Donald Trump’s efforts to put together a foreign-policy and national security team are going about as well as expected. In other words, they’ve been a disaster.
Earlier today, former House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers, one of the calmer conservative foreign-policy voices in Washington, was forced to resign from the Trump transition team as part of a “Stalinesque” purging of anyone considered plausibly disloyal to Trump. The problem is, that standard eliminates not just Rogers but 95 percent of the GOP foreign-policy establishment.
Eliot Cohen, another prominent foreign-policy expert, had earlier urged his fellow conservatives to set aside those doubts about Trump’s foreign policy and consider serving in his administration, arguing that patriotic duty to our country required it and that “Trump may be better than we think.”
This morning, Cohen emphatically withdrew that recommendation:
“They think of these jobs as lollipops,” Cohen told the New York Times. “I think we’re on the verge of a crisis here.”
At the Pentagon and State Department, offices set aside for transition staff that ought to be humming right now instead sit empty because the Trump campaign hasn’t found people to fill them. And while Trump as a candidate would often express deep skepticism about military intervention in one moment and in the next spew angry outbursts promising vengeance against American enemies, the second-or third-rate team that he appears to be assembling is highly militaristic, with a distinctly conspiratorial outlook.
Retired Gen. Michael Flynn, a top campaign adviser for Trump, is a fan of Vladimir Putin and believes that Muslims want to establish Sharia law here in the United States. He is being mentioned for national security adviser
Clare Lopez, an official at the loony, anti-Muslim Center for Security Policy, believes that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the top levels of American government and must be ferreted out and purged. “Brotherhood affiliates and associates and those connected to it are the go-to advisers, if not appointees, for the top levels of national security in our government, in this administration for sure, but going back many decades,” she says.
She’s being seriously considered as deputy national security adviser.
Former UN Ambassador John Bolton, one of the more ardent advocates of military adventurism in general and our invasion of Iraq in particular, is vying with Rudy Giuliani for the coveted post of secretary of state. U.S. Sen. Rand Paul is threatening to launch a filibuster against Bolton’s nomination, but if the alternative is Giuliani, I’m not sure what the point would be.
James Woolsey, another champion of our Iraq invasion, has long peddled the notion that Saddam Hussein was behind the attacks of Sept. 11. He believes the same about the Oklahoma City bombing perpetrated by Timothy McVeigh. He also believes that Muslims are secretly trying to impose Sharia law on the United States.
He’s on the list as potential CIA director.
In Europe, alarmed U.S. allies issued a statement Monday reiterating their strong support for the Iran nuclear agreement that Trump rejects as stupid and “an embarrassment to our country.” As our allies noted, Iran shows every sign of living up to its end of the agreement, according to monitors at the International Atomic Energy Agency. If the United States does try to pull out of the agreement, those allies warn, they will refuse to abide by any sanctions against Iran that we try to impose.
And oh yeah, yesterday must have been a big day for Trump. After all this time, he finally got the chance to speak by phone with Vladimir Putin. We don’t know what was said, of course. We do know that a few hours later, the Russians launched a major new bombing attack in Syria.
Finally, President Obama is in Europe on a final visit as president, where he’s counseling patience and trying to reassure other leaders that NATO and other trans-Atlantic institutions will be strong enough to survive Trump’s tenure. But you do have to wonder how sincerely Obama can make that argument, and how much credibility it will have with his shocked listeners.