharitable assumptions which I then have to correct. If there’s something more you want me to comment on, please let me know what it is.

    I think he believes that pulling out is something he couldn’t get away with, or he would try. Apparently he’s sold you on that, but you don’t seem to be able to say that straight out without six paragraphs and a disclaimer about how “he says it badly”.

    It very well may be the case that Trump wants to leave NATO completely, but many of his actual actions don’t point that direction. It’s not an open-and-shut case. I think my view fits the evidence better but others are, of course, free to disagree. The theme he returns to again and again is that America is getting a “raw deal” from NATO. And I think his actions show that, like NAFTA and other international agreements, he doesn’t want to get rid of NATO, he wants a better deal. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that he actually wants to leave NATO, but that doesn’t seem to have a lot of evidentiary support at present. At least in my view.

    I don’t think he says things badly. I think he isn’t trying to please or persuade me at all. He’s trying to sell his base on the idea that “NATO is bad”. So he says things in a way that they can understand and relate to. I have no pull with his base at all, being an “intellectual” and a “coastal elite”.

    Well, I consider myself an intellectual and elite as well (albeit not coastal, I’m from Colorado).

    And sure, I think he is playing to his base and he constantly tells his base they’ve gotten a raw deal, and NATO is certainly part of that. He’s definitely not an ally of intellectuals or elites nor is he an ally of mine.

    You might, but you appear to want to either ignore these efforts, or perhaps even endorse them at arms-length.

    Sorry, three-paragraph response required:

    Long before Trump entered the scene I thought NATO needed to be reformed in terms of burden-sharing as well as it’s overall purpose. And the burden-sharing part was desired by both the Bush and Obama administrations, so this has been a very mainstream view.

    On burden-sharing, Trump is kinda-sorta heading in that general direction, but in the worst possible way, like a drunk stumbling toward the toilet. I don’t support his methods and I worry his actions will make the reforms I’d like to see more difficult. I think it is a worse approach than what Bush and Obama tried, which didn’t work but at least didn’t damage relations. I don’t support aggressively coercing allies as a method to get them to do what we want, which is what Trump is doing in my view.

    Is that an arms-length endorsement? I don’t think so. I’m a process guy so I think how you achieve a goal is often more important than achieving the goal itself. So I’m not an ends-justify-the-means guy and I don’t support the means Trump is utilizing.

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  72. Just nutha ignint crackerd says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: In my mind, there is a difference between pretending something didn’t happen and ignoring it. Additionally, my persuasion about this year’s election is that the number of people who have not galvanized their position on Trump is vanishingly small (I believe the last time I brought this up, my estimate was between negative 3 and 1 percent). With that situation, I am no longer seeing the utility in doing “Trump’s Latest Outrage” on even a weekly or monthly basis let alone the 2 or 3 times a day it’s possible to be outraged by this nimrod. It’s better for me merely to sigh and/or facepalm–or in some cases laugh–than it is to exercise any effort over said outrage.

    On the other hand, it may be that you don’t share my worldview; in which case your doubts about the wisdom of the approach are perfectly cromulent.

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  73. inhumans99 says:

    Folks, I clearly got a bit heated. Andy, I apologize if I put words in your mouth (you have never called anyone a libtard in any of your posts) but as Steven points out you sound just like someone else on this site who used to post comments but seems to have disappeared (I actually hope he is okay) which is a bit disappointing because I thought you were cut from a different cloth.

    You use a lot of words (although I am the last person to throw stones when it comes to using too many words, lol…just making a point here) and some 20$ words but you are basically saying the same thing as this James P dude you keep hearing about, however, he used about 10,000 words less than you (or I for that matter) to make his point.

    No one, and I mean no one on your side of the fence wants to admit that President Trump is the ultimate useful idiot. It may drive me bonkers but I understand why McConnell wants to keep our President in the White House for the next 20 years (and not simply to own the libs)…he, and others in the GOP will never have as pliant a piece of putty in their hands as President Trump as they do now, I sincerely get it.

    Sadly, as much as I want to claim I would be on the side of Angels if I were a Republican and try to call out President Trump for his bad behavior I wonder if I was in Mitch’s shoes if I would do the same thing he is doing…fighting like hell to keep Trump in power so he can get his judges, tax cuts for the wealthy, etc., again, I get it…it drives me bonkers that more Republicans are not lining up to vote to remove President Trump from the White House but yeah, they are taking advantage of this guy while they can because someone like him only comes around once every 100 years.

