You may remember how George W. Bush was challenged frequently as not being knowledgeable enough about foreign affairs to be president. Malapropisms were Dubya’s forte and he had us holding our sides when he called the Greeks “Grecians” or referred to the East Timorese as Timorians. That level of ignorance was glossed over at the time with the observation that, “the relevant question isn’t how many names of foreign leaders a candidate knows, but whether he has the strategic vision for America’s role in the world,” according to Charlie Pierce’s column in Esquire today. In other words, who needs facts or knowledge, as long as you have a “vision?” It was a ridiculous notion then and under Donald Trump it has gone beyond ridiculous to horrifying. This is an excerpt from “A Very Stable Genius” the latest Trump book to drop. Esquire: By that point, six months into his administration, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had grown alarmed by gaping holes in Trump’s knowledge of history, especially the key alliances forged following World War II. Trump had dismissed allies as worthless, cozied up to authoritarian regimes in Russia and elsewhere, and advocated withdrawing troops from strategic outposts and active theaters alike. Trump organized his unorthodox worldview under the simplistic banner of “America First,” but Mattis, Tillerson, and Cohn feared his proposals were rash, barely considered, and a danger to America’s superpower standing. They also felt that many of Trump’s impulsive ideas stemmed from his lack of familiarity with U.S. history and, even, where countries were located. To have a useful discussion with him, the trio agreed, they had to create a basic knowledge, a shared language. Trump’s first complaint was to repeat what he had vented about to his national security adviser months earlier: South Korea should pay for a $10 billion missile defense system that the United States built for it. The system was designed to shoot down any short- and medium-range ballistic missiles from North Korea to protect South Korea and American troops stationed there. But Trump argued that the South Koreans should pay for it, proposing that the administration pull U.S. troops out of the region or bill the South Koreans for their protection. “We should charge them rent,” Trump said of South Korea. “We should make them pay for our soldiers. We should make money off of everything.” “We should make money off of everything.” This is what you get when you have a rank amateur, with no background in public service or government, who has spent his entire life grifting. This is what the man knows. This is his level of development. He also went on to say that NATO was “in arrears” thereby demonstrating that he knows nothing about how that body works, and that collection efforts should be made. This is vintage Trump on foreign policy. You recall after the Suleimani assassination how he crowed that the Obama administration “gave billions of dollars to Iran.” He made it sound as if Obama wrote Iran a check. No. What happened is that sanctions were lifted, so Iran got billions of dollars of it’s own money. And we hardly need mention the tariff delusion, that China is pumping cash into the U.S. […]
The new talking point unveiled by Donald Trump Friday and megaphoned by Mike Pompeo on Fox News, is that the assassination of Qasem Soleimani was done “to prevent a war, not to start a war” and that “lives were saved.” Paradoxically, Pompeo is saying how the region is now “safer” while the State Department urges everybody in Iraq to run and if you’re not in Iraq, don’t go there. An expert on ISIS and Al-Queda, who works as a correspondent for the New York Times provides evidence that there was no imminent attack — which would make Trump and Pompeo liars, fancy that? And the reason? Deflect from impeachment, most probably. 2. In fact the evidence pointing to that came as three discrete facts: a) A pattern of travel showing Suleimani was in Syria, Lebanon & Iraq to meet with Shia proxies known to have an offensive position to the US. (As one source said that’s just “business as usual” for Suleimani) — Rukmini Callimachi (@rcallimachi) January 4, 2020 4. And finally, a) and b) were read in the context of c) Iran’s increasingly bellicose position towards American interests in Iraq, including the attack that killed a U.S. contractor and the recent protest outside the American embassy. — Rukmini Callimachi (@rcallimachi) January 4, 2020 6. One official described the planning for the strike as chaotic. The official says that following the attack on an Iraqi base which killed an American contractor circa Dec. 27, Trump was presented a menu of options for how to retaliate. Killing Suleimani was the “far out option” — Rukmini Callimachi (@rcallimachi) January 4, 2020 8. It was after the embassy protests that the president, according to one US official, chose the Suleimani option, but the problem at that point in time is that American intelligence did not know his precise whereabouts. They scrambled to locate him, says the official. — Rukmini Callimachi (@rcallimachi) January 4, 2020 10. Since the strike, Iran has convened its national security chiefs. Chatter intercepted by American intelligence indicates they’re considering a range of options. Cyberattacks, attacks on oil facilities and American personnel and diplomatic outposts have all been cited so far. — Rukmini Callimachi (@rcallimachi) January 4, 2020 12. Another is attacks on American diplomatic and military outposts not just in Iraq, Lebanon and Syria, but as far afield as UAE and Bahrain. The official I spoke to was particularly concerned for American troops stationed in Iraq, some of whom are co-located with Shia militias — Rukmini Callimachi (@rcallimachi) January 4, 2020 14. In 2019, America has been denied airspace and access to operations in Iraq to go after ISIS at the behest of Iran-backed groups. The US has also been told to stop communicating with Sunni tribes. These are important setbacks that have already weakened the US’ posture in Iraq — Rukmini Callimachi (@rcallimachi) January 4, 2020 16. A likely outcome of the recent strike is that small, out-of-the-way outposts for special operations forces will be deemed too vulnerable and will be eliminated. Fighting ISIS is no longer the priority if the outer wall of the US embassy is being attacked. — Rukmini Callimachi (@rcallimachi) January 4, 2020 17. Before I go back to the pool let me just say the obvious: No one’s trying to downplay Suleimani’s crimes. […]
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