Category Archives: Foreign Policy

Careening down the road to self-destruction

President Trump went one step further than I predicted in my last blog post, although I’m not feeling any satisfaction for calling Trump’s course of action correctly.  All I feel is increasing concern for America’s future.

Instead of just a victory lap interview, Trump opted for going big, where he went to Toledo, OH last night for a rousing victory lap rally.  He hurled out insults, taunts, plenty of dishonest statements all to a wildly cheering crowd.  He worked hard to ramp up rage against Democrats, while wrapping himself in the American flag.

What he did not do is treat this serious foreign policy crisis seriously.  For Trump it was all about him and how great he handled it, acting as if this one skirmish with Iran means he won.  He also did not buckle down and start personally preparing for the many challenges to come in dealing with Iran and other foreign policy crises that will assuredly follow this change in US policy toward deterrence.

This Trump victory lap rally was an appalling spectacle of poor judgment, venality, lack of seriousness and the same old Trump Reality Show presidency.  The main thing, I believe, galvanizing much of Trump’s support is the Democrats’ alarming Trump derangement spin antics.  Yesterday news broke that the Ukrainian airliner crash, just hours after the Iranian missile strikes against US forces in Iraq, was caused by an Iranian missile attack.   Dems began ramping up a spin effort shifting blame for this very likely major Iranian error by Iran, to blaming Trump.  Here are the Dem spin messaging efforts, which I retweeted with comments:

The two words these Dem spin attacks corrupted were “crossfire” and “collateral damage” absolving Iran from responsibility for their missile taking down a commercial airliner, killing all 176 people on board.  That plane took off from the airport in Tehran, where Iran has total control over that airspace, failed to halt commercial flights and then likely mistakenly shot down a commercial airliner.  There was no “crossfire,” since only Iran was launching missile strikes that night and the “collateral damage,” was caused by Iran firing that missile at a commercial airliner that they allowed to take off from the airport in Tehran.

Interestingly, some liberal journalists and Dem mouthpieces realized this spin attack against Trump was making them look like Iranian propagandists, so they tried to quell this Dem spin attack from amplifying even more. Chuck Todd changed course quickly, as did Michael McFaul, former Obama ambassador to Russia, who has a very active Twitter spin presence, plus I noticed many other Dem spin mouthpieces on Twitter work to try to stop their own Dem spin attack.

It was a disturbing American spin cycle to watch last night, with the Dem spin attack trying to shift blame for Iran’s missile strike to Trump (America) and Trump taking to the stage in Toledo, OH to do an appalling, saber-rattling, dishonest,victory lap rally.  Trump reverted back to form – lying, recklessly disregarding facts and blurring details, but the overarching theme was to incite his followers to hating Democrats and hurling out streams of ad hominem attacks.  Trump leaves all the heavy-lifting duties of his presidency to other people, while he wallows in his trash reality show antics.

Both parties continue to hurl America to a state of being seething, mindless mobs or raging partisans led by shallow, corrupt charlatans.  Even worse, most of the media in America behave even more dishonestly and corruptly than the partisan politicians and operatives, who orchestrates this endless scorched earth spin war.

America continues to careen down this road to self-destruction, with no leaders stepping forward to press on the brakes.  Just full SPIN ahead, 24/7.

 

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Filed under Foreign Policy, General Interest, Information War, Politics

A quick Trump score card on the Iran crisis

American foreign policy decisions about America’s role in the world, especially in the Middle East, always remain deeply controversial and hotly debated.  My first interest in foreign policy began at the tail end of the Vietnam War, when I was probably around 11 or 12 and started trying to understand politics.  It’s funny that one of my most vivid memories is watching TV with my paternal great-grandmother, who despised Richard Nixon (and Republicans) and spewed anti-Semitic aspersions whenever Henry Kissinger was mentioned on the news.

As things go in families, my mother was a staunch Republican.  My great-grandmother also loathed my mother even more than she hated Nixon and Jewish people and we lived in the same house.  My mother insisted we care for our ailing great-grandmother each and every day, talk to her respectfully, and my mother did her best to make sure my great-grandmother was properly cared for as her health declined.  My mother never argued with my great-grandmother, no matter how many mean or spiteful things my great-grandmother said and did.

Besides being a Republican, my mother grew up in a neighboring county in northeast PA and my mother told us, the people where my father grew up didn’t like the people where she grew up.  She said they called them Pine Swampers, if you can believe it.  My mother was hated by my great-grandmother for being a Pine Swamper… seriously.

That’s the thing we all have to keep in mind when arguing about politics and foreign policy.  First and foremost, while it’s easy to look at the world with a tribal mind-set, dividing every issue into an Us vs. Them equation, the truth is the world is filled with people – we are all people.  If Americans lose sight of that in our politics and allow ourselves to become rabid partisan animals, then all the virtuous “American values” we claim to be fighting to uphold, will be lost.

Last night when Iran launched some missiles into Iraq and for several hours tensions ran very high, it sure looked to me that America’s already unhinged scorched earth spin war got hit with a massive waft of hostile foreign propaganda messaging.  Twitter turned into an even crazier disinformation and misinformation zone than usual.

President Trump responded today with a careful speech that sounded Reaganesque in tones of deterrence and urging Iran to engage in diplomacy.  It was a pitch perfect speech, I think.

While I firmly support a policy of deterrence and believe President Trump handled this situation appropriately, it always comes back to Donald J. Trump is no Ronald Reagan.  People knew where Reagan stood on politics, especially foreign policy, because he’d consistently articulated where he stood and people, both friends and foes, knew it.  With Donald J. Trump, he’s a complete mishmash of conflicting opinions that often compete in the same word salad sentence.  He’s a man who thrives on being the star of the show, not on setting his ego aside for the good of the team – whether that team is his own national security team, the Republican Party, or the American people.

It was a welcome sign to hear President Trump deliver a speech moving American foreign policy back toward deterrence being a anchor.

However, I felt anything but reassured, after the first moments of genuine relief.  I don’t know if he’ll stick with this, go rogue embracing some other bizarre crap he hears on cable TV, or if he will start lashing out at the sure to follow diplomatic and likely military challenges that will assuredly follow.

Instead of buckling down and working closely with his foreign policy team to develop comprehensive plans, develop an organized, professional White House press operation, beyond his personal Twitter account, or start working to rebuild relations with America’s allies, which are in tatters due to his own reckless disregard for America’s need for friends in the world, I saw on Twitter, that President Trump will be doing an interview with Laura Ingraham, likely a victory lap for Trump to brag and and pat himself on the back.

My gut reaction was Trump’s speech was just an act and his Twitter Trump petty attacks and reality TV show presidency is the real Trump.  All you’ve got in life as a leader is your credibility and Trump’s own one-man show spin circus presidency has greatly damaged Trump’s credibility.  His misguided attacks on America’s allies, while sucking up to America’s enemies in hopes of striking some big deal, has fed Dems and mainstream media endless spin ammo, but even worse than that, he’s burned bridges with America’s friends, while getting nothing in return for sucking up to Putin and Kim Jong Un.

The initial Israeli reaction after Trump’s careless tweet threat about 52 targets and Iran culture sites, seemed hesitant.  I wondered if the Israelis were worrying they might get Twitter Trump handling this Iranian crisis rather than a serious American president.  Once Trump walked back his attacking Iranian cultural sites threat and delivered a serious, calm, professional speech articulating a clear policy, Israel got publicly on board.

America deserves the calm, professional President Trump every day, not just in a crisis.

Trump’s failure to understand the self-inflicted damage he does to himself by feeding his political enemies endless spin ammo, which they beat him with 24/7 boggles my mind.

Even among many Americans who support his policies and his handling of this crisis, there are still doubts about whether Trump can be trusted.

