[Marxism] (no subject)

John Reimann 1999wildcat at gmail.com
Sat Feb 8 07:34:55 MST 2020


As the impeachment hearings showed, one of the major impediments to Trump
one-man rule is the staff in the different wings of the federal government.
That is especially so for the National Security Council, which plays a key
role in coordinating the other agencies of the federal government. Now
Trump is moving on them, just as he did on the State Department.

>From the NYT:
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/07/opinion/alexander-vindman-nsc-trump.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage

On Friday, the White House announced that it was *transferring Lt. Col.
Alexander Vindman
<https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/07/us/politics/alexander-vindman-white-house.html>*,
who testified during the House impeachment hearings, out of the National
Security Council. The move is unsettling, petty and vindictive. But it’s
not a surprise: The dismissal is just one part of a campaign by the
national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, to trumpify one of the most
powerful and important institutions in government.

Over the last six months, while impeachment dominated the news, Mr. O’Brien
undertook the first restructuring of the council in a generation. He cut 60
to 70 positions, about a third of the staff, many of them career
professionals. He also directed that the National Security Council focus
less on transnational issues like global economics and nonproliferation,
and more on bilateral and geographic priorities. In all, Mr. O’Brien’s
trumpification of the staff will hamper the United States’ ability to meet
the world’s challenges, and hamstring the next president.

The staff of the National Security Council has evolved since its creation
in the National Security Act of 1947, which sought to connect the various
departments and agencies that together drive the nation’s foreign policy.
At first, the staff served merely as administrative clerks to the
principals on the National Security Council — the president, secretaries of
state and defense and other leaders. According to its first director, the
staff coordinated and integrated the “ideas in crisscrossing proposals”
from around government.

But over the years, various presidents have coopted the council’s staff,
which grew both bigger and more influential, especially after 9/11 — to the
point where it not only distributes a meeting’s agenda, but sets the
government’s.

Congress mostly indulged the presidents a “personal band of warriors,”
as *George
W. Bush called
<https://books.google.com/books?id=fygsDwAAQBAJ&pg=PA512&lpg=PA512&dq=bush+personal+band+of+warriors&source=bl&ots=vgSF63trkB&sig=ACfU3U12N1nPItRx0iLZOxkr6Np_5QsXaw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjXiJnL_qPnAhXCuVkKHU1SA30Q6AEwAHoECA8QAQ#v=onepage&q=bush%20personal%20band%20of%20warriors&f=false>*
the
staff, to fight their fights in Washington. And agencies like the Pentagon
and C.I.A. lent the White House almost a battalion’s worth of diplomats,
intelligence analysts and career military officers like Colonel Vindman.

Mr. Trump inherited from President Barack Obama the most powerful National
Security Council in history. But the new president struggled to win over
the hundreds of staff members who’d fought for the sorts of globalist
policies — like trade deals and alliances — he had long opposed. Mr. Trump
certainly tried to conquer the staff, naming a loyalist retired lieutenant
general, Michael Flynn, as his first national security adviser and his
nationalist adviser Steve Bannon to a high-level committee within it. The
message was, as a Trump hire *told one member of the staff
<https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2019/03/01/trump-national-security-council-225442>*,
“The president doesn’t care about the things you care about, and the sooner
that you know about it, the better.”

The public outcry over the resulting turmoil at the council — even the
Hollywood celebrities *Sarah Silverman
<https://twitter.com/SarahKSilverman/status/830170694814011392>* and *Judd
Apatow <https://twitter.com/JuddApatow/status/826093268614180865>* tweeted
their concerns — forced Mr. Trump to back down and bounce Mr. Flynn and Mr.
Bannon (Mr. Flynn’s legal troubles helped ease his way out). But the fight
continued in the council’s cipher-locked offices and classified memos. Mr.
Trump’s loyalists on the staff *attempted to spy
<https://www.thedailybeast.com/white-house-aides-plan-to-stop-leaks-spy-on-his-co-workers>*
 on, *scapegoat
<https://foreignpolicy.com/2017/08/10/heres-the-memo-that-blew-up-the-nsc/>*
 and *smear
<https://www.factcheck.org/2018/09/muslim-spy-falsehood-circulates-again/>*
their
nonpolitical colleagues. Within a year of the inauguration, Mr. Trump
was *tweeting
<https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/936037938898636800>* about a
“deep state” working against him.

The dysfunction at the council, which Mr. Flynn’s successors H.R. McMaster
and John Bolton failed to end, helped break the government. Congress’s
impeachment hearings revealed the depth of the crisis: Mr. Trump used* the
staff and others
<https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/23/us/politics/kash-patel-ukraine.html>* to
help shake Ukraine down for dirt on a political rival, while Colonel
Vindman, the staff’s Ukraine point person, and the rest of the council
pursued a different policy altogether. Far from becoming Mr. Trump’s
warriors, *staff members like Colonel Vindman became witnesses
<https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/24/us/politics/impeachment-witnesses.html>*
against
the president, exposing the sordid breakdown to Congress.

As the Ukraine inquiry and impeachment distracted everyone, Mr. Bolton’s
replacement, Mr. O’Brien, decided to launch his own operation to transform
the National Security Council after less than a month as its leader. He
explained his aggressive job cuts were meant to reaffirm the staff’s
traditional “mission to coordinate,” but that never added up. The cuts’
size and speed are instead deeply destabilizing to Washington. The timing
and targets also smack of ulterior motives: A smaller staff mean fewer
potential witnesses and fewer questions about Mr. Trump’s priorities.

More than simply ridding the staff of resistance to the president, Mr.
O’Brien’s has locked Trumpism into the government’s bureaucratic hub. His
restructuring prioritizes geographic policy (like, ironically, Ukraine
policy) while cutting or combining teams in functional and transnational
issues such as international economics, nonproliferation and global health.
The council is now tailor made for a president who sees foreign policy in
transactional, bilateral terms, as either decisions to make alone or deals
to be cut with another head of state.

But a Trumpian National Security Council is a terrible fit for today’s
world. The coronavirus emerging from China is just the latest proof of how
rarely global events cooperate with presidential preference, and how often
they spread across continents and policy disciplines. Mr. Trump may not
believe the whole world is interconnected or that it requires
whole-of-government policymaking, but that does not make it so. Nor does it
mean he can combat a potential pandemic armed only with talking points for
a phone call with China’s president. Challenges like coronavirus demand the
sort of dot connecting that had once been the métier of the National
Security Council, and is now lost in Washington.

At great risk to the country, Mr. Trump and Mr. O’Brien are finally winning
the war at the council. But it’s the next president’s loss, and thus all of
ours. Whoever replaces Mr. Trump will inherit a weaker and less worldly
National Security Council, and learn the hard way it’s far easier to
deconstruct a staff than rebuild one. As a result, even after Mr. Trump
leaves the White House, Trumpism will continue to corrupt American foreign
policy.
-- 
*“In politics, abstract terms conceal treachery.” *from "The Black
Jacobins" by C. L. R. James
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