Category Archives: Foreign Policy

Stolen valor

When it comes to American national security strategy, it’s important to weigh strategic decisions through a “big picture/little picture” lens.   Even if pulling out of these long, seemingly unwinnable conflicts in the Muslim world makes sense, how we pull out matters even more to America’s larger strategic interests in the rest of the world.

Part of being a leader of large alliances, that America spent a century of blood and treasure building, entails bolstering the TRUST needed to sustain these alliances that have helped keep America and much of the world safe, free and prosperous.  President Trump not only made the decision to pull-out of Syria, he pulled the rug out from under America’s leadership role in the free world.

He did not consult America’s top military leaders before announcing the decision.

He did not bother to consult or inform America’s closest allies, who have committed troops to our effort in the Middle East too.

The larger damage to America is not only about the crippling of American efforts in that region, it’s the bulldozer effect damage his one-man show decisions inflict on America’s alliances around the world.  He is a one-man wrecking ball to the Western world order.

President Trump’s precipitous withdrawal from Syria won’t improve America’s national security, won’t bolster American leadership cred and it won’t put an end to America’s problem of Islamic terrorists attacking America and American interests.

America’s “War On Terror” has been failing for many years.  The linchpin mission end of defeating Al Qaeda has not been achieved.  The sub-strategic ends, like denying safe havens to terrorists or the massive investment in regime change, have proved to be failures in some cases and extremely costly in terms of, not only money, but in American lives and erosion of our own military might, due to endless military deployments to sustain these missions.  Despite our best efforts, jihadist terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda, still remain defiant, functional, and determined to fight on.

Good intentions motivated the dedicated people who formed these strategies, and many of the military leaders have spent years deployed, acquiring first-hand knowledge of this war.  Good intentions have not produced a sustainable victory for America.

Without wading into Islamic extremism debates on whether jihadist terrorist represent true Islam or not, here’s another approach to viewing  this.   Islamic terrorists always had enough home-grown support to sustain their groups, to regenerate after devastating losses, and even more ominous to our goal to defeat them, they have a remarkable ability to network across continents and pop up under newly minted names, with new leaders, fresh fighters, money and arms.  They’re fighting with their minds committed to impose an ancient religious theology on the world, while at the same time mastering flexible, mobile, and very lethal military operations using modern information/communication technology, international money operations, and often creative improvised weaponry.

Overlaying the Islamic terrorism challenge, America faced a complex strategic challenge trying to figure out how to find our own long-term strategic ends in the region, pulled between the centuries old power struggle between Shia and Sunni powers, dealing with NATO ally, Turkey’s lurch toward fundamentalism, and finding ways to work with assorted corrupt and/or autocratic regimes, whose human rights abuses run counter to our values, but whose strategic importance was vital to our mission.

Our own partisan spin war often undercut and trivialized the complex strategic challenges to defeating Al  Qaeda and threat from Islamic terrorists.  Accompanying our military efforts in the “War On Terror” (heck, even the names makes this point), our endless domestic word battles in America about whether calling them “Islamic” terrorists would be the magic bullet to fell them and the endless encapsulating our war efforts into catchphrases masquerading as strategy often did more to defeat a unified commitment to our military effort and impeded our military efforts.

The selling of catchphrases as strategy has no greater supporter than President Donald J. Trump, whose understanding of American foreign policy and U.S military policy comes from TV punditry SPIN.  He doesn’t study anything, except TV, Twitter and news articles his minions try to get him to read.  He does not read his policy briefs and he does not believe his intelligence briefs.  Instead, he does listen to various friends and his pet pundits, whom he calls for advice, but in the end he is someone, who in his own words, “They’re making a mistake because I have a gut, and my gut tells me more sometimes than anybody else’s brain can ever tell me”.  

President Trump said ISIS is defeated in Syria – a lie.  He said General Mattis is retiring – a masking of General Mattis’ resignation.  He reached a new low in using American soldiers as stage props,  – he stole the valor of dead soldiers trying to manipulate the American people and American soldiers into supporting his decision, claiming soldiers who died would support his decision.  And he lied when he said that his decision has widespread support among the U.S. military.

