President Trump’s foreign policy is sinking into incoherence from the Middle East to the Far East, with his promise of less interventionism and budget savings disappearing from view, as Ivan Eland reports.
By Ivan Eland
The recent North Korean missile tests raise questions about contradictions in President Donald Trump’s national security policies. During his campaign Trump implied that the United States should fight fewer wars overseas and demanded that U.S. dependents, Japan and South Korea, do more for their own defense, perhaps even getting nuclear weapons.
Yet a recent article written by David Sanger, a national security reporter for the New York Times, noted that Trump had tweeted that North Korean acquisition of a long-range missile “won’t happen” and that his administration was considering preemptive military strikes on North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs or reintroducing U.S. tactical (short-range) nuclear missiles into South Korea, which were removed 25 years ago.
So which is it — demanding U.S. allies do more or ramping up America’s efforts to make them even more reliant on American power? And this is not the only Trump policy contradiction.
If Trump is demanding that wealthy allies — both East Asian and European — put out more of an effort for their own security and if Trump wants to fight fewer wars overseas, then why does the defense budget need to be increased by a whopping 10 percent? That proposed increase is roughly equivalent to the entire Russian annual defense budget. In fact, couldn’t U.S. defense spending be cut to help ameliorate the already humongous $20-trillion-dollar national debt?
Moreover, the Department of Defense is the worst run agency in the federal government, as demonstrated by its being the only department to repeatedly fail to pass an audit ? thus not being able to pinpoint where many trillions of dollars over many years have been spent. In 2001, the department’s comptroller admitted to me that the department’s broken accounting system would not be able to pass such an audit for a long time to come. Sixteen years later it still can’t.
How does the American taxpayer know that the already almost $600 billion defense budget each year is spent wisely or even not stolen outright? Despite this niggling elephant in the room, the Congress regularly gives the department, and the military services within it, almost a free pass, because of “patriotism,” political pressure from defense industries, and the aura of secrecy surrounding this bureaucracy.
Because the nation’s founders were almost universally suspicious of large standing militaries — in the late 1770s, European monarchs used them for external conquest and plunder and internal repression of their own peoples — militarism covered by the veneer of “patriotism” is as inauthentic and vile as it is prevalent in Twenty-first Century America.
Also, much of the shroud of secrecy surrounding the military is overdone; many employees of the security bureaucracies admit that much information is over-classified. That includes threat information, which the department has a conflict of interest in hyping, because it justifies more spending on research, weapons, operations, maintenance, and all other things military.
The Terrorist Hype
Trump is also hyping terrorist threats to justify stanching foreign travel and immigration to the United States, as well as indirectly his higher defense budgets. Yet leaked documents from his own Department of Homeland Security say that discrimination by national background is a poor way of identifying potential terrorists and that most people who have committed recent terrorist acts in the United States were radicalized long after coming here.
Despite all the media hype, terrorism is still a rare phenomenon, and North America has always had fewer foreign terrorists than most other places, because it is a long way away from the world’s centers of conflict — for example, the Middle East. So much for the value of “extreme vetting” of arriving individuals from selected Muslim countries and increasing defense spending to combat terrorism.
Pressure by the military-industrial-complex (MIC) is another major driver of excessive defense spending. MIC lobbying has led to monumental wasting of taxpayer dollars over the years. For example, according to David Sanger, efforts to develop and field a limited national missile defense system to protect against the likes of relatively primitive North Korean missiles has cost taxpayers about $300 billion since the days of Eisenhower but has given them a system that, even under perfect conditions, can only hit an incoming missile 44 percent of the time. And most analysts say real world conditions will rarely be perfect. This effort should have been abandoned long ago, but the MIC uses “the legacy of Ronald Reagan” to win conservative support in seeming perpetuity, no matter the poor results of the program.
There are countless other weapons programs in the Department of Defense that are underperforming, vastly exceeding original cost estimates, and are way behind schedule. Thus, taxpayers and their members of Congress need to cast a jaundiced eye on Trump’s desired military spending increase.
Ivan Eland is Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at the Independent Institute. [This article first appeared as a blog post at HuffingtonPost.]
