‘This is literally insane’: Security analyst takes a disturbing look at Trump’s ‘chaotic’ foreign policy

‘This is literally insane’: Security analyst takes a disturbing look at Trump’s ‘chaotic’ foreign policy
James Mattis image via Shutterstock

The Trump Administration has had an especially high turnover, and that includes military and security experts. Author Peter Bergen’s new book, “Trump and His Generals: The Cost of Chaos,” discusses the ways in which President Donald Trump’s relationships with three U.S. military generals — James Mattis, H.R. McMaster and John F. Kelly — went sour. And the book receives high marks from Derek Chollet (who served as assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs under President Barack Obama) in an article for the Washington Post.

“A respected national security analyst at New America and CNN, Bergen provides a deeply informed study, written with clarity and flair,” Chollet enthuses. “Reflecting fresh research and nearly 100 interviews with some key players, his retelling of Trump’s foreign policy skillfully synthesizes what’s already known and adds gossipy tidbits. Although it doesn’t change the fundamental story line and may not create the breaking news one hoped for, it is the best single account of Trump’s foreign policy to date.”

Bergen, in his book, notes that Mattis and McMaster were sometimes critical of Obama on foreign policy — that is, before they got a taste of President Trump.

“As Bergen tells it, Mattis and McMaster were motivated to work for Trump by their perceptions of the Obama Administration’s failures, especially in the Middle East,” Chollet observes. “They thought Obama had squandered American leadership by not enforcing the red line in Syria, ceding ground to Moscow, withdrawing from Iraq and being too timid in the fight against the Islamic State. Ironically, they ended up serving a president who wanted out of the region far more than Obama ever did.”

Mattis and McMaster, according to Bergen, quickly grew frustrated with Trump on foreign policy.

“Instead of drastically altering the U.S. approach toward the Islamic State, Bergen explains, they followed a strategy that was essentially the same,” Chollet notes. “And they found themselves doing everything possible to save Obama policies — like the Iran nuclear agreement — that Trump was determined to destroy.”

More than a few pundits have argued that with so many of the administration officials who stood up to Trump in 2017 or 2018 gone, he now finds himself surrounded by yes-men. And foreign policy is one of the greatest concerns of Trump’s critics.

“As Trump takes a sledgehammer to so much they tried to preserve,” Chollet observes, “the silence of Mattis, Kelly and McMaster is deafening. One finishes Bergen’s book with a sinking feeling that things are going to get worse — and the military’s role will be stressed in ways not seen in decades.”

One of the anonymous sources in Bergen’s book, described as a senior official, is quoted as saying of Trump’s handling of foreign policy, “‘Holy fuck, this can’t last. This is literally insane.”

It remains to be seen what will happen in the 2020 presidential election. Perhaps Trump will be reelected, or perhaps a Democratic Party nominee — whether it turns out to be former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Bernie Sanders or someone else — will succeed in unseating him. Bergen’s book, Chollet asserts, underscores the fact if Trump is reelected, the foreign policy chaos of 2017-2019 could become even worse in 2021 and beyond.

“Depending on the outcome of impeachment and the 2020 election,” Chollet writes, “we may be in the kind of crisis where the military leadership — and all of us — will face an even more uncomfortable and dangerous situation. If the president survives and wins reelection, he will be empowered and emboldened to sow chaos.”

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