All is not lost, Trump can still begin the process of building trust and rebuilding relations with our allies, but first he needs to realize his own mistakes.

For America’s sake, I hope he does.

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Filed under Foreign Policy, General Interest, Politics

Trump gives “conventional wisdom” the boot

In the wake of the news that President Trump had authorized a military strike to kill Qassem Suleimani, the commander of the Iranian Quds Force, I had high hopes that a new American strategy would emerge and perhaps it might, but… President Trump’s thin-skinned outbursts will assure the every step of the way for U.S. diplomats, military commanders and political supporters ends up mired in endless, Trump-inflicted controversies, that were completely avoidable.

I spent the weekend tweeting support for President Trump’s decision to authorize the military strike, but just like with his digging in insisting his call with President Zelensky of Ukraine was a “perfect call,” Trump on Saturday tweeted:

The media leaped on attacking Trump’s mention of Iranian cultural targets as threatening to commit war crimes and it descended into an all-out spin attack against Trump from Dems, mainstream media, and even Iranian officials, playing for international sympathy and support.

All of this could have been avoided if Trump had been more careful about the words he speaks… and tweets.

Instead, on Sunday Trump went on a diatribe – doubling down on his threat to target cultural sites in Iran.  He even went a step further and threatened to impose heavy sanctions on Iraq, if they kick the U.S military out of Iraq.

It sometimes seems like Trump believes his only adversary is the mainstream media in America.  I believe it stems from his anger over the media turning on him in 2016, after months of giving him endless free media to wreak havoc on the GOP primary.  The media turning on him seems to have enraged him to the point that getting even with them is the thing that drives him more than any of his presidential duties and responsibilities.

Trump could have just walked back that Iranian culture comment and selected a less inflammatory choice of words.  Or really he could have just said, “We will follow the law.”

Instead, he chose to lash out.

The mainstream media and Dem hypocrisy will aid Trump, of course, and most Republicans will stick with him too, but his fragile ego over criticism and unwillingness to ever admit to a mistake will assure every step of the way will be much harder, because of his doubling down on a poor choice of words.

For America’s sake, a new approach to dealing with Iranian terror is welcome and long overdue.  Stepping away from the carved in stone “conventional wisdom” also seemed like a breath of fresh air, because for decades, “fear of all-out war with Iran” or “igniting a larger regional war” held American foreign policy thinkers trapped into accepting a self-imposed helplessness.  Trump’s saying no more to taking Iranian aggression as our only option, has created an opportunity to finally check Iran’s reign of terror.  Whether Trump can curb his most self-destructive impulses to follow through and capitalize on this opportunity remains to be seen.   Even if he fails, at least, he threw a wrench into buying into decades of fear-mongering masquerading as sacred “conventional wisdom.”

Too often foreign policy and military strategists become trapped by fear-induced “catastrophic thinking,” that they begin to believe adversaries are omnipotent or any forceful action might precipitate a crisis that propels us into a nightmare scenario that we can’t control.  Of course, catastrophic outcomes aren’t impossible, but neither are they inevitable.  The death toll and carnage from decades of unchecked Iranian terrorist activities has been a very heavy price to pay, all because “conventional wisdom” fearfully warned us we are powerless to do anything forceful to stop it.

We should not let fear control our destiny.

 

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Filed under Foreign Policy, General Interest, Politics, Terrorism

Latest Impeachment Spin Theater Takes

I think most people who write about American politics, professionally, or as amateur bloggers, like myself, have devoted way more hours to President Donald J. Trump than he deserves, but even more importantly than is healthy for ourselves or the body politic.

When Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, began releasing transcripts of the private hearings, I started reading them.  I did not get through all of them, but I did watch all of this past week’s open hearings.  With this Trump impeachment push, Trump’s call to the Ukraine president, using his own call record, sounded totally inappropriate to me.  I started out leaning toward supporting impeachment.   After this past week’s open hearings, I went from thinking he should be impeached and removed, to less inclined to think that will do a single thing to uphold our democratic institutions or get America one step closer to bolstering our constitutional system

Watching these hearings led me to be more convinced this was another orchestrated Dem smear/spin operation more than a serious process run out of concern about preserving our democracy or upholding The Constitution.  Funny thing, about watching the Dem political/spin machinations play out in public hearings and with the media pushed me further away from supporting impeachment than supporting it.  I was also sick to death of much of the Republican spin antics, especially Jim Jordan’s fast-talking questioning, where I couldn’t even make logical sense out of his questioning, his summations of the answers and most certainly not his hyped up Trump cheerleading in media appearances.   His pro-Trump spin was as exhausting as Swalwell and Schiff’s  anti-Trump spin.

Trump’s spin attacks, trying to disrupt and hijack the hearings, should have been anticipated by Schiff and Dems, but instead of ignoring him, Schiff played right into Trump’s hands by reading Trump’s live-tweets right into the hearing process and allowing Trump to participate, only when it fed the Dem spin narrative.  Schiff should have allowed Trump to have lawyers present and Republicans to call witnesses, but he refused that.  Instead, Schiff decided to play the spin angel by feeding Trump’s live tweets into the hearing.  Watching the amount of tweeting and fixation on fighting the spin war by House Intelligence Committee members, even during these hearings, drove home the point that this was a political spin production more than a serious, grave constitutional undertaking.

As to the witnesses, I wrote a blog post on Kent, Taylor and Yovanovitch, so here are the other ones who stuck out – Gordon Sondland, ambassador to the EU, LTC Alexander Vindman, David Holmes and the latest mainstream media feminist icon, Dr. Fiona Hill, The Non-Partisan.

LTC Vindman did not answer who the intelligence person was he told about the Trump-Zelensky phone call.  Schiff interrupted Republicans questions and asserted the “whistleblower” must be protected, even though Schiff stated on national TV during these hearings that he doesn’t know who the “whistleblower” is.  Vindman also testified under oath that he doesn’t know who the “whistleblower” is, even though the accounts the “whistlebower” wrote about in his-her complaint are these very witnesses’ stories.  These witnesses stories make up the “whistleblower complaint.”   Dems kept pointing out how detailed and accurate the “whistleblower’s” accounts are and how closely these witnesses stories match those accounts.  Dems say that the witnesses corroborate the “whistleblower’s account”…  NO the witnesses, who directly talked to the “whistleblower” aren’t corroborating, they are the SOURCES of the complaint.  Each witness who talked to the “whistleblower” was a SOURCE of the complaint – not corroborating anything.  Without these witnesses’ stories there is nothing to corroborate with the “whistleblower”.  It’s a logical fallacy the Dems have carefully packaged and sold here.  To corroborate something implies there are separate bits of information or evidence that are bolstering a statement.  These witnesses very accounts make up the sum total of the “whistleblower complaint”.  Minus the witnesses’ stories, there is nothing to bolster.

Gordon Sondland is a wealthy businessman, big Trump donor, who secured an ambassadorship for his support.  In his opening statement he turned on Trump and gave Dems what appeared to be a slam dunk win.  However, in the afternoon, when Republicans started questioning him aggressively, he walked back most of that opening statement.  Dems and Republicans latched onto the parts of Gordon Sondland’s testimony that fed their spin, but it seemed to me that Sondland was a incredible dissembler and wanted to escape this hearing with the least amount of damage to himself.  He was not a credible witness and in many ways like Trump – a person who will say anything to benefit himself.

David Holmes was the aide of Bill Taylor, whom Taylor testified told him about a phone call he overheard between Gordon Sondland and President Trump.  Holmes claimed Trump talked loud and Sondland held the phone away from his ear, so Holmes clearly heard Trump talking.  I did not find Holmes story very credible as to being the exact conversation, but then again often recounting only parts of an overheard conversation can lead to large distortions about what the conversation was really all about.

