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politics/foreign policy: Flynn resignation

February 15, 2017

So former DIA chief Gen. Flynn has resigned. I want to comment on that. Flynn himself in public was an overt Islamophobe, so I have absolutely no interest in defending him nor Trump nor the Trump administration.

He did however call BS on the US involvement in Syria, which was a positive, and he also was for less-insane relations with Russia which would be a big improvement.

Here’s the thing, though. The objects of US foreign policy obsession seem to lie on this spectrum between McCarthyist cold-war paranoia, to NeoCon Islamophobic paranoia. The whole spectrum is a death trap in the long run, we need to get off it. Flynn was on it.

The official explanation, that he made contacts with Russian diplomats before taking power, doesn’t hold up to even light scrutiny in my opinion. That’s going to be an unpopular thing to say, but too bad.

I’m looking more at Flynn’s stated desire to shift the balance of power among the institutions of US foreign policy. Away from the departments and agencies, and closer to either the White House, as per Trump’s strongman aspirations, or to the Pentagon, per the club-of-generals theory.

The choice of National Security Adviser, is extremely significant. This person must have the mental flexibility to formulate various generally despicable courses of action, in the name of advancing whatever is considered to be the national interest of their time period. It is a distant but still-not-dead hope, that the plans this formulated under this person are sensible, or at least limited to modest amounts of war-criminality.

In the case of a weak president unable to clearly delegate authority, the NS Adviser must also be able to play whatever inter-departmental games go on behind the scenes. At this time, I think Trump is a weak president in that way, and part of me thinks his administration will do less damage if he stays that way, but I’m not 100% sure. Inaction through gridlock is the upside case for the next 4 years – for that the White house can be neither too strong nor too weak.

An extremely powerful position, the NS Advisor basically shares control of US foreign policy with the Secretary of State, with the balance between them varying over the years. Kissinger and Brzezinski were exceptionally powerful NS Advisors. Condoleeza Rice was a significant one, I’d say- between her and Powell, she was the more committed NeoCon. When H. Clinton was Sec of State, she seems to have dominated personally. Regardless of the balance between the two positions, the NS Advisor is often the person promoted to become the next Sec of State.

If the other departments and agencies wanted Flynn out for ideological and balance-of-power reasons, and the opposition to Trump needs a victory, then out he goes. We might see someone like Steve Hadley, the most recent Republican NS Adviser. Although a total neocon, and Condi Rice’s protege, he would appeal to Trump’s critics by (1) being a neocon, which is no longer considered a radical thing, and (2) having actual experience in the exact bureaucracy he is to run, makes him less likely to opt for wholesale reorganization. However, a Hadley type takes us back again onto the standard McCarthyist-Islamophobe spectrum.

The thing that would (or should) potentially scare you would be if Trump gets a talented PR figure like the next Colin Powell – himself an NS Adviser for a time. Powell had this talent where he just exuded integrity no matter what, whether doing damage control after news broke of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, or testifying to Congress after the Iran-Contra affair (attributed to Reagan NS Adviser Poindexter), or of course when he was Sec. of State and sold the Iraq war to the UN.

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