January 30, 2017

The Coming Chaos: What to Expect From Trump’s National Security Team

By Ilan Goldenberg

No one knows with any degree of certainty what type of foreign policy approach President Donald Trump and his team might pursue. But important data points from the transition and during his first week do not form a promising picture. A cancelled visit by Mexico’s president, chaos at our airports, and a political tirade in front of the CIA Memorial Wall give us plenty to worry about. The most likely scenario is an incoherent and dysfunctional policy process led by an ideological and hardline National Security Council and White House, an independent and reasonable Pentagon, a weak State Department, and an intelligence community leaking like a sieve to counter the White House.

What is clear from the confirmation hearings for James Mattis, Rex Tillerson, and Mike Pompeo — Trump’s respective picks for secretary of defense, secretary of state, and CIA director — is that the views of Trump’s foreign policy team are all over the map and do not align with his own. While Mattis was calling NATO the “most successful military alliance, probably in modern world history, maybe ever,” Trump was describing it as “obsolete.” As Tillerson argued for a full review of the Iran nuclear deal, Mattis said that he would not have agreed to it but that the United States must keep its word, and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus indicated that the agreement was on “life support.”

It is good to have a diversity of views inside the national security team. This leads to robust debate and avoids the danger of groupthink. The problem is that you need a strong and engaged president who can listen to the various positions, make decisions, and set a clear course forward. There are no indications that Trump is going to have the attention span and willingness to do that. And without it, these types of disagreements will lead to dysfunction.

Read the full article at Foreign Policy.

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