The mainstream media has gone into raptures about Dr. Fiona Hill, The Non-Partisan, Russia expert, foreign policy guru, latest feminist icon of the Left.  Hill began her testimony with an opening statement berating “GOP conspiracy theories” that are promoting “Russian conspiracy theories” by asserting Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election.  This spin that the GOP is promoting Russian conspiracy theories spin line is straight Dem spin that’s being massively spun-up in the mainstream media.  Trump does promote some odd Crowdstrike/server conspiracy theory (which might be a Russian conspiracy theory), for which I’ve seen no open source reporting that bolsters, but there were numerous reports in mainstream media about Ukraine interference in our 2016 election.  The Ukraine meddling was nothing close to the vast scale of the Russian disinformation efforts, but the Ukraine effort did lead to Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, resigning and later to his prosecution for money-related crimes – connected to his dealing in… Ukraine:

Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump backfire

Kiev officials are scrambling to make amends with the president-elect after quietly working to boost Clinton.

Of course, now that Ukraine interference and Russian interference have been conflated to binary choices, the Dem spin tsunami insists only Russian interference occurred and to assert Ukraine also interfered is promoting Russian disinformation.  The truth is many countries interfered in our 2016 election, just like the U.S. interferes in other countries’ elections.

Once Hill dumped that Dem spin bomb in her opening statement, the Fiona Hill, The Non-Partisan aura evaporated for me.  Another amazing Hill revelation was when she related how she read the Steele dossier the day before Buzzfeed published it, when Strobe Talbott showed it to her.  Talbott is a long-time Clinton crony.  He was president of the Brookings Institution, a left-leaning think tank, where Hill was working at the time.  Talbott also is the brother-in-law of Cody Shearer, the author of the second “dossier” about Trump-Russian collusion in 2016.  Hill is very smart and seemed very politically astute, so I kept wondering why on earth she volunteered this information about Strobe Talbott showing her the Steele dossier the day before it was leaked by Buzzfeed.  I wondered if she volunteered that as a CYA move to protect her “credibility as The Non-Partisan”, with nothing to hide.  Talbott’s name was mentioned in a defamation lawsuit against Steele filed by Alfa Bank, where Steele disclosed reporters and people to whom he gave copies of the dossier.  Hill blithely dismissed Steele’s dossier as likely Russian disinformation in her testimony.  Hill struck me as trying to play this elaborate charade in her testimony, throwing out  bits to bolster her “non-partisan” bona fides, while lobbing the Dem spin hits and seeming to struggle to mask her contempt for the Republicans on the committee.  It was an odd performance, but the Dems and mainstream media consider her performance mesmerizing.

Hill was also asked about Kenneth Vogel, who wrote the Politico article on Ukraine interference in 2016, referenced above,  and Hill had nothing but glowing accolades for Kenneth Vogel’s journalistic credentials…

Trump definitely was offering a quid pro quo in the phone call with President Zelensky.  It certainly was totally inappropriate, but I want more information on Biden’s dealings in Ukraine and his son’s dealings with Burisma.  Biden bragged about his effort to pressure Ukraine to fire a prosecutor, who had opened an investigation into Burisma corruption,  Media accounts offer up conflicting accounts and conflicting timelines, so more facts need to be ironed out here.  For me, watching Joe Biden’s recounting of how he pressured Ukraine to fire that prosecutor sounds worse than what Trump did in the “strong-arming a foreign country desperately in need of American aid” department.  Of course, the mainstream media and many of these non-partisan career professionals, who testified this week, assert that prosecutor was a corrupt prosecutor.  The other interesting disparity is with the aid Biden was threatening to withhold, none of these “non-partisan” witnesses are upset about that and they dutifully repeated that Ukrainian prosecutor was corrupt, but Trump’s short hold on aid to Ukraine, well, that  resulted in “Ukrainians dying” while that aid was withheld…  With Biden and the Obama foreign aid, it didn’t even include military aid, so assuredly Ukrainians were dying then too – probably lots of them, but Biden’s threat to withhold aid didn’t even raise a murmur or moment of angst among these “non-partisan” career professionals.   Here’s a link to a video of Biden explaining his Ukraine aid dealings:

https://www.wsj.com/video/opinion-joe-biden-forced-ukraine-to-fire-prosecutor-for-aid-money/C1C51BB8-3988-4070-869F-CAD3CA0E81D8.html

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Filed under Corrupt Media Collusion, Foreign Policy, General Interest, Politics, Trump Impeachment Saga

Week Two of the Impeachment Drama Begins

As week two of the public impeachment hearings begin, here’s my impressions of last week’s hearings and the testimony of the three witnesses, career diplomats, George Kent, Bill Taylor and Marie Yovanovitch.

The hearings remind me of the Benghazi hearings and many of the other high-profile hearings during the Obama administration, where the majority side in power tries to present the hearing as a dignified process, while the minority side devotes its energy to delegitimizing the hearing as … yep, a “witch hunt.”  Although Republicans latched onto casting this as a “coup” too, but nevertheless, every effort goes into discrediting the proceeding as, to use Senator Lindsey Graham’s spin word of choice – a “sham.”    The hyper-partisan antics came as no surprise, the personal animus between Schiff and Nunes though seems off-the-charts, making it obvious these two leaders in this committee are more dedicated to trying to destroy each other than they are to doing the nation’s business.

George Kent’s testimony came across as a seasoned career diplomat, offering excellent foreign policy analysis.  He acted reticent to give more than the most cursory explanation when asked about Hunter Biden’s cushy Burisma deal and Vice President Biden demanding Ukraine fire a prosecutor, who had opened corruption investigations into several Ukrainian companies, including Burisma  (but I’m still not clear on the Biden family- Ukraine dealings timeline of events).  Kent reported the perceived Biden conflict of interest, end of explanation.  Kent didn’t add any first-hand evidence or knowledge going toward proving the charge of bribery against President Trump.

Bill Taylor came across, just as I expected from reading his testimony from the private hearing.  He came across as a serious, straight-shooter on following proper procedures and sticking to the rule book.  He offered only second-hand accounts of the president’s phone call and the meetings and events swirling about Trump’s call with the new president of Ukraine, President Zelensky.  What struck me as odd and inexplicable is Taylor testified that he met with aides to President Zelensky twice to urge them to stop Zelensky from making a public announcement, as requested/demanded (depending on your partisan viewpoint) by President Trump.  Trump wanted Zelensky to announce Ukraine was opening investigations into, I think, the Bidens was the main issue for Trump.

Taylor described hearing through the rumor mill that Zelensky was planning to make the announcement to the media, per Trump’s request/demand, on a trip to the UN.  Taylor’s actions seem odd to me.  Why did he feel like he had to stop Zelensky from making that announcement and how did a straight-shooter, by-the-book diplomat square directly undermining the POTUS?   Did Taylor, also through the rumor mill, know about an effort to report Trump’s quid pro quo phone call to Congress was afoot?  Did Taylor discuss meeting with Zelensky with other people within the embassy in Ukraine, the State Department or other US government channels?  Obviously, there were a lot of discussions within the US embassy in Ukraine and State/Intel channels going on about Trump’s phone call and the military aid.

Taylor offered another witness, his aide who had told him about a conversation he overheard of Ambassador Sondland talking to President Trump, so Taylor feeling compelled to stop Zelensky from announcing investigations without talking to other people seems improbable to me.  It just sounds like there was a group effort going on to stop Trump’s request from being carried out.

The other odd part about this to me, is neither Kent nor Taylor felt morally compelled to contact Congress themselves and report it, instead the “collective concerns” of some of the professional foreign policy people were encapsulated in an orchestrated “whistleblower complaint” that sounds like it was written by a team of sharp Dem lawyers and then pushed to the IG.  I wondered if Kent and Taylor were aware there was a complaint and plan being worked out to voice concerns.

