Opinion: Nuclear brinksmanship under amateur leadership

(AP)

Russia and the United States are now engaged militarily on opposite sides of the Syrian civil war, a complicated war zone where a simple miscalculation or bad piece of intelligence could touch off a shooting war between them. Things are even more touchy on the other side of the world, where the United States and a nuclear North Korea are swapping increasingly serious threats of military action that leave neither party with an obvious, peaceful exit path.

“Either China will deal with this problem, or the United States and its allies will,” as Vice President Pence recently warned, adding helpfully that President Trump has already demonstrated a quick trigger finger in Syria and Afghanistan.

Under ordinary circumstances, this would be cause for significant concern. Brinksmanship is a time-honored and often useful tactic, but by its nature it is also inherently dangerous and requires sophisticated and carefully calibrated diplomacy to pull off successfully. Not to worry though. According to White House spokesman Sean Spicer, we’re in capable hands.

“I think when you look at the quality of the national security team that’s surrounding (President Trump) — by all accounts probably the best in our nation’s history in terms of all across the board — you know that the president is getting unbelievably sound and strategic advice on how to protect our national interests,” as Spicer told us in Monday’s press briefing.

Personally, I don’t find that at all comforting. In an administration already infamous for inventing whatever reality it wishes to inhabit, to now be told that its national security team is “by all accounts probably the best in our nation’s history” compounds the sense of unease. Because no: The Trump national security team is by nobody’s account the best, and by most accounts easily the worst in at least the last century of American history. It is a motley collection of fringe characters and smug amateurs chosen not for their wisdom or knowledge but for their sycophantic loyalty to Trump, along with a pitiful few seasoned professionals who are no doubt doing their utmost in the Alice in Wonderland world they are forced to occupy.

To review:

— Trump’s first pick as national security adviser was forced to resign after three weeks and is now under criminal investigation for unrevealed financial ties to foreign interests and for possible collusion with Russia.

— His deputy national security adviser is a former Fox News personality and Trump family friend who herself is being pushed out the door because she’s a paranoid fruitcake.

— A few weeks ago, Trump gave a permanent seat on the National Security Council to his top political strategist, a self-indulgent chaos agent by the name of Steve Bannon who believes that the fastest way to make things better is to blow them up. And while Trump was later forced to rescind that official appointment, Bannon continues to attend NSC meetings.

— Trump’s secretary of state is an oil-company executive who didn’t want the job and shows no sign of sudden enthusiasm for its duties, and who has left important leadership posts in the State Department still vacant because really, what could experienced, well-informed and well-trained personnel have to teach someone who is none of those things?

— Trump’s proposed 2018 budget slashes foreign aid and the State Department and just about anything else that might be useful in making progress by non-military means, and instead adds billions to the U.S. military — “my military”, Trump fondly calls it. “It is not a soft-power budget,” bragged Trump budget director Mick Mulvaney. “This is a hard-power budget.” Even the cowboys who ran foreign policy under President George W. Bush are aghast at the rampant militarism.

— In any given hour, Trump’s secretary of state might publicly disagree about policy with his U.N. ambassador who might disagree with his national security adviser who might disagree with his vice president, at least until the president sets them all straight with his latest policy pronouncement via Twitter, at which point the game of telephone begins all over again.

— In defense of that operating style, Trump continues to sell himself as unpredictable, as if it were a conscious, strategic choice on his part. It is not.  He is unpredictable because he is incapable of being otherwise, because his personality and short attention span cause him to lurch from position to position based on the last surprising fact or “fact” that he learned. “Unmoored” might be a better adjective than unpredictable.

Again, brinksmanship has its uses. But those uses should be rare, not constant. It should be part of a strategy that is thought through carefully, with full recognition of the many ways it which it might go wrong. It must be run by people who know where the exit ramps are located and are willing to take them. And with this bunch, none of those conditions has been met.

 

Reader Comments 0

1816 comments
Peachs
Peachs

Communication, in over thinking strategies, get lost.  You think obviously the public understands who these right wing people are, so we go to the higher bar and show our righteous side.  In the meanwhile, the masses think healthcare and Obamacare are two different things, and a college education is a waste of time, the coal mines are coming back, instead of moving to a better economy, we're staying here, it is going to get better.


