‘Dear Boss: I quit.’ What letters like Mattis’s can foretell.

No one saw the letter as anything but a stinging protest. “Old Marines never die, but they do resign after the President ignores their advice, betrays our allies, rewards our enemies, and puts the nation’s security at risk,” Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) wrote in a tweet, referencing Mattis’s storied career in the Marine Corps.

.. I’ve studied resignations for 28 years. I’ve written a book about them — the world viewed through the medium of the kiss-off, from classical times to the modern day. History is written as much in endings as beginnings. The pivotal changes can arrive not with “Eureka!” moments but with adamant refusals.

.. Yet the most effective leave-takings are composed over time and with military precision. These are made up of the words, distilled from private agonies, that we place on the public record. They must function as appeals to history — as, in a case like Mattis’s — or one good grenade.

.. The United States armed forces are home to a “go-down-fighting” resignation-letter subculture all its own. The military tradition of explosive, often cutting letters began in 1979 by Air Force Capt. Ron Keys, who served as a pilot in the Vietnam War. His resignation, tendered to Gen. Wilbur Creech, contained legendary and often-imitated lines: “The General looked us in the eye and said, in effect, ‘Gentlemen, either I’m very stupid or I’m lying to you’” and “All those Masters and professional military educators and not a leadership trait in sight!”
.. Keys later said he hadn’t intended to send the letter that began “Dear Boss, Well, I quit.” He’d written it out of frustration late one night and mailed it by accident. Nobody bought that, least of all Creech. But the general did invite Keys to a meeting to elaborate. Keys’s recommendations were heard, his resignation rescinded. By the time he retired in 2007, he was Gen. Ronald Keys, commander of Air Combat Command. But it was the frazzled, almost comedic howl of rage that was Keys’s resignation, rather than the officer’s career, that was most widely remembered. Passed around and published, it quickly formed the template for what became known as the “Dear Boss” letter — Air Force slang for the frustrated officer’s resignation as unrestrained truth attack.
.. Planned, polished and executed for maximum effect, Dear Boss letters are ambushes by nature. The most famous — before Mattis’s on Thursday — was that of the highly decorated Army Col. Millard A. Peck, who resigned in 1991 as head of the Pentagon intelligence unit assigned to search and account for missing-in-action servicemen in Vietnam. Over four pages of complaints that would doubtlessly ring bells with Mattis, Peck wrote of being “painfully aware … that I was not really in charge of my own office, but was merely a figurehead or whipping boy for a larger and totally Machiavellian group of characters.” His department, he said, was nothing but “a ‘toxic waste dump’ designed to bury the whole mess out of sight and mind in a facility with limited access to public scrutiny.”

In a country still ambivalent about remembering Vietnam and haunted by the possibility of prisoners of war as well as those missing in action, the effect was electric. Within weeks, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee opened a public hearing. Peck ended up overseeing administrative services for military ceremonies. He had taken the hit, but he’d got the result he wanted: a national public reckoning with the way the military looked after its own.

We wanted Turkey to be a partner. It was never going to work.

American officials have often insisted on seeing Turkey, a NATO ally since 1952, as a close partner, which is why the recent fallout seems so shocking. Don’t these two countries share interests and values?

Not really. When you strip away all the happy talk, it’s clear the two nations aren’t really, and have never been, that close. This is a relationship doomed to antipathy.

Alliances are never perfect, of course, and there have been moments over the past seven decades that justify Turkey’s image as a close partner of the United States: President Turgut Ozal shut down pipelines carrying Iraqi oil through Turkey during the run-up to the Gulf War, at great cost to the Turkish economy, for instance. A decade later, the Turkish government was among the first to condemn the 9/11 terrorist attacks and quickly committed troops to Afghanistan. Turkey became an important and valued component of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in that country.

By that time, American officials had become accustomed to seeing Turkey as a partner, like their closest allies in Europe and East Asia. The country’s failure to live up to this role reveals more about our own desperation for Turkey to be something it isn’t, and about Cold War strategies, than about Turkish shortcomings.