Ambassador Yovanovitch was a poised, impressive witness on the professionalism of the Foreign Service, but she did not add a thing to proving Trump committed bribery.  And yet, what happened to her with the Giuliani whispering campaign among Ukraine officials to undermine her ability to do her job and then the media smear campaign against her in the US media, to my mind is way worse (even if not “criminal”) than Trump asking Zelensky to open investigations into 2016 corruption, Burisma, Bidens, Crowdstrike and some server.

Listening to Yovanovitch testify how she was being told to watch her back and hearing murmurings about Giuliani’s meetings in Ukraine and watching the media smear campaign on social media and Fox News unfold, she didn’t really know for sure what was going on, but she knew it was something unsettling.  Perhaps, I feel so outraged about Yovanovitch, because I’ve been in a very similar situation.  When Yovanovitch stated she could never have imagined what happened to her, I knew exactly how she felt.  She felt alarmed, scared and powerless.  Feeling yourself the target of an attack coming from the White House is terrifying, especially when you know you’re being attacked, yet have no means to prove any of it or defend yourself.

Despite the witnesses having no first-hand evidence and my suspicions that how the whistleblower complaint came about was orchestrated with former Obama intel peeps and some Congressional Dems, Trump’s own phone call record shows a quid pro quo and by Trump asking for an investigation into the Bidens added with president of Zelensky assuring Trump he’s on board with trying to meet Trump’s conditions for the quid pro quo, the quid pro quo seems irrefutable:

President Zelenskyy: Yes it is very important for me and everything that you just mentioned earlier. For me as a President, it is very important and we are open for any future cooperation. We are ready to open a new page on cooperation in relations between the United States and Ukraine. For that purpose, I just recalled our ambassador from United States and he will be replaced by a very competent and very experienced ambassador who will work hard on making sure that our two nations are getting closer. I would also like and hope to see him having your trust and your confidence and have personal relations with you so we can cooperate even more so. I will personally tell you that one of my assistants spoke with Mr. Giuliani just recently and we are hoping very much that Mr. Giuliani will be able to travel to Ukraine and we will meet once he comes to Ukraine. I just wanted to assure you once again that you have nobody but friends around us. I will make sure that I surround myself with the best and most experienced people. I also wanted to tell you that we are friends. We are great friends and you Mr. President have friends in our country so we can continue our strategic partnership. I also plan to surround myself with great people and in addition to that investigation, I guarantee as the President of Ukraine that all the investigations will be done openly and candidly.. That I can assure you.

https://www.cnn.com/2019/09/25/politics/donald-trump-ukraine-transcript-call/index.html

What Zelensky says in the beginning of this call speaks volumes more than anything Trump says.  Zelensky acknowledges his assistants met with Giuliani and understands the deal.  That Zelensky believes Giuliani is the go-to guy for this U.S. foreign aid deal speaks to how Trump corrupted the entire process.  It’s one thing for a president to send a personal envoy, it’s another thing for the president to send his personal attorney.  Giuliani represents his actions as he was working in the capacity as Trump’s personal attorney  and that speaks to the corrupt melding of Trump’s personal and official actions in a way that undermined the U.S. embassy in Ukraine and also Trump’s own official foreign policy, as understood by the Trump State Department.

One of the main things Trump supporters revere about Trump is their belief that Trump is “a fighter” and ergo Trump, unlike other Republican leaders will “drain the swamp” in Washington.  They see Trump as a superhero who will finally slay corrupt Dems and push back against the unchecked advances of the liberal culture war.  By giving Trump superhero status, in the process, they’ve bestowed on Trump a cape of infallibility and given him a sword of unaccountability.  Trump’s spinners among the media punditry touted “Trump doesn’t play by rules!”   In reality our elected leaders should not only play by the rules, they should be exemplars, uphold the highest standards and serve as role models.  Somehow, Trump has totally corrupted his followers moral compass, as they twist themselves in knots to excuse more and more egregious and inexcusable behavior.

Also in this call and not part of the impeachment debate is an exchange that speaks to Trump’s total moral unfitness to be President of the United States more than any sort of impeachment crime and until Americans regain some sense of a common moral code again, Americans will end up with more and more immoral and thoroughly corrupt elected officials, on both sides of the political aisle.  Here’s the exchange:

President Zelenskyy: I wanted to tell you about the prosecutor. First of all, I understand and I’m knowledgeable about the situation. Since we have won the absolute majority in our Parliament, the next prosecutor general will be 100% my person, my candidate, who will be approved, by the parliament and will start as a new prosecutor in September. He or she will look into the situation, specifically to the company that you mentioned in this issue. The issue of the investigation of the case is actually the issue of making sure to restore the honesty so we will take care of that and will work on the investigation of the case. On top of that, I would kindly ask you if you have any additional information that you can provide to us, it would be very helpful for the investigation to make sure that we administer justice in our country with regard to the Ambassador to the United States from Ukraine as far as I recall her name was Ivanovich. It was great that you were the first one who told me that she was a bad ambassador because I agree with you 100%. Her attitude towards me was far from the best as she admired the previous President and she was on his side. She would not accept me as a new President well enough.
The President: Well, she’s going to go through some things. I will have Mr. Giuliani give you a call and I am also going to have Attorney General Barr call and we will get to the bottom of it. I’m sure you will figure it out. I heard the prosecutor was treated very badly and he was a very fair prosecutor so good luck with everything. Your economy is going to get better and better I predict. You have a lot of assets. It’s a great country. I have many Ukrainian friends, their incredible people.
The new president of Ukraine is trying to assure Trump that he will work hard to meet the demands Giuliani laid out.  It’s also obvious this foreign president felt free to trash the former US ambassador, whom Giuliani orchestrated a whispering campaign against among Ukrainian officials.  It’s breathtakingly appalling that any American president would send his personal attorney to orchestrate a whispering campaign among foreign officials  against the US ambassador in that very country.   But that’s what happened.  Trump’s response:  “Well, she’s going to go through some things. I will have Mr. Giuliani give you a call and I am also going to have Attorney General Barr call and we will get to the bottom of it.” speaks to an American leader playing his own team against each other in a foreign country.  I stick to my original assessment that Trump is a serious threat to national security.
Trump managed to throw Yovanovitch’s Congressional hearing into disarray last week by tweeting the following during her testimony:

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go? Then fast forward to Ukraine, where the new Ukrainian President spoke unfavorably about her in my second phone call with him. It is a U.S. President’s absolute right to appoint ambassadors.

102K people are talking about this

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/trump-impeachment-inquiry/trump-tweeted-marie-yovanovitch-testified-was-it-witness-tampering-n1084176

Beyond the insanity of blaming a US ambassador for the demise of Somalia, he’s bragging about the Ukrainian president speaking badly of her (which was due to Trump’s own attorney’s whispering campaign against her).  Now, I do believe Trump’s “mean tweets” are witness intimidation efforts, despite the effort to dismiss Trump’s tweet antics as just “Trump being Trump” or harmless “mean tweets”.  I also realize my view is not a prevailing view.  Trump’s personal Twitter account highlights Trump’s shrewd way of always operating by his own rules, which are whatever he feels like doing.  He uses his personal Twitter account for personal tweets and for official presidential business and by doing so he maintains zero accountability for any official business carried out on that account.  If his official business carried out via tweets comes under fire, Trump and his minions dismiss it as Trump letting off steam, Trump expressing his opinion, Trump being Trump, but no one around Trump ever defends those outrageous tweets as “That is an official statement by the President of the United States.  If Trump issued most of these outrageous tweets on official letterhead, I doubt the reaction would be the same.