Nope the economy is going to suck, you stay there, and hold the earth together because that is where the Republicans want you to be.  The country is pocketed with good and bad economies.  A lot of that is caused by the laws and desire to change, and a lot of that is caused by the premeditated  benefit to the right ,of things never changing. Health is a matter of personal habits, eating and exercise.  Economies are run on the same pattern.  There are healthy people and economies in many of our states.  You don't need any more examples of unhealthy leadership, and usually bad personal habits, get us bad political results.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Change is in the air, and I have lived in the 6th District for 25 years so I should know.  I never thought I would live to see Tom Price out of that seat.  But, something really good is brewing for Democrats in this District.


I believe in this young politician, Jon Ossoff, and I believe he will defeat Karen Handel, June 20th in the run-off in spite of the efforts of President Trump, and his blatant lies, to defeat Ossoff.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@MaryElizabethSings

 have lived in the 6th District for 25 years 

Ah, so you were not moved by the Southie Lady's shrill "HE DUZZN EVEN LIVE HEEY!!" talking point on those TV adverts?

And here I thought they were devastating.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Visual_Cortex @MaryElizabethSings


I believe the people of the 6th District, for the most part, find that advertisement offensive, and an insult to their intelligence.


As I said last evening, this is doable with hard work.  I, for one, will be working as hard as I am able to defeat Karen Handel and to see Ossoff seated in Price's old seat.  We need fresh new ideas and fresh new energy in our state and in our nation.  Ossoff has a political future to go much further in service than the 6th Congressional District.  The time in NOW!

TBS
TBS

And and he is living in sin and I want to know about his daddy

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@PaulinNH @TBS

Of course they should be living close to her place of employment.

Over at Kyle's, noted porcine-pleasurer Andyman said that it was evidence that Jon had placed his balls in a blind trust.

PaulinNH
PaulinNH

@TBS  I thought some of the comments last night about Ossoff and his girlfriend were ridiculous.  The woman is a medical student at Emory - likely working insane hours.  Of course they should be living close to her place of employment.

TBS
TBS

Some of those comments flew past ridiculous right over to stupidity.

Peachs
Peachs

@honested @PaulinNH and what Ossoff does is force those Republican to come out of their closets, so the next thing you know the Republican next door is backing dirty minds, and going to church with liquor on his breath, and the guy across the street is gay, something he ate.

Paul42
Paul42

@Visual_Cortex

"The Republicans still aren’t quite sure how to embrace him, and the Democrats still aren’t quite sure how to attack him to any effect. "

I'd say, the candidates have learned from the results Kyle cited, to NOT embrace Trump, at all.

The Democratic strategy ought to follow what you've written about shaming Handel:  don't.  Go to the next round with 'Republicans promised you this and this and this.  They got into power and instead what they did was that and that and that.  We are for changes - these changes - and this is how will deliver and protect you.'

Peachs
Peachs

@Paul42 @Visual_Cortex totally disagree, this is how Clinton lost.  You either all out attack her and put Trump on her, or you get played, eventually you come out with the deplorable statement, the FBI help and you are still thinking God protects his own.

WDE
WDE

@Peachs @Visual_Cortex @honested @PaulinNH as opposed to that Big Eared Rock of Stability we had for 8 years? Uneasy due to 8 years of waffling and weakness..porous borders and the most divisive President in history. I'll take staring down NK to having Big Ears back.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@TBS

I'm fresh out of WaPo freebies, can you pull-quote a bit or summarize a bit for us Poors without a digital subscription?


/begging bowler

Paul42
Paul42

@TBS That was a good read.  Thanks.

I'm betting conservatives will mindlessly repeat all the excuses the author cited as missing the mark.

Paul42
Paul42

@Visual_Cortex

Forget summaries.

Jon Ossoff did not do the impossible. In an 18-person field, he did not get more than 50 percent of the vote, but then few observers expected him to. (As GOP veteran consultant Stu Stevens tweeted: “Getting over 50% with almost 20 candidates is like throwing a football through 10 swinging tires at 50 yards.”) What Ossoff did do was quite extraordinary, winning 48.1 percent of the vote, which is 5 to 6 points higher than the margin predicted in most pre-election polls.