I could go on and on about what a disastrous leader of American foreign policy or pathetic excuse of a Commander-In-Chief President Trump is, but suffice it to say this man who trusts his gut, continually displays through his shameless, lying words and actions, that he is not only an emperor without clothes… he’s a gutless wonder, who tries to shield himself from media criticism using the valor of dead American soldiers.

That’s his crystalline defining comment about exactly who he is.  He stole the valor of dead soldiers to sell his crappy spin.

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A few foreign policy links

It’s back to reading more novels and crafting for me today, so here are a few links worth reading (and links I wish President Trump would read):

CHAOS THEORY: CONFUSING DIPLOMATIC MEANS AND ENDS IN HELSINKI, by Matthew Blood at the Small Wars Journal. A clearly written foreign policy piece that should be put on the President’s desk as a foreign policy 101 primer.

Agents of the Russian World: Proxy Groups in the Contested Neighbourhood by Orysia Lutsevych from Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London. A PDF report on how the Russians meddle in other countries internal affairs.

HOW THE BIG LEBOWSKI EXPLAINS THE HELSINKI SUMMIT AND THE INTERNATIONAL ORDER by Kori Schake and Jeremy Shapiro at War On The Rocks.  An entertaining read and interesting analysis of the Helsinki summit.



Update:  Here’s another fascinating link by Steven L. Hall, retired CIA chief of Russian Operations, tweeted:

34 years ago, a KGB defector chillingly predicted modern America by Paul Ratner at the Big Think.

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Putin might end up asking for his ball back…

“No man can climb out beyond the limitations of his own character.”

– Viscount John Morley

It’s very tiresome writing about President Trump, the spin information war tearing America apart, “Russian collusion” and the constant chaos ensuing from our 2016 election, but these topics remain in the news, making it impossible to escape them if you’re following American politics.

Way back in 2015, when Donald J.Trump descended the escalator in Trump Tower and began his new political reality TV show, our American political system and American news media dramatically changed into a perpetual circus sideshow act. 

America, by its very independent nature, breeds plenty of eccentrics and people who break the mold, often the type of people I admire for daring to be different, daring to defy the status quo, and daring to strike a new path.

There’s something quintessentially American about loving an underdog, who beats all the odds, so it’s understandable that millions of Americans quickly flocked to join the Trump fan club. He developed a loyal following, who believe in Trump and Trump knows this. He knew it back during the campaign when he made that comment that he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and they’d remain loyal.

Why Trump’s followers remain loyal to him, no matter what he says or does, will keep political thinkers and historians busy for decades. The answer(s) might be complex and way deeper than my limited understanding, but one of the basic cons Trump uses is playing a ruthless and cynical game of deflection and using the old James Carville trick of throwing as much crap at his enemies as possible and hoping some of it sticks. Some of Trump’s favorite go-to crap is his shtick about Hillary’s crimes, his shtick about respecting the American flag, his shtick about making America great again, but his numero uno shtick is always about Trump the Victim.

Trump’s spin troopers, people who should know better and many, people who spent their professional lives preaching about character and principles, well, they’ve proven themselves to be the vilest sort of hypocrites, willing to say or do anything to prop up Trump’s inexcusable behavior and bold-faced lies. Their efforts are directed to continually manipulate Trump’s followers and keep them in line. They don’t want his followers to defect, so they engage in a 24/7 massive spin effort of throwing up strawman issues and “enemies of Trump”, that is as low as the Left’s perpetual spin machine.

At this point, the Trump outrage spin cycles on the Left, followed by the Trump sideshow shticks repeat so often that there’s really no surprises in the next episode of Trump’s reality TV presidency. He spends more time watching TV and trying to keep up with the spin than he will ever spend paying attention to the details of his presidential policies and duties.

His followers don’t even waver at this point.  His cadre of spin troopers react predictably too, so in the aftermath of Trump’s deplorable submissiveness and willingness to blame America first, standing next to Vladimir Putin, the same spin messaging cycles repeated.   

The mainstream media, Left, a few remnants of the Never Trump and non-Trump supporting right flew into their predictable outrage mode. 

Hannity and Tucker Carlson gave Trump a platform, post-summit, to do victory laps. 

As night follows day,  the questions about the summit and outrage escalated. 