I get a different, more positive view from EIR and LaRouchePAC, concerning Trump’s potentials. LaRouche hasn’t gone thumbs down on him yet, although admits that good outcomes aren’t a certainty. He (Trump) somewhat understands the American System of Political Economy, LaRouche’s precise field of expertise, and it hasn’t been embraced since FDR’s time, and before him, in McKinley’s time at the turn of the 19th century. JFK was getting ready to pursue it. Of these three Presidents, two were assassinated, the other dodged the bullet time-and-again (and Larouche himself was imprisoned on trumped-up charges, with an assassination attempt thrown in), all of this because of the embracing of the American System of Political Economy, as defined by Henry Carey, Lincoln’s economist (which, BTW, he too was assassinated for re-embracing it, after witless/clueless/thuggish Andrew Jackson killed it). It should make one curious to know what it is, that it gets Presidents killed, or “Color Revolutioned” out of office (see LaRouche’s Defense of Alexander Hamilton article on LaRouchePAC, who also was assassinated under cover of duelling, for creating it in the first place). BTW, Sen. Sanders offered to work with Trump on real healthcare , after Ryan double-crossed him with an offer of only a “half-a-loaf” program (apparently as dictated by The Establishment).
According to Mike Whitney (see latest article in the Unz Review), Trump has, in order to take off some of the heat he’s been getting from Congress after General Flynn’s forced resignation, essentially abandoned his campaign policies towards Russia and ceded control of most foreign policy, most pointedly that involving Russia and the Middle East, exclusively to Secretary Tillerson and Generals Mattis and McMaster, who have all come out as thoroughly hard line against Russia and aggressive once again in Syria. They plan on occupying basically all of Syria east of the Euphrates River, giving nominal control to the Kurds. What’s even more disturbing about this whole arrangement is that it’s largely being orchestrated by John McCain.
Says Whitney: “…Uber-hawk John McCain recently stated that he talks with both men “almost daily” (even though he has avoided talking to Trump since he was elected in November.) According to German Marshall Fund’s Derek Chollet, a former Obama Pentagon official. “(McCain) is trying to run U.S. defense policy through Mattis and effectively ignore Trump.” (Kimberly Dozier, Daily Beast contributing editor) Chollet’s comments square with our belief that Trump has relinquished his control over foreign policy to placate his critics.”
You gotta know that we’ll all be dead before 2017 is out if it’s true that John McCain is now effectively in control of our foreign policy through these generals and is ratcheting up the tension against Russia. Didn’t take long at all for the insiders in the Deep State to remove Trump and his ideas entirely from American foreign policy whether the man remains in office on a mere pro forma basis or is officially removed one way or another.
McCain is getting his ducks in a row for World War III. There’s the in-your-face partition of Syria being mobilised now, the influx of perhaps thousands of NATO troops into the Donbass outside of DPR and LPR to “stabilise” the region after the recent false flag weapons depot explosion near Kharkov, and the latest very public kvetching about Russia’s routine training maneuvers near the Baltic republics (i.e., just west of St. Petersburg on Russia’s own turf) scheduled for September. Apparently, that’s become “provocative” since NATO has decided recently to put on a big show just west of Russia’s border. Russia is warned that it should know better than to protect its own turf, since the NATO troops there could easily mistake their intentions and start defending themselves against more perceived Russian aggression. McCain and his minions are just looking for a pretext to start the war. The SOB is so old he doesn’t want to miss the fun before he croaks of old age.
Either Trump is too wimpy to stand up to these people he has appointed (or who, as McCain, have grasped power without any underlying authority), or he was too stupid in the first place for appointing these warmongers if he really wanted peace and good relations with Russia. How is this “winning,” Donald? How does reducing the world to a nuclear ash heap “make America great again?” Trump was probably elected because of his prospective foreign policy of “make love not war,” rather than his atavistic oft-times hateful domestic mish-mash. Yet the country is being force fed the worst of Hillary’s warmongering and Donald’s domestic chaos. Glad we solved healthcare before the bombs fly.
re: Ivan Eland:
“Moreover, the Department of Defense is the worst run agency in the federal government, as demonstrated by its being the only department to repeatedly fail to pass an audit ? thus not being able to pinpoint where many trillions of dollars over many years have been spent. In 2001, the department’s comptroller admitted to me that the department’s broken accounting system would not be able to pass such an audit for a long time to come. Sixteen years later it still can’t.”
