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Flynn’s Warped Worldview

Michael Flynn is a retired general and former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and he is currently being vetted by Trump’s campaign [1] as a possible running mate. Flynn’s name has also come up in the past when people have tried to identify Trump’s possible foreign policy advisers, so it is worth considering Flynn’s view of the world in a little more detail. He has co-written a book with the hard-line fanatic Michael Ledeen [2], and seems to have turned to Ledeen again to write an op-ed to promote that book. This [3] is what he says:

We’re in a global war, facing an enemy alliance that runs from Pyongyang, North Korea, to Havana, Cuba, and Caracas, Venezuela. Along the way, the alliance picks up radical Muslim countries and organizations such as Iran, al Qaeda, the Taliban and Islamic State.

That’s a formidable coalition, and nobody should be shocked to discover that we are losing the war.

There’s a lot wrong with this, and if Trump agrees with even half of it his foreign policy is sure to be even worse than most people expect. Flynn recapitulates all of the errors of the hard-liners that used to rave about “WWIV” and “Islamofascism,” and he echoes the absurd theories espoused over the years by Rick Santorum [4] and others like him. Just as Bush did with his harebrained “axis of evil” claim, Flynn lumps together states and groups that have little or nothing to do with each other, and he thinks sworn enemies are working together as part of a fictional “alliance” arrayed against us. To make matters worse, he believes this grab-bag of terrorists and third-rate dictatorships represents a “formidable coalition” that is somehow winning a global war that isn’t really being fought. The “authoritarian axis” [5] that some people dreamed up a few years ago still doesn’t exist, and it can hardly be at war with anyone.

To be blunt, a group of states that includes Cuba and Venezuela is the opposite of formidable. Venezuela’s government is mainly a menace to its own people, and the country has become such an economic basketcase that the biggest threat it poses to anyone outside the country is if the regime collapses from its own failures. Cuba was removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism last year in belated recognition that the government hadn’t done anything to merit being on the list in years. North Korea is a horrible and dangerous regime on its own, but it isn’t part of some “global war” effort. Iran isn’t in league with Al Qaeda or ISIS. On the contrary, Iran actively fights against both in Syria. Flynn’s “analysis” amounts to taking every adversarial state and group around the world and pretending that they are all linked together when the connections between them are either tenuous or non-existent. It is an ideological fantasy substituting for analysis, and it isn’t going to make the U.S. or anyone else more secure.

Flynn’s specific recommendations seem to involve endless warfare against what he calls the “the terror armies, above all in the Middle East and Libya,” which would commit the U.S. to an unknown number of conflicts for the foreseeable future that would only be concluded when we “win.” In other words, Flynn offers a recipe for perpetual war in predominantly Muslim countries, and if we take his rhetoric about the “enemy coalition” seriously he may be talking about waging wars in other parts of the world as well. His willingness to blur distinctions between disparate and mutually hostile groups suggests that the U.S. would find itself fighting multiple enemies at the same time. Flynn also thinks that the U.S. should “clearly and forcefully attack their crazy doctrines,” which credits our government with a degree of competence and cultural understanding that it has not demonstrated in decades. The U.S. could denounce various foreign leaders as “false prophets,” as Flynn suggests, but why would anyone inclined to listen to these “false prophets” care what Washington said about them? Likewise, “insisting on the superiority of our own political vision” is all very well, but it would achieve nothing except to intensify resentment against the U.S.

There are many reasons why Flynn would be a poor choice as Trump’s running mate, but his warped foreign policy worldview and dangerous policy recommendations must be among the most important.

37 Comments (Open | Close)

37 Comments To "Flynn’s Warped Worldview"

#1 Comment By Who Am I? Why Am I Here? On July 11, 2016 @ 12:45 am

“That’s a formidable coalition, and nobody should be shocked to discover that we are losing the war.”

I’m surprised Flynn didn’t mention the Klingon menace … doubtless he’s holding that card close to his vest until the first VP debate.

Flynn’s a pretty obvious no go. VP vetting is mostly about cuddling up to real or imagined party constituencies, but Trump ought to be making this particular constituency walk the plank.