By yesterday the top FOX Trump spin troopers were back to ranting about Hillary’s emails and Obama scandals, the mainstream media was on fire about a Michael Cohen tape of Trump discussing paying off a woman he had an affair with and by evening Trump was back to trying to wrap himself in the American flag:

The NFL National Anthem Debate is alive and well again – can’t believe it! Isn’t it in contract that players must stand at attention, hand on heart? The $40,000,000 Commissioner must now make a stand. First time kneeling, out for game. Second time kneeling, out for season/no pay!

Trump lied about what he said in his news conference with Putin, but naturally he proclaimed the summit a great success.  He also hasn’t provided his staff or the American people with any clear details about the agreements the Russians say he made.  I doubt he ever will be able to provide details, simply because Trump does not pay attention to details, especially governmental policies, which he has no interest in, beyond their being fodder for his reality presidency show. 

Yesterday, there was a poll indicating that most Americans did not approve of how Trump handled the summit with Putin (his performance), but within that poll, the vast majority of Republicans did support him… even though he has yet to provide any details.

The entrenched partisan spin battle rages in the same boring cycles, but this summit opens a new, dangerous front in our endless, partisan  2016 scorched earth information war.  The Russians now have a new front to exploit – what Trump agreed to.

The word games started immediately, with Trump lying about what he said:

“President Donald Trump attempted on Tuesday to clarify his widely criticized comments in Helsinki, saying that he had misspoken when he said a day earlier that he did not see why Russia would have meddled in the election. Trump said Tuesday he meant to say he did not see any reason why it wouldn’t have been Russia that interfered.”
That word game flap was followed by the news that Trump had discussed and was open to considering turning over a former US ambassador to Russia, to the Russians for questioning.  The WH press secretary, Sarah Sanders, acknowledged that the president had discussed this with Putin, but she had no details on the president’s decision.  This summit fall-out led to the US Senate voicing a protest:

“The Republican-led Senate effectively rebuked President Donald Trump for considering Russia’s request to question U.S. officials, giving voice to growing unease over the president’s shifting policies toward his country’s biggest adversary after his summit with Vladimir Putin.

In a resolution adopted 98-0 on Thursday, senators called on the U.S. to refuse to make any officials available for interrogation by Putin’s government. Minutes before the vote was scheduled to begin, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a statement rejecting the Russian proposal.”

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-07-19/senate-readies-vote-against-trump-letting-russia-grill-americans

By last night, someone in the WH was concerned about facesaving and a CYA action. The Hill reported:

“In a report the Wall Street Journal published on Friday, a White House official said Trump was advised to take the Justice Department’s recent indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers over election interference and “shove it in Putin’s face and look strong doing it.””

Just a few minutes ago, I caught a bit of Cavuto with two guests, when I walked into the sunroom where my husband watches FOX news all day long.  These two guests were spinning that there’s no need for details of Trump’s meeting with Putin and the lady guest, a true idiot, made some inane comment about this being Trump’s style, as if that absolved him of informing the American people of what he agreed to on our behalf.  It’s an obvious spin effort to downplay the demands for details and the alarming likelihood that no one in the Trump White House knows exactly what Trump agreed to (probably not even Trump).

Unlike this unwinnable, endless, domestic partisan scorched earth spin info war, tearing away at the fiber of our American political system, Putin and the Russians now have a means to ruthlessly and openly play the American president against his own cabinet, against Congress, against top US military officials, against America’s intelligence agencies and against America’s closest allies.  Putin will engulf Trump in a new front in this spin info war, which will throw him into constant collision with his own cabinet, by slowly rolling out all the things they manipulated Trump into agreeing to in that private meeting with Putin.  Each time Trump is forced into backtracking, another hysterical spin cycle will erode the credibility of, not only Trump, but of America.  The American president represents all of us.

The Russians play all sides when trying to destabilize other countries. Trump will be played by Russian information operatives, who will feed Russian talking points messaging to Trump, via advisers among Trump’s top spin troopers and on FOX news.   The Left will be played with Russian influence messaging too, to foment constant Trump hysteria.  The Russians, being the Russians, will also probably look for ways to use Trump as the lightning rod to ignite more Charlottesville type racial clashes.  They’ll leap at ways they can work to turn American against American, using the American president as their stooge.

