Wednesday, April 12, 2017


A coherent, comprehensive foreign policy is like a river with an upstream and a downstream. Various locks insure that the navigation remains assured at all times. The delta--as in the Nile-- is an outcome to avoid at any cost. When too many tributaries compete, chaos is unavoidable. 

It is important to observe the waterway as a whole if one wants to understand the various tribulations of the current. Under the tsars, Ukraine was known as "Little Russia."  Syria was a French Levantine protectorate after the Treaty of Sevres, and after the prior secret infamous Sykes Picot agreement of 1916.  Likewise, man-made events disguised as accidental unforeseen developments--the Reichtag fire in 1933, the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964--are manipulated accelerators intended to arrive at a certain outcome.  Some see in last week's American intervention in Syria the advent of a larger renewed American come-back in the Middle Eastern theater.  Since the Trump administration has shown very little interest in historical reference, such a Machiavellian approach looks "out of order". It is highly doubtful that any decision is considered on the basis of its historical antecedent.

Under President Nixon, during the German Ostpolitik or in France under General de Gaulle, there existed a "model" of foreign policy. This approach was not without transgressions and cynical manipulation but the endgame was not in doubt. The Indochina and Algeria blunders could not stop an outcome which was too often managed at the cost of too many lives and the violation of too many conventions. The dystopian world now is crying loud for help.
The "fresh" American Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, has a Herculean task, having to convince his various interlocutors of the merits of the goals of the Trump administration in foreign affairs. The Western Europeans remain skeptical, the Chinese inscrutable and the Russians patronizing.

President Trump is said to thrive in chaos but world affairs require some form of predictable parameters, which seem to be alien for a president who admits his weakness for being seen as unpredictable and believing every fortune cookie which happens to arrive on his plate.  Such a tone-deaf strategy might end up in serious miscalculation. The former casino mogul should know better than to play Russian roulette, now that he is the accidental president.

Liking the perks of the presidency is human, neglecting to take advice or to surround oneself with inexperienced counsel (other than the Secretary of Defense,  General James Mattis and his National Security Council adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster) is irresponsible. The policy apparatus is mostly an empty shell. The president is addicted to friendly cable news which appears to be his major source of (dis)information. The cacophony of the Russian medelings, the leaks, the clashes between factions in the White House continue while Trump sits comfortably in a house of cards.  Lies, leaks and fake news occupy the journalists but the charade is starting to alarm the establishment at home and the allies abroad. It is time for this president to feel humbled, more "uneasy"while wearing a crown!  His last reversals regarding NATO and Russia only further damage long-term trust and credibility . Putin must enjoy the show.

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