Under Trump America Goes From World Leader to Banana Republic 

On Christmas eve conservative pundit William “Bill” Kristol made it clear that in its current iteration, the Republican Party he identifies with has become a cult of personality worthy of a banana republic. Kristol didn’t mention Trump by name, but he almost certainly was projecting his abhorrence of Trump on the entire GOP; a surprising development for a dyed-in-the-wool conservative but an apt projection all the same.

It is true the Republican Party is taking the country back to the 1920’s long before America became a global leader and was hardly a world super power, but even during the Great Depression when the filthy rich became incredibly wealthier, America was hardly considered a banana republic. All that changed less than a century later.

Whatever leadership role America enjoyed prior to Trump’s poorly attended inauguration is now just a memory despite what Trump claims. World leaders are well aware that although America has military might, and is a rapidly waning economic force, its influence globally is second-rate at best; in many areas it is nothing more than an irritating spectator.

Instead of leading on addressing climate change, America under Trump is watching China “assume the leadership mantle,” and subsequently the economic prosperity that will accompany it. And as the Los Angeles Times noted, “Russia has taken over Syrian peace negotiations that Moscow officials only allowed America to attend as observers.”

Members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) look to Germany and France for leadership since Trump has isolated America from even its allies and trading partners. And speaking of international trade, America is now a global trade outlier and any number of American industries are living proof that Trump’s big mouth and isolationism kills American businesses.

This is an issue because Trump gave his assessment of America’s place on the global stage during a speech last week that is as far from reality as the Earth is from the edge of the observable universe. (Roughly 46.6 billion light years)

Trump claims that since January there has been a never-before-seen “broadening of U.S. influence throughout the world.” It is an odd assertion even for a buffoon like Trump; particularly since his executive actions since January are the sole force behind America ceding its global leadership role.

That is the consensus opinion of international leaders, diplomats, and foreign policy experts who contend that Trump is guilty of “reducing U.S. influence or altering it in ways that are less constructive on a broad range of policy issues.” In fact, what those leaders and critics actually say is that “Trump has taken positions that disqualify the United States from the debate or rendered it irrelevant on that ‘broad range of policy issues.’”

This is a serious issue because no matter what horrors Republicans are in the process of unleashing on Americans, Trump represents an existential threat because besides the insanity of isolationism in a truly global era, America under Trump is dangerously unreliable and untrustworthy to the rest of the world.

In India, a nation Trump has not attacked yet, the leaders are like most sane human beings concerned about ‘Trump’s unpredictability” and doubt that he can be trusted “as a reliable partner;” especially with his rush towards isolationism. Manoj Joshi is a scholar at a New Delhi think tank, Observer Research Foundation, who fairly summed up what the rest of the planet knows about Trump.

The president Trump can and does turn things inside out. So the chances that the U.S. works along a coherent and credible national security strategy are not very high.

Nicholas Burns, a long-serving senior diplomat under both Republican and Democratic administrations said Trump’s strategy, or lack thereof, “has left the U.S. ineffective.” Mr. Burns continued by remarking on an issue many critics have warned about to no avail; a weak and aimless Department of State.

“Trump needs a strong State Department to implement its strategy. Instead, State and the Foreign Service are being weakened and often sidelined. Trump’s policy of the last 12 months is a radical departure from every president since WWII. Trump is weak on NATO, Russia, trade, climate, diplomacy. The U.S. is declining as a global leader.”

What seems to be the final straw for nearly the entire world of nations was Trump’s gift to Benjamin Netanyahu that eliminates any opportunity for a “two-state” solution. The only people Trump “delighted” by formally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital were many Israelis.  Trump incited rage in the Muslim world, wiped out decades of “international consensus” on a peaceful Palestine-Israeli resolution, and incurred the wrath of “an overwhelming majority of the U.N. General Assembly.

As most of the world understands, Trump unilaterally eliminated America as “an honest broker in mediating peace by clearly siding with Israel.” As many world leaders have noted, “From now on it is out of the question for a biased United States to be a mediator between Israel and Palestine; that period is over.”

A former U.S. ambassador to both Israel and Egypt under Presidents Clinton and Bush, Daniel Kurtzer, said  that any peaceful resolution in the Middle East  “won’t be from American policy. Trump took America out of the peace process for the foreseeable future.”

There is probably a detailed list of the myriad ways Trump single-handedly diminished American influence globally, but the real horror is that he accomplished that feat in less than a year. America is going to be in trouble going forward just on the basis of Trump’s isolationism and withdrawal from trade agreements and never-ending threats against our allies and United Nations member nations for daring to disagree with Trump. Add to that prospect the Republican Congress’ well-laid plans to wipe out the government and create an impoverished population; it is no longer a question of “if” America is a banana republic, but when the entire world recognizes what it is and turns against it.