 

The larger part of assessing this impeachment effort rests on the scorched earth spin war, of course, because Washington politicians, on both sides, live and breathe polling.  The latest polls being hyped today, after the weekend’s non-stop spin hysterics seems to indicate Dems and the mainstream media are gaining a bit in their push for impeachment, but the momentum could still change with the growing slate of witnesses testifying this week.

The way spin cycles rise and fall so quickly, the problem for Dems is the American attention span won’t stay focused on a drawn out impeachment sideshow filled with endless hours of testimony.  Republicans’ dilemma will be finding ways to spin away the building array of witnesses backing the same chain of events and if Sondland and Volker revise their testimony this week.  The real lethal blow to Trump would be if Bolton and Mulvaney testified, but that seems highly unlikely.

The most likely outcome seems to be Trump will be impeached in the House and acquitted in the Senate.

 

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About vetting

In light of the latest media Trump outrage spin cycle about a WH staffer’s email on preparations for Trump’s visit to troops in Japan, I want to write a post on why I am not part of the John McCain hero worship club, even though I do respect his military service to our country.  It only feels right to warn you, this post also is about spin, sorry, it is, .

My negative opinion of John McCain deals with McCain the Washington politician, who wore his war hero mantle to deflect any criticism.  I don’t believe in any public servant being placed on a pedestal, beyond reproach.  Every public servant must be accountable and subject to criticism.  I don’t want to be in the Trump Defense Camp or the McCain Deification Camp

At present, my understanding is the WSJ wrote about a leaked email, which they have shared a copy publicly – minus the pertinent information, like who sent it, who received it, and who leaked it to them.  The email detailed a WH staffer requesting the Pentagon remove the USS McCain, stationed in Japan from Trump’s line of vision, when he visited the troops in Japan.  Trump claims he had no knowledge of the email, but he made an excuse for the staffer, along the lines that the staffer meant well.  The Pentagon’s responses indicated the request was not agreed to or carried out, but they opened an investigation.

Frankly, I am sick to death of these holier-than-thou McCain spin cycles – even his funeral was deliberately turned into a media Trump outrage spin cycle

JK, a frequent commenter on my blog since 2013, and I have been chatting back and forth in recent days in the comment section on my April blog post, A rambling blog post.  We’ve tossed a lot of links and ideas back and forth on the endless Trump-Russia Collusion mess and while I don’t want to repeat all our comments, in another post I’ll paste some pieces of those comments, but first I want to explain how JK found my blog in 2013 and how McCain news was part of how this came about.

I started this blog in December 2012, writing mostly about American politics and foreign policy matters, especially the Obama administration policies and spin narratives I disagreed with or actions I found corrupt.  In September 2013, the hot topic was whether the US should jump into the Syrian civil war and aid the Syrian rebel forces fighting to topple the Assad regime.

Often things in the news catch my attention, because the spin rams not only new, made-up phrases (often meaning the exact opposite of what the words mean) into the American lexicon, but also new faces.  In 2013, Elizabeth O’Bagy a young woman, whom I had never heard of, even though I follow American politics closely, became a household name.  She was on cable news, she was being quoted by top US officials, she was being pushed forward by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) as their trusted Syrian expert and she was part of a group, which escorted John McCain on a surprise “fact-finding” trip to Syria in the Spring of 2013.

Taking a step back to McCain’s surprise trip to Syria in the Spring of 2013,  from news reports, McCain relied on a Syrian resistance group, Syrian Emergency Task Force, to arrange and guide him on that trip.   A young woman, Elizabeth O’Bagy, was on that trip and also Evan McMullin.  After that trip, photos emerged, I think British press was where I first saw them, of McCain in Syria posing with people these reports claimed were ISIS fighters.  McCain vehemently denied that claim.  He was there with this Syrian Emergency Task Force though and that’s what bothers me.  Who were these people  he went on this trip with, who vetted them???

By the fall of 2013, and the relentless “arm the Syrian moderate” media spin drumbeat, I was disturbed by how American foreign policy was driven by orchestrated spin campaigns and I was disturbed that so many powerful Washington politicians cluelessly are led by the spin and “experts” touted by some think tanks.

As I saw John McCain and John Kerry citing O’Bagy as the Syrian expert and the WSJ ran an op-ed she wrote, while O’Bagy was making the cable TV rounds, I wondered, who on earth is this young woman and how did she become the de facto Syria expert, whom McCain and Kerry are trusting?  What about our own intelligence agencies  and military intelligence VETTED intel?  Why are they relying on this young woman, instead of our government intel products???  This all sounds so ironic in light of the cries about Trump not listening to our intel agencies, lol, but there you have it – at the highest levels of the Obama administration and in the Senate Armed Services Committee, they were relying on Elizabeth O’Bagy.

McCain and Kerry were trusting some woman pushed by the ISW and the ISW obviously hadn’t even done basic vetting on her… but there she was being touted as the trusted Syrian expert at the highest levels of our government.  Don’t take this as excusing Trump’s decision-making process where he doesn’t listen to vetted US intelligence, because Trump says he relies on his gut.  From what I can tell though, he is easily manipulated and listens to whatever FOX pundits are selling…

What in the hell is wrong with all of these people in Washington???

I did a few minutes of googling and realized that Dr. O’Bagy worked for the ISW as their Syria expert, but… she was also the political director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force.  I did not believe it was wise for the US State Department to be relying on a person who was the political director of a Syrian resistance advocacy group.  My blog is a backwoods spot on the internet, so I decided to write my concerns and questions about O’Bagy on a popular blog’s comment section.  Other reporters started looking into Dr. O’Bagy too.  Well, she wasn’t a Dr. is the first fact that hit me.  NO ONE VETTED HER – not the ISW, who was promoting her as a Syrian expert, not John Kerry, not John McCain, NO ONE.

JK and some other people came to my blog after I posted my comment about O’Bagy on another popular blog.

Some right-wing news sites online ran a lot of other information about O’Bagy and to this day, I still haven’t reconciled who on earth her connections inside Syria or the region were.  One report mentioned she used an alias and was the captain of a women’s soccer team in Egypt, another report claimed she signed an affidavit vouching for an accused American terrorist and so it went.

What I do know is that the ISW fired O’Bagy for lying on her resumé and less than a month later, John McCain hired her to work on his staff as a legislative assistant.  I wondered if she would get a security clearance and how on earth she would pass a background check after lying about her doctorate degree.   Even more than that, I wondered about John McCain’s judgment and integrity, where he would leap in to hire someone who had just been fired for lying on her resumé.

A lot of sensitive information passes through the office of the Senate Armed Services Chairman.  I also wondered about those photos of McCain that circulated from his fact-finding Syria trip and wondered if he had been set up by this SETF group in those photos, even though he declared they were faked.  It was all very bizarre.

This strikes me a lot like House Dems having the Awan brothers hired handling their IT stuff in Congress and Hillary having Huma Abedin, with her Muslim Brotherhood connected family as her closest aide and according to FBI Notes, the one Clinton aide said Abedin managed the SCIF in the Clintons home… She was Hillary’s close aide in the State Dept.  She was working for the State Dept and a Clinton-Foundation connected company at the same time during part of Hillary’s State Dept tenure and then she had tens of thousands of State Dept and Hillary emails saved on her laptop…  She even coordinated the Clinton server upgrade when Hillary became Sec. of State, but she told the FBI she learned about the server  in 2015, when the news broke about the server…

Back to McCain, sorry for venting about Hillary corruption again.  I never bought into the “Syrian Moderate” spin, because the Syrian rebels were Sunni resistance groups, many filled with jihadists and even more concerning, was even the more “moderate” resistance groups displayed a willingness to align with jihadist groups, as needed.  The effort that emerged to arm the “Syrian Moderate” forces was a debacle.  Media ran fawning stories selling the “Syrian Moderate” myth and the Obama administration and plenty of Republicans, especially John McCain, were all in on this arming “Syrian Moderates” idea, which the media spin pushed constantly, with stories like this Time story,The Frontman vs. al Qaeda: Meet Jamal Maarouf, the West’s best fighting chance against Syria’s Islamist armies.