“According to German Marshall Fund’s Derek Chollet, a former Obama Pentagon official. “(McCain) is trying to run U.S. defense policy through Mattis and effectively ignore Trump.” ”
John McCain running foreign policy????????????????????????
as Wes Clark said on Face the Nation in 2008 about John McCain:
“I don’t think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down qualifies you to be president”
I disagree, in retrospect, with some of what Clark’s political opinions were but the comment on McCain was dead on.
The Donald should look into the reason(s) the Chileans are saying the Russians did a better job aerial firefighting their tragic fires than the American airplane did.
Trump’s preeminent ‘foreign policy’ preference is his Self-Serving search for BUSINESS DEALS.
To Wit: For Trump, Three Decades of Chasing Deals in Russia
By MEGAN TWOHEY and STEVE EDER
JAN. 16, 2017
Mr. Trump repeatedly sought business in Russia as far back as 1987, when he traveled there to explore building a hotel. He applied for his trademark in the country as early as 1996. And his children and associates have appeared in Moscow over and over in search of joint ventures, meeting with developers and government officials.
During a trip in 2006, Mr. Sater and two of Mr. Trump’s children, Donald Jr. and Ivanka, stayed at the historic Hotel National Moscow opposite the Kremlin, connecting with potential partners over the course of several days.
As recently as 2013, Mr. Trump himself was in Moscow. He had sold Russian real estate developers the right to host his Miss Universe pageant that year, and he used the visit as a chance to discuss development deals, writing on Twitter at the time: “TRUMP TOWER-MOSCOW is next.”
Mr. Trump’s Hopes for Moscow Deals Fail to Break Ground
Donald J. Trump has made repeated efforts over 30 years to build or invest in hotels and luxury housing in Moscow. It never quite happened.
Mr. Trump speaks highly of real estate prospects in Russia in a deposition, saying, “We will be in Moscow at some point.” Mr. Trump acknowledges meeting with Russian investors at Trump Tower to explore a Moscow development deal, and says his son Donald Trump Jr. is working to get a separate deal there off the ground.
At a “Real Estate in Russia” conference, Donald Trump Jr. says that the Trump Organization wants to build luxury housing and hotels in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Sochi.
During a visit to Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant, which he co-owned, Mr. Trump said, “I have plans for the establishment of business in Russia. Now, I am in talks with several Russian companies to establish this skyscraper.”
As the Russian market opened up in the post-Soviet era, Mr. Trump and his partners pursued Russians who were newly flush with cash to buy apartments in Trump Towers in New York and Florida, sales that he boasted about in a 2014 interview. “I know the Russians better than anybody,” Mr. Trump told Michael D’Antonio, a Trump biographer who shared unpublished interview transcripts with The New York Times.
Seeking deals in Russia became part of a broader strategy to expand the Trump brand worldwide. By the mid-2000s, Mr. Trump was transitioning to mostly licensing his name to hotel, condominium and commercial towers rather than building or investing in real estate himself. He discovered that his name was especially attractive in developing countries where the rising rich aspired to the type of ritzy glamour he personified.
I find statements like “Trump’s Incoherent Foreign Policy” to be either ignorant or so hypocritical…….The U.S. Foreign Policy itself and since the US has become a major world power IS THE DEFINITION OF HYPOCRISY AND INCOHERENCE…….
The US speaks about democracy but see how many times it supported and supports the worst dictators in the world.
The US speaks about democracy but supports the veto power in the UN security council
The US speaks about democracy but intervened more than 80 times in other countries elections.
The US speaks about democracy but invades other countries at will and with total disregard to international law or norms.
Shall I continue or that is enough?!
I believe “Foreign Policy” is depraved and treasonous, and this was before Trump came on the scene.
“The United States and its allies are reportedly funding terrorism around the world.
I believe, that is not only ‘depraved’ but treasonous as well. Saudi Arabia an “ally” is reportedly funding terrorism and some of these terrorists have killed soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, and other countries.”
