A Turning Point for Trumpinology

A headline in Politico Monday read: “ Trump national security team blindsided by NATO speech.” If this report is correct, President Trump left his top team—national security adviser H.R. McMaster, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson —in the dark regarding his May 25 speech at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization headquarters in Brussels. All three officials, Politico reports, believed the president’s address would explicitly affirm his commitment to Article 5 of the NATO treaty, which states that an attack on one ally is an attack on all. Only when Mr. Trump began speaking did they realize he had removed the crucial sentence, reportedly with encouragement from chief strategist Steve Bannon.

.. The president withheld information from his top advisers and then forced them to offer “awkward, unconvincing, after-the-fact claims that the speech really did amount to a commitment they knew it did not make.”

.. veteran national-security scholars and officials who regard this as a turning point in their assessment of the administration. Until now they believed Mr. Trump’s experienced advisers would be able to run American foreign policy along more or less conventional postwar lines

.. They no longer believe this. Instead, they say, his modus operandi will be transactional.

.. a highly placed Asian official who said Washington “is now the epicenter of instability in the world.”

.. Lt. Gen. McMaster and Gary Cohn, the head of the National Economic Council, teamed up to publish a startling defense of Mr. Trump’s crockery-breaking European tour. The key doctrinal sentence runs: “The president embarked on his first foreign trip with a clear-eyed outlook that the world is not a ‘global community’ but an arena where nations, nongovernmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage.”

.. Lest the reader conclude that the authors regard this as a disagreeable reality, they declare: “Rather than deny this elemental nature of international affairs, we embrace it.” Hooray for the war of all against all!

.. There is a lot of daylight between Hobbes and Kant. Anarchy is not the only alternative to World Federalism.

.. Lt. Gen. McMaster and Mr. Cohn continue, “we delivered a clear message to our friends and partners: Where our interests align, we are open to working together.” The implication is that where they do not, we aren’t.

.. What about doing the right thing for its own sake, as President George W. Bush did when he placed America’s moral authority and material resources behind the global struggle against AIDS?

.. President Truman and Secretary of State George Marshall had learned the answer to these questions from Franklin Roosevelt : In the long run, the U.S. will not survive as an island of democracy in a sea of autocracy.

.. By contrast, Mr. Trump embraces self-interest wrongly understood, and his enablers, who surely know better, are helping him peddle this poison as medicine.

.. Yes, NATO partners should contribute more to the common defense. But even if they paid nothing, a free and democratic Europe would still serve the interests of the U.S.