Tuesday, January 31, 2017

So will Vladimir Putin be on the National Security Council too?

The news on the national security front is not reassuring. The inexperienced, clueless and not a little crazy Trump Administration is already making moves less than two weeks into its tenure that are making the experts very nervous indeed.

Extreme right-wing (read "white supremacist") nihilist Steve Bannon, whom President Trump has appointed as his chief policy advisor, doesn't have an appropriate security clearance (of course, if he weren't POTUS, it would be doubtful whether Mr. Trump himself could get one). But Bannon will be on the National Security Council.

Be afraid.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will not be.

Be very afraid.

Susan Rice, National Security Advisor to President Obama, may not be the greatest authority on the subject of foreign policy given the timid approach to the world taken by the last administration. But her words nevertheless ring true: "This is stone cold crazy. After a week of crazy. Who needs military advice or intel to make policy on ISIL, Syria, Afghanistan, DPRK?”

And speaking of crazy, there's President Trump's incoherent decision to close America's borders to a whole class of refugees- people who are already strongly vetted to weed out terrorists and none of whom has ever been implicated in an act of terrorism on America's soil since the adoption of the Refugee Act of 1980.. Former Acting CIA Director John McLaughlin calls Mr. Trump's directive an “amateur move that shows this administration does not know and must soon learn a critical lesson — that its actions have secondary and tertiary consequences, most unintended, that it needs to understand before it pulls the trigger." Former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden- shocked to find "the ACLU and me in the same corner-" says that the directive “inarguably has made us less safe. It has taken draconian measures against a threat that was hyped. The byproduct is it feeds the Islamic militant narrative and makes it harder for our allies to side with us.”

Today Mr. Trump is expected to name his replacement for the late, great Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. With at least one and possibly more other vacancies expected to arise on the Court during the next four years, the one legitimate argument for electing Mr. Trump is about to begin bearing fruit. But as I warned during the campaign, we are paying a terrible price. Our nation is in the hands of an erratic demagogue who has absolutely no idea what he's doing. Thankfully, he has Defense Secretary Mattis and a handful of other adults around to at least try to guide him. But he's also surrounded by dangerous extremists like Bannon and National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, whose skewed perspective can be expected to be like gasoline on the fire of Mr. Trump's impulsive cluelessness.

Yes, Mr. Trump may well save the Court and the Constitution itself from being re-written by ideologies who seem to think of the Supreme Court as a standing, unelected Constitutional convention. But having our national security in the hands of a team which largely has no idea what it's doing, dominated by extremists like Bannon and Flynn, and is headed by someone as impulsive, egotistical, ill-informed and erratic as Donald Trump is a very, very heavy price to pay.

ADDENDUM: In fairness, Mr. Trump is reportedly adding the CIA director to the NSA out of "respect" for new director Mike Pompeo and others in the agency. Given his recent history with the agency, perhaps this is a good sign.

The DCI hasn't been on the NSA since 2003. 

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