ELIOT COHEN ISSUES A WARNING THAT WILL ECHO THROUGH THE FUTURE OF AMERICAN HISTORY
In his article in the Atlantic Magazine Eliot Cohen, former counselor to the State Department under Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, writes, “I am not surprised by President Donald Trump’s antics this week. Not by the big splashy pronouncements such as announcing a wall that he would force Mexico to pay for, even as the Mexican foreign minister held talks with American officials in Washington. Not by the quiet, but no less dangerous bureaucratic orders, such as kicking the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff out of meetings of the Principals’ Committee, the senior foreign-policy decision-making group below the president, while inserting his chief ideologist, Steve Bannon, into them. Many conservative foreign-policy and national-security experts saw the dangers last spring and summer, which is why we signed letters denouncing not Trump’s policies but his temperament; not his program but his character.
We were right. And friends who urged us to tone it down, to make our peace with him, to stop saying as loudly as we could “this is abnormal,” to accommodate him, to show loyalty to the Republican Party, to think that he and his advisers could be tamed, were wrong. In an epic week beginning with a dark and divisive inaugural speech, extraordinary attacks on a free press, a visit to the CIA that dishonored a monument to anonymous heroes who paid the ultimate price, and now an attempt to ban selected groups of Muslims (including interpreters who served with our forces in Iraq and those with green cards, though not those from countries with Trump hotels, or from really indispensable states like Saudi Arabia), he has lived down to expectations. Precisely because the problem is one of temperament and character, it will not get better. It will get worse, as power intoxicates Trump and those around him. It will probably end in calamity—substantial domestic protest and violence, a breakdown of international economic relationships, the collapse of major alliances, or perhaps one or more new wars (even with China) on top of the ones we already have. It will not be surprising in the slightest if his term ends not in four or in eight years, but sooner, with impeachment or removal under the 25th Amendment. The sooner Americans get used to these likelihoods, the better.”
It is quite rare that Cohen and I agree on anything, but in this case and about this subject the two of us are in lockstep. Trump has begun just as many observers here expected him to begin. He has used the power of the executive order to keep campaign promises to the very nationalist base that elected him. He has not ceased to be more interested in his image than the workings of government for all. And finally, Trump has, as Cohen so eloquently points out, a reckless disregard for those he has elevated to Cabinet posts in favor of listening to “the people” or ideologues who will keep him “popular” in the hearts and minds of less than a quarter of the American population.
This is a path to destruction and if a neoconservative historian of the class and character of Eliot Cohen can see it, then I have to acknowledge it. It has been said many times that history is written by the victors. I was terribly wrong about the 2016 election, however my guts tell me that these first twelve days of irrational missteps will lead to a critical mass of failure that as Cohen predicts will bring a Trump presidency and quite possibly the GOP to a final flaming ruin.
Fredrick Schwartz, D.S.V.J., CS, O.Q.H [Journ.]
The Dis Brimstone-Daily Pitchfork
159 3 Leviathan 3 AS