Former national-security adviser Mike Flynn and others within the White House ignored repeated legal and ethical warnings as they pushed early in President Trump’s tenure a plan to build dozens of nuclear-power reactors in Saudi Arabia, according to a report released Tuesday by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
The report describes how Mr. Flynn and Derek Harvey, whom Mr. Flynn brought to the National Security Council staff to oversee Middle East affairs, worked closely on the plan with a group of retired U.S. generals and admirals who had formed a private company to promote it.
Despite the warnings from career White House staff—and an order by the NSC’s top lawyer to stand down—the White House officials and their private-sector allies worked to place the idea on Mr. Trump’s agenda during a phone call with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, and to be discussed during the U.S. president’s May 2017 trip to Riyadh, his first overseas trip as president, the report says.
The plan for U.S. companies to build nuclear power plants in Saudi Arabia, part of an ambitious “Middle East Marshall Plan,” was billed by advocates as a way to revive the moribund U.S. nuclear industry, create jobs and reassert American influence in the region.
But one unnamed senior official quoted in the report derided the idea as “a scheme for these generals to make some money.”
There are definitely parts of Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury” that are wrong, sloppy, or betray off-the-record confidence. But there are two things he gets absolutely right, even in the eyes of White House officials who think some of the book’s scenes are fiction: his spot-on portrait of Trump as an emotionally erratic president, and the low opinion of him among some of those serving him.
.. Wolff’s liberties with off-the-record comments — while ethically unacceptable to nearly all reporters — have the effect of exposing Washington’s insider jokes and secret languages, which normal Americans find perplexing and detestable.
.. In the past year, we have had many of the same conversations with the same sources Wolff used. We won’t betray them, or put on the record what was off. But, we can say that the following lines from the book ring unambiguously true:
.. he seemed almost phobic about having formal demands on his attention.
.. Trump didn’t read. He didn’t really even skim. … [H]e could read headlines and articles about himself, or at least headlines on articles about himself, and the gossip squibs on the New York Post‘s Page Six.
.. He was postliterate — total television.
Instinct over expertise:
expertise, that liberal virtue, was overrated
[T]he president’s views of foreign policy and the world at large were among [his White House’s] most random, uninformed, and seemingly capricious aspects. His advisers didn’t know whether he was an isolationist or a militarist, or whether he could distinguish between the two.
.. He was enamored with generals and determined that people with military command experience take the lead in foreign policy, but he hated to be told what to do.
.. policy making … flowed up. It was a process of suggesting, in throw-it-against-the-wall style, what the president might want, and hoping he might then think that he had thought of this himself.
Low regard by key aides
If a wackadoo moment occurred on the occasions … when his remarks careened in no clear direction, his staff had to go into intense method-acting response. It took absolute discipline not to acknowledge what everyone could see.
.. he could have moments of, almost everyone would admit, irrationality. When that happened, he was alone in his anger and not approachable by anyone.
.. His senior staff largely dealt with these dark hours by agreeing with him, no matter what he said.
More than half a dozen of the more skilled White House staff are contemplating imminent departures. Many leaving are quite fearful about the next chapter of the Trump presidency.
Most recently, Mr. Trump last week announced that transgender Americans would be barred from military service — catching the Pentagon by surprise and upending a long-running internal review process. After each of these episodes, stories leak about how the generals were either outgunned by advisers like Stephen Bannon or, more often, just left out of the loop.
At the margins, the generals may dial back their boss’s impulses, and occasionally stand up to Mr. Trump in small ways, as Mr. Mattis did when he declined to praise Mr. Trump in a televised cabinet meeting in June. And there are small victories: Last week, General McMaster managed to remove the Flynn holdover Derek Harvey, the Middle East senior adviser and an Iran hawk, from the security council.
But it’s unlikely that the generals will consistently rein in Mr. Trump at the strategic level. Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and therefore, on paper at least, the president’s primary military liaison and adviser, rarely has one-on-one meetings with Mr. Trump. Mr. Kelly, a former Marine general who had served as his secretary of homeland security and whom many had hoped would temper the president on immigration, apparently shares Mr. Trump’s policy views and seems disinclined to challenge him. It’s unlikely he will change now that he’s chief of staff.
.. In the mid-1950s, the political scientist Samuel P. Huntington observed that American military officers had evolved into a disciplined and largely apolitical group of professionals. He outlined a separation of roles: military obedience to civilian leaders in areas of strategic or political discretion, and civilian deference to the military on operational matters.
This was the norm until after Vietnam, when numerous scholars conducting post-mortems on the war — including, coincidentally, General McMaster in his book “Dereliction of Duty” — concluded that military commanders should have challenged civilian leaders more aggressively.
And over time, that’s what happened. As the Pentagon gained a broader post-Sept. 11 mandate, branching into what were once considered law enforcement and diplomatic arenas, the line between the civilian and military division blurred. Combatant commanders’ assertiveness peaked when a beleaguered President George W. Bush looked to Gen. David Petraeus to extricate the United States from the Iraq quagmire by way of the “surge” in 2007.
.. Unlike Mr. Obama, who took responsibility for his administration’s military actions, Mr. Trump has publicly scapegoated the military for politically damaging episodes, such as the errant February raid in Yemen in which one Navy SEAL and up to 30 civilians died. He has also been openly at odds with Mr. Mattis over torture, budget cuts at the State Department and climate change.
.. General McMaster admitted that Mr. Trump went into his private meeting with President Vladimir Putin of Russia at last month’s G-20 meeting without an agenda — indeed, without General McMaster.