Obama refused to commit US troops, but what emerged was an Obama policy to arm “vetted” Syrian moderate rebel groups.  The US military “vetted”,  trained and armed Maarouf and his group with TOW anti-tank missiles and immediately upon returning to the battle in Syria, Maarouf made a deal with ISIS and declared a truce...

In a McCain ringled public sideshow Senate hearing, McCain thundered on,  berating the US military over failing to arm “vetted” Syrian Moderate rebels at a fast enough rate.  McCain staged this sideshow hearing to berate the US military???   He worked to  create a media spin cycle making the US military look inept.  The truth was these Syrian rebel groups weren’t trustworthy and even the so-called “moderate” ones were willing to work with jihadists, when it suited their purposes.  At least the US military was trying to do due diligence to their mission of “vetting” supposed Syrian moderate rebel groups.  I have less confidence in the CIA’s vetting of Syrian rebel groups.  I also have zero patience with people who cite an annointed “expert” knows this person as “vetting”.  However, a McCain sideshow hearing berating a US general and a full-throated media spin cycle trashing the American military’s ineptitude followed, with plenty of Washington pols jumping in to attack the US military.

All of this was driven by a media-fueled SPIN effort.

Let’s move to the Trump/McCain feud and bizarre SPIN outrage cycles.  Trump has made many outrageous comments about McCain.  McCain in life, and even in death, seems to manage to become the center of media Trump outrage spin cycles.

In 2016, there was McCain on a trip being approached and fed info on the Steele dossier.  McCain’s friend flew to England, to meet personally with Steele and get a copy of the dossier.  The friend hand-carried that dossier to McCain and McCain personally delivered it to James Comey, in a private meeting.  No one to this day has verified that Steele dossier and I am not even sure what efforts the FBI, our intel agencies or the Mueller team went to to verify and corroborate the Steele dossier.  It looks to me like top Obama officials, (just like with the O’Bagy situation)  relied on the Steele dossier based on Christopher Steele and John McCain being recruited as a dossier courier by some Brit:

“The Republican senator was attending an annual security conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia shortly after the presidential election in November 2016 when retired a British diplomat approached him.

According to McCain, he didn’t recall ever having a previous conversation with Sir Andrew Wood, but may have met him before in passing. Chris Brose, a staff member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and David Kramer, a former assistant secretary of state with Russian expertise, joined McCain and Wood in a room off the main conference hall.

After discussing Russian election interference for a few minutes, Wood explained why he’d approached McCain in the first place.

“He told me he knew a former MI6 officer by the name of Christopher Steele, who had been commissioned to investigate connections between the Trump campaign and Russian agents as well as potentially compromising information about the President-elect that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin allegedly possessed,” McCain wrote.”

https://www.businessinsider.com/how-john-mccain-received-steele-dossier-trump-russia-2018-5

My gut instinct was that McCain was either compromised and a willing conduit, for what strikes me, as malignant foreign actors creating mischief or he was easily duped from years of being part of the inside Washington, ” it’s all a matter of who knows who” mentality, where being connected to somebody important is the ticket to entry.  Something stinks with McCain’s trip to Syria, then those photos splashed across international media alleging he was posed with ISIS fighters and then McCain being roped into the Steele dossier debacle.  McCain bought into O’Bagy’s reliability, so did John Kerry, same with Christopher Steele, without any careful vetting.  Even basic vetting would have shown she did not possess a doctorate from Georgetown.

This latest McCain controversy centers on an email someone leaked to the media.  I wonder who leaked it most of all and why???  Any White House discussion with the Pentagon about POTUS travel plans abroad would strike me as a sensitive, probably classified communication.

Sitting back and watching McCain being at the center of  so many media Trump Outrage spin storms, I am disturbed that perhaps there might be some malignant hostile foreign fingers in this effort.  Then again, I’ve wondered for years how deeply our media, across the political spectrum, is infiltrated with hostile foreign  influence operators looking to fuel controversy, make America look like a banana republic and fuel partisan divides.  With so many Americans, who are  connected to Washington, willing to leap to be lobbyists for foreign entities, even hostile foreign ones, there are assuredly plenty of American politicos willing to put big bucks over American interests. We’re not likely to ever get the answer to this hostile foreign influence question,because so much foreign money pours in to American politicians, lobbyists, think tanks, etc.

Even in death McCain still manages to become the center of very divisive media spin cycles, that are directed at fueling divides between Trump and the US military.  Finding out who leaked that email and why seems like it should be at the center of the Pentagon investigation. These McCain vs Trump media spin attacks might be driven by more than just domestic partisans.

Yes, Trump’s conduct often deserves heaps of condemnation, but the bigger picture is these spin efforts might be meant to destroy Trump’s credibility as CINC and undercut the US military image abroad.  There are massive media spin efforts to fuel these McCain vs. Trump’s outrage spin cycles and they not only attack Trump, they now include efforts to make the US military look bad .  I suspect there’s a hostile effort (whether American leftists who hate the US military or hostile foreign actors, don’t know), but troop images that can be used to fuel more Trump Outrage spin too  got played up in the media  Trump Outrage spin too.  The media effort this trip was a photo of described as sailors wearing MAGA-inpired patches. On Trump’s Christmas trip to visit troops in Iraq, the media hyped Trump signing MAGA soldiers’ hats.

This McCain vs. Trump outrage spin cycle falls right on the heels of Trump being manipulated by FOX News coverage hyping war criminals cases and urging Trump to pardon war criminals.  How on earth that morphed into urging Trump to pardon war criminals on Memorial Day, boggles my mind and should be investigated by our national security people – it’s bizarre as hell and all driven by media and media Trump outrage spin cycles.

Even American cable news media networks are at war discrediting each other, with Fox attacking  mainstream media coverage of Trump and mainstream media attacking FOX coverage of Trump – this constant pitting them against each other – leaves Americans totally divided and living in completely separate news bubbles.  Trump lives in the FOX News bubble, but he watches and  appears to long to be cheered by CNN and MSNBC, where his old friends reside.  He frequently seethes about their betrayal of him…

How on earth ordinary citizens are supposed to sift through this  24/7 barrage of media-driven scorched earth spin disinformation and pile-on incitement effort,  I don’t know.  It’s getting harder and harder to keep track of details and facts in news stories with so much spin crap being flung in every direction.

All I know is I don’t want the US military being used as a political football by Trump, by Democrats, by the media and most especially by hostile foreign entities.

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Trump’s boring re-run

President Trump cabinet meeting/Reality Presidency Show season premiere today garnered huge media coverage.   Numerous comments the president made raised eyebrows and evoked critical media commentary, but the thing that struck me about this Trump show is it was a boring rerun of every other Trump show, when he’s trying to talk his way past some deepening controversy.

Trump really is a one-trick pony repeating the same media gimmicks over and over.

Today was a boring rerun of Trump’s staged attacks against his enemies.  It’s just like his May 31, 2016 press conference he staged to silence the controversy over the funds from his January 2016 debate temper tantrum, where he staged a vet fundraiser rally.  By the Spring of 2016, media questions started swirling about which veterans groups received funds from that January fundraiser and exactly how much money was raised:

Today, Trump repeated this same press conference, except he used his cabinet as stage props instead of some veterans, who support him.

Incoming Senator Mitt Romney penned a scathing op-ed about President Trump leadership and character for the Washington Post last night.  Romney stated:

“The Trump presidency made a deep descent in December. The departures of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, the appointment of senior persons of lesser experience, the abandonment of allies who fight beside us, and the president’s thoughtless claim that America has long been a “sucker” in world affairs all defined his presidency down.