[read more at link below]
Probably I shouldn’t dispute numbers which I’m too lazy to research myself, but that $300 billion dollar figure dating back to the Nike Zeus ABM strikes me as absurdly low. And regarding the effectiveness, even if the interceptors could be made to hit 100% of the time under those “perfect conditions”, they’d still be darned near worthless.
Mr. Eland overlooked another not-too-minor example of Pentagon crap:
“The Cost Of The B-21 Bomber Is Secret For Security Reasons, Which Is Convenient”
Finally, another one of Trump’s unexplainable screw-ups is his increased assistance to Saudi Arabia in bombing and starving Yemen. Does either the man or his clever former generals have a clue what they’re doing there?
It begins to look as though Trump & co are completely out of their element, like Obama, and were easily captured by the NSC surrounding them, to consider only rationales for war. The NSC has over 2000 staff surrounding the administration, and controls their perceptions of the world’s problems, and recommends only military solutions.
Apparently the first step is to convince the admin that it had no idea of the real problems, then that the military is fully prepared with all known solutions, and finally that only more money to the military can solve anything. Despite failure on all fronts indefinitely.
If the public turned off their TVs, and the admin turned off the NSC, perhaps reason might prevail. Apparently none of them have the courage to think for themselves.
Less than a week ago I came to the same conclusion. IMO they’re simply being led around by the nose these days. Hope somebody in authority wises up to the situation.
War is such an obvious failure in every way, that it is a tribute to the power of propaganda that so many people can’t see that, and repeatedly vote for us to shoot ourselves in the foot one more time.
Rational arguments are ineffective in removing well imbedded propaganda conditioning. Only effective counter propaganda can do that. It takes a better lie to remove a lie. Isn’t it sad and ironic that the truth means so little to people, that it is so little developed and valued that we must try to use the more powerful means of lying to get people to do the right thing?
Yes, although the need to oppose propaganda could be removed if mass media were forced to depend upon limited donations.
War is indeed “an obvious failure in every way,” but tyrants succeed by creating fake threats so as to pose as fake defenders to demand power and accuse their opponents of disloyalty. H.L. Mencken said that “The average man avoids truth [because] it is dangerous, no good can come of it, and it doesn’t pay.” So we must eliminate the bribes and quid pro quo corruption of politicians and judges, the political coercion and threats at work. We must make the truth pay, and penalize for falsehood. We must make the lies of warmongers treason, so that the punishment of death will fit the crime, and the warmonger’s fear of punishment outweighs his greed.
“Trump’s Incoherent Foreign Policy”
Uh, his domestic policy is as well, although there is the overarching theme of self-enrichment. That, at least, shows some consistency.
The guy or girl who thought of changing the Department of War was changed to the Department of Defense was an advertising genius. Defending ourselves against Iraqis and Persians sound so much better than warring against them. When the Department of War spends it is preparing to kill somebody, when the Department of Defense spends, it is self defense, still getting ready do or already killing somebody.
I suppose Orwell somewhere suggested changing the name further to the Department of Peace.
Anyway, the best of intentions to curb the excess falls of deaf ears because the people who benefit are far more numerous than those who don’t and what happens at the other end of the gun is of little consequence to them. Just describing the way public safety and military money is doled out to election districts is enough to demoralize the sane reformers, who probably are not beneficiaries of the largesse, anyway.
If change comes, it will most probably be painful, and certainly unimaginable today.
“Ministry of Love,” in Orwell, was it not?
Foreign policy today cannot be anything but incoherent no matter who is President because the assumptions, at least on the surface, are demonstrably false since they reflect not rational thinking but the needs of various factions within the Deep State. Everyone in Washington wants money thrown at them and power is used to get that money. FP is ONLY about money and who gets it and, in the case of Israeli and Saudi interests, who gives it. Thus, the obvious lie that “Iran is the chief funder of terror” which is clearly false since almost all terror groups and incidents are directly funded by the Saudi royals or royals of other Gulf States–end of story. Why? Because we are talking here about SUNNI terror. Yet, this obviously false idea is the bedrock of our bi-partisan FP. Every other area of FP is populated by equally false narratives and assumptions and these are shared by both parties and nearly all major factions within the Deep State. Trump’s situation is a bit different because his entry into Washington has upset the traditional arrangements crafted during the Bush/Obama administration which were already fraying in Obama’s second term.
