It Is Frightening Who is Making Foreign Policy

It Is Frightening Who is Making Foreign Policy


Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

Amidst all the global developments at the end of last week there appear to be two developments concerning how U.S. foreign policy continues to be made by the Trump Administration that ought to give one serious food for thought. Given the very dangerous global actors operating on the world stage today, with whom the President is interacting, Americans ought to be seriously concerned that Trump’s main primary “advisers”, directly involved in decision-making appear to be Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.

When the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week released the redacted version of former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s interview before the Committee on May 21, 2019, the actual text proved to be even scarier than had been previously reported. Tillerson was forthright in his depiction of a system of foreign policy-making being held largely in the hands of Jared Kushner. He cited relations with Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E.  In addition, he mentioned the embarrassment he and the Mexican Ambassador felt when he saw the Ambassador in a restaurant having dinner with Kushner—unbeknownst to Tillerson. He explained to the Committee how on a number of occasions both he and then Secretary of Defense James Mattis were totally surprised and blindsided by decisions being made without their knowledge. Tillerson indicated that they were not in the loop and that they learned about some of these occurrences while being abroad. Some of this information only came to their attention because issues were raised by local and travelling journalists in their entourage. The fact that Kushner and then Chief of Staff Reince Priebus were the chief sources that the President was consulting on international and national security decision-making was shocking to both the State Department and the Pentagon.

If this was not sufficiently disturbing, the President’s close circle of advisers on his trip this weekend to Osaka and then to North Korea consisted of his daughter and son-in-law. They were not treated as tag-along family but had places and roles in meetings, outflanking even Secretary of State Pompeo. They were observed discussing matters with numerous heads of state and their staff. (If anything will convince Pompeo to leave the Administration and return to Kansas to run for the vacant Senate seat in 2020, it will not be Majority leader Mitch McConnell’s entreaties, but the President’s disregard for his Secretary of State.)

Ivanka and Jared even joined the President at the Korean DMZ including meeting with North Korean President Kim Jong-un. These meetings were hardly social events—despite the President’s casual diplomatic style. Once again, the President’s team of diplomatic advisers consisted of the team and Trump-Kushner. The absence of skilled policy diplomats and the presence of total novices makes the potential danger for the U.S. chilling.

The other curious note was the absence of National Security Adviser John Bolton. It had already been evident that he and the President had been in conflict over the on-again off-again Iran attack. In this instance, the President during a moment of serious international activity, banished Bolton both physically and figuratively to Mongolia. If Bolton has now sufficiently also annoyed the Kushner-Trump team, his being disconnected from at least the North Korea stop, may be the prelude for Bolton’s own dismissal.

As global tensions continue to mount and heat-up, friends and foes will have no idea to whom to speak and with whom to deal, other than President’s the family. America’s adversaries may find this humorous and advantageous; allies will be praying that the Trump years will pass without a major global catastrophe.

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