Given my anxiety about our ignorant, thoughtless and unpredictable president, I have treasured the presence of General Mattis as Secretary of Defense in the cabinet. He is known as a scholar/general with great integrity. As such, I have thought of him as a leveling influence to our impetuous president, whom I think of as the boy king.
I was going to laud the general in this space, but feel the need to hang back a bit after seeing reports of his defense of the president’s European visit.
In only a week or so Trump shoved decades of common cause to the curb with his tentative public commitments to NATO and withholding backing to common causes of the G7 such as the international agreement on climate change and free trade.
This is the down side of having a president who prides himself on being unpredictable. It may have been a useful tactic in real estate, and at times of use in foreign policy, but it can’t be its corner stone. In a “world of disarray,” as described by foreign policy analyst Richard Haas, order is in demand not the chaos of unpredictability.
Trump’s words and actions prompted German Chancellor Angela Merkel to warn European nations in striking fashion that it could no longer depend on others (namely the U. S. and the brexiting Britain) in deciding their future.
Decades of unconditional support wiped away in a few days. Nice job Don.
I expect Trump to make a mess of such things, so I was not shocked. Trump is a storm that must be weathered. What did bother me is that the guy I was just about to laud for his wisdom and strength in this space, Secretary Mattis, tried to slap some lipstick on Trump’s piggish claims of a successful European visit.
In a TV interview last Saturday Mattis claimed there is “no doubt” the United States is committed to its fellow NATO member countries. General, as shown by the Merkel statement above, which has been parroted to some degree by the leaders of France and Italy, there’s plenty of doubt among the Europeans of our commitment.
General, you also defended Trump’s emphasis on the need for many NATO nations to pay their fair share, saying this is something previous administrations have pressed as well. “We’ve all got to be willing to deal with it like a bank. If you want to take something out of it you’ve got to put something into it.”
Setting aside the fact you are not speaking to kindergartners, general, you undercut your own argument when you stated that the pressure to get Europeans to spend more has been working as this is the second year in a row that there was an increase in military spending.
Well, general, if the pressure has been working why did the president feel the need to embarrass the Europeans right off the bat?
It’s like having your first dinner with your in-laws and you criticize the menu and how the food was prepared. It is no way to stabilize a relationship.
And you know that, general. That is what bothers me. I understand you are in a very tricky position and applaud you for contradicting the president on other occasions. And you didn’t really lie in this case. However, some of your impeccable integrity got chipped away by giving the impression that this European debacle was actually a positive for U. S./European relationships.
In other words, you helped Trump create some more fake news. Just giving you a heads up Mr. Secretary. It is hard being around the nasty boy king who loves playing in the mud without getting yourself dirty.
If we can’t count on you, who can we count on?