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Going Off the Rails?

Four issues got Donald Trump elected president: immigration, free trade, political correctness, and the quest for American world hegemony along with the wars that it spawned. If he is to be reelected, he must deliver on all four.

Unfortunately, on the fourth issue, wars of hegemony, it appears his young administration is already going off the rails. Instead of an innovative foreign and defense policy, what we have seen so far is more of the same. Soon after his first appointments in these areas, we saw his officials race around the world to assure our allies that nothing would change. Those allies are holdovers from the Cold War, and their value is now questionable—especially if, as President Trump promised, we are going to seek better relations with Russia.

During his campaign, the president also said that most of our allies are freeloaders, which they are. We have committed to go to war for them, but they offer little in return. Most of their militaries are suited only to the parade ground, and a small parade ground at that; the entire German Army now has only 225 tanks. It would have trouble taking Luxembourg.

President Trump was the antiwar candidate, but we hear nothing from his White House about ending the wars in Afghanistan or, more broadly, the Middle East. Go ahead and defeat ISIS, at least in the sense of preventing it from holding territory. But what then? Wiser Fourth Generation entities, or non-state forces, such as Hezbollah, will operate within hollowed-out states rather than attempt to become a state. And ISIS, like al-Qaeda, is merely one head of the Fourth Generation hydra. How do we preserve the state system itself in the face of the challenge Fourth Generation War poses?

The key to answering that question is first Russia, then China. Alliances with both are necessary to present an effective front against Fourth Generation War. Unlike our current allies, both have large and capable armed forces. The unique element of candidate Donald Trump’s foreign policy was its promise to reach out to Russia, seeking good relations at the least and perhaps even a formal accommodation. Where is that idea now? The Trump administration has taken anti-Russian positions at the UN and elsewhere. The absurd sanctions on Russia over retaking Crimea, historically a part of Russia, continue.

None of this adds up to the new foreign and defense policies we were promised but rather to the old counterproductive policies of the Republican establishment. We are to continue the Cold War, regarding Russia and China as rivals; keep on spending and dying in the Middle East, apparently until doomsday; and lay out a trillion dollars a year on a military that usually loses. Both military reform and a new grand strategy aimed at the Fourth Generation threat have died aborning.

Why? What has led President Trump to surrender to the establishment on foreign policy without even a fight? Several theories are in circulation. One is that the president is less comfortable with foreign-policy and defense issues than with domestic policy, knows he can’t do everything, and is tired of media screams that he is going to blow up the world. He has therefore turned foreign and defense policy over to Vice President Pence, who is an establishment thinker, likely under the influence of neoconservatives. One would think that that bunch’s spectacular failures under President George W. Bush would have forced them out of town. But that isn’t how Washington works. Repeated policy failure is no bar to political success, especially if someone has access to gobs of money, as the neocons do.

Another theory is that the White House has determined that the so-called deep state makes any real policy change impossible. All the Trump people think they can do is try to expose the deep state in a long-term effort to delegitimize it. If this is true, there are some facts behind it. The deep state—a conglomeration of federal employees, contractors, business allies on Wall Street, and essentially anyone who benefits from the status quo—is powerful in both foreign and defense policy circles. To talk about military reform is to threaten the single largest honey pot on earth. The status quo in foreign policy—which is to say a quest for world hegemony, for Jacobin ideas of democracy and “human rights”—has tremendous ideological backing within the State Department and much of the rest of the government, the media, and academia. Even for a president who enjoys saying, “You’re fired,” these are hard nuts to crack. 

[1]But if Mr. Trump is to have a successful presidency, he must find a vise for cracking them. Turning foreign and defense policy over to the Republican establishment guarantees more failures of the kind we know all too well. We will start new wars, then lose them. If those wars are with either Russia or China, the scope of the defeats could be historic. We will pour more trillions of dollars into the sand. And the non-state forces of the Fourth Generation will grow, spread, and win.

At home, by failing to deliver on one of his four most important campaign pledges, President Trump will weaken himself. He won the election because enough people voted against the establishment, both its Republican and Democratic wings, and those voters will not turn out again if he merely puts the Republican establishment in power. To the contrary, those voters will again seek someone who is anti-establishment, this time with the seriousness and persistence to fight the establishment and win. President Trump’s success in the 2016 primaries will bring such people into the fray. And the president will, in the end, get trumped.

