Time to Begin to Worry?

Time to Begin to Worry?

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

The most troublesome thing to watch last week was not the Trump-Comey repartee concerning FBI behavior and disclosures in front and behind the Senate Intelligence Committee; rather, it was what was transpiring in the Gulf. It is clear that between the Congress and the special counsel, a time will come where all the investigations will resolve themselves and the legal and political system will settle the Trump-Comey/Russia crisis. It may well not be pretty but the system will work.  Between Mueller and the 2018 elections much needs to be determined. Last week’s reaction to events in the Gulf, together with the President’s performance during his foreign trip, ought to have given the American people pause and genuine reason for concern.

There are several fundamental issues which ought to alarm Americans: the fact that the Administration is operating without anything resembling a global strategy; the Administration’s failure to come close to completing the designation of major diplomatic and security appointments; the fact that there is clearly no policy coordination between the White House and his national security staff; and the continuing evidence that the President does not listen, read, and/or comprehend briefing papers.

The lack of a strategy, a vision, or a practical direction exists because the President appears to be a totally reactive decision-maker. This behavior affects all those around him who are making policy or carrying it out. There is no respect whatsoever for those who work for the Administration; especially its non-family members. 

Specific examples exemplify the crisis:

  • the charges d’affaires in the U.S embassy in Beijing resigned over the President’s withdrawal from the Paris Accord due to this decision’s implications for U.S.-China relations as well as the fact that the new U.S. Ambassador is not even at post;
  • Secretary Tillerson said he was seeking a diplomatic resolution between Qatar and the Saudi led Sunni opponents and within hours the President said he supported the Saudis;
  • the President created a totally unnecessary conflict with the London Mayor because he did not read a statement properly, does not apologize, doubles down on it and has announced that he is going to cancel his visit to Britain because of the planned anti-Trump demonstrations; and
  • the President complains that the Senate is not expediting his senior appointments when in fact he has yet to send Congress recommendations for at least 530 still vacant presidential appointees, including numerous State Department staff positions and as well as ambassadors. 

The crisis last week in the Gulf demonstrated how quickly a global crisis could evolve. The issues of Saudi-Iran rivalry is only the beginning of the problems which explains why absent a larger overall strategy the region could explode with the U.S. in total disarray. Unlike the President’s view it is not exclusively a fight against terrorists. There is the matter of oil and natural gas rights and production; there are serious Sunni-Shiite differences; there is the future of a major U.S. military base in Qatar; as well as America’s naval base in Bahrain.  All of this is without mentioning the very dormant Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, the growing ISIS presence in Iran, and the continuing inability to develop a mutually acceptable approach to integrating Kurdish forces into the fight against ISIS.

(Curiously the lack of coordination, consultation, and planning on the foreign policy and national scene could eventually result in some of the high-level presidential appointments already in place leaving. It should not be unimaginable if Secretary Tillerson, for example—who certainly does not need the job or the aggravation—should become so exasperated and ridiculed that he would view the situation to be sufficiently toxic that he would tell Trump; sayonara.) It would be unclear who would then run the show on the international stage.

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