It is well known that Donald Trump was not my choice for the Republican presidential nomination. After he became the nominee, I hoped his campaign would refrain from resentment and name-calling. It did not. When he won the election, I hoped he would rise to the occasion. His early appointments of Rex Tillerson, Jeff Sessions, Nikki Haley, Gary Cohn, H.R. McMaster, Kelly and Mattis were encouraging. But, on balance, his conduct over the past two years, particularly his actions last month, is evidence that the president has not risen to the mantle of the office.”

This op-ed added to the growing criticisms of Trump’s handling of announcing a Syria pull-out via a tweet, without even informing our allies or his own national security team about the decision first.  The bad press escalated with General Mattis’ resignation as Secretary of Defense, followed by Trump’s spiteful announcement he was moving up Mattis’ departure.

As criticism over both Trump’s Syria decision and how he went about it escalated, the president began ramping up his mean tweeting in recent days.  He retaliated over the weekend when General McChrystal answered a reporter’s question about whether he would ever serve in the Trump presidency and whether he believes the president is immoral.  McChrystal, I believe, answered the questions honestly.  In typical Trump fashion, Trump decided to wage the only strategy he knows – a vicious divide and conquer attack.

We now have a POTUS committed to playing American generals against each other and even more disturbing, publicly undercutting top retired generals to curry favor with the troops.  He is undercutting confidence in the US military and its top leaders, all to win spin cycles…

The truth is these retired generals should tread very cautiously criticizing the President and avoid it.  Engaging in public spin attacks back and forth with Trump will only damage military morale and could easily begin to damage confidence in America’s top military leadership. If these retired generals or former Trump administration officials feel strongly about Trump’s competency, conduct in office and handling of  national security matters, the proper way to air that would be to testify to Congress, under oath.

The real big picture threat is America’s adversaries are watching the Trump Reality Presidency Show and they understand that Trump’s shallow narcissism makes him so easy to manipulate.  Since Erdogan talked Trump into pulling out of Syria, both Kim Jong Un and Putin made public overtures to Trump about more meetings.  They obviously feel confident they can easily play Trump again.   All it takes is stroking Trump’s ego, by praising him as a strong leader.  How much Trump will sell America down the river remains to be seen, but for a reality check, Trump doesn’t bother with facts or details.

The media latched onto a Trump comment in his presser that speaks to Trump’s colossal ignorance about American foreign policy and history.  Trump touted the Soviet view on their invasion of Afghanistan, not the Reagan foreign policy view.  It was a surreal comment coming from a sitting American president:

Trump: “The reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia.” This is simply not true. The Soviet Union ventured into Afghanistan as part of its effort to prop up communism abroad, not because terrorists were striking the Soviet homeland.

I also commented on a tweet by a top Trump Spin Commando this afternoon and added a few comments beyond that:

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Trump the Builder & our Syria Policy

The truth matters.

Thinking about America’s “big picture” strategy, first I’m going to meander on about America’s War on Terror a bit and then pivot to the “little picture” homegrown “Trump problems”, which in the end are probably way more important to America than our regional strategy in the Mid-East.

President Trump did not cause America’s failures in the War on Terror.  America’s foreign policy experts, on both sides of the aisle, have made plenty of disastrous strategic mistakes in America’s endless War on Terror, since 2001.   Our extreme partisan Trump Hysterics United echo chamber in the media makes it difficult, for these foreign policy experts to concede this fact, but it’s the truth.

The people who did formulate and carry-out these policies that failed, came from both sides of the political aisle, in previous administrations.   Some of them now are the loudest Trump critics, while at the same time refusing to admit their own policies failed.  In the spirit of the season, it’s also only right to concede that they acted with good intentions to do what they believed was best for America.

Thinking back over my many angry and scathing blog posts about Obama administration decisions, made in the heady, High-On-Arab-Spring delusions days, that’s quite a big concession, considering how disgusted I was by their massive media “narrative-writing” efforts to sugarcoat American strategic blunders and their refusal to admit mistakes and failures.  To this day, many of the loudest Trump critics, who underwrote failed Bush and Obama era foreign policy, still determinedly spin their failures as successes.

For many years, I’ve believed we should completely rethink our War on Terror, expand our focus to be more about regional stability and less about a myopic fixation on killing Islamic radical terrorists.  By turning American interests into strictly destroying Al Qaeda, Inc. we’ve overlooked many other key American interests in the region and we’ve allowed ourselves to get stuck on repeating failed approaches, over and over and over.

Even more alarming, in our zeal to invest more in military options rather than other tools of American power, we’ve failed to weigh the real damage grinding down our military, decades of endless war has wrought on our military readiness.  We’ve been so used to believing our military is invincible, that American policymakers too often grab for a military option, without even considering how that option might impact bigger picture American strategic issues.

It’s easy to get lost in Trump outrage spin cycles, just like many conservatives (myself included), often got lost in the Obama outrage spin cycles, but the real strategic issue America needs to deal with is we need a larger regional strategy that bolsters American national interests.  That’s how I began thinking about the late General William Odom last night, even as my ire simmered at how President Trump went about handling his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.   The above video of General Odom is worth watching and thinking about.

America needs a new regional strategy to deal with the Mid-East and the umbrella of Sharia-inspired terrorists, like Al Qaeda and ISIS, regardless who is in the Oval Office.

There are many larger foreign policy strategic problems that might be fall-out from the “how” Trump operates, but in my view, the greatest problem remains, not just Trump, but our, by any means necessary,  2016 scorched earth SPIN information war, that has destabilized and corrupted both political parties and most especially the media, both FOX News and the mainstream media.

Trump might be an indiscriminate flamethrower, but he isn’t the only one intent on using SPIN info war guerrilla warfare.   The constant no holds barred smear campaigns, character assassination attacks and orchestrated disinformation attacks on the American people provide an open information warfare battlefield for America’s adversaries to easily operate at fueling American divides, without ever having to deploy a single military unit to American soil.

The entire Syria mess has been so mired in spin lies, that it’s hard to figure out what is going on in Syria and what our mission even is in Syria.

I didn’t believe we should get involved in the Syrian hot mess, despite the ISIS threat, the larger humanitarian refugee crisis, or the “Assad the Butcher” arguments ( all of which had some validity).  The “how” U.S. involvement would help advance U.S. national interests and how the lessons learned about problems from our previous regime change efforts would be avoided in a Syria intervention never made any sense to me.

After Russia took action in Syria to prop up Assad, the U.S. involvement chorus morphed into competing discordant parts.  The arming “Syrian Moderates Rebels” delusions set the stage for more delusions about how removing ISIS from Raqqa was the key to destroying ISIS and somehow that would lead to stability in Syria, that removing ISIS was the key to the humanitarian crisis in Syria and then for good measure there was the larger strategic argument about how getting involved in Syria would help deter Russian and Iranian regional dominance.

None of the arguments ever made much sense to me, as part of a larger regional stability strategy… probably because I don’t think we ever had a big picture strategy.  We have a bullet point presentation of talking points strategy.  Islamist terrorist groups quickly relocate, regroup, rearm, and rebrand.  Assad and the Russians had effectively broken the Syrian rebels.  I wondered how we would deter Iranians in Syria when we hadn’t figured out how to deter the Iranian-backed militias in Baghdad from increasing their influence in the Baghdad government, which vast amounts of American money and thousands of precious American lives went into nursing into existence and bolstering.

How Trump went about this decision will likely lead to damage to America’s relationship with our allies and he does operate like a one-man wrecking ball to our international system, which many of his supporters will cheer on, just like they cheered on his “GOP Insurgency”, asserting the GOP deserved to be burned to the ground.

