Daily Briefing: Trump at Odds with US Foreign Service: Consequences for Israel (December 2,2019)

President Trump at the Israel Museum. Jerusalem May 23, 2017 President Trump at the Israel Museum. Jerusalem May 23, 2017 (Source: Wikipedia)

Table of Content:

‘Deep State’ Fought Israel and Lost:  Jonathan S. Tobin, JNS, Nov. 14, 2019

Trump and the “Settlements”: A Preliminary Analysis:  Dr. Alex Joffe, BESA, Nov. 22, 2019

Thucydides Goes to Washington: an Interview with Michael Doran about US Grand Strategy in the Middle East:  Michael Doran, Fathom Journal, November/2019

Are Thought Crimes Impeachable?:  Victor Davis Hanson, Realclearpolitics, Nov. 26, 2019


‘Deep State’ Fought Israel and Lost
Jonathan S. Tobin
JNS, Nov. 14, 2019

Americans and viewers around the world have been transfixed this week by the first public hearing by the U.S. House of Representatives on the impeachment of President Donald Trump.

At the center of the proceedings was the testimony of two veteran officials: one a State Department veteran, and the other a career soldier and diplomat. The question of whether or not they helped the Democrats who are stage-managing the hearings to make their case that Trump committed an impeachable offense when he requested that Ukraine look into what he claimed was alleged corruption involving former Vice President Joe Biden is a matter of partisan dispute. Still, there’s no doubt that their testimony reflected the bitter antagonism felt by many, if not most, of those in the Foreign Service and other long-serving members of the federal bureaucracy.

For those who are seeking to impeach Trump by any means necessary, these veteran federal employees lie at the heart and soul of the government, providing the nation with dedicated service informed by their experience, wisdom and patriotism. The fact that Trump routinely ignores their advice and runs roughshod over their priorities and sensibilities is seen by his detractors as a disgrace. The reaction to their complaints—in the form of whistleblower reports or egregious leaks of information to the press—has been applause and reverential media coverage.

Whether or not you think that the Trump’s actions towards Ukraine rise to the level of an impeachable crime, the narrative seems primarily rooted in the disgust on the part of the Foreign Service and other federal employees about Trump’s utter disregard for their counsel.

But leaving aside issues surrounding Trump’s requests to Ukraine as being inappropriate or actually criminal, there is a broader question to be posed with respect to the complaints of those who believe that the core matter in this dispute is a president who neither respects nor listens to the experts. That’s why the release this week of a memoir by Nikki Haley, the former U.S Ambassador to the United Nations, is so timely.

Haley’s book, With All Due Respect, made headlines because of its revelations about the infighting going inside the Trump administration. According to Haley, former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tried to draw her into what sounds like a conspiracy to undermine Trump. The substance of her accusations is that both men considered their duty to be not so much to advise the president and then implement his decisions, but to manipulate and thwart him so as to substitute their judgment—and that of the federal bureaucracy and foreign-policy establishment they trusted—for his. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK– Ed.]

Trump and the “Settlements”: A Preliminary Analysis
Dr. Alex Joffe
BESA, Nov. 22, 2019

The Trump administration’s repudiation of established Obama-era policies that considered Israeli communities across the 1949 Armistice Line (the “Green Line”) “inconsistent with international law” has brought cheers from some quarters and protests from others. But why this decision and why now?

Commentators have offered predictable interpretations based on their political outlooks. For many, the decision is only explicable in terms of Trump’s efforts to shore up PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s waning political fortunes. Given the transactional nature of Trump’s foreign policy and his overt frustration with Israel’s current election imbroglio, a political decision on the Jewish West Bank communities (or “settlements” as they are commonly known) as a means of breaking this logjam cannot be dismissed out of hand. But this must be tempered by Secretary Pompeo’s statement that the administration was willing to defer to Israeli courts’ analysis and supervision of settlements.

There are nevertheless more fundamental instincts at work, namely the administration’s demonstrated propensity, indeed, outright eagerness, to cut Gordion knots. Defiance of foreign policy “conventions” and “norms” that elevate process and inertia over innovation are the hallmarks of Trump’s approach. The Jerusalem embassy move, the trade war with China, support for Brexit, the border wall with Mexico, withdrawal from the Paris climate treaty, and the defunding of UNRWA are only some of the most prominent decisions that have raised the ire of “experts.” In all cases, calamity has been predicted but has failed to materialize.

The long-term wisdom of these and other decisions may of course be questioned, along with the timing of their announcement. But the fact remains that the world has not ended. A case in point is that despite countless accusations of Trump’s “Islamophobia,” the proverbial “Arab street” has not risen up – except against Iranian domination. Indeed, it is arguable that these and other decisions have been liberating in many ways.

It is an important historical question why foreign policy elites have elevated process over results. In part, this is the legacy of World War II, after which institutions (such as NATO and the EEC) and policies were supposed to manage international relations, filigreed by think tanks and non-governmental organizations, only to become unimaginative, self-serving, inertia bound, and fetishized. Innovation was not part of the equation.… [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

Thucydides Goes to Washington: An Interview with Michael Doran about US Grand Strategy in the Middle East
Michael Doran
Fathom Journal, November/2019


Alan Johnson: What have been the major intellectual influences and experiences that have formed you as a foreign policy thinker?

