No one expects any President to know everything, or to personally do everything! This is why they are authorized to hire, or retain, a myriad of advisors, experienced and knowledgeable in virtually every area in which the Federal Government engages, as well as any other situations, which might arise. With Donald Trump, however, it is obvious that he is not prepared, even for everyday disturbances, let alone the relationship now existing between the United States and North Korea.
To address the most dangerous issues facing our nation today—such as the apparently nuclear-armed North Korea—the focus should be on Diplomacy, with our National Security Apparatus and Defense, rounding-out our Foreign Policy Team. State is the external face of America which, if carried-out properly, has the ability to diffuse geopolitical disputes, even before they arise. The National Security Advisor, and the Counsel, serve to monitor and plan our long-term strategy, and the Military carries our “Big Stick,” which should be used only as a last resort!
But, where are Donald Trump’s Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Colin Powell or George C. Marshall? His know-it-all personality, unbending unwillingness to take or receive advice, and his insistence on absolute loyalty, have apparently kept anyone with Foreign Policy experience, or even common sense, away. Joining Trump’s Regime appears to mean signing-up to potentially become his scapegoat, whenever he screws-up!
Among the three major Foreign Policy posts, Trump has a former CEO of Exxon-Mobil, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Lieutenant General H. R. McMaster as National Security Advisor, and Secretary of Defense General James Mattis. None of the three have extensive Foreign Policy experience and, let’s not forget that generals fight wars in the present, but not in the long-term geopolitical or preventative sense!
None of the three—Tillerson, McMaster or Mattis—should be considered among Donald Trump’s trusted advisors. Tillerson was apparently all but emasculated when Trump slashed State’s budget by 31%, in his 2018 Federal Budget proposal. Additionally, many of State’s key Assistant Secretary and Ambassador posts remain vacant.
McMaster is allegedly being attacked by Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner, and the War Hawk contingent among Trump’s staff, for firing several appointees of the deposed Michael Flynn. And lastly, Secretary Mattis is reportedly feeling Trump’s wrath, because the Afghanistan War, on-going for 16 years, hasn’t ended soon enough for Trump!
This is the landscape within which the situation with North Korea is supposedly being “addressed”. Tillerson has been attending an ASEAN Conference, in Manila, along with all of the appropriate foreign ministers—North and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia, and even the European Union. Wouldn’t Secretary Tillerson be the right person to take the lead on any discussions, at least for the moment? But, what is our message?
Before his trip to the Philippines, Rex Tillerson had suggested that the U. S. is prepared to talk. Back in March, however, Tillerson had threatened North Korea with a pre-emptive attack. And then, Donald Trump boasted another threat yesterday, vowing that any further threats by North Korea would be met with “Fire and Fury,” whatever that means! Thus, Trump is matching North Korea—threat for threat—and each one is just as hollow!
Rather than Donald Trump continuing to escalate the dangers, along with Kim Jong-Un–one lunatic to another–why don’t they both just back-off, and let the foreign ministers attempt to work things out diplomatically? Arrogance, and assuming that the role of America is to determine who may, or may not build a nuclear arsenal is meaningless, when dealing with countries such as North Korea!
Trudy Rubin, in The Philadelphia Inquirer, has suggested a compelling argument about the bewildering response in Trump dismantling the State Department. Ms Rubin writes that important Assistant Secretarial positions, as well as sensitive Ambassador Posts—such as Assistant Secretary for East Asia (Japan, the Korean Peninsula, and Taiwan), as well as the Ambassador of South Korea—remain vacant. How smart could that be?
Rubin goes on to suggest that both Trump and Tillerson do not even believe in the advantages of Diplomacy. This is very discouraging for career diplomats, who realize that their career potential has been diminished as higher departmental posts are filled by political appointees, rather than experienced diplomats. Similarly, foreign officials and ambassadors in Washington understand that it is pointless to deal with “acting” heads. Is State truly engaged, as Secretary Tillerson appears to be dismantling it, at least through 2018?
In essence: Donald Trump drew a “Red Line”, North Korea immediately crossed it, and Donald’s Big Stick has turned to “Silly Putty!”