Putin has a winning hand to launch a classic Russian covert influence operation model in America (ala the Willi Münzenberg model) with this endless, partisan 2016 scorched earth info war still raging in America. The Trump-Putin summit offers the Russians a brand new front, where they will slowly be rolling out what agreements Trump made. 

There’s no way to shut down all the ways messaging can take hold in a free society and while we have premiere intelligence operators, it’s a long, grueling process to catch spies and even in the internet age, tracking the origins of  messaging often remains heaped in a dark web of mystery.

Identifying and countering the Russian messaging  quickly with calm, positive, unequivocal American messaging  remains more imperative than getting caught up in fueling a Red Scare in America or trying to silence people.   This really will boil down to who wins the hearts and minds of the American people.

How long Trump and his cabinet can play this dangerous, destructive game to prop up a president, who speaks out both sides of his mouth and refuses to offer any clarity of where he stands, remains to be seen.  How far Trump will go to save face, lie, try to find footing between what he agreed to, while being led around by Putin, and his own cabinet’s tough line with Russia remains to be seen too.  That the Russians really do have some other dirt on Trump seems very possible, but what is abundantly clear is that Putin masterfully stroked Trump’s ego and grievances to play Trump against previous US presidents and America’s closest allies.

As Trump is  prodded and manipulated by the Russians to stick to his agreements, he will simultaneously be prodded to take a hardline on Russia by his cabinet & US government officials, so we will quickly see if and what hold the Russians have over Trump, because they will begin to start exposing that, to put more pressure on Trump to cave.  Even worse is there will be many more of these demeaning Trump being “trapped by what he said” scenarios.  This will also create enormous pressure on his cabinet to resign or be continuously compromised by the embarrassing details of Trump’s “agreements” with Putin. 

Putin might end up asking for his ball back…after scoring as many points as he can kicking around “what Trump agreed to” for months to come.

The Russians are out to destroy the credibility of the American political system… as they have been since 1919.

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Interesting read

Here’s a NY Times op-ed, Trump Is Being Manipulated by Putin. What Should We Do?, written by Republican Congressman, Will Hurd, a former CIA officer, worth reading.

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You ain’t seen nothing yet

Geesh, I wrote my last blog post the day before Trump’s private meeting with Putin and I didn’t even use a crystal ball.  I enjoy watching people and trying to figure out how they operate – it’s sort of a lifelong hobby of mine.  Trump’s behavior patterns leave no surprises at this point.

Here’s my next prediction:  The Russians are launching a massive nuclear level information war against America using Trump as their stooge.  This Helsinki summit gave them control over manipulating Trump for months to come.  They will be fomenting constant chaos by churning out all the things Trump agreed to in that private meeting with Putin.  Trump was massively manipulated and played, so it will be interesting to see how much of the American store Trump gave away.  We don’t know what Trump agreed to in that meeting, but the Russians will be using it to inflame the ongoing domestic partisan spin war, working to destroy every last vestige of American credibility.

The Russians have all of their info war pieces in place and Trump is effectively being managed by FOX news pundits and assorted people outside of his cabinet.  The trails of who manages these people likely lead back to Moscow. Trump is so easily manipulated that he will go along with just about any policy they sell him.

To demonstrate how insidious the Russian info war ops will be, let’s examine that Trump gave his first two post-summit interviews to Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson.  Last night Tucker Carlson led Trump into once again undercutting the very reason for NATO’s existence (mutual defense) by tossing out Montenegro as an example, positing the hypothetical as why would Americans want to send their sons and daughters to defend Montenegro.  Trump took that bait, insulted the people of Montenegro and once again questioned the mission of NATO.

Trump seemed prepared for the Montenegro example, so it’s obvious someone had talked to him about this ahead of time.  He walked into that interview and was deliberately set-up.  That foreign operators are working within FOX News sure seems obvious at this point.

This afternoon we learn that Trump discussed allowing the Russians to question a former US ambassador to Russia. Although Sarah Sanders did not have details, she did confirm that Putin and Trump discussed that topic.  That Trump didn’t automatically dismiss that or tell Putin that the US is never going to hand over a US diplomat for questioning, boggles the mind.  Why would any American president even entertain that suggestion from the Russians???