To put in another way, there is no foreign policy only ambitious people serving various interests. There is no thought anymore (and I say this as someone intimately familiar with the Washington scene) about the good of the country except in the minds of the usual half-wits that stumble into Washington from “out there” and cause more harm than good. Trump and his associates are no better or worse than the people they are replacing. We will continue permanent war until we are stopped by external forces but even then money will be made and “defense” spending will, as usual increase.
Yes, but can we consider ways that better persons can do more than “the usual half-wits that stumble into Washington… and cause more harm than good.”
Do you think that it would help to have an independent federal college of policy analysis constituted to protect all points of view, and textually debate among university experts of all disciplines the status and policy options of each world region? It would produce debate summaries commented by all sides and available to the public for comment. The ability to see all sides challenged and responding in an orderly manner is essential to public understanding.
The availability of such debates could have much reduced the groupthink and hysteria that have led to our endless mad wars since WWII. The debates would show the superficiality and deceptiveness of most thinking in foreign and domestic policy, and would require a much higher standard of evidence and argument. The ignorance and prejudice of political candidates unaware of existing debates would be easier to expose, and media commentators would have a standard for investigation and analysis.
Do you think that this would help raise public awareness of the corruption and hypocrisy and ignorance in Washington? I understand that an independent mass media, uncorrupted elections, and coalitions of honest political parties are necessary as well.
Do you think that this would help raise public awareness of the corruption and hypocrisy and ignorance in Washington?
Where is that little boy who tells the people the emperor is naked when we need him?
Given his recent record, perhaps Trump’s blunders and Congress’s corruption will become so obvious some day that enough people will wake up and rise in rebellion – but I wouldn’t bet on it.
Erik G I like when you post your idea. It would not be a bad institution to have where scholars and diplomats could iron out the world’s problems. Although why wouldn’t we attempt to make the UN do that. I believe the original idea for the UN was to do something along those lines. Plus our media should also serve as that independent informer. If our already existing institutions were not so corrupted then we would have more than enough of the institution you suggest we create. I honestly am not against what you say could work, I’m just afraid that any institution who depends on funding will eventually go the way of the corrupted.
It would not be a bad institution to have where scholars and diplomats could iron out the world’s problems. Although why wouldn’t we attempt to make the UN do that.
The plutocrats and oligarchs of our political parties see the United Nations as a tool for their own unenlightened self-interest – as do other nations..
It is precisely the very notion of diplomacy that is under constant attack from the Obama’s Dems and their McCainiac allies. Even though collaboration with Russia is the absolute precondition to bringing peace to the world, let alone tackling other problems such as Wahabist terrorism, every attempt at discussion with Russia is denounced as a “crime” and further indication of Trump’s “collusion” with the Kremlin. If the President’s foreign policy seems contradictory or “incoherent” it is in great part due to the unprecedented 24/7 media barrage making collaboration with the other world superpower difficult, if not impossible. And that is the intended outcome. President Trump’s great crime is that he is seeking to scrap the “globalist” system put together after WWll, and especially following the fall of the Soviet Union, in favor of new relations with leading nations outside of that dead system. If the war party in Washington, still very much alive, would just get out of the way, we might then be able to join in the huge program being led by China through its “Belt and Road” initiative and get on with the business of economic development.
How right your are Bill, but what I’m asking is how would a new institution serve us any better when the ones we already have are so corrupted? I happen to like Erik G’s idea. God only knows we need more people with solutions.
If I were King of the world the first thing I would do is shred the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the wind (JFK). I would eliminate all special interest lobbying and donations. Elections would not be tv commercials for 2 years, because I would have 3 month campaigns with c-span debates, and I do mean real debates maybe even without audience attendance. Each government agency would need to put people in charge who would make each agency function has it was originally intended to do as per it’s mission statement. The defense budge would be cut by at least 75%, and by doing that terrorism would end that day. Trust me it would. And probably even with all of that Bill the oligarchs would still find away to corrupt the system, but if I were King these plutocrats would hope only to not get caught, because I would throw them all in jail for tampering with the public commons. Since I will never be King of the world default to Erik G instead.
