[Marxism] Foreign Affairs on Trump's handling of foreign policy

John Reimann 1999wildcat at gmail.com
Wed Oct 23 15:55:41 MDT 2019

Foreignaffairs.com is the online magazine of what is probably the foremost
capitalist think tank in the US - the Council on Foreign Relations. Here's
an interesting article of theirs. It reads in part:

"or decades, if not centuries, scholars have debated which matters more in
international affairs: structural forces, such as the relative power
between states, or the ideas and decisions of individual leaders. But at
least as far as the United States is concerned, President Donald Trump may
put the debate to rest.

After a slow start, Trump has affected almost every facet of U.S. foreign
policy. And the story to date is not an inspiring one. Trump has
personalized, privatized, and deinstitutionalized foreign policy to the
detriment of the national interest. That trend has accelerated in recent
months, culminating in two disastrous missteps vis-à-vis Ukraine and Syria.
In the process, the American public has suffered, U.S. allies have lost,
and U.S. adversaries have gained—none more so than Russian President
Vladimir Putin.

Three years ago, the United States was the world’s most powerful state,
capable of influencing outcomes on every continent and every issue area.
But from the beginning of his presidency, Trump chose to pull back. He
pursued his withdrawal doctrine
vigor, exiting the 12-nation trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific
Partnership within days of taking office, then going on to withdraw from
the Iran nuclear agreement, the Paris climate accord, and the
Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia. He has since
threatened to leave multiple other multilateral organizations and

Even Trump’s Russia policy initially differed little from President Barack
Obama’s approach after 2014. Although candidate Trump had considered
lifting sanctions on Russia and recognizing its land grab in Crimea as
legitimate, the Trump administration increased those sanctions, never
recognized Crimea’s annexation, bolstered support for NATO, and even went
further than Obama in providing lethal military assistance to Ukraine.
Trump did deliver one welcome change in U.S. policy to the Kremlin by no
longer discussing democratic reforms or human rights abuses, but that was
about it.

For Moscow, this policy continuity was a disappointment. Putin’s surrogates
on Russian television lamented Trump’s weakness, which they blamed on the
U.S. “deep state”—Trump wanted to do the “right thing,” they claimed, but
he was constrained by the conventional foreign policy elites running his
national security departments; the professional bureaucrats at the
Department of State, the Department of Defense, and the CIA; and the
Russophobes in U.S. “mainstream” media and the Democratic Party.

Putin himself identified domestic politics in the United States as the main
obstacle preventing Trump from pursuing a thaw with Russia. He was not
wrong. *But instead of a sinister deep state working against the U.S.
president, it was the national security professionals within his own
administration, including his political appointees, who were moderating
some of Trump’s most extreme pro-Putin proclivities.*

*The Kremlin may, at long last, be getting what it wants. Gradually, but
especially in the last year, Trump has eroded the normal national security
decision-making process, marginalized the professionals who usually shape
and execute U.S. foreign policy, and placed his private interests and
ill-informed personal theories—often shaped by disinformation and
conspiracy yarns—above all else. The result has been a disaster for U.S.
national interests and a boon for Russia.*

*Since McMaster’s exit from the administration in April 2018, standard
procedures for making national security decisions have been abandoned.
Trump rarely attends National Security Council (NSC) meetings. He prefers
to make his own decisions, based on intuition and personal preferences and
without expert advice. Earlier this month, his new national security
advisor, Robert O’Brien, announced plans
<https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/10/politics/trump-nsc-cuts/index.html> to
significantly cut the NSC staff and replace many of its career officials
with political appointees.*  [My emphasis]....

Other departments and agencies have seen their norms and procedures—not to
mention their integrity—come under presidential attack as well. Trump’s
first target, even before his inauguration, was the CIA, followed by the
FBI and the intelligence community at large. In July 2018, Trump stood next
to Putin at a summit in Helsinki and publicly rejected the findings of the
U.S. intelligence community regarding Russia’s campaign of interference in
the 2016 presidential election....

*Trump’s assault on conventional decision-making processes has allowed him
to personalize and privatize U.S. foreign policy, often in ways that
benefit the Kremlin more than the White House. ...*
A standard process for formulating and executing U.S. foreign policy would
have foreseen these dangers and worked to counteract them. Such a process
no longer exists, *allowing one individual to let his personal interests
and misguided intuitions radically reshape U.S. foreign policy. *In the two
biggest arenas of U.S.-Russian conflict over the last decade—Ukraine and
Syria—Trump has just handed Putin and his allies major victories, without a
fight and without receiving anything in return.
*“In politics, abstract terms conceal treachery.” *from "The Black
Jacobins" by C. L. R. James
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