It’s easy to forget that Georgia’s 6th District is a very Republican district. As FiveThirtyEight explained, “Georgia 6 is about 9.5 percentage points more Republican than the nation as a whole. (That is, if there were a tie in the national popular vote, a Republican would be expected to win Georgia 6 by 9.5 points.)” In 2016, Tom Price did much better than that, winning the House seat by more than 20 points. President Trump did much worse than the partisan numbers would have suggested, winning by 1.5 points.

TBS
TBS

Excerpt from the author of the article

In other words, Ossoff — in a district with a 9.5-point Republican advantage — ran 10 points above the 2016 Democratic House contender and ahead of Hillary Clinton (who won less than 47 percent). That strong showing keeps the district as a tossup in June.

Even a weaker showing (43 percent to 45 percent) would have made the June runoff competitive. Dave Wasserman of Cook Political Report wrote several days ago, “Bottom line: it’s a Toss Up. But as one of the wealthiest, most urban, and best-educated districts that voted Republican last fall, it’s also an outlier and rather unrepresentative of the larger House playing field.” Nate Cohn of the New York Times likewise argued before the vote, “Even if Mr. Ossoff falls short, a strong showing — over 45 percent of the vote — would suggest that he would be very competitive in the June runoff. A weaker performance wouldn’t rule out a June victory, but it would be considered underwhelming given Mr. Ossoff’s many advantages in the race so far.”

TBS
TBS

The race could be a one off and not a depiction of the general sentiment around the country. The Rs are hoping so. If it is a depiction of general sentiment, which of course could change, then win or lose in June the House races which are normally much closer on average all of a sudden might become toss ups.

Paul42
Paul42

@Visual_Cortex

Imagine if a Republican won 48 percent of the vote, say, in a New York City congressional district when the Democrats spent a boatload of money and President Barack Obama weighed in. Democrats would not be “breathing easy”; they’d be popping antacids. The same should hold true for Republicans in the GA-6.

n other words, Ossoff — in a district with a 9.5-point Republican advantage — ran 10 points above the 2016 Democratic House contender and ahead of Hillary Clinton (who won less than 47 percent). That strong showing keeps the district as a tossup in June.

Even a weaker showing (43 percent to 45 percent) would have made the June runoff competitive. Dave Wasserman of Cook Political Report wrote several days ago, “Bottom line: it’s a Toss Up. But as one of the wealthiest, most urban, and best-educated districts that voted Republican last fall, it’s also an outlier and rather unrepresentative of the larger House playing field.” Nate Cohn of the New York Times likewise argued before the vote, “Even if Mr. Ossoff falls short, a strong showing — over 45 percent of the vote — would suggest that he would be very competitive in the June runoff. A weaker performance wouldn’t rule out a June victory, but it would be considered underwhelming given Mr. Ossoff’s many advantages in the race so far.”

Paul42
Paul42

@Visual_Cortex

Georgia native and conservative commentator Erick Erickson warned Republicans not to celebrate:

Don’t believe the Republican spin that this was expected and they’re home free in the runoff. While I support Karen Handel and she is a friend, her campaign team has often lagged in generation of grassroots enthusiasm and she does not like to raise money. That said, she is so well known in the 6th, she could play the first stage of this race conservatively and did. Additionally, while the race was going to be close given the dynamics, Jon Ossoff did better than most people, myself included, expected. He outperformed the polling and did better than Hillary Clinton. Democrats are far more energized than Republicans and warning lights should be going off at the NRCC and NRSC right now. Had Ossoff gotten less than 45% of the vote, I would say you really cannot read anything into this. That he almost won is troubling for the GOP.

[And] don’t believe the White House spin that this was not a rebuke of the President. The more closely aligned a candidate was with President Trump, the worse that candidate did. Bob Gray, who was viewed as the Trump candidate, actually opposed Donald Trump vocally throughout the primaries and at one point was declared NeverTrump. But he ran as a partner for Trump. He did better than Bruce [LeVell] who did coalitions work for President Trump in Georgia. He, in turn, did better than Amy Kremer who helped run a Trump related super PAC.

One thing is clear, however: If the GOP goes the way of Trump — catering to working-class whites with a xenophobic, nationalist message — it will find it increasingly hard to win in more affluent, educated suburbs. The challenge for Democrats then would be to capture these voters, hang on to women and minority voters and reclaim the white, working-class voters who may be disappointed or even angry when they find out that Trump has sold them a barrel of snake oil. That’s the coalition that Obama put together — and that Clinton could not hold.