William S. Lind is the author, with Lt. Col. Gregory A. Thiele, of the 4th Generation Warfare Handbook.

23 Comments (Open | Close)

23 Comments To "Going Off the Rails?"

#1 Comment By EngineerScotty On May 3, 2017 @ 9:41 pm

Shorter Lind:

“Dang it, Lucy! Your hand slipped when I tried to kick the football, and it wasn’t there. You’d better work on your hold…”

#2 Comment By EliteCommInc. On May 4, 2017 @ 12:15 am

We have had some sharp disagreements.

But it’s hard to challenge this. I remain a supporter of this executive, but I am unlikely to be strained as in the campaign by his abandoning the very reasons he I supported him.

He was given a mandate to tackle some very specific issues, choosing not to do so, hould have consequences.

#3 Comment By Kurt Gayle On May 4, 2017 @ 8:11 am

This 59-word William S. Lind summary should win a prize for political accuracy and conciseness:

(1) “Trump won the election because enough people voted against the establishment, both its Republican and Democratic wings, and

(2) “Those voters will not turn out again if he merely puts the Republican establishment in power.

(3) “To the contrary, those voters will again seek someone who is anti-establishment, this time with the seriousness and persistence to fight the establishment and win.”

In other words, Mr. President, be willing to fight the establishment. Here are two prime examples:

** Work closely with the Russians for a cease-fire in Syria. Say “No” to establishment Republicans and Democrats who oppose good relations with Russia and who want to revive the Cold War. Be willing to go to the wall with these b*****ds!

** And speaking of “going to the wall”: Put the funding for the southern border wall back in the budget. If there are Republicans and Democrats who want to shut down the federal government over funding of the wall, let them shut it down. Wait them out until the wall gets funded! Be prepared to build wood fires in White House fireplaces next winter! Don’t back down on the wall!

#4 Comment By Matt W On May 4, 2017 @ 9:09 am

Three minor details

1. You BELIEVED Trump? A serial liar, adulterer and con-man? You believed the guy who set up “Trump University”

2. You believe his voters want LESS violence? They want him to kill as many scary brown people as possible

3. You believe Trump voters will stop voting for him? They won’t abandon him unless Fox News tells them that someone “better” is on the scene

#5 Comment By Ken T On May 4, 2017 @ 9:15 am

And so here we have yet another mystified Trump supporter who believed that the person who advocated “bomb them and take their oil” was the anti-war candidate.

#6 Comment By Todd Pierce On May 4, 2017 @ 10:38 am

“Most of their militaries are suited only to the parade ground, and a small parade ground at that; the entire German Army now has only 225 tanks. It would have trouble taking Luxembourg.”

Rather than complain of this, this fact could be our last hope for some constraint on NATO in joining with us in war provocations. Certainly more of a constraint than the bought and paid for US Congress, always eager to go to war with the instigations coming from “think-tanks” crossing the entire ideological spectrum now, and not just confined to the “neocons.” I’d feel far safer if the NATO countries cut their “Defense” spending down to about .00025 % of their GNP rather than the 2% which our militarists officials keep urging upon them. Why would anyone concerned with genuine national security, meaning peaceful co-existence, unite with our militarists in insisting that our allies join with us in even greater levels of military spending when to the rational mind, that in itself is a provocation when it is so disproportionate to Russian spending and capabilities?

#7 Comment By collin On May 4, 2017 @ 11:39 am

Several Reaons:

1) Why is anybody surprised by this? There were no policies he introduced and look at AHCA healthcare battle.
2) In terms of the elite, it is the economic elite that outsource jobs not political? And never bet against Koch Brothers.
3) He campaigned as a hawk as well. The true failure of the Iraq War was not the war itself (he is Monday quarterbacking here) but not taking their oil!
4) And political correctness has diminished as BLM are a lot quieter since the election although that anger is focused on Trump administration.