Michael Doran: Mark Mancall, a professor at Stanford, introduced me to intellectual and academic life. He encouraged me to study the Middle East and go to Israel and that was probably the single biggest influence on my career, if not my life. I went to Israel in my junior year and stayed from 1983-87 aged 21 to 24. I didn’t have any family or religious connection to Israel but I learnt Hebrew and fell in love with the country very quickly. Israelis have a very different experience of the world and I was able to immerse myself in their different way of thinking. Once you do that, walk in someone else’s shoes, it changes your perspective on history and foreign policy. So when I wrote a diplomatic history of the 1948 Israeli-Arab war for my PhD thesis, I was sure to use more than one national archive. Once you break yourself loose from your own country’s basic assumptions about the world in order to understand somebody else, you can more easily adjust to understand the points of view of third and the fourth parties.


AJ: Back in January 2019 you wrote an article in Mosaic titled The Strategy Washington Is Pursuing in the Middle East Is the Only Strategy Worth Pursuing’. It got a lot of attention, some of it very critical. You gave us the short form version of that strategy: ‘In the Middle East, the choices aren’t wonderful. When you add them up, the problem is the rise of Iranian power, so you have to work with states to help you push back. And there really are only three states that can effectively do this: Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. Can you give the reader the long form version of the strategy?

MD: Let me begin by taking quite a few steps back, in order to provide a context for the argument I am making about Trump’s strategy, because that argument is part of a critique of US foreign policy in the Middle East as it has developed since the end of the Cold War, and particularly since 9/11. In short, I think we have gotten away from the fundamental principles of grand strategy, which concern states and interests.

After 9/11 we saw the ascent of the notion of ‘counter-terrorism’ to the number one goal of the US in the region (manifested as ‘The War on Terror’). I witnessed this development myself when I was in the White House during the second term of George W. Bush. But counter-terrorism is not a strategy. You see, the Middle East is very complex, with cross-currents that are difficult to understand, let alone navigate.

It is not always obvious who is a friend and who is an enemy. By contrast, think of NATO. While some members are more troublesome than others, you still have a structure that enables a president to easily differentiate friend from foe. The situation is similar in East Asia where the US has a number of bilateral treaties with its partners, including Japan and South Korea. Well, it’s not like that in the Middle East. There, you have to have a very clear conception of who is friend and who is foe and act accordingly, strategically. We have not done that for some time. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK– Ed.]

Are Thought Crimes Impeachable?
Victor Davis Hanson
Realclearpolitics, Nov. 26, 2019

During special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, his legal “dream team” tried to make a secondary case that Donald Trump also obstructed efforts to prove Trump-Russian “collusion.” Trump was said to have advised his lawyers and other subordinates, past and present, not to cooperate fully with the Mueller investigation. Yet the special counsel did not pursue any actionable cases of egregious interference by the White House.

Indeed, Mueller would never have concluded his $35 million, 22-month investigation had he not enjoyed cooperation from the White House. White House employees were questioned freely by the special counsel. Documents were released. When the special counsel’s exhaustive investigation into purported Trump-Russia collusion found no such crime, the fallback claim of obstruction arose. Trump allegedly wanted to curtail Mueller’s parameters of inquiry into something that was proven not to be a crime.
Mueller found no grounds for a criminal referral on obstruction of justice. But he repeatedly hinted that Trump had thought about obstructing the non-crime of collusion.

In the Ukrainian melodrama, Trump is accused of the thought crime of considering the withholding of military assistance unless Ukraine investigated possible Ukrainian tampering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and also former Vice President Joe Biden’s intervention in Ukrainian politics on behalf of his son.

Biden had bragged at a Council on Foreign Relations conference that his threats to withhold non-military assistance to Ukraine led to the dismissal of a prosecutor, Viktor Shokin. It turns out Shokin may have been considering an investigation of the energy company where Biden’s son Hunter had been given a lucrative position on the board of directors.

Two questions arise from hours of impeachment inquiry testimony before the House Intelligence Committee: One, did Trump cut off military assistance, prompting the compliant Ukrainians to launch investigations to ensure that endangered military aid was not curtailed? Two, did Trump reverse prior U.S. foreign policy by cutting off military assistance, thus threatening the security of Ukraine?

Regarding question No. 1, military assistance was delivered to Ukraine after a delay. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy never announced investigations of the Bidens or election tampering. In response to question No. 2, the Obama administration’s policy was to deny significant military assistance to Ukraine. Even non-military aid was apparently leveraged by Biden to force the Ukrainians to fire a prosecutor whose role in looking into Hunter Biden’s company is still murky.

In other words, Trump is accused of thinking about cutting off aid as a lever to force Ukrainian investigations. Yet the prior administration never extended significant military aid and threatened to cancel non-military aid over a bothersome prosecutor. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

For Further Reference:

Lindsey Graham Sets Date for FISA Abuse Hearing with DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz:  Daniel Chaitin, Washington Examiner, Nov. 18, 2019 — Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz is set to testify about his investigation into alleged Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act abuses next month.

Not a Bad Spy Novel, But a National Nightmare:  David P. Goldman, Asia Times, Nov. 23, 2019 — America’s Central Intelligence Agency in concert with foreign intelligence services manufactured the myth of Donald Trump’s alleged collusion with Russia, argues Andrew McCarthy, a distinguished federal prosecutor turned public intellectual.

The ‘Deep State’ Canard Spreads Jonah Goldberg, National Review, Nov. 29, 2019 — The deep state is the right’s new bogeyman.
They Voted Democratic. Now They Support Trump.:  Nate Cohn and Claire Cain Miller, NYT, Nov. 26, 2019 — Midterm victories in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin gave Democrats hope of retaking the Rust Belt battleground states that handed the presidency to Donald J. Trump in 2016.

Media’s Latest Anti-Nunes Smear Is Michael-Cohen-In-Prague All Over Again Mollie Hemingway, The Federalist, Nov. 27, 2019 — Devin Nunes’ opponents in the Resistance seem to be spiraling.