The problem with Trump, the touted “Builder” is he seems particularly uninterested in the most important part of any building, whether a Trump Tower or a new political movement.  He prefers to stay ensconced in his ivory tower mean tweeting his “enemies, than he does in building a solid foundation for his new GOP or his MAGA effort.

I remember the conservative fainting couch reactions to President Obama’s clashes with the generals, because I spent a good deal of time blogging while prostrate on my own fainting couch.   I’m trying not to get too worked up about Trump’s impulsive Syria decision, although the difference seems, to me at least, that  Obama was prone to foot-dragging and kicking the can down the road, rather than making tough decisions.  Trump, on the other hand, makes impulsive decisions based on “his gut”…

In my view, President Trump prefers being the one-man show in his MAGA circular firing squad.  He takes aim at people in his own administration,  America’s intelligence agencies, the FBI, Congressional Republicans, the media and now – General Mattis.  His ammo is low-grade, scattershot mean tweets and petty name-calling.  His attacks on General Mattis will likely lead to dissension within the top levels of the Pentagon and his “playing his own team against each other antics ” could create some dangerous confusion and distrust at the highest levels of the American chain of command.

That’s way more worrying to me than whether we pull out of Syria.  He was tweeting late last night:

President of Turkey has very strongly informed me that he will eradicate whatever is left of ISIS in Syria….and he is a man who can do it plus, Turkey is right “next door.” Our troops are coming home!

He’s trusting his good friend, Erdogan, and today he’s on a twitter rant, taking wild pot shots at his assorted “enemies” (Americans whom he thinks have personally wronged him).  What he isn’t doing is studying policy or strategy  or working on a better big picture strategy for America in the ME, after we pull out of Syria and he isn’t working to build any sort of foundation of support for his domestic agenda.

It’s hard to envision any sort of regional ME strategy developing in an administration where the POTUS gets more energized waging war against his own cabinet than he does reading anything about foreign policy.   His strategic depth really is his simplistic “killing ISIS family members to scare ISIS fighters into submission plan”, which he doubled-down on during the 2016 primary.  He believes that was a brilliant strategy, so expecting him to grasp a larger regional strategy is hopeless…  Trump also isn’t going to hire the best people and seems to struggle keeping any competent people.  He isn’t going to do anything other than foment more chaos and be an endless, one-man show circular firing squad.

You can’t turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse, but often some unexpected things grow from manure piles.  When I was a kid, in the summer time we used to sit on the flat roof of our rabbit coop, which was 3 or so feet high.  Often we’d eat watermelon slices perched there and spit the seeds toward the nearby pile of rabbit manure.  Many summers, that manure pile was covered with robust watermelon plants that sent out long runners, which produced lots of watermelons.

Perhaps, we should all be trying to spit out as many good policy seeds toward the Trump manure pile and hope some sprout and grow…

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Another Twitter tantrum…

I am pleased to announce that our very talented Deputy Secretary of Defense, Patrick Shanahan, will assume the title of Acting Secretary of Defense starting January 1, 2019. Patrick has a long list of accomplishments while serving as Deputy, & previously Boeing. He will be great!

The above tweet followed by this tweet:

I just had a long and productive call with President of Turkey. We discussed ISIS, our mutual involvement in Syria, & the slow & highly coordinated pullout of U.S. troops from the area. After many years they are coming home. We also discussed heavily expanded Trade.

One can only wonder if this amazing call with Erdogan came before BOTH tweets, which should be causing alarm bells inside the highest levels of America’s national security.  Trump stated the Erdogan call was “long and productive”.

Our adversaries, especially Putin, know how to manipulate Trump.  All it takes is stroke his ego and praise him as “strong” and “great”.  The really serious national security problem with Trump though, is if you dare criticize him, YOU become “the enemy”.  He has no ability to look at any issue beyond his own fragile ego.

I expect Trump will use every vestige of presidential power to wage personal attacks and find ways to spite “his enemies” (any American leader who challenges him), while at the same time sucking up to America’s adversaries, craving their praise.  Fun times…

Added thought: Timelines matter. There are reports now that Pompeo was the one to call Mattis and inform Mattis that he was ousted ASAP. One wonders if Pompeo was informed before or after the Erdogan call? Trump’s first step in orchestrating “the slow & highly coordinated pullout of U.S. troops from the area” was to create more chaos in the Pentagon and to leave top US military commanders in the dark about this amazing plan…

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It’s about the “how”

“There is nothing for America in Syria. We haven’t defeated ISIS by taking its territory, and it wouldn’t matter if we did because sharia-supremacist culture guarantees that a new ISIS will replace the current one. The names change, but the enemy remains the same. And if you want to fight that enemy in an elective war, the Constitution demands that the people give their consent through their representatives in Congress.”

https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/12/syria-troop-withdrawal-middle-east-policy/

Spoiler alert here, the above is the last paragraph in a must-read Andrew C. McCarthy piece, The Syria Fairy Tale Lives!.

Like McCarthy, I was against going into Syria for the very reasons he lays out about the nature of the Syrian opposition.  The “Syrian Moderate” myth still persists among way too many inside the Beltway and punditry smart set.  The only area McCarthy didn’t dig into in this piece is our Iraq mess serves as a prequel to this Syrian mess.  We were propping up the Iraqi government in Baghdad, since its inception, after the demise of Saddam Hussein.  Over the years the Baghdad government fell increasingly under the influence of Iranian-backed militias.  In our zeal to defeat ISIS, our mission became hopelessly ensnared in being on the side of bolstering Iranian-backed militias, in our fight against ISIS in Iraq.

The enemy of my enemy was assuredly not our friend, in this Iranian-backed militias situation.  No one hardly mentions Iraq among the polite American foreign policy set in Washington these days.  And assuredly, it’s rare to hear mention of our unintended alliance fighting on the same side as Iranian-backed militias against ISIS in Iraq.  The American people seem to prefer to stick to sound bites and catchphrase strategy, so it’s a sure bet most Americans didn’t pay any attention to the details.

There’s an American cultural preference to invest their trust in celebrities and “big name experts”, rather than facts or studying issues.  This behavior led to the Steele dossier being embraced by the media and top Obama officials, based solely on Steele’s reputation.  The same behavior led to hordes of FOX News viewers and Republicans buying the  “Syrian moderate” snake oil, based solely on people, like a popular retired general turned FOX pundit, selling it.

McCarthy covers all the bases in this defense of Trump pulling US troops out of Syria and I do agree with him on the facts, the history of the region and most especially with his analysis of Sharia supremacism.  Where I disagree is not about pulling out of Syria and lightening our footprint in Afghanistan, it’s about how we go about this process, how we manage our competing alliances and agreements and how we navigate the process with our allies, who have fought and bled with us on the ground in the ME for 17 years.  We owe them more than them finding out about the decision to pull-out in a tweet.

Figuring out a way out of Syria, that included informing our allies of the decision privately and ironing out some timelines, framework and coordination, rather than blindsiding them, by announcing the decision in a tweet to the world, should not have been too much to expect.  He didn’t give his own top commanders a heads up before tweeting his decision and that speaks to a totally unfit commander-in-chief.  He left his own military commanders out in the cold, creating unnecessary chaos and confusion about the mission.  The ramifications from how Trump went about handling his  Syria decision will reverberate way beyond Syria.  Just as with most of Trump’s actions that cause massive blowback, it’s the “how” Trump went about this that will burn more bridges than the actual decision itself.

Decided to add this thought, which I mentioned in a comment on my previous blog post about the Trump decision-making process.  Those cheering Trump’s decision to pull out of Syria should be aware that in the blink of an eye, Trump could as easily choose the above mentioned “Syrian moderate” cheerleader retired general as his next Secretary of Defense, as he could choose someone who aligns with the Rand Paul foreign policy school of thought.   The retired general is a popular FOX news pundit, afterall.  With Trump, there’s no telling.

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