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The Trump Presidency: Time to act on the threat to our national security from within

By weeding saboteurs out of the intelligence agencies, State and the Pentagon, Trump will merely be undoing the enormous damage done to our national security by a purge of the same bodies undertaken under the guidance of Vice President Dick Cheney following 9/11.

The Trump Presidency: Time to act on the threat to our national security from within

 

by Gilbert Doctorow, Ph.D.

 

A fog has descended on American political life and it is rather hard for the average citizen to understand what is going on. The mainstream media are daily clamoring for more heads to roll in the Administration and for independent investigations to be launched amidst allegations of collusion between Donald Trump’s campaign team and the Kremlin, for which the hacking of the DNC server is highlighted as one of the presumed ‘smoking guns.’  Clearly they are laying the groundwork for what may be a bill of ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ in an impeachment motion.

In this context, Russia policy is just the cutting edge of the more general attack on Trump.  It serves as a shorthand for his plans to reposition the United States as a more conventional, less “exceptional” member of the world’s governing board and to abandon permanent war in favor of Teddy Roosevelt’s recommendation that we speak softly and carry a big stick. None of this sits well with America’s Cold War minded Establishment of whichever party.

Trump’s adversaries in Congress, like Senators Schumer, Congresswoman Pelosi on the Democratic side of the aisle, and  Senators Graham and McCain on the Republican side, and even his allies blow hot and cold on Donald and his foreign policy depending on how persuaded they are that he is yielding to their pressure and changing course.

Indeed, President Trump and his cabinet appointees seem to have backtracked on the notion of an accommodation with Russia, or making any structural changes in NATO and in our relationship with allies in Europe and Asia. 

However, whether the issue at hand is speeches by Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Tillerson in Europe a couple of weeks ago or the appointment of persons known for their tough stand on Russia, like “Mad Dog” General Mattis at Defense and Jon Huntsman to be the next US Ambassador in Moscow, it would be a mistake to draw any conclusions now about President Trump’s real intentions or about his ability to prevail over his advisors and implementers when push comes to shove. Time will tell.

We are living in parallel realities, where the broad public is being daily exposed to a monolithic media assault on Trump and his foreign, read Russian, policy, while the expert community of political scientists has in recent months opened up to very nuanced interpretations of Donald Trump and even of the widely demonized Vladimir Putin.  Perusal of Johnson’s Russia List, the leading daily digest of articles by professionals dealing with Russia and Ukraine show that what academics are now daring to say publicly, and what their publishers now put out in the public domain, is vastly more diverse, more healthy in terms of intellectual vigor than what we saw 15 months ago, before the U.S. presidential electoral race hit its stride.  Moreover, the country’s most prestigious and widely read journal on international affairs, Foreign Affairs, in its latest issue has cast off disparagement of Trump as just another autocratic populist in the South American tradition, and is trying hard to engage in constructive criticism, even in enthusiastic support for the possibilities which his new approach to foreign policy may bring, as in relations with North Korea.

Where are we headed, then, now that cracks are emerging in the Establishment even as an hysterical, McCarthy-ite campaign against Trump and Kremlin sympathizers is underway in the media? 

Much will depend on the actions that President Trump takes right now.  He cannot win the battle over direction of our foreign policy, and he possibly cannot even hold onto power, if he fails to rein in the intelligence services, meaning the FBI, the CIA and the NSA, who are behind the leaks that are daily contributing to the feeding frenzy in the media.  Possibilities for insubordination to the Chief Executive at the Pentagon and at the State Department must also be nipped in the bud through personnel changes. 

Donald Trump spent the first month in office issuing Executive Orders that largely were directed at undoing damage to the economy, to our social values by the outgoing Obama Administration.  By weeding saboteurs out of the intelligence agencies, State and the Pentagon, Trump will merely be undoing the enormous damage done to our long term national security by a purge of the same bodies undertaken under the guidance of Vice President Dick Cheney following 9/11.  Not only were career officers replaced on an ideological basis so that these departments were filled with Neocons, but many functions were outsourced, particularly in intelligence and defense, leaving the federal agencies with vast gaps in competences.  This damage must now be undone, even if it will risk constitutional challenges from Congress.   The nation’s security demands it, and Donald Trump is the man to do it.

 

© Gilbert Doctorow, 2017

 

 

 

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Doctorow is a Brussels-based political analyst. His latest book, Does Russia Have a Future? was published in August 2015.

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