A common fallback for students out of their depth, or too bored to study, or not smart enough to master difficult material – and rich enough – is to hire someone to author a term paper. Name the theme, follow the prompts, insert popular memes and wrap them around some jingoistic jargon about lines in the sand, Benghazi, “Make America Great Again,” toss in some fiction et voila, you have Donald Trump’s foreign policy speech.
And, like a broken clock that’s right twice a day, Trump inadvertently got some things right, as when he put George W. Bush and the neo-cons in the dock:
“It all began with a dangerous idea that we could make Western democracies out of countries that had no experience or interests in becoming a Western democracy. . . . We tore up what institutions they had and then were surprised at what we unleashed. Civil war, religious fanaticism, thousands of Americans . . . lives wasted
. . . horribly wasted. . . . The vacuum was created that ISIS would fill. Iran, too, would rush in and fill that void much to their really unjust enrichment.”
But from there it was mostly downhill, except for Trump lovers like Newt Gingrich, Grover Norquist, Joe Scarborough, Bob Corker and others who believed that Trump’s presentation was not an incoherent foreign policy pastiche but a delectable puff pastry; mostly air, flaky, pleasing to the senses – except for Republicans presently girding their loins preparing for the upcoming existential battle against Hillary Clinton at Armageddon.
While neither time nor space permits me to parse Trump’s whole presentation, I’d like to highlight a couple of points.
For me, the essential take-away from Trump’s speech was not how it was praised from the right or ridiculed from the left but that most follow-up commentary missed something much more central to our security: That Donald Trump is not smart enough, serious enough or strategically minded enough to be our next commander in chief.
Trump bemoaned the loss of dictators in countries like Egypt and Libya, and expressed an affinity for others, like Putin, and reflected his personal disdain for human rights and democratic principles – disdain for any humanity not like himself.
While he argued that he has a plan to defeat Daesh (ISIS), he was unable, or unwilling, to directly connect Daesh’s rise – and the rise of Iranian hegemony in the region – to the abject failure of our illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003. Without understanding that connection, no plan to defeat Daesh is viable.
Essentially, Trump, who I’m certain can’t intellectually distinguish between Chaldeans, Circassians, Parsees and Yezidis, bemoaned the fate of Christians in the Middle East – an issue worthy of much concern – but in doing so failed to acknowledge the role that America’s played in the disenfranchisement and displacement of whole sectarian communities.
When he said, “Israel, our great friend and the one true democracy in the Middle East has been snubbed and criticized by an administration that lacks moral clarity. Just a few days ago, Vice President Biden again criticized Israel, a force for justice and peace,” he was full-bore wrong.
First, Israel is neither the “one true democracy in the Middle East” nor always “our great friend.” It’s a democracy for most Jewish Israelis, certainly not for Arab Israelis and certainly not for Palestinians living occupation. The fact that Trump criticized Biden’s critique of Netanyahu’s government’s illegal colonization of Palestinian East Jerusalem and West Bank shows how disconnected he is from reality – especially as Biden’s been a lifetime advocate for Israel.
Further, friends don’t urge friends to invade Iraq and bomb Iran – as Netanyahu’s done.
Are Americans feeling so marginalized that they’re prepared to have as commander in chief a person so intellectually, academically and experientially limited? Are they so overwhelmingly angry that they’re willing to risk having it crash down around us like thousands of towers toppling one at a time domino-like across the globe because we’ve led by incompetence?
In a speech containing serious inconsistencies, contradictions and lies written by a bush league team of advisers, he asked Americans to embrace a dangerous vision of foreign engagement that wedded failed Republican policies of the past with a fantastical vision of how he would approach the future.
An American president needs not only top-notch advisers but an internal reservoir of knowledge and experience upon which he can contextualize advice – and push back if necessary, not out of pique but out of knowledge.
Trump’s exhibited nothing in his history, in his behavior or in this speech, that suggests he has ever been curious about the world beyond Trump Tower – or even cares.
I get that people are angry, disaffected and convinced that government is no longer working for them. Those are legitimate grievances that need to be addressed. But not by Colonel Blimp, Elmer Gantry or Donald Trump.
We can do better.
In the meantime, Trump should ask for his money back from plswritemeaspeech.com.