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Thursday, March 29, 2018

Trump's Foreign Policy: The Dogs Bark, but the Caravan . . .

Perhaps it's that great minds think alike, or, perhaps, it's just coincidence. I have started a couple of drafts of a piece on President Trump's foreign policy gains, only to find that a few others have done the same--and probably better. I have vowed not to read anymore of them until I write my own little piece. You can find the competition in National Review, Powerline, and elsewhere.

We have heard a great deal from the media and the bureaucracy about the "hollowing out of the State Department." To give an idea of my thoughts on that, I direct my six readers to the blurb next to "my" photo at the side of this blog:
W. Lewis Amselem, long time US Foreign Service Officer; now retired; served all over the world and under all sorts of conditions. Convinced the State Department needs to be drastically slashed and reformed so that it will no longer pose a threat to the national interests of the United States.
Maybe President Trump read that? Judging from that long-ago written blurb, you could correctly conclude that I do not find it at all alarming to have the State Department asked to do with less. That, friends, is a good thing. We, of course, see moaning about those "deep cuts" to the State Department budget that will "gut" our diplomacy. Rubbish. Even with "deep cuts" the budget for State/AID remains in the $40 billion ballpark, which is a pretty big ballpark. The U.S. Foreign Service consists of over 8,000 diplomats, another over 7,500 "specialists," e.g., support personnel, plus AID officers, and a smattering of people from other agencies, such as the Departments of Agriculture and Commerce. In addition, 11-12,000 Civil Service employees work for State, most but not all in Washington, DC. So State has some 28,000 or more full-time employees, plus contractors, interns, and so on. That's a well-staffed Army division. That's a lot of people. That's too many people.

I long have held that you could cut this workforce by about one-third in a flash, and nobody would notice--well, except for those getting cut, and their landlords and real estate agents. With a little planning you could cut the whole thing in half, and have a much more nimble and productive organization. I, therefore, was not aghast, or in shock with horror, because a few positions got left vacant under the Trump Administration, or when the budget proposals were not as grand as in the past. No great foreign policy calamity will befall the Republic because a few "professionals" get their noses out of joint, or some useless programs get cut back. Cut! And cut some more! I've got lots of ideas of where to cut.

In a post written long, long ago (March 12, 2012), I noted that under the late and unlamented Obama/Clinton foreign affairs team, "there is no foreign policy coming from the White House, except a default position of apology, appeasement, and accommodation." It was all just show, what now would be called "virtue signaling." Not all of that, of course, was the fault of Obama or Clinton or her even more despicable successor, John "Christmas in Cambodia" Kerry.  There is a culture at State which I described as revolving,
around public displays of affection for the Secretary; more than that, it is based upon open adoration of the Secretary, who quickly becomes an almost mythical figure possessed of unbounded wisdom and insight. What we have, in other words, is a diluted version of North Korea. You go to staff meetings, and they ring with statements, such as "the Secretary has said," "the Secretary wants," and "the Secretary was right on point this morning." You have not seen grown people--mostly men--try to outdo themselves praising the Dear Leader until you have gone to a morning meeting at State chaired by somebody who just attended a prior staff meeting chaired by the Secretary. As the kids say, "OMG!" People you thought reasonable, lose all reason, all critical faculties as they rush to appear the Most Loyal Servant of the Secretary. These are supposed to be Americans, defenders of the Great Republic, but you expect them to break into Anna's song, absent the irony, 
"Yes, Your Majesty;No, Your Majesty.Tell us how low to go, Your Majesty;Make some more decrees, Your Majesty,Don't let us up off our knees, Your Majesty.Give us a kick, if you please, Your MajestyGive us a kick, if you would, Your Majesty Oh, That was good, Your Majesty!"
I haven't walked through the doorway at 2201 C St., NW, in quite some time, but I doubt things have gotten better. In fact, from all I hear sure they've gotten worse; I detect a sense of abandonment by the bureaucracy since the Trump Administration doesn't seem to worry too much about what the bureaucrats at Foggy Bottom have to say about foreign policy.