In any case the last thing a quasi-Perot needs is a quasi-Stockdale running mate. And what’s a Ledeen admirer doing sucking up to Trump anyway? I thought all the sour little neocon dead-enders had long since decamped for Clintonland.

#2 Comment By gk0821 On July 11, 2016 @ 12:49 am

@DL

I agree with everything you said.

However, frankly there are perhaps two countries in the world with the ability to actually hurt the United States, Russia and China. While I’m unaware of Flynn’s view of Sino-American relations, he, like Trump, seems at least not as crazy as some of the other neocons that are trying their best to bring back the cold-war. And a cold war on Russia’s border in Ukraine and its near abroad in Syria, is far more dangerous than the previous cold war with its epicenter in Berlin, Korea, Vietnam, and South America.

As far as I can tell, there’s two ways the empire comes down, a blaze of glory in a fight with either Russia or China that would be a pyrrhic victory even if we won, or general exhaustion and bankruptcy after fighting so many minor states. As an anti-war American, the death and destruction that we would bring to those states is a tragedy, but I’d selfishly choose the latter. Knowing where the Queen of Chaos stands on the issue of Russia, I still find it impossible to even consider voting for her. And I’m also well aware that Trump would be no guarantee of better relations with Russia, but if HRC were to be defeated, there is perhaps the chance that the Democratic party reforms itself into a less globalist, more peaceful party in the image of Sanders (with better domestic policy than his own if we were really lucky). But I fear if HRC wins, the Republicans will repudiate all of the halfway decent ideas espoused by Trump, and perhaps have a full neocon resurgence with its 2020 candidate, and the Democrats will have not learned anything until 2024 at the earliest.

#3 Comment By rayray On July 11, 2016 @ 1:45 am

Trump doesn’t really care what Flynn believes; he may not even really know. Trump doesn’t have a coherent worldview much less any particular foreign policy goal he’s trying to pursue.

Flynn fits a brand that Trump just got interested in. Having Flynn makes Trump seem “tough”. A general! That’s tough! And since no other prominent military figures would even consider the position Flynn will have to do. Or not.

Or maybe this whole discussion is just this week. By the time this is comment is moderated Mr. Trump will likely have moved on.

#4 Comment By balconesfault On July 11, 2016 @ 4:00 am

As someone who is by no means enthralled with Hillary’s likely foreign policy … I’ll provide one reason to endorse it over what we can expect from Trump.

Hillary will not act unilaterally. She will likely make her share of poor decisions, but they would be poor decisions reached in coordination with Britain and France and Germany and NATO and the UN … and likely, without the Bushian proclivity to severe arm-twisting to achieve said coordination.

There is no reason to expect that the caution and better judgment of any of our allies, or reluctance to join us in some military escapade, would be any sort of brake on Trump once he decides for whatever reason that military action is called for.

And yeah … use of the term “Islamofascism” should be an immediate disqualifier for anyone being considered for a position with more foreign policy significance than Pentagon janitor.

#5 Comment By Philip Giraldi On July 11, 2016 @ 6:22 am

I attended a conference in December where Flynn spoke. He appears to embrace a number of conspiracy theories but the one that struck me as most dubious was his assertion that Iran is behind nearly everything going wrong in the Middle East, being the key force behind “five wars” going on in the region.

This is essentially a Saudi-Israeli viewpoint. To be sure, Iran is involved in a number of conflicts but it can hardly be described as the instigator of what is going on in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Dunno what the other two wars might be – Libya? Palestine-Israel?

He also dodged questions about the false claims regarding Syria using chemical weapons. He was head of DIA at the time and claimed to know nothing about the who was behind the allegations.

#6 Comment By Viriato On July 11, 2016 @ 7:03 am

But notice which adversarial capitals Flynn left off his list: Moscow and Beijing. This is a very good sign. At the very least, it shows that Flynn is smart enough to realize that Russia and China are not Iraq or Libya. The governments of Russia and China cannot be toppled (or even threatened via encirclement, as the U.S. is currently doing to both countries) without dire consequences for the U.S. and, indeed, for the whole world.

This is huge. Make no mistake: Relations with Russia and China are THE most important issue of this campaign. In the event of nuclear war, all other issues would forever lose their relevance.

I, for one, hope Trump picks Flynn. He would surely be able to articulate the need for a less confrontational posture toward Russia far more eloquently than Trump can. Flynn’s presence on the ticket would immeasurably help Trump draw a sharp contrast between Hillary Clinton and himself. Flynn’s presence on the ticket could very well be a game-changer.

Already, anti-Russia hawks Liz Wahl was attacking Flynn on Twitter. Clearly, Flynn scares the neocons. This is a great sign!!

#7 Comment By Neal On July 11, 2016 @ 7:41 am

This guy running as VP with Trump would present a stark choice for the voters. Maybe we need to hear the case for endless war presented by Flynn so we can decide if that’s what we want. Then Clinton and her VP can provide sort of rebuttal. Assuming they even disagree, of course.

#8 Comment By SDS On July 11, 2016 @ 7:54 am

“Pyongyang, North Korea, to Havana, Cuba, and Caracas, Venezuela. Along the way, the alliance picks up radical Muslim countries and organizations such as Iran, al Qaeda, the Taliban and Islamic State.”

IF Flynn really wrote/accepts this; it really raises a question of the basic competence of the leaders of our intelligence agencies. It’s bad enough when politicians show ignorance or worse (IRAN and AL Qeda/ISIS working together?!?!) but to have the top dogs in our national intelligence agencies spout such nonsense is really troubling…..Can’t we expect serious people there at least?

#9 Comment By Uncle Billy On July 11, 2016 @ 8:25 am

Flynn is a hard core Neocon who would have US troops involved in every conflict on the planet. No thanks.

#10 Comment By Chris Chuba On July 11, 2016 @ 8:57 am

The problem with co-authored books is that you don’t know who wrote what. Is Flynn good? Probably not but how does he rank in the maniacal scale of Neocon / Liberal Interventionists that dominate Washington?

He is among the few in the Pentagon who pushed back against the CIA / State Dept faction who were obsessed with toppling Assad with Al Qaeda dominated rebels. Unfortunately, this one act of common sense puts him among the elite of those Donald Trump could pick that might reinforce some of his better views.

I just shudder at what a Hillary Clinton, Victoria Nuland, General Breedlove resurgence would would do in the next 8yrs.

#11 Comment By robz On July 11, 2016 @ 9:11 am

Seems to me that Clinton’s adventurism falls in to the R2P camp and not the Neocon camp.

#12 Comment By Ken T On July 11, 2016 @ 9:50 am

Of course another way to look at it is that Trump is looking at Flynn as anti-impeachment insurance. If Trump does manage to get elected, he would almost immediately face impeachment hearings. But with Flynn as VP, what senator with even a trace of sanity would vote to make that swap?

#13 Comment By Joseph R. Stromberg On July 11, 2016 @ 10:05 am

In 1968 George C. Wallace chose General Curtis LeMay as his running mate. It may have been the meanest thing old George ever did.

#14 Comment By Grumpy Old Man On July 11, 2016 @ 11:02 am

Col.Kong survived, miraculously. Compare Nuland and Kagan. Thanks, Daniel. You made me want to spew on Monday morning.

#15 Comment By Chris Chuba On July 11, 2016 @ 11:22 am

Regarding Hillary being ‘R2P style intervention rather than Neocon’
1. R2P is one of the most frequent justifications used by Neocons to promote military intervention.
2. Here is a very concise summary by Larry Johnson where he isolates an email correspondence with HRC and Sid Blumenthal on Libya that clearly hits all of the Neocon / Liberal interventionist notes …
[6]

In addition to R2P, promotion of Democracy via the Arab Spring, and the demonstration of U.S. military power to reverse some feared perceived decline U.S. influence in the region. An absolute obsession with Neocon / liberal interventionists, that America is perceived as weak unless we assert ourselves militarily.

#16 Comment By robz On July 11, 2016 @ 1:46 pm

Yes, Neocons have used R2P arguments when they’ve found them convenient.

That said, a few differences between Neoconservative and R2P groups come immediately to mind:

#1. One group wants to prevent more Rwandas type atrocities. The other doesn’t care about that.

#2. R2P people are quite internationalist. Neocons, not so much.

#3. Neocons are very much concerned with the rise of China. As far as I can tell, R2P is not.

These differences are not insignificant.

#17 Comment By Baldy On July 11, 2016 @ 1:48 pm

Regarding Chris Chuba and the lack of difference between Hillary and the neocons:
I think there is a valid distinction between a more R2P style of humanitarian intervention and the neocon approach in that neocons thrive on unilateral action where the liberal interventionist wants multi-lateral consensus. I agree with balconesfault regarding the relative scariness of the foreign policies of the two candidates. Trump is no neocon but it’s likely the result of his policies could be as bad or worse as the most ideologically committed neocon. There is a ceiling on how damaging Hillary’s foreign policy will be (and I think it will be bad), but the worst you can imagine seems plausible for Trump.

#18 Comment By Steve in Ohio On July 11, 2016 @ 1:51 pm

Great article and the comments are very helpful. Is Flynn like Jim Webb (sensible for the most part, but off on Iran). My concern would be that if Trump decides to go after ISIS, Flynn would be there cheering him on.

#19 Comment By Unstable On July 11, 2016 @ 1:54 pm

“Hillary will not act unilaterally. She will likely make her share of poor decisions, but they would be poor decisions reached in coordination with Britain and France and Germany and NATO and the UN “

Did she “coordinate with Britain and France and Germany and NATO and UN” when she threatened to “obliterate” Iran if it attacked Israel? I rather doubt it. In fact, I think she was kind of saying whatever popped into her head, especially if it helped her with the Miami Jewish vote.

Then there’s Honduras. Are the Brits, French, Germans and UN keen on the brutal dictator she installed there?

And what about South Sudan, where she successfully pressed Obama to arm child soldiers in contravention of US law and basic international norms of decency? I’ll bet the UN is overjoyed that she blatantly violated one of the most widely agreed and supported humanitarian conventions.

As always, the problem for Clinton apologists is that Clinton has already done (or threatened to do) things they fear Trump might do.

And she did them as Secretary of State, while being kept somewhat in check by Obama’s far less impulsive, reckless, and vengeful personality. Free of that restraint, as President in her own right, God only knows what damage Clinton would unilaterally inflict – on others and on us.

#20 Comment By wjr123 On July 11, 2016 @ 1:58 pm

Even paranoids have enemies.

The problem here is not really what Flynn writes about but is actually about what the tatters of the “conservative” community believe.

Ideologic purity is absurd when the house is burning down. Keeping Clinton out of power is is the greater good.

#21 Comment By EliteCommInc. On July 11, 2016 @ 2:06 pm

I think I tend to support a fresh perspective. I am unclear why Mr. Trump thinks he has to embrace much of the interventionist crowd save as polite gesture.

But he would do well to learn from the current CEO polite gestures of this magnitude (people with an ability to influence policy) even as Vice Pres. is a trap.
_______________

“However, frankly there are perhaps two countries in the world with the ability to actually hurt the United States, Russia and China.”

I think is short sighted and why I couldn’t support a democratic executive even if she weren’t heck bound on killing children in the womb and spreading the practice. We have already been significantly damaged by two states Iraq, and Afghanistan. Include our trade and immigration policies: Nearly all of South American, Asian and our European allies. The idea that one can only damaged by physical assault is to fail to understand the strategy of one’s fellows on the planet.

We are being bled out in so many ways, that eventually our military might won’t matter or it ill be the only policy we have as answer to significance international issues.

I would that we avoid suicide in any manner.

#22 Comment By Fred Bowman On July 11, 2016 @ 2:47 pm

What Trump wants is a bunch of people like himself spouting out a bunch of popular but not very well-thought slogans and half-baked ideas. Sounds to me like a recipe for failure. Btw, I’m still waiting for American Conservative to comment on just how Trump would govern successfully (and please spare the “magical thinking”). Truth be told, Trump will have very little, if any support in Congress, so that would leave him governing by “Executive Orders” much of which would be soundly ignored.

#23 Comment By robz On July 11, 2016 @ 3:46 pm

I’m nearly always appalled at things Clinton is said to have done but usually when I do some checking, it looks like she did something less bad than I would expect given the original portrayal. For example, if I go by what’s on Wikipedia, Clinton did not install any brutal dictators in the Honduras. At worst, she did nothing when she should have done something.

#24 Comment By Brad Hoff On July 11, 2016 @ 3:56 pm

Larison is right concerning the insane words in the NY Post piece, but what’s completely missing from this analysis are the remarkable positions of Flynn spoken before he got closer to team Trump.

Even Glenn Greenwald and The Intercept previously highlighted and praised Flynn’s perspective on things like Syria, drones, and the rise of ISIS: [7]

Flynn also seems to present as super hawkish before an America audience, but on foreign networks (esp. RT, Al Jazeera, and German press) he sounds very different. Seems he’s pandering for the Trump crowd.

To see context of what Larison misses, read my piece here: [8]

#25 Comment By Brad Hoff On July 11, 2016 @ 4:02 pm

…or very possible he’s just a super hawk that was pandering to foreign media outlets, trying to get on TV when nobody was paying attention to him. I guess the question is: who is the real Mike Flynn?

#26 Comment By not a daisy On July 11, 2016 @ 4:49 pm

“As always, the problem for Clinton apologists is that Clinton has already done (or threatened to do) things they fear Trump might do. “

Mere weeks after sneering at what she called Trump’s “recklessness” and general unfitness for custody of the nuclear codes, she is herself described by no less than THE DIRECTOR OF OBAMA’S FBI as “extremely irresponsible” and “reckless”.

There’s no real choice in this election. Only the smell test, as it were. Which Clinton loses hands down.

#27 Comment By rayray On July 11, 2016 @ 5:02 pm

@ Robz:
“I’m nearly always appalled at things Clinton is said to have done but usually when I do some checking, it looks like she did something less bad than I would expect given the original portrayal.”

This is the central issue of the GOP at this point. There are some real salient conversations to be had about Hillary’s policy positions, but we don’t get to them because everyone is so busy with the utter BS of Benghazi and email servers and insane conspiracy theory. Her real story (like most people) is a mix of real integrity, political gamesmanship, and some bad decisions.

But after awhile…a non-partisan has got to ask, if this is all you got on her…then maybe you got nothing…?

#28 Comment By Clint On July 11, 2016 @ 5:37 pm

General Flynn appears to be mostly a show nod to neoconservative interests and media speculation, as his pro-choice social views would be a turnoff to neoconservative evangelical voters.

It may very well be Governor Mike Pence for a number of reasons, as events move toward the GOP convention.

#29 Comment By Richard Parker On July 11, 2016 @ 11:04 pm

“If Trump does manage to get elected, he would almost immediately face impeachment hearings.”

On what basis? Make a mockery of a national election and prove the tin-foil hats correct about a secret government that controls all behind the curtain.

I’m not a Trump voter, but I would just quit voting in that case.

#30 Comment By Dan On July 12, 2016 @ 2:16 am

He sounds like a paranoid conspiracy theorist, and the idea of him as VP is scary but actually also scary is the fact he was active duty head of the DIA until recently.

How many others are embedded in the highest levels of the Pentagon.

#31 Comment By mightywhig On July 12, 2016 @ 5:31 am

Unfortunately I think Flynn has been advising Trump on foreign policy, which might be why Trump has stopped saying sensible things like he did earlier in the campaign. Not sure how Flynn made 4-star. Don’t think he’s very sophisticated intellectually. (DIA is the B team.)

#32 Comment By Chris Chuba On July 12, 2016 @ 8:37 am

If people want to vote for Hillary Clinton, fine, do it. Just don’t deceive yourselves into thinking that she is anything other than a liberal interventionist / Neocon. Beyond R2P, she wanted to spread democracy in both Syria and Libya and has bought into U.S. leadership through the projection of power. That she tries to use weasel words to hide her actual actions every now and again should bring little comfort. She perceives Russia and Iran as major threats to be confronted. I have not kept up with her statements on China, so I will not comment on that.

Trump/Flynn, yes, both are Iran-o-phobes so they are on a par with Ms. Clinton on that score. However, they are more pragmatic about Russia and both have taken a much more reasonable position on Syria. On China, Trump has only talked about economic issues which is good. This tells me that he is not interested in military posturing.

If the DIA is the B team then our State Dept. and CIA has become the C team.

#33 Comment By Dan Phillips On July 12, 2016 @ 12:12 pm

How much of that quote is to sell the book? For reference, Justin Raimondo is intrigued by a possible Flynn pick. Flynn is opposed to the current Sunni strategy and is not reflexively hostile to Russia and Putin. He is not a sop to the neocons. In fact, the neocons are very skeptical of him. He’s no non-interventionist, but then who on the current scene is? I don’t think he would be a wise political choice because of the registered Democrat and pro-choice thing, but he’s likely a better foreign policy advisor than most options.

[9]

#34 Comment By soccer warrior On July 12, 2016 @ 10:49 pm

“it looks like she did something less bad than I would expect given the original portrayal. For example, if I go by what’s on Wikipedia, Clinton did not install any brutal dictators in the Honduras. At worst, she did nothing when she should have done something.”

Wiki apparently isn’t up to date on the latest HRC email dumps. She not only did not “do nothing”, she went to considerable lengths (shifting post-coup negotiations with the constitutional president from the OAS to Costa Rica to ensure the dictator a favorable outcome, positively asserting US readiness to recognize the results of the military government election). And the part of her role that could be characterized as “doing nothing” wasn’t really “doing nothing” so much as adamant refusal to do as she was advised to do: she refused her own Assistant Secretary (Ann Marie Slaughter’s) urgent and repeated requests that she declare that a “military coup” had taken place.

In short order the bodies were piling up.

[10]

From the link: “Meanwhile, the U.S. government has increased military assistance to Honduras, despite alarming reports of killings and human rights abuses by increasingly militarized Honduran security forces.”

In other words, the usual. But here in the US she benefited from the “who cares what we’re doing to people overseas” attitude in the media and public, and was never brought to book for it.

#35 Comment By robz On July 13, 2016 @ 10:04 am

I read the commondreams link. Essentially, it’s the same store. Clinton is accused of doing nothing when the author thinks that she should have “decisively” said that the coup was illegal and then cut off all aid to the Honduras until Zelaya was allowed to return to power. Perhaps Clinton should have done more, but it is far from a sure thing that her doing more would have led to a better outcome in the Honduras.


From the link: “Meanwhile, the U.S. government has increased military assistance to Honduras, despite alarming reports of killings and human rights abuses by increasingly militarized Honduran security forces.” </

I don’t approve of giving them any money at all, ever, but surely, what happened in 2015 isn’t very closely related to Clinton’s inaction in 2009.

#36 Comment By the passive voice On July 13, 2016 @ 3:01 pm

“Clinton’s inaction in 2009”

Clinton obstructed the OAS process and diverted it to Costa Rica to assure a favorable result for the Honduran butchers.

That’s calculated, purposeful activity, not “inaction”.

We regularly do similar service for countries like Israel and Saudi Arabia, and they lobby us very hard for it. Indeed, the diplomatic maneuvers and jurisdictional sleight-of-hand we perform in the UN and other international bodies to shield the Saudis and Israelis from charges of war crimes and human rights abuses were a ready-made template for Clinton’s actions regarding Honduras. Except that the result was not ratification of a bloody, tyrannical status quo, it was the installation of a whole new dictatorship.

#37 Comment By robz On July 13, 2016 @ 5:53 pm

“Clinton obstructed the OAS process and diverted it to Costa Rica to assure a favorable result for the Honduran butchers.”

That’s what some people say, sure but as far as I can tell from my limited reading, the USA wanted to get the two sides talking and viewed the OAS process as not likely to help accomplish that.
(The post-coup Honduran government tried to withdraw from the OAS. I’m doubting that they would have participated in OAS talks.)

No doubt, getting Costa Rica’s President Oscar Arias Sanchez to act as mediator in the matter was a very bad thing in your eyes, but Clinton probably regarded him as someone who had considerable credibility with everyone in the area(perhaps not Castro or Chavez.)