.. In the decades since the Cold War ended, problems between the United States and Turkey have piled up, but Washington and Ankara no longer share a threat that mitigates these differences. 

.. In 2016, Erdogan threatened to allow tens of thousands of refugees to enter Europe, apparentlybecause of suspended talks on Turkey’s European Union membership. “You did not keep your word,” he said in a speech in Istanbul. The threat, repeated months later by Turkey’s interior minister, stoked fears in Europe and the United States that such a move — intended or otherwise — would help further empower populist, nationalist and racist political forces already roiling the politics and potentially the stability of the E.U., a core strategic interest of the United States.

.. The danger from Moscow no longer justifies overlooking these significant differences in priorities. In fact, the Turkish government is buying an air defense system from the Russians that could provide Moscow with information about the American F-35 fighter jet, the newest high-tech plane in the U.S. arsenal, which Turkey also plans to fly. Under these circumstances, lamenting the end of our partnership with Turkey seems absurd.

.. A staggering number of Turks believe that Washington was complicit in the attempted 2016 coup d’etat. One poll conducted online in 2016 by a Turkish newspaper found that almost 7 in 10 Turks blamed the CIA. This patently false idea (which Erdogan and other officials have nurtured) along with Trump’s tweet makes Erdogan’s latest accusation that the United States is attempting an economic coup all the more plausible to the Turkish public.

.. The speed with which relations deteriorated after the deal to free the clergyman imploded highlights a relationship marked by frustration and mistrust, not common aims. It is no wonder the Turks seldom, if ever, defend their relationship with Washington. They believe America seeks to do them harm.

Still Standing, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump Step Back in the Spotlight

  • They disappointed climate change activists who thought they would keep President Trump from leaving the landmark Paris accord.
  • They enraged Democrats and even some Republicans by not pushing back against his immigration policies, and
  • alienated business allies by their silence over threats to Nafta. They regularly faced news stories about their unpopularity.

Even their relationship with the president seemed to suffer.

Several times Mr. Trump joked that he “could have had Tom Brady” as a son-in-law. “Instead,” the president said, according to five people who heard him, “I got Jared Kushner.”

.. It did not help that the president had gone from telling aides to “talk to Jared,” as he did during the campaign, to telling them that “Jared hasn’t been so good for me.”

.. At various points, Mr. Trump told friends and his chief of staff, John F. Kelly, that he wished both Jared and Ivanka would return to New York.

.. It was only in May that Mr. Kushner had his security clearance restored

.. “I think they felt in some ways when things escalated that they thought it was best to keep a lower profile and hone in on their specific policy areas,” said Sarah Huckabee Sanders

.. once said that she did not intend to stay in the capital long enough to become one of its “political creatures” — people she feels are “so principled that they get nothing done,”

.. home is now in Washington, where their children attend Jewish schools and their house is routinely watched by papraazzi as they depart for work or go for a run. 

.. As for separating immigrant families, she added, “How do they sleep at night?”

.. In response to critics like Ms. Rosen, the couple have argued that they can temper Mr. Trump only if he is willing to listen.

.. Mr. Kushner has convinced the president that criminal justice reform is worthwhile, even as his attorney general remains a vocal opponent.

.. Mr. Kushner has shown an adeptness at using the president’s impulses to steer him toward his own priorities. When Mr. Kushner ushered Kim Kardashian West into the Oval Office to speak about commuting the life sentence of an African-American woman named Alice Marie Johnson, Mr. Trump ignored the concerns of his advisers and freed Ms. Johnson, dazzled by his power to grant clemency and Ms. Kardashian’s celebrity.

.. Her supporters argue that she is in an untenable situation if she speaks out in public. Her father said she had addressed the issue with him privately, further inflaming her critics.

.. Mr. Kushner appears to see himself as the custodian of Mr. Trump’s political brand, offering his father-in-law “options,” and has spoken about clearing out the Republican Party of lingering resistance. He has privately said that he has been taking action against “incompetence” and that any tensions are a result of fighting for his father-in-law’s best interests.