Folks, that's a good thing--unless you think foreign policy and diplomacy consist of doing what we always have done and getting the same results over and over. I remember, for example, the consternation at State when Reagan & Co. told us that we would have as our objective to roll-back the USSR. Horrors! "You can't do that! What about the UN? What about the Europeans? The World Order of the past 40 years? That's not how it's done!" I remember horrifying some arms control officials when I expressed that the best way to get Soviet disarmament was to increase ours and drive home to Moscow the futility of competing with the world's biggest economy. Lots of anger, especially from folks who made a very nice living conducting these seemingly endless disarmament negotiations in nice places such as Geneva and Helsinki with generous per diems. Innovation and questioning are not hallmarks of the State Department.

This President, perhaps more so than any other we've had, approaches foreign affairs with the cool detachment of an experienced businessman and negotiator concerned about the end result, not just the inputs. He asks, "Why? Why are we doing that when the USA doesn't benefit?" He is the exact opposite of the State Department belief in--irritating word--"deliverables." Prior to a top-level meeting with a senior foreigner, Department staff try to find a "deliverable," some sort of goody for our leadership to hand the alien potentate as a sign of our willingness to give more in the future. This President has the opposite approach: "I know what they're getting from us, what do we get from them? What's their 'deliverable' to us?" Shocking. He has no problem questioning the way things are--something not, as noted above, a strong point at State, or for that matter, of the usual international elites who get easily shocked by things such as Brexit, labelling Mad Kim as "Rocketman," threatening tariffs, backing out of the destructive Paris Climate Accord, etc.

Trump's approach, with or without the involvement of State, seems to be working. NATO is in better shape than it has been in  years. There is a glimmer of hope of meaningful progress on the Korean peninsula. The Middle East is doing much better now that ISIS has been virtually annihilated. We are moving our Embassy to Jerusalem with barely a peep out of the Arab world. The Saudis and Israelis (as predicted by this humble blog some years ago) are getting together in their opposition to Iran. Iranian boats have stopped harassing our fleet (wonder why?) The Chinese seem to be backing down from their threat of a trade war. Russian influence is on the wane. We have good relations with many African nations in the fight against the jihadis. These and others out there are good signs. A lot of this can be reversed, of course, but, for now, the Trump Caravan moves on even as the assorted prog dogs grow hoarse from barking.

Not bad.

27 comments:

  1. Dip, I was a consular officer - never had any interest in becoming a PO or EO. I liked the "people" side of things, where you know (hopefully) that you are making a tangible difference. Once I got to know how things worked, it always amazed me how much of the reporting done originated in the local press rather than actual HUMINT. Not to say that some FSOs didn't develop local contacts and such but a fair number did not and spent most of their time in their offices.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How much were the EO's and PO's allowed out of their offices? I did Consular work, too; but I also knew a few things about what went on in other shops.

      Delete
  2. It is a bitter lesson to me that America has to suffer a swindler as president to re-establish sensible foreign policies. WHY???? Why can't more decent candidates run on a I-rule-my-bureaucracy-I-take-no-prisoners America-centered foreign policy plank?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Forgive a foreigner intruding on American grief, but: you've routinely had swindlers in office. In what sense was LBJ not a swindler, or JFK, or W, or, indeed, O? The difference is that Trump's swindling has been more public and more widely reported, that's all.

      Above all consider the Clintons, who are swindlers par excellence.

      Delete
    2. Trump has yet to show any "swindling" in office. He might but that is yet to be established. He has been thinking about this a long time. Maybe he decided to pay back from what he has received. Radical concept, I know.

      Delete
  3. just... great.. to see some house cleaning there... you have long made a very compelling case for reorganizing state.

    - reader #1482

    ReplyDelete
  4. Strategically, you want the world to think the president is half crazy, temperamental... capricious. The rub is that you don't want the president to actually BE crazy. Jury is still out on Trump. The magnificent bastard.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I would have thought we saved $billions at State in Chardonnay costs after Hillary and Botox costs after Kerry?

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  6. I still, hope, however, that American foreign policy will back down from its Messianic pretensions. That sort of thinking got us to destabilize Libya and Egypt, and get involved in a Syrian fracas in which we had a choice of backing either those who hated us for what we are and do or those who hated us for what we do and are.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That, BTW, is a back of the hand to Shrillary Shrooooo, Samantha Powerpuff, and the O.

      Delete
  7. I'd dearly love to know how much "soft graft" affects State Department policy. I suspect there have been a lot of senior people who are angling for post-Government jobs as lobbyists or experts...and are selling their offices for post-retirement employment.

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    1. Hammerli280?

      "I suspect there have been a lot of senior people who are angling for post-Government jobs as ... experts.. for post-retirement employment."

