Trump has already damaged our international reputation. His first act as Commander-in-Chief resulted in the death of an 8 year old, and the death of one of our best, a Navy SEAL, Chief Petty Officer Owens and three other injuries Yet, unlike his predecessor, Trump, most likely due to his Johns Hopkins’ diagnosis of malignant narcissism, blamed President Obama. Ironically (perhaps not for someone suffering from Trump’s personality disorder) President Obama never signed off on this raid. He questioned the wisdom of getting even more embroiled in Yemen with special forces. Trump went on to blame the generals after not getting the traction he wanted in the story that blamed Obama.
At the end of his predecessor’s presidency, the United States enjoyed an 89% rating in Germany, an 84% approval rating in France (yes, France), and a 79% approval rating in the U.K.–our most important ally. These numbers are mind blowing in how Trump managed in 8 months to turn Germany’s approval rating of 89% to 11%. France went from 79% to 14%. The UK–I’ll reiterate “our most important ally”–from 79% to 22%.
These are our allies; our fellow NATO members; the countries that are supporting our attempt (or at least our former attempt under Obama) to curb Russian aggression–the country who interfered in our election and has recently committed more cyber attacks against us; the country that invaded Georgia and Ukraine.
I do not believe this country has ever seen such blatant incompetence in The White House, especially in matters of international relations. We have gone from being the Leaders of the Free World to an isolated country whose allies are bewildered by Trump’s cozying up to the dictator we are supposed to collectively hold in check.
Trump is quite audacious to call President Obama’s foreign policy weak. President Obama decimated al Qaeda, pushed ISIS out of Iraq, and gave the order to kill bin Laden, all while increasing the popularity of the United States in the Middle East and Europe, which allowed for the genesis of nascent democratic movements in countries with ultra-conservative, inherently undemocratic Sharia Law.
President Obama allowed the Reform Party of Iran enough room to breath by pulling most troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan. This strategy resulted in the victory of the Reform Party of Iran and the ouster of one of the world’s most dangerous despots, known for chanting “death to Israel” while secretly maintaining a nuclear program: Ahmedinijad. Without firing a single shot, Obama ridded the West of one of its biggest problems. Not only did Obama’s strategy rid the world of one of its unstable despots, but for the first time since the Iranian Revolution, we have a government in place where hatred of the “Great Satan” (The US) doesn’t seem to be a requisite in serving in the government.
Yet the president did not yield from aggressively pursuing terrorists in The Middle East. Instead of wielding a sledgehammer and deploying divisions of troops on the ground and destroying cities and their infrastructures, President Obama wielded a scalpel by using targeted drone attacks (I know folks protest the morality of drone attacks, and this is an important debate) and by deploying the best trained, most disciplined, and most courageous special forces units in the world, we have successively killed the new leader of ISIS every time someone was chosen for the job. After the series of successful raids by “an elite team of American Commandos” not one of the incipient leaders wanted to take the leadership position.
His Middle Eastern Foreign Policy was the the work of a brilliant statesman. Calling it weak, was a Republican talking point that unfortunately caught on with some folks, particularly Trump supporters.
The trouble is that most Americans are too inundated with work, domestic issues, their families, or maybe even “weapons of mass distraction” to study Middle Eastern foreign policy (Even after studying it and keeping up with it for four years, I still have questions, and I definitely don’t have all the answers). So a simple sound bite, “Obama is weak on foreign policy”, although a mindless sound bite and the antithesis of the truth, was affective. And as rhetorically gifted as President Obama is, he and his surrogates were not gifted enough to explain Middle Eastern Foreign Policy in 30 second sound bites.
If jihadists are keeping Russia’s client state Syria, and, therefore, the Russian military busy why bother putting boots on the ground? And why play brinksmanship by firing Tomahawks into a Syria that contains Russian military hardware and military personnel. I may sound harsh and illiberal. I know innocent folks are getting killed, but there isn’t any good outcome for the United States. Putting US Troops in Syria would create regional unrest, propaganda for terrorist organizations, and would accomplish nothing.
Just as Saudi Arabia is our client state–and thus allowed to perpetrate some of the worst human rights’ abuses in the world–Syria is Russia’s client state–and thus, since Putin’s Russia views Western ideas of natural law and human rights as a threat to the power of the state, Syria commits even worse human rights’ abuses, such as the use of sarin gas on a civilian neighborhood. Syria most assuredly made it difficult for President Obama to sleep peacefully. It had already cost Trump some sleeplessness back in April of this year.
However, U.S. Intelligence claims no evidence exists that supports Trump’s claim that a sarin gas strike by Assad back in April of this year ever took place. The Russians even supplied the United States with the intelligence that in Khan Sheikhoum high level jihadists were planning a meet. The meeting would take place on the first floor of the building, but in the basement, Jihadi rebels had stockpiled propane, insecticides, fertilizers, chlorine, etc., forcing the local population to deal with the jihadi rebel economy.