.. His detractors say the friction stems from Mr. Kushner’s meddling in things for which he is out of his depth, like when the president, following his own preference, huddled with Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump instead of his top policy advisers before his meeting with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.

.. Ms. Richards wrote in a memoir that they had offered her a deal that felt like a “bribe” — continued federal funding for the group in return for a halt to providing abortions.

.. Inside the White House, the couple’s influence is most felt in internal battles, particularly with aides they do not regard as loyal to their mission — or Mr. Trump’s.

.. That is particularly true of Mr. Kushner, who, critics say, shares his father-in-law’s desire for control. Over the course of Mr. Trump’s campaign and presidency, Mr. Kushner has been seen as trying to undercut or as being at odds with a long list of aides — some who remain, many who have left.

The list includes:

  • Mr. Trump’s first campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski;
  • his first chief of staff, Reince Priebus, and his associates;
  • his former chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon;
  • Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel;
  • the White House counselor, Kellyanne Conway;
  • the first head of the presidential transition, Chris Christie;
  • the former secretary of state, Rex W. Tillerson;
  • Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, and
  • his longtime lawyer Marc E. Kasowitz.

Their privileged permanence as family members has allowed them to outlast other aides in an environment where expectations have been shifted and, at times, lowered on their behalf.

.. Both husband and wife, like Mr. Trump, are said to hang on to grudges, but Mr. Kushner is far more transactional than his wife. Like his father-in-law, he appears to convince himself that fights did not happen if someone has become useful to him.

.. A persistent obstacle to both Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump is Mr. Kelly, whose approach to security clearances they feel unfairly targeted them, and who, they have confided to associates, they believe has spread negative information about them.

.. Though they have insisted that they are not trying to play a role in a succession plan for Mr. Kelly, few West Wing staff members believe that.

.. Both Ms. Trump and Mr. Kushner are widely believed to support Nick Ayers, the chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, as Mr. Kelly’s successor.

..

Whoever the replacement is would join a new set of aides who — many with the couple’s support — have replaced the familiar faces from the 2016 campaign.

When

  • Bill Shine, the former Fox News executive, was preparing to join the White House, Mr. Kushner, with Ms. Trump’s support, gave him their stamp of approval. It was Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump who wanted
  • Mercedes Schlapp, a well-connected Republican consultant, brought into the administration. Mr. Kushner’s ally
  • Brad Parscale became the 2020 campaign manager, a move Mr. Kushner told the West Wing staff about on the morning it was publicly announced.

And they regard Stephen Miller, a supporter of some of Mr. Trump’s harshest stands on immigration, as a walking policy encyclopedia.

.. In June, when the United States won its joint bid with Canada and Mexico to host the World Cup in 2026, Mr. Kushner’s team made sure to tell reporters that it happened in part because of the efforts of the president’s son-in-law, who reportedly used some of his international contacts to win enough votes to seal the bid.

.. Ms. Collins found in Ms. Trump what many Republicans most desire: a direct line to a president sometimes at odds with his own party.

.. Ms. Trump has delivered one of the few things she can uniquely accomplish in Washington: Riding in a car together one day, she handed Ms. Collins a phone. The president was on the line.

Trump Urges NATO to Double Military Spending Target to 4% of GDP

President Donald Trump pressured allies at the NATO summit Wednesday to double the military spending target to 4% of gross domestic product, while bashing Germany for its military spending and support for a major gas deal with Russia.

.. Mr. Trump began his visit by accusing Germany of being “captive to Russia” because of its support for Nord Stream 2, an offshore pipeline that would bring gas directly from Russia via the Baltic Sea.

Speaking in a meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, Mr. Trump called Germany’s support for the project “very sad,” and said, “We’re supposed to be guarding against Russia, and Germany goes out and pays billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia.”

..  Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D, N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said, “President Trump’s brazen insults and denigration of one of America’s most steadfast allies, Germany, is an embarrassment.”

.. He has met frequent criticism in Washington for appearing overly friendly toward Mr. Putin, including when he congratulated the Russian leader on his election victory earlier this year despite being advised by national security officials not to do so.

