Specifically, all of them.
Thats because, with Flynns departure as leader of the National Security Council, Trumps inner circle has lost the only person with any experience in foreign affairs. The loss sets an exclamation point on whats already been a bumpy foreign policy rollout.
There is this incredible vacuum at the top, and, as everybody knows, a very demoralized NSC staff, said Eliot Cohen, a former top State Department official and NSC participant under President George W. Bush. Hopefully this gets fixed quickly. Before theres a real crisis.
Among those Trump listens to most, daughter Ivanka has worked in the family business and marketed a line of clothing. Son-in-law Jared Kushner was in New York real estate. Chief strategist Steve Bannon was an investment banker and most recently operated a right-wing, white nationalist-friendly website. And Chief of Staff Reince Priebus chaired the Republican National Committee.
Only Flynn had some foreign policy experience, and even that was relatively narrow, as an Army intelligence officer and then director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Im afraid that is this going to entail an even more extended transition period, said Douglas Lute, former diplomat to NATO under President obama and a deputy national security consultant under Bush. Rather than moving forward, were actually taking a step backward.
This lack of expertise has already manifested itself with an administration that has sent numerous contradictory messages to the world in its less than four weeks in office.
Trump dedicated few specifics about foreign affairs during the campaign, instead offering general promises about getting tougher with the self-described Islamic State, rewriting or withdrawing from what he called unfair trade agreements, and get along better with Russia.
During his transition and first weeks of his presidency, though, Trump has mapped out a foreign policy that appears to head in many directions at once.
He first said he may use the decades-old One China policy which accepts Chinas view that Taiwan is a breakaway province as a bargaining chip in negotiations on other issues. Then he told Chinas president in a phone call that he accepts the One China policy.
He said he would move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem immediately, and signaled he was okay with Israel building more settlements in occupied Palestinian territory. Subsequently, his government has taken a slower approach to the embassy move and issued a statement saying that settlements are not helpful in the search for a long-term peace solution.
Trump has called the North Atlantic Treaty Organization obsolete and said the United States was being taken advantage of by other member states. But Trumps defense secretary and his secretary of state both have strongly committed to NATO.
Apart from contradictory statements have been the just plain weird ones.
In a phone call with Mexicos president, Trump said he may need to send the U.S. military to take care of the bad hombres down there. In a call with the prime minister of Australia one of the United States staunchest allies Trump picked an argument over an agreement reached under the Obama administration to accept some refugees. And in a call with Russias leader, Trump was reportedly flummoxed by Putins reference to a nuclear arms pact thats been in place for years.
And all of this happened while Flynn was still at his side.
These are the outcomes of a process that is not yet resolved, Lute said. Until the team is decide, you cant genuinely put up the relationship and the process of dealing with policy.
Cohen, who now teaches at Johns Hopkins Universitys School of Advanced International Studies, said some of the embarrassment is likely a function of Trumps ignorance of basic U.S. foreign policy and its history. But part of it, he said, results from Trumps preference for underlings who battle one another for his approval.
He wants commotion below him. He wants competition below him, Cohen said. I think he actually thinks this is fine. Thats the problem.
Its a problem Trump needs to solve, and to solve quickly, said presidential historian Douglas Brinkley. He added that Trumps tendency to say things the hell is exaggerated or flat-out untrue are particularly dangerous, especially if he doesnt have a stable foreign policy apparatus working for him.
I guess the hazard for Donald Trump is not having other foreign leaders believe him, Brinkley said. Maybe keep his exaggerations to frivolous matters and let the secretary of state, the defense secretary and the national security advisor is being dealt with the important things.
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