Trump Is the Weakest President of Our Lifetimes…and the World Is Taking Notice

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Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is smiling. It’s not hard to imagine why.

“If Obama did it, then it must have been wrong.” That seems to be one of the main themes of the Trump administration. Just recently, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a speech at the American University in Cairo where he stated:

[President Obama] told you that radical Islamist terrorism does not stem from ideology. He told you 9/11 led my country to abandon its ideals, particularly in the Middle East. He told you that the United States and the Muslim world needed ‘a new beginning.’ The results of these misjudgments have been dire.”

In falsely seeing ourselves as a force for what ails the Middle East, we were timid about asserting ourselves when the times — and our partners — demanded it.

The good news is this: The age of self-inflicted American shame is over, and so are the policies that produced so much needless suffering. Now comes the real ‘new beginning.’ In just 24 months, actually less than two years, the United States under President Trump has reasserted its traditional role as a force for good in this region, because we’ve learned from our mistakes. We have rediscovered our voice. We have rebuilt our relationships. We have rejected false overtures from enemies.

This speech comes about a month after the CIA briefed the U.S. Senate about the murder of permanent U.S. resident (and Washington Post reporter) Jamal Khashoggi, immediately after which GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham stated:

You have to be willfully blind not to come to the conclusion that this was orchestrated and organized by people under the command of MBS and that he was intrinsically involved in the demise of Mr. Khashoggi.

One wonders how America under Trump is suddenly a “force for good” in the Middle East when its efforts to seek justice are halfhearted at best for a permanent U.S. resident whose murder was apparently ordered and orchestrated by the Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. That, and it’s difficult to wonder if Trump’s prior business with the Saudis had anything to do with it:

“I get along great with all of them,” Trump said of the Saudis at a 2015 campaign rally in Mobile, Alabama. “They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much!”

In the political row following Khashoggi’s murder, Trump claimed that America was benefiting greatly from business with the Saudis in an apparent effort to smooth over their murder of a permanent U.S. resident:

“With all that being said though, we have $450 billion, $110 billion of which is a military order, but this is equipment and various things ordered from Saudi Arabia, $450 billion,” Trump said. “I think it’s over a million jobs. That’s not helpful for us to cancel an order like that. That hurts us far more than it hurts them.”

Politifact rated his claim (as with so many other of his claims) as not just false, but “Pants On Fire”.

Look again at the smile on Mohammed bin Salman’s face. He knew that Trump would do little or nothing about the murder of an American permanent resident. Why? The Saudi Crown Prince (like so many other leaders around the world) can see Trump for what he is: a weakling unable to look past his own money and personal pride, and a willfully-ignorant lout who is unable to prioritize the good of the nation over his own perceived self-interest. It’s not hyperbole to liken Trump to a toddler wanting attention and sweets from the adults, and once he gets what he wants, couldn’t care less what those adults are doing, right or wrong.

More examples of Trump’s weakness have come to light today. The Kurds - who allied with America against Saddam Hussein (to their dismay) and against ISIS - have apparently realized that America cannot be depended upon and has turned to Russia for help:

The Kurds have submitted a proposal to Moscow that would allow the Syrian government to restore its overall sovereignty over the vast area of Syria taken over by the Kurds since 2012, first during the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s rule and then in the war against the Islamic State. In return, the Kurds want the Syrian government to grant them a degree of autonomy, allowing them to continue their experiment in self-governance, Muslim said.

That is not the only indication of America’s weakness in the region under Trump (from the same article):

On Tuesday, just as U.S. national security adviser John Bolton was leaving Ankara after Erdogan declined to meet him, Russian and Kurdish websites posted videos of Russian military vehicles rumbling through the Syrian countryside trailing big Russian flags. The videos mirrored similar images of U.S. military patrols when they began nearly two years ago.

The Russian patrols took place in an area around the town of Arima, which is already controlled by the Syrian regime, and don’t pose any challenge to the U.S. troops located several miles away.

But Aaron Stein, director of Middle East programs at the Philadelphia-based Foreign Policy Research Institute, said the patrols served as a reminder that with U.S. policy in disarray and U.S. troops on the way out, “Russia owns all of this now.” (boldface mine)

It’s not just the Middle East, either. Trump removed America from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which he claimed was a “very bad deal for America”. In response, the other eleven Pacific Rim nations signed on to the pact anyway without America. If (as Trump seemed to believe) the TPP was only a boondoggle meant to swindle America, then why would the Pacific Rim nations continue with the trade agreement without America? This very month, Japan and the EU signed a free-trade agreement, forging ahead with economic development while Trump sits and sulks on the sidelines. Trump has shown little interest in diplomatic initiatives in Africa (except to cut initiatives started under the Obama administration (because Obama)), thereby allowing the Chinese that much more influence in the region. Central and South America fare little better, for (except for railing against immigrants) Trump ignores them, too. In fact, Trump seems to care little for the rest of the world that doesn’t personally involve him:

Two years after his election, the president still hasn’t nominated ambassadors to two of the most important U.S. allies in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and Turkey — as became apparent after the murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.

There’s no U.S. ambassador in Mexico, our troubled neighbor to the south. No ambassador in nuclear-armed Pakistan, arguably the most dangerous country on Earth. No ambassador in Egypt, the most populous country in the Arab world. No ambassador in Jordan, a vulnerable ally sandwiched between Syria and Israel. No ambassador in South Africa or Singapore.

In 18 countries including those, the White House hasn’t even designated anyone for the job. In 41 more, Trump has nominated a candidate who is stuck waiting for Senate confirmation. And those numbers don’t count special envoys or representatives at international organizations who carry the rank of ambassador.

The overall result: Almost half of the top-level jobs in the State Department are still empty almost two years into the administration.

It is becoming increasingly obvious that Trump simply sees no point in having a functional diplomatic infrastructure. Actually, that’s pretty much what he’s already said:

President Trump says: “I’m the only one that matters” in setting U.S. foreign policy, thus downplaying the importance of high-level jobs such as the assistant secretary of state, which is currently vacant.

Let me tell you, the one that matters is me,” Trump said in an interview that aired on Fox News on Thursday night. “I’m the only one that matters, because when it comes to it, that’s what the policy is going to be. You’ve seen that, you’ve seen it strongly.” (boldface mine)

And that’s the real tragedy. The world’s leaders can see for themselves that (except for Putin), Trump cares little for them or their respective nations except insofar as they provide a personal benefit to him. The whole political world (except for Trump) knows that nature abhors a vacuum, and Trump’s inaction and willful ignorance of the rest of the world is nothing short of a wholesale abdication of American global influence. The next resident of the Oval Office will surely try to rebuild our nation’s influence, but history shows it is unlikely that America will ever again be that “shining city on a hill” to which Reagan likened our nation.

Consider the historical precedents. Egypt was once that “shining city”, but once it had fallen, it never rose to that status again. The same applies to Persia, to Macedonia, to Rome, to the Mongols (yes, the Mongols), and to the British. They all stood at the zenith, masters of all they surveyed…but once they walked down from that great height, they never reached it again. China once stood at that zenith, too…and if they are able to become the preeminent nation in the world following America’s decline, then China will be the only such nation to have twice stood on the mountaintop.

By electing Trump, our nation effectively chose to walk away from that city, to walk down from that hill…and having done so, we will probably never reach it again.

Retired Navy. Inveterate contrarian. If I haven’t done it, I’ve usually done something close.

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