Tom Ricks wrote a short commentary about Trump turning away from the generals and now relying on FOX News.  Ricks said:

“So, in the long run, I think the generals will be remembered as emblematic of Trump’s first screwy year, when as the estimable Maggie Haberman observes, Trump was new and scared. By contrast, Trump nowadays feels he understand the job and is doing magnificently if only people would stop probing his past crimes. So he has turned away from the generals and instead is stocking his staff with people he has watched on Fox News.”

https://taskandpurpose.com/twilight-trump-generals/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=share&utm_content=tp-share

A few photo ops with American troops and road show rallies won’t spin Trump past this one, because this isn’t the Dem/mainstream media spin machine against Trump.  This is the Russians launching a nuclear level info war attack and they have handlers in place, who have not only the American president’s ear… they likely taped that entire meeting with Trump.

While the left still is obsessing over pee tapes, perhaps we all need to be worrying about what Trump, trying to impress a strongman he admires, agreed to.

 

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The odds of Trump making a great deal with Russia

The odds of Trump making a great deal with Russia are so minuscule, that it’s a sure bet Putin will come out the winner.

That’s my prediction.

“In recent days it’s been reported that President Trump wants to meet with President Vladimir Putin alone, one-on-one, at the beginning of their July 16th summit meeting.
“President Donald Trump plans to meet one-on-one with Vladimir Putin at the start of their July 16 summit in Helsinki, Finland, according to a person familiar with the plans, before allowing other aides to join the highly anticipated encounter with the Russian leader.”

https://www.cnn.com/2018/07/02/politics/donald-trump-vladimir-putin-meeting/index.html

The Trump-hating Left, some remnants of the Never Trump crowd and a sizable part of the mainstream media invariably revert to predictable and overblown conspiracy theories and seeing ominous signs of “authoritarianism” or “Russian collusion” behind every Trump action.  So, immediately following this report of Trump wanting to meet with Putin alone, Twitter erupted with allegations that Trump is meeting with his handler, Putin.

Pulling back from that Trump Derangement Syndrome ledge, it seems to me that Trump’s cagey comments, where he bends over backwards to praise Putin, could be that Trump fears the Russians do have dirt on him or perhaps he does have Russian financial dealings that he never disclosed or it could be that Trump, who loathes weakness,  respects strong-men type despots.  Then again, it might be that this one-on-one type meeting is the Trump deal-making style, where Trump believes he can size up, woo, and seal these foreign policy “deals” with America’s adversaries.  The Trump buttering up adversaries might work on chumps Trump dealt with in the business world, but it will never work with America’s most committed adversaries.

Back in 2015, when Donald J. Trump entered the 2016 presidential race, his coterie of supporters, selling “the Trump mystique”, often used the talking point that Trump is a great businessman and dealmaker.  This belief is still held by Trump followers, who fill stadiums at his rallies and by the same pundits who sold that 2015 talking point, despite the evidence from his many sketchy and failed business deals and the growing mountain of evidence from his “dealmaking” from the Oval Office.

Trump acts off of impulse and unbridled emotions, often behaving like a hysterical teenage girl rather than a grown man.  Along with the unchecked emotions, he operates from the belief that he is smarter than everyone else and ergo whatever decisions he makes are infallible.  He also frequently makes comments lamenting how former presidents created these foreign policy messes and left the mess for him to clean up. 

Every president inherits some messes and more often than not, presidents leave office without having achieved all they had hoped to achieve.  Where Trump differs from previous presidents is that he is singularly narcissistic, singularly clueless about governmental and foreign policy matters and he is the singularly most intellectually lazy president in modern history.  He knows very little about the subjects he’s making consequential decisions about for America.

While Trump mouthpieces were giddy about Trump’s meeting with Kim Jong Un and sold Trump’s ridiculously overblown assertions about the great deal he struck with Kim Jong Un, with many even proclaiming that Trump deserves a Nobel Peace Prize, it now looks like Trump was handily played by the North Koreans.  Trump, without consulting U.S. military leaders, agreed to pause our military training exercises in the region and he got nothing in return from Kim Jong Un.