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  74. Andy says:

    @inhumans99:

    It is interesting that I am not the only person on this site who started to wonder if you were simply another troll, albeit one dressed in a really great looking tuxedo.

    I don’t recognize your handle, so maybe you’re new here, but I’ve been a regular on this blog for over a decade and have seen many cranky people come and go. I’m here for the debate and freely admit that I’m a contrarian that goes against the grain of most of the other regulars here. You seem to have confused that with being a troll.

    PS, just saw your update. No worries, I don’t take most stuff personally.

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  75. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Andy:

    What do you think are the best or typical examples of someone successfully manipulating Trump into doing something that he later regretted?

    Not Gustopher–he’s far more clever and expressive than I am–but I find it difficult to imagine Trump having ever done anything that he regretted.

    Or at least admitting it.

    ETA: And I also find it difficult to believe that Trump would ever admit to having been manipulated. Maybe that’s why I can’t see him regretting anything.

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  76. Andy says:

    @inhumans99:

    I remember James Pearce but don’t know what happened to him. I don’t always see the comments when someone gets banned and it’s hard to tell when someone actually leaves. I also tend to lurk for long periods then spend a couple of days very actively engaged, so I’m not as regular as many of the actual regulars.

    I agreed with James Pearce sometimes but think he had a tendency to be too acerbic and sarcastic which got in the way of what he was trying to say.

    Just to be clear I’m not on a “side” in politics. I have eclectic political views and have never felt comfortable with one “side” or the other and have always been an independent with a strong anti-partisan streak. Hence both sides usually hate me, especially since I’m not afraid to vote third party if the main candidates are turds.

    I’m not a Trump supporter, didn’t vote for him in 2016 and won’t in 2020. I hope the Democrats nominate someone I can support in 2020 and I will participate in the Democratic primary in Colorado on Super Tuesday.

    Hope that gives you a clearer picture of where I generally stand.

    Anyway, time for bed, cheers!

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  77. NW-Steve says:

    @Andy:

    I guess I don’t understand why treating actions more seriously than words is so controversial here. In my view, actions are what really matter when it comes to government action.

    Words and perceptions, entirely separate from actions, really do play a role in the evolution of human affairs.

    It isn’t a question of treating the words as moreimportant than the actions. What lots of us are having a hard time with is your thesis that the words are of no consequence, and that we’re all being a little hysterical to pay attention to them.

    The words, with absolutely no accompanying meaningful policies, or even proposed policies, did get the man elected, after all. Shout “better cheaper magical healthcare for everybody”, or “coal jobs for everybody”, or “drain the swamp”, without a single syllable about how any of those things might come about, and you can get yourself elected.

    So sometimes the words are sadly all that counts.

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  78. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Britain must prepare to fight wars without US help, says defence secretary

    Wallace said Britain should use the defence review to acquire new capabilities, making it less dependent on the US in future conflicts.

    “Over the last year we’ve had the US pull out from Syria, the statement by Donald Trump on Iraq where he said Nato should take over and do more in the Middle East,” he said. “The assumptions of 2010 that we were always going to be part of a US coalition is really just not where we are going to be. We are very dependent on American air cover and American intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets. We need to diversify our assets.”

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  79. Teve says:

    @inhumans99:

    but make no mistake he is basically James P in sheep’s clothing, and Michael Reynolds, Steven Taylor, Doug M, James J, and others on this site if you would choose not to engage with trolls like James P or Guarneri, than you need to stop getting into a dialogue with Andy.

    Some of us saw it immediately and never engaged 🙂

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  80. Kingdaddy says:

    This just in: A group of terrorists led by Hans Gruber has just seized control of Natome Towers.

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  81. charon says:

    @Teve:

    I find him tedious, just scroll past. (A bit full of sht in any case, and TL;DR).

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  82. @inhumans99:

    Andy is a troll, a troll who knows how to string two sentences together and avoids the usual troll indicator of someone who loves to copy/paste from whatever right wing leaning site they get their marching orders from (or just regurgitates what John Solomon wrote somewhere on the internet) but make no mistake he is basically James P in sheep’s clothing, and Michael Reynolds, Steven Taylor, Doug M, James J, and others on this site if you would choose not to engage with trolls like James P or Guarneri, than you need to stop getting into a dialogue with Andy.

    This in unfair. He is on topic, has a point of view, and tries to defend his position.

    That isn’t being a troll.

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  83. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Thank you.

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  84. More thoughts here.