      Trigger Alert!!! - She of the "F^*% the EU! and who may've (if I remember correctly got WikiLeaked calling Netanyahu a "Chickenshit") my, if I was either a lawyer in real-life or even if I pretended to be a lawyer on the Internet would be my;

      Exhibit #1:

      Victoria Nuland

      http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-26079957

      https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/how-will-the-global-effort-to-expel-diplomats-affect-russia

      "How much soft graft?"

      Depends Hammerli280 about how much you know about the geography of crossing from Foggy Bottom to K-Street.

      JK

      Delete
    2. The Saudis hired so many retired State people that it was almost a pension plan.

      Delete
    3. Yup Michael K and now this (via Drudge)

      https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-29/washington-leak-culture-meets-wall-street-s-insider-trading-cops

      JK

      Delete
  8. I'm not and neither have I ever been a Source for Breitbart - All I Have Been Doing is, "doing my own thing" as I remembered to do such. Recall as I've typed I'm a "recovering spook."

    Y'all recall Mr. Amselem's post The Release of the MEMWOW (February 2nd) and my comment of February 2, 2018 at 7:06 PM?

    Well. It's about to get interesting ... depending on whether we're tuned to CNN, MSNBC, and/or maybe better C-Span.

    Of course we all ought (cough cough) "trust our sources."

    http://www.breitbart.com/jerusalem/2018/02/08/report-john-mccain-associate-received-trump-hoax-dossier-directly-fusion-gps/

    JK

    (God I hope whoever did the backgroundings did as well as I think [hope] I & my Associates did!)

    I suppose I'm about to find out!

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  9. Coming from the Defense side of the house I usually found State to be more hindrance than help. The HUMINT was usually faulty and the constant barrage of "Person X is going to visit Country Y so all operations against Z must be curtailed for the duration." Don't want to get into SCI but does State realize what a cluster F#%k it is stopping and restarting ops on little/no notice?
    Best Foreign Policy delivery was when Trump was hosting the Chinese Premiere and Xi's Aide had to tell him that Trump just bombed a Syrian air base out of existence.
    That alone sent the best message to China that they better reign in their little PITA Kim.

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  10. I loved your description of the culture at State, " A diluted version of North Korea"... I can imagine that.
    I don´t really know what Trumps foreign policy is anymore. He once sounded like a non-interventionist and I hoped he was. But now he has hired a war-cabinet with some very aggressive people, Bolton, Pompeo, Haley etc. What will come of this I worriedly wonder.
    Swedish lady

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    Replies
    1. Fear not! This is a dangerous world and it takes people like you mentioned to realize it. Leaders lead from in front. Retreaters lead from behind because well, it is easier to retreat.

      Delete
  11. Dip:

    I had to laugh at your description of meetings in State as being reminiscent of Nork goings-on. True dat! But at least we never got killed for being the first person to stop clapping!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Diplomad,

    While simply releasing a lot of bureaucrats is nice, it has the effect of a Presidential Preference, and will be overturned by the callow successor with a (D) after their name. Better is to kill programs via the congressional budget. That's harder to do, but long term far better.

    I wish you were able to run against some drooling (D) in my State's delegation, Sheldon Whitehouse, for example, but then I suppose we'd be without your valuable services.

    Green Bear

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  13. Along with the staff cuts, are there other structural changes at State that would be beneficial? Kori Schake had a book I'm sure you have read, called 'State of Disrepair' that had a bunch of suggestions.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I got shadowbanned at powerline some months ago.. For pretty mundane and gentle criticism of J Goldberg, to boot. national review got on my shit-list when they fired Steyn and
    Derbyshire. Must say i enjoyed trolling NR but they went to closed comments. Didn't enjoy it enough to pay for the privilege.

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  15. I don't know how to contact you Mr. Amselem, so I'm putting it here.
    Lucky you (/s).
    You've made reddit.com/r/The_Donald:
    https://www.reddit.com/r/The_Donald/comments/88vu94/i_will_be_sacrificing_a_chicken_in_the_backyard/

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    Replies
    1. that is one hilarious thread... but boy, associating our dear diplomad with the DNC... I have no face large enough to palm for that.

      - reader #1482

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    2. yup, Diplomad has become entangled in pizzagate! That Moloch jibe is the gift that keeps on giving. I feel for our blog host but i still find it highly amusing.

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