Saturday, December 22, 2018

Not A Great Week For Europe, Either


Following the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Axios' Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen reveal "We talked all day yesterday with Republican officials, operatives and advisers who are truly scared for America. But it's telling that few have the courage to say it publicly."

Obviously, General Mattis had the courage to say it publicly, noting his concern with

treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues. We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances.

With the opportunity to express his appreciation for serving his Commander-in-Chief or the President, Mattis instead wrote (emphasis mine) "I very much appreciate this opportunity to serve the nation and our men and women in uniform."

Senators especially appreciated the General's hawkishness, commitment to international alliances, and general demeanor, with Democratic senator Tim Kaine stating "I want someone like Mattis who will tell the President the truth to his face." Republican senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin asserted "I'd like  a Mattis clone. I think we all would" and Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse remarked "This is a sad day for America."





Evidently so, because it leaves a vacuum which Secretary of State Mike Pompeo may, disastrously, partially fill.

In a six-sentence statement, Senate Majority Leader McConnell maintained that he is "particularly distressed that he (Mattis) is resigning due to sharp differences with the President on these and other key aspects of America’s global leadership." He added “I believe it’s essential that the United States maintain and strengthen the post-World War II alliances that have been carefully built by leaders in both parties."

The Europeans would agree. Nevertheless (or perhaps therefore) at the 2018 NATO Foreign Minister Summit in Brussels early this month, reports the New Yorker's Susan Glasser, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo  "attacked the United Nations, the E.U., the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, and derided what he called Europe’s flawed vision of multilateralism as 'an end to itself.'" He ludicrously compared “the type of leadership that President Trump is boldly reasserting” with American leadership during the Cold War and refused to take questions after his speech ended.

Not having boasted sufficiently, while returning from Brussels Pompeo actually claimed

We’ve rebuilt NATO in important ways already. NATO is a far stronger organization as a result of the Trump administration than it was for the previous decade, I can assure you. And the 28 European ministers who were there with me today know that too.

This is no way to win friends (aside from Moscow) while a brilliant strategy to alienate friends and allies. A few days earlier, Fogh Rasmussen, a prime minister of Denmark who went on to become the Secretary-General of NATO, had warned

If, at a certain state, Mattis — for one reason or another — were to leave the U.S. government, that would create huge, huge problems with U.S. allies within NATO. If he were to be sacked, that would be an indication that the U.S. government doesn't feel as committed to Article V as in the past. And, in the worst case, it might also tempt [Russian President Vladimir] Putin to test the strength of the alliance and in particular the strength of Article V.

Less than three weeks later, Defense Secretary Mattis- alarmed by the Administration's attack on alliances, the decision to withdraw from Syria, and other matters- would resign. By contrast

“It no longer makes sense for there to be 2,000 soldiers stationed there," he (Pompeo) said this week, even as reports emerged that he privately disagreed with the move.

Such willingness to defend Trump — no matter the potential damage to his reputation — is par for the course for Pompeo. The diplomat is a former congressman from Kansas with a reputation as a highly partisan Republican, and he has worked exceedingly hard to stay in Trump’s good graces. He often tries to spin Trump’s unpopular actions in a positive light — even agreeing to pose for a smile-filled photo with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman at the height of outrage over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

One guy is well respected by Congress and his peers. He tries unsuccessfully to steer President Trump away from a dangerous policy, then honorably resigns with a letter warning of the threat to our national security, international order, and democratic values.   

The other fellow, fairly fresh after trying to weaken the Trans-Atlantic Alliance, cozies up even further with a reckless President, all the while trying to preserve his reputation with the GOP establishment. He pauses to whisper in the ear of friendly reporters so that he may preserve his reputation with a GOP establishment while he recognizes the SS Titanic heading to the iceberg and urges the captain on.

It was a bad week for the President. It may have been an even worse week for the USA and the west.




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