#8 Comment By SDS On May 4, 2017 @ 12:01 pm

I’m afraid there are other theories out there….and Occam’s Razor says EngineerScotty is probably close…..

And in that case Mr. Pence and the Deep State really had no real work to do….just sit back and quietly giggle….

SAD!

#9 Comment By DGJ On May 4, 2017 @ 12:04 pm

Voters are already punishing Republicans

[2]

#10 Comment By Will Harrington On May 4, 2017 @ 1:57 pm

Matt W wrote

“2. You believe his voters want LESS violence? They want him to kill as many scary brown people as possible”

It may surprise you to learn, Matt, that people who disagree with you are not ass evil racist cardboard cutouts twirling their mustaches while demanding that sweet sue pay the rent before the train runs her over.
I suspect, I’m not sure, but I suspect, that Trump is playing out a longer term political strategy here in an attempt to bring the deep state under some control while relying on the political astuteness of Putin to realize that and be patient. I have noticed that Trump has successfully negotiated a good deal with China that would make every president since Nixon jealous and has brought Mexico and Canada to the negotiating table over NAFTA. Illegal immigration is down, even without a wall having been built. To my surprise, and despite the yelling and crying of Pundits and social media, he seems to know what he is doing. I will give him some time to see if he can bring the deep state to heel. That will be a tough nut to crack.
All the talk about fourth generation war makes me wonder. Don’t we really want ISIS to hold territory and draw in their allies? The tough thing about fighting terrorist is finding them. I’m convinced this is not the reason behind the rise of ISIS (that would credit to much competence to the people who were in charge) but since they have territory, I would be inclined to let them solidify their grip, draw in like minded jihadists, then recognize the Caliphate followed by an immediate declaration of war in retaliation for the beheading of American citizens. Voila, their biggest advantage is gone if they have to defend territory.

#11 Comment By Michelle On May 4, 2017 @ 2:05 pm

There’s another couple of theories the author neglects to mention.

First, 45 is a serial liar who never made a promise he intended to keep. He said what he thought would sell. It did. He never intended to do the hard work necessary to make good on his promises.

Second, 45 is a deeply ignorant man who lacks the intellectual curiosity and capacity to properly do his new job. This ignorance applies to both domestic and foreign policy. As such, and because he’s a classic narcissist, he falls prey to whatever Trump whisperer happens to catch his fancy on any given day. His ignorance is exceeded only by his utter lack of any guiding principle save self-aggrandizement. Any policy decision is guided by one question: How will this action benefit Trump? Benefit usually defined as how much positive attention it will generate for him.

Lind seems to be one of those Trump supporters who pinned his hopes on a fantasy Trump that decades of seeing Trump in action should have shown him doesn’t exist.

#12 Comment By Adam Bacon On May 4, 2017 @ 2:22 pm

Remember how every day since the election the MSM was repeating the Trump=Putin’s poodle mantra? Notice how it’s largely stopped over the past month, all thanks to one mostly ineffective missile attack? Isn’t it possible that this was a just a clever diversionary tactic in a much longer game? Maybe I’m giving Trump more credit than he deserves, but I don’t dismiss the possibility out of hand.

#13 Comment By One Man On May 4, 2017 @ 6:32 pm

I honestly can’t believe that intelligent people can observe the president on a daily basis and still believe he is capable of a “longer-term political strategy” or a “clever diversionary tactic”. Everything he does is a reaction to something that happened in the last 48 hours. Talk to Mexico/Canada; renege on NAFTA promise. Talk to China; no more “currency manipulator”. Chemical attack in Syria; ineffective bombing. Watch Fox; trouble in Sweden, can you believe it? Sweden.

#14 Comment By Winston On May 4, 2017 @ 7:51 pm

“Lind seems to be one of those Trump supporters who pinned his hopes on a fantasy Trump that decades of seeing Trump in action should have shown him doesn’t exist.”

Short of a president heroic enough to veto everything to the point of shutting down the government and using his bully pulpit directly to the people to help prevent 2/3 overrides, nothing major will ever change. Anything less and the president will present nothing more than a mere speed bump to the wishes of the oligarchy (aka Deep State, Swamp).