So, Kim Jong Un scored a major propaganda coup with the meeting, plus all of America’s adversaries learned that when Trump wants his critics on the Left to respect him and desperately wants to walk away with a deal, he’s willing to impulsively give away a lot… without any consultation with his advisers.  This is the Trump negotiating style.

Couple Trump’s impulsive style with his aversion to paying attention to details, aversion to reading his briefing books, refusal to listen to military and foreign policy experts, or trust U.S. intelligence assessments, well, Trump really is that “loose cannon”, his political enemies dubbed him during the campaign.

Along with the reports about Trump wanting to meet Putin alone first, there are reports that Trump hasn’t read the briefing reports for this upcoming summit either and it’s apparent that once again he’s not preparing for an important meeting.  It’s obvious Putin will walk away the winner and Trump is likely to give away a lot, again.  I expect Trump to agree to cast some legitimacy on Russia’s annexation of Crimea and hand-off Syria to Russia and Assad.  In return America will get a ramped up “Trump/Russian collusion” domestic information spin war from the Left and mainstream media and our allies will grow more wary of America as a reliable ally.

There’s one other predictable outcome.  Other Trump cabinet officials will be jetting around the world  for months after this summit, trying to clean up Trump’s messes that are sure to come from Trump’s reckless, impetuous and egomaniacal impulses.

Oh, and of course Trump will be tweeting that he struck the best deal ever…

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Trump: Our Russian messaging czar & most useful idiot

President Trump pulled several bait and switch messaging spin gambits with his reality TV summit extravaganza.  The most disturbing was his surprise announcement that the U.S. was suspending military exercises in the region, unbeknownst to our top military leaders.  Despite all the sycophantic hype about  “Trump the stupendous deal-maker” and “Trump the multi-dimensional strategic genius”, the truth is he is neither and is, in fact, a clueless nincompoop  on foreign policy, international diplomacy, and the historical intricacies of dealing with other countries.

Why on earth the president decided to promote Putin’s inclusion in the G-7 meeting and then attack America’s staunchest allies at the G-7, before jetting off to his sideshow summit to kiss the butt of a thug communist despot like Kim Jong Un boggles the mind.  Why did he feel the need to praise Kim and tout him as a respected leader, concerned with the welfare of the North Korean people?

The Trump/Russian collusion narrative the mainstream media and Left hyped turned into a disaster for the Dems and a boon for Trump, due to the relentless spin efforts of the mainstream media selling a steady stream of Clinton/Obama/Dem opposition hit pieces, like the Steele dossier,  as legitimate news.  As I’ve stated many times, both campaigns engaged in “Russian collusion”, trying to acquire dirt on their opponent from Russian sources.  The Steele and Shearer dossiers claim high-level Kremlin sources, which would make those efforts successful Clinton/Russian collusion.  The Trump campaign has the failed Don Jr. meeting with the Russian lawyer and a Republican operative, Peter Smith, trying to hire a Brit intel agency to buy Hillary’s emails from Russian hackers.

Despite it being highly unlikely that Putin “colluded” directly with Trump or the Trump campaign, President Trump behaves like he’s afraid of Putin and like he has something to hide.  The President Trump heading to the G-7 meeting and going on a campaign to advocate that Putin should be invited too follows a long habit of Trump to sell the Russian messaging.  Again, this raises the question, “Why?”  Why does the president of the United States adopt and try to sell the American people pathetic Russian messaging?

Fast forward to the Trump summit bait and switch, and here is the president selling Kim as a great leader concerned about the North Korean people, but even worse he adopted communist messaging attacking the legitimacy of the American military mission in the region.  To sell this truly unconscionable and borderline treasonous crap communist messaging, he pulled a con job selling it to his followers as an effort to  save the American taxpayers from wasteful spending.

In our hyper-partisan echo-chambers, each side will dig in, but we all should check our partisan hats when it comes to American national security and foreign policy.  Love Trump or hate him, there’s something very wrong with an American president kowtowing to despots, whether that president be President Obama kissing up to Cuban and Iranian thugs or President Trump kissing up to Putin and Kim Jong Un.

This President is as much a foreign policy nightmare as Obama – that’s the unvarnished truth.

 

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