.. Germany is the biggest importer of natural gas from Russia in the EU, accounting for more than 20% of the purchases in 2017 by the 28-member bloc, according to the EU’s statistics agency Eurostat. Russian imports made up about 40% of Germany’s annual gas purchases for the past two years.

Bill Shine Likely as Next White House Communications Director

Bill Shine, a former Fox News executive who was close to Roger E. Ailes, the network’s ousted chairman, is expected to be offered the job of White House communications director, according to four people familiar with the decision.

Mr. Shine, who was forced out as co-president at Fox News last May for his handling of sexual harassment scandals at the network, has met with President Trump in recent weeks about taking the West Wing communications job, which has been vacant since Hope Hicks left the job in March.

.. Mr. Shine’s reluctance to walk into a chaotic West Wing.

.. As recently as a month ago, Mr. Shine didn’t want the job

.. The former television executive was reluctant to deal with all the scrutiny, part of which could focus on his own connection to the sexual harassment scandal at Fox News

.. widely seen as one of the top executives and protégé to Mr. Ailes.

.. A Long Island commuter and son of a New York City policeman, the unassuming Mr. Shine was viewed inside Fox News as embodying the network’s typical viewer, urging producers to run segments on bread-and-butter issues that would appeal to conservatives.

.. He was also known as a loyal taskman for Mr. Ailes

.. so devoted to his bosses that Rupert Murdoch ..  once privately described Mr. Shine to other executives as a “fine company man.”

.. Mr. Shine was accused in several lawsuits of covering up Mr. Ailes’s behavior and dismissing concerns from women who complained about it.

.. Several former employees at Fox News reacted with alarm — but not surprise

.. few people internally were concerned about the accusations that Mr. Shine played a role in concealing Mr. Ailes’ behavior, in part because some staffers think Mr. Shine was just doing his job to protect the company.

.. enjoys powerful allies inside the president’s inner circle.

.. He is close with Kellyanne Conway, the White House counselor, who is said to have advocated for him

.. Mercedes Schlapp, a communications adviser to the White House, was seen initially as a favorite for the job, in part because of her good relationship with the chief of staff, John F. Kelly.

.. it would add to the ties between Mr. Trump and the Fox News network

.. Mr. Shine is also close to Sean Hannity, the Fox News host who has the president’s ear.

 

Why Russia’s Middle East Gamble Has a Limited Payoff

To many countries, ties with Moscow are just a way to leverage stronger U.S. backing

“Nobody is pushing America out of the Middle East, it’s just pulling out by itself and leaving a vacuum behind,” said Alexey Khlebnikov, a fellow at the Russian International Affairs Council, a state-run think tank. “Russia has no real allies in the region, just partners with which it can do business despite political disagreements on many issues. Russia is not an alternative to them, it’s just a way to diversify their portfolio of relations.”

That diversification is made easier by the fact that President Donald Trump’s administration doesn’t seem to mind Russia’s new prominence in the Middle East.

..  Russia, despite its military abilities and its sophisticated diplomatic and intelligence networks, doesn’t really have the means to project power across the region: its midsize economy is roughly the size of Australia’s or Spain’s.
.. unlike the Soviet Union, which inserted itself in Middle Eastern conflicts as a way to promote the Communist ideology during the Cold War confrontation, modern Russia has no alternative social and economic model to spread.
.. Russia—unlike the U.S.—has proved that it backs its allies, no matter how unsavory they may be. By contrast, the U.S. under President Barack Obama embraced the 2011 protests that ousted such longstanding American allies (and autocrats) as President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia.
.. Even many of those Arabs who hold little love for Syria’s Mr. Assad confess admiration for how Mr. Putin didn’t hesitate to use military force to prevent a similar downfall of the Syrian regime.“Egyptians see Putin as someone who’s a statesman that stands by his friends, someone who doesn’t let them down the way the Americans did with Mubarak,

.. “Russia has nothing to deliver,” he said. “The Russians know that our strategic relationship with America is vital and will always be there. I don’t think there is a big future to Egyptian-Russian relations.”