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  85. mattbernius says:

    Just backing up what @Steven L. Taylor wrote. Andy isn’t and has never been a troll. Or if we are expanding the definition of troll to include him, then people here should stop claiming they want smart center/right people to offer contrarian opinions.

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  86. steve says:

    Andy is definitely not a troll. He will actually present evidence for what he writes and that evidence does not consists of citing lies by Trump or Breitbart. You won’t find him engaging in conspiracy theory, from the right or left. I dont always agree with him but always respect his opinions. If all you want is to engage with people whose analysis starts and ends with Trump sucks, then dont engage with him.

    Steve

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  87. Andy says:

    @NW-Steve:

    Words and perceptions, entirely separate from actions, really do play a role in the evolution of human affairs.

    It isn’t a question of treating the words as more important than the actions. What lots of us are having a hard time with is your thesis that the words are of no consequence, and that we’re all being a little hysterical to pay attention to them.

    Of course, words play a role. I’ve never said that words have no consequences. My objection is to treating everything equally. Not all statements are equal in terms of effects and, in geopolitics, actual actions usually are much more important than words. Several people in this thread have wrongly stated that I want to “ignore” what Trump says. No, I want to discrimate between what is important, what is less important, and what is trivial.

    As I noted in a previous response in this thread:

    “Note that I’m not saying we should ignore what politicians say completely, only that we can evaluate and prioritize the importance of what they say and respond appropriately.”

    Currently, we collectively seem to be treating everything as important. But as the old adage goes, if you try to make everything important you end up making nothing important.

    People are arguing that we have to take everything Trump says seriously because it might be true. But experience shows that is not the case and trying to make everything important means that nothing is. The result is that critical issues that need to be addressed get drowned out by the barrage of reporting and “analysis” on the Trump outrage du jour. We all have a limit to what we can read and pay attention to. And, for me personally at least, I have to spend a lot of time sifting through the barrage of outrage red meat reporting to find the stuff that matters most.

    I think it is entirely possible to look at Trump’s statements and actions and determine how important they are in relative terms. Those arguing against me seem to be saying, essentially, that is impossible, that we can’t determine relative importance, so we have to keep on treating everything Trump says or does with the same crisis level response and pushback. I don’t agree.

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    As always, thank you.

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  88. de stijl says:

    Do not let the voters off the hook.

    They are as childish as Trump.

    Moreso, they willingly voted for a demonstrably stupid and horrible excuse for a human being who was exceedingly unfit for the office.

    They did it on purpose. Chosen action.

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  89. de stijl says:

    This discussion of Andy and that contrarian role makes me like this place more.

    We need more Andy’s.

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  90. de stijl says:

    47+% of us voted for the obviously unfit aggressive moron.

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  91. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @inhumans99: I for one dont think Andy is a troll at all. I consider his commentary one of the insightful on this sight in terms of giving the audience a view into how professionals in the national security complex actually parse and process geopolitical problem sets. I also have experience in this community and his rationales are not outside the pail of how people that pay the mortgage doing this type of work approach it. Id place him slightly right of center in this community and judge him to be a good faith actor despite being slightly left of center myself. Our personal experiences have say in what conclusions we come to after evaluating facts and data. James P was a person that read a bunch of material and thought he was and expert. When you work in national security…it becomes clear fairly soon that media coverage of any event is as good as 90% spot on and as poor as 50% accurate. Intellegent people have to leave room to acknowledge there may be additional information that may not necessarily change their minds but inform how they feel about the situation and how they think about going forward.

    Andy is an asset to OTB

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  92. de stijl says:

    @Kingdaddy:

    Yippee kai yay, motherfucker.

    Not a Christmas movie, do not let the fanbois / grrls tell you different. An action movie set during the Christmas season does not make it a Christmas movie.

    Decent genre action movie stealing lots from Schwartzenneger forerunners. Not a an Xmas movie.

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  93. Lounsbury says:

    @Andy:

    What is the point? It’s not hurting Trump. It swamps the public with a constant barrage of outrages that they just tune out. They don’t know when something actually serious comes along (the cry wolf syndrome) because they’ve been swamped with inanities. Continuing on this path after four years into an election year seems to be the proverbial definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

    Although unpopular as one can tell from the downvotes, but I think you are right.

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  94. Kathy says:

    On the Iran front, the accidental shoot down of the Ukrainian passenger airplane has turned into a nightmare for the regime. The Guardian reports massive protests, and rather violent suppression of them.

    It’s understandable. Most of those killed were Iranians or of Iranian heritage. Essentially the regime attacked its own people, and there is no way to persuasively blame someone else, not even Trump.

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