Monday March 19, 2018
On MSNBC’s “All In” on March 13, I discussed how the removal of Rex Tillerson from the position of secretary of state was the final triumph of largely Republican efforts—but with complicit Democrats as well—to consolidate the making of foreign and security policy exclusively in the White House. Since the 1947 National Security Act, there has been institutional momentum for this shift. It is important to be aware of this institutional momentum because to reverse the shift will require much more than just a new president and administration. It will take statutory change by the Congress. Such change must be highly deliberative and thus will take time. Immediately, however, the damage to US foreign and security policy—and the country in turn—could be so immense that temporary, non-statutory actions are essential.
Having Mike Pompeo at State, Gina Haspel at the CIA, Nikki Haley at the United Nations, and three military professionals closely advising a grossly inexperienced and narcissistic president is sufficient to give pause to anyone interested in arresting the significant deterioration of our democracy. But putting all control over the main instrument of national power that this team is most apt to use—the military—in the hands of one man, Donald Trump, makes President Xi Jinping’s move in China following the Nineteenth Party Congress pale in comparison. First, Xi is not a warmonger, and, second, Trump has become one. If Americans believe that 17 straight years of war is enough, they need to stand by: another 17 or more is in the offing. Blood and treasure will be the payment for years to come.
Iran and North Korea—the latter despite the “historic” opening of talks—are merely the leading possibilities. Russia and China loom in the foreground, not the background. Conservation of enemies is not a principle of this White House team. Rather, it wants to make as many enemies as possible, at the same time as it destroys traditional alliances and dismays and distances US friends.