.. countries such as Egypt and Turkey are using Russia—and actual or threatened purchases of Russian weapons—as leverage to improve their negotiating position where it still really matters: in Washington.
.. “But Russia is an imaginary alternative. The optical effect here is much larger than the substance. All these countries understand perfectly well how limited Russia’s influence really is.”

Ten Simple Rules for Negotiating with Dictators

  • Be wary of family businesses. Dictatorships can indeed evolve into democracies, with Taiwan, South Korea, and Chile being perhaps the three most prominent examples. But rarely, if ever, has a dictatorship changed when it was still governed by its founder or his family. In those cases, the dictatorship is interwoven with a cult of personality, and reform would mean a repudiation of that cult. The Castros and the Kims might allow small openings in their systems for, say, foreign investment, but they will have to leave the scene before there are more meaningful changes.
  • Be wary of ideological dictatorships. Military dictatorships and other varieties seem more susceptible to peaceful evolution than Communist dictatorships. Absent a governing ideology or a family commitment, the government can be more receptive to change as the leadership grapples with economic and societal pressure.
  • Dictators are dictators for a reason. They are not unaware of their countries’ impoverishment; they just have other priorities. Regardless of how many Kitchen Debates they participate in or how many movies they are shown, checkbook diplomacy will have limited effect and can even be seen as a sign of U.S. weakness.
  • Use your experts. Nobody knows better than the North Korea desk officer at the Pentagon that the North Korea government does not honor international commitments it deems not to be in its interests. Nobody knows better than the Venezuela desk officer at the State Department that Cuban support for repression in Venezuela has increased since the U.S. started engaging Cuba.
  • Don’t fall in love with your initiative. Trump, like Obama before him, believes he has a key to developing a better relationship with a dictator that other presidents lacked. Perhaps — times change and dictators sometimes change with them, so we have to be opportunistic. But perhaps not. Tyrannical regimes are superb at manipulating U.S. public opinion and playing on outside hopes of liberalization. Any U.S. president has to start with a willingness to break off talks. If he cannot walk away from the table, the dictator is incentivized to behave badly. Remember that Kim moved to Trump when Trump wrote Kim to postpone the Singapore summit.
  • Sometimes no movement might be the best answer. The Kims have frustrated every president since Truman, and the Castros every president since Eisenhower, but not for a lack of ideas or initiative from the White House. If neither regime wants to change, the best the U.S. can do is maintain pressure, minimizing the harm done to ordinary Cubans and North Koreans and the citizens of neighboring countries.
  • Allies. Allies. Allies. Every U.S president needs to work in an international framework in which our alliances can enhance the likelihood of a successful outcome. Trump should consult closely with South Korea and Japan to ensure there is an allied consensus on North Korea. Obama should have worked with the E.U. on Cuban human rights. When E.U. foreign commissioner Federica Mogherini visited Cuba without a public mention of human rights, the broader American engagement strategy was weakened.
  • Move incrementally and test repeatedly. Grandiose rhetoric grabs the headlines, but smaller steps allow you to calibrate your moves to the other party’s performance. The U.S. needs to put the other country’s intentions to the test on an ongoing basis. A mixture of carrot and stick will get the best results.
  • Find the right mix of goals and values. The U.S. values human rights, and we also have core geopolitical interests. We want to stop Cuba from supporting violent revolutionary movements across the western hemisphere, and we want to stop North Korea from enhancing its nuclear capabilities and delivery systems. Keeping human rights in the discussion is important, and stopping the military threat these regimes pose all the more so. Not dying in a nuclear attack is also a human right, after all.
  • Be careful of the ratchet. The ratchet effect is a phenomenon that can only move one way, or more easily move one way. For example, once the U.S. opens up and staffs an embassy, it is expensive and embarrassing to close it. Once we shut down joint military exercises with South Korea, they cannot easily be restarted because of annual budget and planning requirements. Be careful of making moves that cannot easily be undone.