Image: Matt Rotman

Trump Thanked Putin For Cutting America’s Diplomatic Corps

While many Americans are rightfully concerned that Trump is playing to a big-time wrestling script with thermonuclear war as possible result, the reality show character’s close relationship with Vladimir Putin is not commanding much news coverage. However, yesterday while some Americans were considering building bomb shelters in their backyards, Trump showed that he still embraces Russia and continues rejecting America and more importantly, its diplomats.

No doubt Trump has yearned for a reason to thank Putin for his valuable (campaign) support over the last year-and-a-half, but that would just further implicate his complicity in Russia’s attack on democracy. Still, Trump found a way to express his gratitude to Putin and “stab American diplomats in the back” in the process; because diplomats prevent wars.

When Trump was asked what his thoughts were on Putin expelling about 775 diplomats from Russia as retaliation for new congressionally-mandated sanctions, he seized the occasion to express how “very thankful” he was that Putin expelled hundreds of American diplomats from Russia. He even explained why he was grateful.

Trump said:

I want to thank him [Putin] because we’re trying to cut down our [State Department] payroll, and as far as I’m concerned I’m very thankful that he let go a large number of people because now we have a smaller payroll. There’s no real reason for them to go back. I greatly appreciate the fact that we’ve been able to cut our payroll of the United States. We’re going to save a lot of money.”

No sane person thinks Trump was being facetious in offering his gratitude to Putin; no small number of diplomats and foreign policy experts have bemoaned loudly that Trump’s refusal to even partially staff the State Department is a gargantuan disaster waiting to happen. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is rabid about cutting down on diplomats, and the idea that Trump wants a non-functioning State Department has nothing to do with “saving a lot of money.” He is more than willing to spend a “lot more money” on bombs and bullets in one fiscal year than it costs to run the State Department for a decade.  Trump and his key alt-right advisors ardently believe that the best way to conduct foreign policy with any country is not diplomacy; they love threats, belligerence, bullying and war. It is the worldview Trump has demonstrated over the past few days in the grandest fashion imaginable.

There have been several reports that the State Department is woefully understaffed with no plans, or intent whatsoever, to fill those positions. And they are crucial positions around the world that do not include janitorial or kitchen help jobs. This danger is not all down to Trump, but it is likely he directed Secretary of State Tillerson not to bother himself with putting up nominees for “low priority” positions such as assistant secretary for diplomatic security. Some Americans may recall that Republicans consider diplomatic security at the bottom of their low-priority concerns to explain why the diplomatic outpost in Benghazi lacked adequate security and protection.

As many former diplomats and foreign policy experts have noted, there is much “more than an ineffectual State Department here, there is real danger.” The real danger is when, not if, something in the world goes terribly wrong like when a poor manager and inexperienced malcontent issues biblically-inspired threats of “fire and fury like the world has never seen.” Every administration faces crises throughout their tenure, and everything falling on Trump stems from the rest of the world’s perception that he is a sap and those foreign policy crises are only going to increase in number and frequency. As noted in the Washington Post, America’s foes feel emboldened with an incompetent in the White House.

They also state the peril of Trump endangering national security by not filling important diplomatic positions; or worse, thanking a hostile foreigner for “cutting down our [diplomatic] payroll and letting a lot of people go.”

It is frightening to imagine what happens when “a crisis erupts in an area of the world that Tillerson hasn’t bothered to staff,” or another attack on an embassy occurs when Tillerson has not bothered to put up a nominee for assistant secretary for diplomatic security? “Tillerson and the president Trump will be in deep trouble.

Remember too that Trump claimed filling his administration with billionaires with exemplary business backgrounds would ensure that his government will have better management and only the very best people will be employed. “Instead they cannot perform the most basic management task of an administration — picking personnel.”

A career foreign service officer who served as an ambassador to Poland in the Clinton Administration and on the National Security Council under Bush really put Trump’s idiocy and third-rate management skills under a spotlight with two simple rhetorical questions. Dan Fried asked:

Under what theory of management is there not an assistant secretary for Europe or Asia?”  And, “How do you make an administration effective when your institutions are weak?

Trump believes his administration is effective because he controls one powerful institution; the United States military and its robust nuclear arsenal. It is likely why he said the hundreds of diplomats “Putin let go to cut America’s State Department payroll” are not going back. It is also highly likely that since Secretary of State Tillerson is BFFs with Putin, Trump believes diplomats are unnecessary; Putin will help Tillerson run the State Department and probably help him cut the diplomatic payroll even more.

It is particularly prescient right now that Trump is demonstrating what he thinks of diplomats or seeking a diplomatic solution to end his nuclear pissing match with the North Korea’s version of Donald J. Trump. One thing is crystal clear after Trump’s showy display of gratitude for some Rusky budget cutting assistance; Trump is too enamored and thankful to ever get into a pissing match with Vladimir Putin.