.. So where will the check on Mr. Trump’s incompetent foreign policy come from? Not the State Department, under siege and led, for now, by the underqualified Rex Tillerson. Only Congress, on a bipartisan basis, can constrain Mr. Trump’s recklessness and ineptitude.
a friend of the Homeland Security secretary told The Washington Post that Kelly, a tough talking Bostoner who spent 45 years in the Marines, is ideally suited to confront the challenges he’ll face.
.. Kelly did not gel with the previous administration, and his military career ended on a sour note in January 2016 after he repeatedly clashed with the Obama White House.
.. Officials there had grown tired of the four-star general speaking off message — about the president’s plan to shut down the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, about the perceived vulnerability of America’s borders, about the threat posed to American interests by any number of terrorist organizations. Their relationship had become so strained that in the weeks before he retired, multiple administration officials went to the media and accused Kelly and other military leaders of endeavoring to undermine the Guantánamo closure plan.
.. His final job in the military, as head of U.S. Southern Command in Miami, gave Kelly deep insight into the criminal networks ravaging South America, Central America and the Caribbean, and their illicit trafficking pipeline — for drugs, guns and people — running north through Mexico and into the United States. He has long argued that transnational organized crime is among the greatest threats to U.S. national security.
.. A big piece of that will be addressing leaks and the president’s portrayal in the media.
.. “There’s a way to handle it,” Kelly’s friend said. “Simply go dark and do not engage.”
#2: Kelly served three tours in Iraq, commanding as a two-star general from 2008 to 2009. He commanded a Marine task force as a one-star general during the initial assault into Iraq. Asked then by a Los Angeles Times reporter if he was concerned about Saddam Hussein’s forces, he reportedly said, “Hell these are Marines. Men like them held Guadalcanal and took Iwo Jima. Baghdad ain’t sh-t.”
.. #4: As a Marine general during the Obama administration, he opposed opening combat jobs to women in the Marine Corps, and closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. He rejected the argument that the prison served as terrorist recruitment propaganda as nonsense. He told Defense One: “Bombing the living sh-t out of ISIS in Iraq and Afghanistan, Syria, that would maybe irritate them more than the fact we have Guantanamo open.”
It’s unclear whether she is speaking for herself or the White House.
But there are indeed some administration figures who clearly are fomenting endless conflict in the Middle East and elsewhere.
One might reasonably start with Generals James Mattis and H.R. McMaster, both of whom are hardliners on Afghanistan and Iran, but with a significant caveat. Generals are trained and indoctrinated to fight and win wars, not to figure out what comes next. General officers like George Marshall or even Dwight Eisenhower who had a broader vision are extremely rare, so much so that expecting a Mattis or McMaster to do what falls outside their purview is perhaps a bit too much.
.. My own little list of “society’s offenders” consists largely of the self-described gaggle of neoconservative foreign-policy “experts.” Unfortunately, the neocons have proven to be particularly resilient in spite of repeated claims that their end was nigh, most recently after the election of Donald Trump last November. Yet as most of the policies the neocons have historically espoused are indistinguishable from what the White House is currently trying to sell, one might well wake up one morning and imagine that it is 2003 and George W. Bush is still president.
.. Number one on my little list is Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley
.. Haley is firmly in the neocon camp, receiving praise from Senators like South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham and from the Murdoch media as well as in the opinion pages of National Review and The Weekly Standard. Her speechwriter is Jessica Gavora, who is the wife of the leading neoconservative journalist Jonah Goldberg.
.. As governor of South Carolina, Haley became identified as an unquestioning supporter of Israel. She signed into law a bill to restrict the activities of the nonviolent pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, the first legislation of its kind on a state level.
.. In February, she blocked the appointment of former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to a diplomatic position at the United Nations because he is a Palestinian. In a congressional hearing this past week, she was asked about the decision: “Is it this administration’s position that support for Israel and support for the appointment of a well-qualified individual of Palestinian nationality to an appointment at the UN are mutually exclusive?” Haley responded yes, that the administration is “supporting Israel” by blocking any Palestinian from any senior UN position because Palestine is not recognized by Washington as an independent state
.. Regarding Ukraine, Haley has taken an extreme position that guarantees Russian hostility. In February, she addressed the UN Security Council regarding the Crimean conflict, which she appears not to understand very well. She warned that sanctions against Russia would not be lifted until Moscow returned control over the peninsula to Kiev.
.. So Haley very much comes across as the neoconservatives’ dream ambassador to the United Nations–full of aggression, a staunch supporter of Israel, and assertive of Washington’s preemptive right to set standards for the rest of the world.
.. Donald Trump really wants to drain the Washington swamp and reduce interference in other nations, he might well continue that program by firing Nikki Haley. He could then appoint someone as UN ambassador who actually believes that the United States has to deal with other countries respectfully, not by constant bullying and threats.
Mike Lofgren, a congressional staff member for 28 years, joins Bill Moyers to talk about what he calls Washington’s “Deep State,” in which elected and unelected figures collude to protect and serve powerful vested interests. “It is how we had deregulation, financialization of the economy, the Wall Street bust, the erosion or our civil liberties and perpetual war,” Lofgren tells Moyers.
- Wall Street provides second careers for people like David Patreus who went to a Wall Street Buyout firm as a second career.
- The vast majority of Generals seem to end up on the boards of the Military contractors.
- Silicon Valley has become part of the Surveillance State, voluntarily.
- What is the ideology: it is a form a corporatism, that steers clear of social issues, but the Washington Consensus
- american exceptionalism-boots on the ground everywhere, perpetual war
- Parts of the Deep State are fracturing
- Silicon Valley is protesting the NSA
- The Tea Party is protesting the Deep State