Joe…would you throw away the cars and the bars and the war? Well, the war anyway. Thanks for your thoughts Joe…it’s just you got me thinking Joy to the World and that bullfrog named Jeremiah.
When our daughters were little back when ‘Joy to the World’ was a 3 Dog Night hit the little princesses would jump all around and dance….my Wife and I were just talking about that the other day when the song came up on the radio. Maybe that’s where my writing like that came from. I hope it made you smile, because God knows in this world we could all use a laugh.
Actually if I were king of the world I’d sit in my office all day and review tv commercials and make decisions to which ones would get aired. This would be a great public service, don’t ya think?
Yes, if a man of the people is made king he must first abolish the crown to establish self-government, as Washington refused excess powers. And perhaps in a sense one must first be made king, a matter of force and custom rather than reason. Then one must indeed shred and scatter the secret powers that usurp government authority, reforming damaged agencies, removing and prosecuting the corrupt in Congress, the judiciary, and executive agencies. Laws and an agency to ensure strict truth in advertising are indeed needed reforms, even when advertising is prohibited in mass media.
Public commentary is also a fine way to inform the people, When done by university experts in an outer circle beyond the debates, an expert discussion layer, it can help decide who should represent positions in debate. Demonstrated familiarity with the issues debated should be pre-requisite to public office, and could be granted by simple automatic examinations on the issue debates via the public website of the college.
Thanks to all for good points. The rationale for a separate college of debate is that
1. textual debate can work far better than in-person debate, in moderation, technical level, and precision required;
2. the representatives in Congress or the UN are more readily bribed or pressured, and must seek re-election from persons similarly influenced;
3. the debate summaries are commented and properly organized, and available to the public for comment.
The media should indeed serve as an independent reformer, and we will not get far without amendments to restrict funding of mass media and elections to limited individual contributions. However different means may be required to reform each, and the debate college may be one of those.
Funding is indeed an issue. I have estimated that funding could be minimal during a growth phase, and it might survive on donations. The Library of Congress runs the Congressional Research Service ($108 million annually) answering many thousands of staff questions, but a college of debate would require appropriations. The administration would have to be absolutely proof against corruption, infiltration, and personal or institutional bias, the primary issue.
I’m impressed with the amount of detail you have inside of your plan. It’s always good to have people who seek out solutions. Most of us sort of know what’s wrong, but we have no idea of how to fix these problems that plaque us.
My only worry is that unless there are regulations, and plenty of oversight to guard against corruption, any institution is vulnerable to exploitation. I’m not suggesting that we should not try and establish a committee or forum where better minds could collude to make a better world, but without safeguards to protect the integrity of a well intent body to function probably we will always end up where we had started from…with a corrupted foundation.
I’ll keep reading your comments on this subject Erik because at least you give way to making my own brain work on thinking out a better way. Most of us know when our car isn’t running right, but it only takes one good mechanic to know what’s wrong with it and how to fix the broken ride.
These are indeed core problems despite the complexity of the institution. They are also core problems of our Constitution, that Checks and Balances don’t work properly, and that economic influence has corrupted all branches, so it will be important to try out new structures to prevent this.
Economic influence is avoided by rules, internal investigations, whistle-blowing and other expedients, which work until some large unit is corrupted at the top and must be replaced.
Checks and Balances work best with redundant administrations in each functional branch, as in aircraft autopilots, where a bad unit is overruled and shut down by the others. The present checks between the federal branches do not work because the branches have very distinct powers, so the executive took over most of the power, and because there are no effective checks on the judiciary and few on Congress. Perhaps redundant administrations of the college can share the workload like the storage processors of mass disk storage systems, while checking up on the other offices and voting where there are disputes.
Your insight is right on Chris…my first thought at the title was “since when has it been coherent?” But if I was pressed to describe foreign “policy” in a few words, I would have to defer to George H.W. Bush’s favored dictum, “what we say goes” and add the moniker “Murder, Inc.”.