Both the Dems and Reps are beholden to many of the same donors/owners. The fact that we clearly live in an oligarchy was conclusively proven in a groundbreaking study which got much attention overseas, but little in the US, the 2014 Princeton University study, “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens.”

If you really think that your vote on any national issue that affects in a major way the status quo flow of trillions of your tax dollars and trillions more of new debt accrued on your tab will have any real effect, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. Thus, the eternal disappointment in “Change You Can Believe In’ savior politicians.

#15 Comment By Mel Profit On May 4, 2017 @ 7:51 pm

It would help if Mr Trump had any allies–but being too arrogant, too scattered, and too bored to actually practice politics, he does not. As a consequence, his enemies list is near-infinite: every Democrat, almost every Republican, the media, the “intelligence community”, the civil service, Hollywood, Silicon Valley, academia, virtually all heads
of state, and just about every American residing within 200 miles of an ocean. The corporate world is deeply suspicious of Trump, and Wall Street is his pal only as long as the markets remain up–he is dead to them the moment the rally ends.

In short, he is a party of one, supported by angry, dispossessed people who have neither money or influence. No wonder that, about ten minutes into his presidency, he decided that populism was not going to do the trick.

#16 Comment By Steve in Ohio On May 5, 2017 @ 1:18 pm

Sadly, there are few of us on the anti-war right. Look at Congress–Jones, Duncan, Massie and Amash are the few rational voices opposing empire and invade the world policies. When I voted for Trump, I was hoping for a Rand Paul foreign policy, but knew the odds were against it. At this point I would be happy if Trump follows through on the other three. Actually being a hawk is probably better for him politically. In 2012, Rick Santorum, not Ron Paul, was the conservative alternative to Romney.

#17 Comment By wabon2 On May 5, 2017 @ 2:49 pm

Bill, you and Pat Buchanan both got played by this con man. Think he was reading you when you posted at D-N-I? Or that he was conducting 4G warfare, adapted to our politics? (You gave him a book, after all…) Col, John R. Boyd would have seen right through this phony. Moral, mental, physical dimensions of conflict…How does Trump measure up? Remember Boyd’s definition of evil? Of corruption? (see, “The Strategic Game of ? and?”) By those measures, Trump is evil and corrupt.There was no doubt, based on his record, that Trump never had the moral or intellectual grounding necessary for the job.

Bill…again,I am sad to say that you got played…but you should have known better!

#18 Comment By jk On May 6, 2017 @ 11:53 am

Alas, Trump is “no new taxes” on steroids. If I knew he was going to be blatant fraud, I still would have voted for Johnson in my ‘red state’ out of spite of Clinton and her outright support of the neocon status quo.

#19 Comment By cajomu On May 6, 2017 @ 3:45 pm

Trump is sui generis. He won the nomination and the election as much because of his charisma as because of what he promised.

If he fails, the Republicans will revert to middle-of-the-road candidates like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio.

#20 Comment By Adriana I Pena On May 7, 2017 @ 8:37 am

I keep saying this.

Everyone who dealt with Trump and trusted him ended up screwed.

Why do you think he’ll treat you differently.

(“His four previous wives died in mysterious circumstances. I hope to marry him” Scott Adams)

#21 Comment By EliteCommInc. On May 8, 2017 @ 4:27 pm

“Everyone who dealt with Trump and trusted him ended up screwed.”

I take it the 60,000 employees want to quit their jobs.

And good grief if you are going to reference Mr Adams’ quotes at least get one that gets the number of wives alive correct.

#22 Comment By EliteCommInc. On May 8, 2017 @ 4:33 pm

“Everyone who dealt with Trump and trusted him ended up screwed.”

I take it the 60,000 employees want to quit their jobs.

And good grief if you are going to reference Mr Adams’ quotes at least get one that gets the number of wives alive correct.

In my lifetime, I have never known a candidate to deliver everything on my plate of issues. And those candidates were far more closely aligned with my values, and policy goals than Mr Trump.

#23 Comment By David Giza On May 14, 2017 @ 1:23 pm

If Trump continues down this road of interventionism, I hope Rand Paul or someone like him challenges him for the Republican presidential nomination in 2020.