Notwithstanding a few doubters, Mae West is credited with the witticism "Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?"
As asked him by Donald Trump, Lindsey Graham answers that question: "it's certainly not a gun, Mr. President." Politico reports
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham enthusiastically praised President Donald Trump on Wednesday for his foreign policy, a continued departure from his sharp criticism of Trump during the 2016 race and even after the election.
“I am like the happiest dude in America right now,” a beaming Graham said on “Fox & Friends.” “We have got a president and a national security team that I’ve been dreaming of for eight years.”..
On Tuesday night, the Trump administration told Congress that Iran was in compliance with the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump fiercely criticized during his campaign, and it extended sanctions relief to the country. But Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. would review the agreement.
These guys should just get a room. We know Graham would pay because
“To me, that has been music to my ears,” Graham said. “Iran is running through the Mideast. They are toppling every government they can get their hands on. North Korea, if I were Kim Jong Un, whatever his name is, I would listen to Mike Pence. The fact that the vice president of the United States went to the DMZ, looked across the way and said, 'We're watching you'; Donald Trump is not going to let this nut job in North Korea get a missile to hit America. And if I were North Korea and China, I would start thinking anew about the president of the United States.”
“I am all in. Keep it up, Donald,” Graham added. “I'm sure you're watching."
There is enough there to grab the attention of a dozen mental health professionals. But there is a bigger problem here than love and adoration. It lies in Graham's misplaced faith in the power of warning another nation not to test the USA.
Slate's Joshua Keating points out that when Vice President Pence was in Seoul, South Korea Monday, he stated
Just in the past two weeks, the world witnessed the strength and resolve of our new president in actions taken in Syria and Afghanistan. North Korea would do well not to test his resolve or the strength of the armed forces of the United States in this region.
If only it were so simple as sending a message, which lately has reared its facile head as rationale for military strategy. Instead, Keating explains
The idea that adversaries are impressed by shows of resolve is one of the most overhyped concepts in foreign policy. There’s little evidence to suggest that credibility created by military force is that much of a factor in how governments interact with each other. As political scientist Jonathan Mercer wrote in Foreign Affairs in 2013, summarizing his own and others’ research on the topic, credibility arguments are undermined by the existence of “recursion.” Basically, if I try to signal to you how serious I am, you will probably pick up on the fact that I’m signaling and respond to what you think my real intentions are, rather than the signal itself.
“Those who argue that reputation and credibility matter are depending on strategists to be simple-minded, illogical, and blissfully unaware of recursion,” Mercer writes.
Historical precedents are not hard to come by. Keating again:
For instance, during the Korean War, American policymakers argued that China was watching to see whether the U.S. would back up its commitments to contain the spread of communism. In reality, China was instead worried the U.S. might nuke Beijing. In another example, the Soviets didn’t see the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam as weakness—they wondered why the U.S. spent so much time and resources there in the first place. And as Slate’s cover story vividly demonstrated last week, the Reagan administration’s efforts to project clarity to the Soviet Union in the early 1980s so confused Moscow that it very nearly led to a nuclear war that neither side actually wanted.
So cool your jets, Senator Graham. Trump is still Trump, and a foreign policy guided alternately by bravado and the best financial interests of the president's family does not end well.