The Russians and Assad are close to winning this war, and both are rational actors. Why use sarin gas when you just got the newly elected President Trump to agree to allow Assad to stay in power? American Intelligence said no sarin had been used–that it was the chemicals stockpiled in the basement that caused chemical poisoning. Furthermore, this was a Russian made guided missile.
Trump–despite all of his advisors advice–needed to bomb something because he alone thought there was a sarin gas strike. So his advisors told Russia and Russia told Syria about the upcoming strike. I think of the belly laughs emanating from a Russian diplomat explaining to his Syrian colleague that a bombing was being staged solely to soothe the ego of America’s megalomaniac. Syria removed its most important aircraft out of harms way. The only punishment doled out was to the American taxpayer. Assad and Putin laughed at us that night.
At least President Obama realized that sometimes the greatest move in “the three dimensional chess” that is international relations, is to not make a move until you see all the pieces on the board–until you have all of the necessary intelligence (rather than ignore the necessary intelligence). President Obama may not have had a straightforward move in Syria, but he at least did not give up. He kept our Russian adversaries busy in a Middle Eastern quagmire of their own by arming the folks he thought to be the least of the evils and of course the least threatening towards the United States. Russia undoubtedly felt the effects of the American rebels. The Russian military interceded and bombed the positions of American rebels.
It is almost comical for Trump to have audacity to call Obama weak on foreign policy. Trump has destroyed American credibility with his treatment of allies and his embracing of Putin. Let’s not forget that Obama sent weapons to the Ukrainians to fight Putin’s Russia–the country that took it upon itself to annex Crimea because the soft power that Obama wielded (more on that later) brought Ukraine over to our side.
To prevent Russia from violating the sovereignty of yet another country, he put American military hardware and American troops on Polish frontier bordering Russia, knowing that Russia would not dare to attack US troops, thus protecting the territorial integrity of Poland. Similar DMZ’s with American advisors were set up in other friendly Baltic states. With Obama at the helm, the world was on our side, once again viewing the United States as the benevolent superpower.
Then Trump with the help of Putin succeeded to the presidency. He insults our Western Allies and questions the legitimacy of NATO–the alliance with our Western allies that helped us win the Cold War. Trump alienates our NATO allies at a time when NATO’s importance is as great as it was during the height of the Cold War.
Perhaps just as distasteful is how Trump praises Putin. He truly emulates the man who single-handedly dismantled liberal democracy in Russia. Putin is one of the biggest villains we have seen since Nazi Germany.
Yet Trump wants to get along with Russia? A country that has troops in one of our ally’s sovereign territories; a country that suppresses free speech; arrests and even kills opposition leaders; a country that has no other foreign policy goal than the furthering of its own interest. Trump must be psychologically projecting when he calls Obama weak; not in the course of history have we had a president so weak. It is beyond weak: it is cowardice; it is treachery; it is ignorance.
And our friends have already had enough. The United States was isolated at the G20 Summit. We were the only country not to sign the environmental accord–it is not often that one country comes out of the G20 as the only country not to be a signatory of an agreement. These events are pre-planned by an advance of diplomats to prevent such an embarrassment. The leaders of our Western Allies did not even want to be seen with him or have their pictures taken with him.
Just like that, Trump turned Obama’s “three dimensional chess” of international relations into bowling, knocking down ally after ally. Now we find ourselves alone in the world and friendless. A friendless country, now hated by the allies that have helped us shape the world order for over 72 years, a country made weak by the lie who still o
The only foreign policy strategy that I’ve seen out of The White House is talk loudly and carry a small stick. Unless you are really ready to turn North Korea into “fire and fury” don’t say it. Trump has served to display every negative stereotype used by our enemies around the world to Bd ree c3 brainwash their citizens. He essentially gave Kim a huge win just by uttering such an idiotic phrase. The greatest president, in my opinion, was a Republican: Theodore Roosevelt. He changed the importance of the presidency and was able to achieve a far greater role for the executive branch. His words were “talk softly and carry a big stick.” TR’s stay at what he dubbed The White House, were the years America became a great power. The construction of the Panama Canal and the manufacturing an American Navy that could rival any Old Europe’s navies. Although economically progressive, he believed in a strong military. His sage advice in foreign policy, “talk softly and carry a big stick,” was adhered to by President Obama. His foreign policy prowess is something that will be reflected in American History when one studies his legacy.
It is, therefore, unfortunate that Putin is getting exactly what he wanted with Trump. After Congress–no doubt protecting its own hindquarters with November fast-approaching–passed sanctions against Russia for interfering in our election, Trump refused to sign it for a week. Trump put some serious thought about whether to be loyal to his Party or Putin. But Putin, a brilliant man, of course had his puppet sign his own Party’s legislation, especially with enough votes to override the veto. Trump was not happy about having to sign it, and he said so publicly. He essentially admitted signing the bill so that the Trump White House would not be rendered toothless. At least he’s honest about why he screwed the Russians.