PaulinNH
PaulinNH

@Visual_Cortex @TBS  Short version - Republicans shouldn't be celebrating. 

Money quote:  Imagine if a Republican won 48 percent of the vote, say, in a New York City congressional district when the Democrats spent a boatload of money and President Barack Obama weighed in. Democrats would not be “breathing easy”; they’d be popping antacids. The same should hold true for Republicans in the GA-6.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

  "...another Republican loss..."???  When was that last time that the Dems enjoyed a win?


Well we typically get more votes. But because of our crazy system which gives more weight to rural votes we dont always win.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@Hedley_Lammar

our crazy system which gives more weight to rural votes

When sane people regain control of the Legislative and Executive branches, we really, really have to make fixing that^^ a high priority.

honested
honested

@Hedley_Lammar 

I wouldn't be surprised if the General Assembly calls a special session to declare 'super votes' from johns creek and milton. 

The planters need special recognition.

Peachs
Peachs

@honested @Hedley_Lammar they have got to do something like this, when was the last time they couldn't find a loophole to win, or make the looser the winner.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

Body-shaming Handel = Sl*t-shaming Melania.

Loser moves. Don't do it. 

Don't force decent types like me to have to defend Karen (and Mrs. Trump), because I damnsure will if I have to.

Peachs
Peachs

@Mary Mary the gutter talk is allowed, until you are at mama's dinner table. Apparently Trump didn't have my southern mama, or he would know better.Neither this this big red establishment lady yall are laying off as one of us.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@Peachs @Visual_Cortex

Don't get me wrong--if you want to refer to the President as "Fatf**k McBlubber" be my guest. He's a man and he's got it coming, given that he's body-shamed women all his life.

But given the centuries, nay, millennia of us menfolk keeping the superior sex down and in a world of crap, it's beyond time for us to stop doing it now.

Peachs
Peachs

@Visual_Cortex @Peachs this is the door your man Trump and Congressman Wilson open when they get the impulse to go with their unfiltered mouths.  And I will bet ya before it is over Trump will say something like this to big red.

honested
honested

@Visual_Cortex 

Not at all necessary.

handel is a target rich environment.

Let's not forget the role she had in 'developing' the election system that took 6 hours to count half the registered voters last night.

Her terrible tenure as Fulton County Chair.

Her massive educational achievement.

That she nearly put Susan G. Komen out of business.

No reason to attack her similarities to a human being.

Peachs
Peachs

@Visual_Cortex and so will Trump, he is very sensitive, and he supports Establishment Big Red!!

rimsky
rimsky

@Mary

Though, others (rimsky for one) likened the first lady to a "retard" ( his word)

I will retract if you condone the people (or call them out) for using Moochelle or Obozo.  

Otherwise you are a hypocrite

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@honested @Visual_Cortex


Well said, honested.  And, with that long delay, for "technical reasons," a deformed ballot, I must say I am suspicious of possible Republican "hanky, panky" going on to keep Jon Ossoff under 50% last evening.


People must know on this blog that I will entertain any possibility in my mind, even though I can also doubt that my thinking is valid on a given point.  Nevertheless, I am proud to state that concern outright.  I'll just leave my thinking on that with:  I would not be surprised if I learn deviousness was going on last night with that long delay more than "mechanical problems."

Mary
Mary

I have condemned them and find it unacceptable. The same evening you posted your display of ignorance I called them out. Besides, a retraction with a stipulation is hollow and meaningless.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@Peachs @Visual_Cortex

this is the door your man Trump

MY MAN Trump?

I have hated him with the intensity of a thousand suns for over thirty years.

I actually had to dial back the hatred over the past two years to retain my sanity. Otherwise I woulda gone all Lee Harvey on his despicable arse a long time ago.

Peachs
Peachs

@rimsky @Mary or that little act Trump passed off on the handicapped reporter.  

Mary
Mary

Good to see a stand up guy on this issue. I will also give profs to PaulNH as well. Though, others (rimsky for one) likened the first lady to a "retard" ( his word). I find it extremely rich for some to criticize trump for his less than desirable behavior to stoop to the same level and justify it by saying "well he started it".