What he wanted:
My personal relationship with Kim reduced the nuclear threat from North Korea.
Pulling out of the Iran deal and my maximum pressure campaign forced Iran to negotiate a better deal and reduced their malign activities in the Middle East.
New trade deals, especially with China, produced great results.
- North Korea has the credibility of summits with America, is less isolated and just as close to a nuclear-armed missile that can reach America as it would have been without Trump’s bromance with Kim.
- Iran is more dangerous and more influential in the Middle East, and America has been backed into a corner all alone, without the backing of our traditional allies, possibly on the brink of war.
- The trade deals have produced minimal results.
Trump often brags that he is a counterpuncher, and I agree with him. But think about that for a moment. It means that our president is reactive, not proactive. It means that long-term goals and consequences fall victim to short-term, knee-jerk responses. Counterpunching, being primarily reactive, can’t produce worse results than it does in foreign policy. Combine all of that with Trump’s impulsivity, insatiable hunger for attention-grabbing histrionics, his proclivity to take everything personally, his utter contempt for our intelligence community and his hollowing out of the State Department. The result is that our national security is compromised with a real and imminent potential for all-out war.
This is most obvious in the current crisis in Iraq. Trump’s responses to Iranian aggression have been erratic. There were no consequences to the bombing of the Saudi oil field, the downing of our drone or the attacks on oil tankers. This, plus his craven abandonment of the Kurds by pulling out U.S. forces as demanded by Erdogan, sent the message that Iran can behave without consequences, so they upped the ante by having their proxies bomb installations in Iraq with U.S. forces, killing an American contractor. Trump responded exactly as Iran hoped he would. He bombed Iraqi targets as well as Syrian ones. The result? A week ago, Iraqis were protesting against Iran. Today, America is the target. The Iranian proxies left the embassy area as part of a deal that the Iraqi parliament would debate the continued presence of American troops in Iraq at the exact time ISIS is reconstituting itself in parts of Iraq. And the reactive, erratic Trump response — counterpunching substituting for strategic planning and thoughtful diplomacy — has resulted in a tit-for-tat escalation of hostilities.
According to David Ignatius, “It’s as though the Middle East has played a cruel joke on Trump. The president who wanted so badly to escape the region that he abandoned a low-cost, high-success mission in northeast Syria is now stumbling into a hugely expensive adventure against Iran. He has lurched from one ill-considered policy to the next, goaded by advisers for whom Iran seems more an obsession than a strategic target.”
What will Trump do if the Iraqi parliament tells us to leave? What will he do in response to more provocations from Iran? He is in the ironic position of sending in more troops into a potential quagmire after loudly promising to bring the troops home from fighting endless wars and after removing troops from an area where a very small number (400?) made a huge difference. And what’s the alternative? All-out war with Iran? Do we have a long-term strategy? Where will this end?
The original sin in Iraq was the GWB/Cheney/Rumsfeld unilateral invasion under the pretext of 9/11. North Korea has been a thorn in the side of every administration since Truman. I don’t have any answers for either situation. In both cases, there are certainly no easy answers, as Trump is coming to learn. At least I pray he is learning. What I do know is that we need an A-team at State, the NSC and in our intelligence community. Trump’s A-team was any other administration’s C-team and now we are down to the Trump D-team. He has hollowed out our diplomatic corps and maligned our intelligence community. We need a change. Come November, I hope we get one. And, YES — It was better and we were safer under Obama!