Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Donald the Loser: Ben Wittes on Trump as a security threat

In March of 2016 Lawfare's Ben Wittes wrote a post in which he evaluated seven liabilities the candidate seemed to have. He's now written a post evaluating 45's perfornance.

1. Willful ignorance in foreign policy
Whether in his interactions with foreign leaders or in public talk about North Korea, or about his predecessor’s alleged spying on him, or about white supremacist rallies and Confederate statues, ignorant bombast has been one of the hallmarks of the Trump administration. And we are paying for it every day.
2. Anti-Muslim stance
This problem has, in some ways, proven less bad than I expected—or, at least, the consequences of Trump’s anti-Muslim bigotry have so far have been muted. Trump has, indeed, larded his administration with certain people who harbor deep animus for Muslims. His rhetoric has been horrid. And the travel ban executive order sent a terrible signal of irrational anti-Muslim exclusion. [... yet] And at least to date, we have not seen a deep backlash from Islamic countries or Muslims worldwide resulting from the president’s distaste—some recruiting bonanza for ISIS or al-Qaeda, for example, or a refusal of Muslims domestically to work with law enforcement. ...
3. Professed willingness to commit war crimes
This problem has definitely proven less severe than I worried. The reason is simple: Trump has backed off of these promises and has put in charge of the military a leader, James Mattis, who has no interest in committing war crimes. Put this one in the category of Trump’s bark being worse than his bite.
4. Trump-Russia scandal
The Trump-Russia scandal is only secondarily about whatever covert activity may have taken place. It is primarily a scandal of legality that took place in plain view. That Trump had a profound Putin problem was eminently knowable based on the public record of what Trump was saying about Putin in real time.
5. Trump is a chump for manipulative racists
Again, many people professed surprise at the president’s reaction to what happened in Charlottesville. They shouldn’t be. He showed this aspect of his character only too clearly during the campaign. And the danger of that feature—that he would prove unable to provide moral or security leadership in the face of white supremacist violence—was naked at the time to anyone willing to see it.
6. "Not a psychologicaly normal person..."
Trump’s clinical portait turns out to be the defining national security threat he poses—indeed, the defining feature of his presidency. He is unable to restrain himself from tweeting. He is impulsive with sensitive, even classified, information. He focuses obsessively on enemies to the point of gravely warping his judgment. While I’m still not a clinician, I’m entirely comfortable saying that this is not a psychologically normal person. ...
7. Magical thinking and executive incompetence
So far, tyranny has not resulted from Trump’s magical thinking. Instead, its consequences have been that Trump has been almost entirely ineffective in the national security space. One problem with magic, after all, is that it doesn’t work. As it turns out, the national security threat associated with Trump’s belief in magic, and in the magic of his own will in particular, has been that he’s been unable to run a competent executive branch capable of responding effectively to security issues foreign and domestic. This is a huge problem, but it’s not the problem I had imagined in 2016.

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