The High Priests Strike Again: Trump is Not Learning from Us

By Robbin Laird

I wrote a piece earlier this year, after reading through the Washington Post’s purported interview with Donal Trump.

I simply listed the questions they asked Trump and noted the following about these “questions.”

This was a painful exercise reading through these questions but unless you are the Washington Post and have lived all your life inside the beltway, the clear thrust of these questions is “we are the custodians of the Inside the Betlway truth and the American Way of Life.” They are sort of superman in the 1930s defending their view of the American Way of Life.

When has the Post ever asked Candidate Obama such questions? Or Hillary Clinton for that matter?

If you know the “correct” answers, the questions are really tests on whether you are fit to join the Inside the Beltway priesthood.

One does not even have to like Trump to understand the importance of something akin the recovery of real journalism as crucial to the future.

I really am not interested in having your values shoved down my throat, but I really would like to understand the dynamics of change in the big world out there, for we are in a very dynamic a period of history.

Journalism properly practiced can help in this journey by informing of what is going on, rather than informing me of what you believe.

For that I can go to church.

And although the Donald does not walk or talk like a well trained Inside the Beltway guy, when he speaks of putting the trade relationship with China on the table as part of redefining the competition or calls for a new bargain with NATO or questions where and when we use troops and try to have objectives worthy of their efforts, I think we probably need a bit more “bananas” in the conversation.

We get that Donald Trump is not an Inside the Beltway guy nor does he intend to follow the pathways set down by the dons of the strategic university of US Policy.  He is PRECISELY running against that.

He may well not measure up to the challenge but the core question on the table is whether continuity in US strategic and defense policy is what the American public wants or more to the point whether the consensus built Inside the Beltway really answers the mail.

The decade ahead will almost certainly see significant strategic discontinuity, yet much of the strategic discourse is that shaped in the 1990s with an update for 9/11 and the land wars.

But are the strategic thrusts of the 1990s – the creation of the Euro, EU and NATO expansion, and the intended starving of US power projection forces – the way ahead?

Those thrusts were then modified by 9/11 and the land wars, but both the strategic elites of the Republicans and Democrats seem committed to the use of the U.S. military to reshape the world in their image, whether that face being neo-conservative or liberal.

Does this trajectory make any sense or is a fundamental strategic redirection need to be made?

The Brexit vote certainly will force reconsideration of the 1990 trajectory of the European Union and the election in France could prove interesting in shaping new ways ahead as well. European turmoil provides a clear challenge to U.S. policies and raises fundamental questions.

Putin pushing the envelope in Europe and the Middle East has raised fundamental questions about the ability of NATO as currently funded, constructed and deployed to deal with a power capable of pushing into the seams and challenging Western leadership.

And simply reading through the litany of NATO declarations about the way ahead and matching those to real capabilities on the ground, air and sea, can lead to intellectual shock and disquiet.

The barrier to change is as much a failure to rethink the foundations of Western defense and foreign policy as it is a failure of those policies themselves.

Now a group of political appointees in the diplomatic corps have decided to back Hillary Clinton versus Trump in part on the fact that she is listening to them and Trump is not.

What these denizens of foreign policy seem to not realize that they are making Trump’s core point: they are a key part of the problem or themselves key barriers to change.

Now let us turn to the guidance we get from and I am quoting here:

Together, we have represented the United States as ambassadors in 52 countries or  international organizations.  

We have hundreds of years of combined service. 

And now to the received wisdom from the High Priests:

One of  the candidates –Donald J. Trump — is entirely unqualified to serve as President and Commander -in-Chief. He is 
ignorant of the complex nature of the challenges facing our country, from Russia to China to ISIS to  nuclear proliferation to refugees to drugs, but he has expressed no interest in being educated. 

Indeed he has recently demonstrated he entirely misunderstands and disrespects the role of the  very officials who could educate him: the senior career officers of our intelligence services and of  our military services (whom he has characterized as “rubble”). 

Ok you get the point — Trump has “no interest in being educated” by the “very officials who could educate him,” namely themselves.

In contrast, Hillary Clinton listens and learns from these folks who are identified as the very bedrock of US national security policy.

By contrast, Hillary Clinton’s handling of foreign affairs has consistently sought to advance  fundamental US interests with a deep grounding in the work of the many tens of thousands of  career officers on whom our national secu rity depends. Not every one of us has agreed with    every decision she made (and the same would be true of every one of her predecessors), but we  have profound respect for her skills, dedication, intelligence, and diplomacy.

And they conclude:

In this election there is only one team to represent our nation and lead our career foreign policy and security professionals in a manner befitting our role as the world’s sole superpower. 

I think the last sentence might be rewritten as follows:

In this election there is only one team to represent our nation and lead our career foreign policy  and security professionals in a manner befitting us (who have hundreds of years of combined service) AND MIGHT IF ASKED could have imparted wisdom to Trump and shared some of the secrets of the High Priesthood of Power.

Or perhaps the Evil Vicar’s tutorial to neophytes is reflective of the attitude:

Bookmark this article.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *