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Trump’s Easily Avoidable Carrier Blunder

The Trump administration is suffering [1] from another self-inflicted wound on foreign policy:

When news broke less than two weeks ago that the Trump administration was sending the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson to the Korean Peninsula, many South Koreans feared a possible war with North Korea. Others cheered for Washington, calling the deployment a powerful symbol of its commitment to deterring the North.

On Wednesday, after it was revealed that the carrier strike group was actually thousands of miles away and had been heading in the opposite direction, toward the Indian Ocean, South Koreans felt bewildered, cheated and manipulated by the United States, their country’s most important ally.

This is a relatively minor episode, but it points to several important flaws in the way that Trump and his officials conduct foreign policy. The basic incompetence on display is the most noticeable thing. A properly-staffed and well-coordinated administration would not make such an easily avoidable blunder, but this one is neither properly-staffed nor well-coordinated. A competent administration would have consulted more closely with regional allies and not done anything rash that might alarm them, but this administration isn’t competent.


Another flaw is Trump’s desire to boast and show “strength,” which is how the misinformation was able to spread far and wide. If Trump hadn’t wanted to draw attention to the “armada” he was supposedly sending, no one would have given much thought to the whereabouts of the carrier group or its destination, and there would have been no surprise or outrage when its real location came to be known. An even bigger flaw is Trump’s preoccupation with trying to intimidate North Korea into changing its behavior through a combination of ill-considered bluster and careless rhetoric from Pence and Tillerson deriding the idea of strategic patience. On substance the administration is misguided, and in both the messaging and execution of its policy towards North Korea they have proven to be inept.

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14 Comments To "Trump’s Easily Avoidable Carrier Blunder"

#1 Comment By SF Bay On April 19, 2017 @ 4:49 pm

And we’re surprised why? The State Department is basically empty. Tillerson has zero foreign policy experience and it shows. His personality seems ill suited for the job.

Trump is a no nothing braggart. Pence, who talks tough, is a pretty boy kiss up. What could possibly go wrong.

I feel just a tiny bit sorry for Secretary of Defense Mattis. He is stuck trying to right this ship, so to speak.

#2 Comment By no gyro On April 19, 2017 @ 5:28 pm

@SF Bay “I feel just a tiny bit sorry for Secretary of Defense Mattis. He is stuck trying to right this ship, so to speak.”

By urging Trump to maintain Obama’s policy of helping Saudi Arabia starve Yemen? By recommending air strikes against Assad? By pushing Trump to “confront” Russia?

How exactly does any of that serve to “right the ship”?

#3 Comment By Jay C On April 19, 2017 @ 6:13 pm

You forgot to mention one more characteristic display from this Administration: sending Sean Spicer out to try to bamboozle the media (usually by insult) into accepting whatever dubious or mendacious “rationale” for their mistakes the regime wants to promulgate: often along the lines of “we MEANT to do that”, and more often, fooling nobody.

Not telling you how to write your blog, Mr. Larison. but it seems like you could save a lot of time by setting up a template – with most of your present commentary inserted – and titled:
“Trump’s Easily Avoidable [insert c*ckup HERE] Blunder. I’m sure you will get a lot of use out of it.

#4 Comment By Ken Hoop On April 19, 2017 @ 6:25 pm

Did Trump have any choice of Generals or military who weren’t Iranophobic and Russophobic? Not that he would have chosen them.
It’s funny how they have grudges against Iran for Iraq but not against Saudi for general world jihad and, yes, being in cahoots with more of the Iraq insurgency than was Iran.

#5 Comment By Kevin On April 19, 2017 @ 7:32 pm

“Did Trump have any choice of Generals or military who weren’t Iranophobic and Russophobic? Not that he would have chosen them.

Um, did anyone held a gun to his head and forced him to appoint generals to every available post in his administration?

#6 Comment By SF Bay On April 19, 2017 @ 7:36 pm

@no gyro: Well, I’m assuming we have civilian control of the military. Any problems you have with Mattis more correctly rests at Trump’s feet. He talks tough. Talks about bombing the cr*p out of ISIS (Syria and Iraq).

I will agree that by several accounts Trump is following the Obama playbook, at least partly on foreign policy, with the big exception of North Korea.

#7 Comment By EliteCommInc. On April 19, 2017 @ 9:01 pm

I like Mr Trump.

but it’s hard to defend him when he has surrounded himself with so many who actually opposed him or his agenda.

I think his advisers are feeding his ambitions with their agendas. Now it is entirely possible that the current executive is merely allowing interventionist notions to run to their obvious dead ends. So that he can say we tried it your way, and its over.


the power of positive thinking.

#8 Comment By SF Bay On April 19, 2017 @ 9:25 pm

EliteCommInc., I know you like Trump. And seem to twist yourself into knots to hold true to that belief. That is the power of positive thinking for sure.

As someone who really does not like Trump, I find myself occasionally twisting myself into knots to hold true to my beliefs. I’m not sure we ever find common ground under these conditions.

#9 Comment By Whine Merchant On April 20, 2017 @ 2:41 am

This is Chairman Trump’s second Carrier blunder while trying to fool his own nation as well as the rest of the world. Don’t forget the easily-exposed attempted slight-of-hand with Carrier jobs in Indiana.
Thank you –

#10 Comment By PAXNOW On April 20, 2017 @ 7:26 am

Trump has surrounded himself with ideologues from a failed and dangerous foreign-policy belief system that will keep American in endless wars. He ought give Jared Kushner & Co. an M16s, reliable parachutes, use of a C47, and drop them off over Tehran to sort things out according to their belief system. Bodies where their mouths are. Do not send my friends and kin into this furnace of war who have no pony in this race that is being forced on U.S.

#11 Comment By liberal On April 20, 2017 @ 9:49 am

Ken Hoop wrote,

It’s funny how they have grudges against Iran for Iraq…

I thought Mattis’ grudge goes all the way back to the marine barracks bombing in Beirut.

#12 Comment By rayray On April 20, 2017 @ 12:47 pm


The idea that Trump has some sort of coherent thing that he wants to implement other than glorifying himself and other like minded white people is simply not true.

Trump put these colleagues in place because they seemed tough. He likes tough because it makes him feel tough. Believe me, I’ve heard him say exactly that.

Bombing stuff sounds right too…because bombing is tough. He does not read books, he does not read briefings, indeed he does not even like to HEAR briefings. He is not thoughtfully weighing different points of view; he is, in fact, willing to embrace publicly the spurious nonsense he gets from his only information source which is cable news. Which is…ridiculous.

I have worked with him and many around me have worked with him and one thing is consistent across the board – he shoots from the hip because he simply does not know how to aim a gun. He constantly needs protection from competent people who will keep him from completely making an ass of himself, either with women or with his mouth. The stories would be funnier if he was not our current President.

He is not evil…he is empty.

He is the perfect avatar of our times…an empty suit that tries to connect with the darkness by sending tweets and marrying models.

#13 Comment By SF Bay On April 20, 2017 @ 1:55 pm

rayray, it’s one thing for me to think the things you say are true; it’s another thing all together to hear you say things about Trump you know are true. This lends a whole new level of anxiety to our current situation. It’s better to know though.

And yes, I know some will say this is simply your opinion, but knowing and working with someone does provide evidence us armchair quarterbacks will never have.

#14 Comment By rayray On April 20, 2017 @ 3:11 pm

@SF Bay
I will say this about Trump, he’s not a great actor. What I saw on the campaign trail and as a president seem much like what we all saw in production and development. Which is why I find it so odd when Trump supporters say that “he’s changed” or “he’s disappointing me” or “they’re manipulating him”. How? He’s clearly always been what he is…