Christmas came early for Donald Trump. He signed a historic tax cut, kept the Government funded and operating and, to the delight of many in his base, used UN Ambassador Nikki Haley as a mouthpiece to tell the rest of the world to go pound sand. He is feeling groovy. But Donald Trump is still his own worst enemy. And his Presidency will be fatally harmed if he continues with his erratic foreign policy and his empty talk on dealing with the opioid plague.
Let's start with his wildly fluctuating foreign policy. There is no consistency nor is their a theme. When he announced that he was recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, many assumed he was on the Israeli leash and was behaving as any obedient dog would. Perhaps.
How then do you explain yesterday's (Thursday) decision to arm Ukraine as a show of force to Russia:
The Trump administration has approved the largest U.S. commercial sale of lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine since 2014. . . . Administration officials confirmed that the State Department this month approved a commercial license authorizing the export of Model M107A1 Sniper Systems, ammunition, and associated parts and accessories to Ukraine, a sale valued at $41.5 million. These weapons address a specific vulnerability of Ukrainian forces fighting a Russian-backed separatist movement in two eastern provinces.
The people we are arming in the Ukraine are the actual and intellectual descendants of the Nazi sympathizers who helped the Einsatzgruppen murder more than a million Jews after Hitler invaded the Soviet Union. Scholar Richard Sakwa provides the horrifying details on the pro-Nazi ideological foundation of the key Ukrainian political groups we are backing:
“The Orange revolution, like the later Euromaidan events, was democratic in intent but gave an impetus ‘to the revival of the radical versions of [the] Ukrainian national movement that first appeared on the historical scene in the course of World War II and a national discourse focused on fighting against the enemy’.41 ” . . . .
“In Dnepropetrovsk, for example, instead of the anticipated 60 street-name changes, 350 were planned. Everywhere ‘Lenin Streets’ became ‘Bandera Avenues’ as everything Russian was purged. One set of mass murderers was changed for another. Just as the Soviet regime had changed toponyms to inscribe its power into the physical environment, so now the Euromaidan revolution seeks to remould daily life. In Germany today the names of Nazis and their collaborators are anathema, whereas in Ukraine they are glorified.”
Excerpt From: Richard Sakwa. “Frontline Ukraine : Crisis in the Borderlands.” from the Afterward
At the very moment we are signaling our support for Israel, the country founded largely because of the horror over the Shoah, we are also giving weapons to political groups whose parents and grand parents helped carry out the Shoah. Oh yeah, in the process of doing this we are providing a tangible threat to Russia. Imagine what our reaction would be if Russia decided to step up its weapons supplies to Cuba.
Then we have Trump's tough talk on the opioid slaughter taking place across America. Let me be clear. He is not responsible for the start of this plague. The Obama Administration carries a heavy burden on that front. CBS 60 Minutes has done a magnificent job in exposing the role that the Obama Justice Department refused to play in going after the major corporate opiate drug pusher–i.e., the McKesson Corporation:
In October, we joined forces with the Washington Post and reported a disturbing story of Washington at its worst – about an act of Congress that crippled the DEA's ability to fight the worst drug crisis in American history – the opioid addiction crisis. Now, a new front of that joint investigation. It is also disturbing. It's the inside story of the biggest case the DEA ever built against a drug company: the McKesson Corporation, the country's largest drug distributor. It's also the story of a company too big to prosecute.
In 2014, after two years of painstaking inquiry by nine DEA field divisions and 12 U.S. Attorneys, investigators built a powerful case against McKesson for the company's role in the opioid crisis.
[According to DEA Agent Schiller] This is the best case we've ever had against a major distributor in the history of the Drug Enforcement Administration. How do we not go after the number one organization? In the height of the epidemic, when people are dying everywhere, doesn't somebody have to be held accountable? McKesson needs to be held accountable.
Holding McKesson accountable meant going after the 5th largest corporation in the country. Headquartered in San Francisco, McKesson has 76,000 employees and earns almost $200 billion a year in revenues, about the same as Exxon Mobil. Since the 1990s, McKesson has made billions from the distribution of addictive opioids.
So what has Donald Trump done? That is the wrong question. What has he failed to do? We are approaching the one year anniversary of his Presidency and Trump has failed to nominate a Director for the Drug Enforcement Administration, a Director for the Office of National Drug Control Policy, a Director for the National Institute of Justice and an Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs . In other words, none of the people who would be on the policy frontline putting the President's tough words into action have been nominated. Not one. And those agencies and departments are drifting like a rudderless ship on stormy seas.
Another problem for Trump is his mixed signals on getting entangled in foreign wars. During the campaign he made a point of ridiculing those candidates who wanted to go to war in Syria. Now that he is in office, Trump, along with several members of his cabinet, are threatening Iran on almost a daily basis. The Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity just put out a memo on this very subject (which, I'm happy to note, reflects some of the themes I've written about previously):
Iran has come out ahead in Iraq and, with the 2015 nuclear agreement in place, Iran’s commercial and other ties have improved with key NATO allies and the other major world players—Russia and China in particular.
Official pronouncements on critical national security matters need to be based on facts. Hyperbole in describing Iran’s terrorist activities can be counterproductive. For this reason, we call attention to Ambassador Nikki Haley’s recent statement that it is hard to find a “terrorist group in the Middle East that does not have Iran’s fingerprints all over it.” The truth is quite different. The majority of terrorist groups in the region are neither creatures nor puppets of Iran. ISIS, Al-Qaeda and Al-Nusra are three of the more prominent that come to mind.
You have presented yourself as someone willing to speak hard truths in the face of establishment pressure and not to accept the status quo. You spoke out during the campaign against the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq as a historic mistake of epic proportions. You also correctly captured the mood of many Americans fatigued from constant war in far away lands. Yet the torrent of warnings from Washington about the dangers supposedly posed by Iran and the need to confront them are being widely perceived as steps toward reversing your pledge not to get embroiled in new wars.
We encourage you to reflect on the warning we raised with President George W. Bush almost 15 years ago, at a similar historic juncture:
“after watching Secretary Powell today, we are convinced that you would be well served if you widened the discussion … beyond the circle of those advisers clearly bent on a war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic.”
Finally, there is the recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel. I defer to Colonel Lang on this. He believes that this single decision has planted an odious seed that will sprout into a global anti-U.S. sentiment that will reduce our global influence and tangibly damage our leadership on the world stage. While I suppose there always is a chance for a different kind of outcome, I learned long ago not to bet against the old warrior on matters like this.
Taking all of this together I think we are looking at a 2018 where U.S. foreign policy will continue to careen around the globe devoid of a strategic vision.