But Putin already got what he wanted: A weakened West, a weakened United States that is globally hated, an incompetent White House with an undignified, offensive, obtuse president who is presiding over the loss of the superpower status of the United States, and a cabinet and staff laden with people who have worked for Putin’s interests, including a Secretary of State who considers Putin a friend.
Can the Executive Branch of The United States escape from Putin’s clutches? Will ever regain superpower status? Unless we elect a truly competent president, well-respected by the world, in four years–a person who can rebuild our relationship with Europe, reimplement Obama’s foreign policy, and explain that Trump won because of Russian interference and an antiquated electoral college system without coming across as the dreaded “apologist”–then American hegemony may be forever lost.
Our own allies publicly speak of moving on without the United States. Some Trump supporters may not care or may even celebrate our cutting ties with Europe and the rest of the world, but that is because they are philistines with no concept of international relations and the globalized economy.
The United States does not just help protect Europe because of our benignant behavior. In a globalized world of interconnected economies and limited resources, our Western Allies are just as necessary to us as we are to them. They help protect our shipping, they help us counteract Russia’s attempts to gain more-and-more natural resources (and it is important to note here that Russia uses its natural resources like oil as a form of international extortion), our Western Allies are on the front lines with Russia. helping us protect any further violations of the sovereignty of neighboring states by Russia; Europe, particularly Germany is the home of important American military bases that allow us to respond to situations rapidly; our European allies share intelligence with us; they are our allies in fighting Muslim extremism.
Furthermore, the United States has soft power (or we did have soft power until Trump single handedly destroyed it). Soft power is our ability to affect another international actor’s behavior based on the appeal of our values, based on the popular support of The United States within the country whose behavior we seek to affect, and based on whether-or-not a country views our goals as benign.
Soft power is a major asset for the United States. Ukraine’s decision to vote for a pro-Western/pro-American government was soft power at work. However, when we act against our principles soft power no longer works effectively. By praising Putin and picking Paul Manafort (yet another Trump associate connected with Putin–the rest we know of are pictured below) for a campaign manager. Manafort worked for the Russian government by expanding Russian influence in Ukraine–a US ally.
Putin has managed to interfere with our sacred democratic voting process. Putin purposely damaged a candidate who would have continued Obama’s policy as defining Russia as an adversary. He helped a man win the presidency whose obtuseness, especially with foreign policy, gives Putin what he needs to continue to behave nefariously.
Even as a candidate, Trump questioned the necessity of NATO. And since it damages our leverage and soft power, it can be assumed that with America’s low approval ratings around the world, including amongst our strongest Western European allies that Putin is planning on posing half-nude somewhere in the Russian wild.
Western-Russo relations have not been this tense since Reagan first got elected. Putin with his sociopathic brilliance sewed dissension between Western Europe and The United States–a successful divide and conquer strategy. He has plenty of Russian associates in the White House, and an American Secretary of State who met with Putin several times since 1999, made several lucrative deals with him, and was awarded the Russia Order of Friendship by Putin personally.
We may have gotten a brief break from the Cold War in the 90’s, but Reagan’s famous “Tear Down This Wall” moment, and the victory he and Pope John Paul II are credited with, was definitely not the finale to the Cold War.
Welcome to Cold War 2.0, and America we are losing. Putin an ex-KGB official and Russian Dictator used one of America’s greatest strengths as a weakness: the sacred democratic process of electing our own president. When a country interferes in our democracy to ensure the weaker candidate, Trump, who, if involved with Russia himself, has chosen many people for his inner-circle who once promoted Putin’s interest. This was nothing short of a successful coup–a coup that just might have caused the most powerful country on earth since the 40’s to lose its hegemonic status. But Putin has his weaknesses too.
The United States should continue arming Syrian rebels and draw Russia to the point where they are sending ground forces. Russia wants Syria as a client state, then let them Russia be the great evil in the eyes of ISIS and jihadists. As that happens there needs to be a build up of weapons and paramilitary forces in the Crimea. Finally, the Caucuses will disintegrate again into a conflagration. During this time period, we move one fleet into the narrow Bosporus Strait of the Black Sea. At the same time, we renew our ties with our European Allies, by electing someone personable, who believes in international liberal institutions, who treats world leaders with respect. With our Western Allies, we covertly fund the Russian opposition, and use the NSA to the best of our ability. A liberal democratic movement exists in Russia, but they are afraid of the power of the state. Weaken Putin a little through sanctions, proxy wars, and a reunited NATO, these weaknesses might make him look vulnerable at home.