Top Republican officials said Wednesday that the incoming Trump administration had narrowed its search for a new secretary of state down to a handful of candidates. Some of the names being thrown around are truly frightening— but there’s a better choice.
A huge part of president-elect Donald Trump’s populist appeal to U.S. voters was the firm America-first message he pushed on issues of trade and international relations. With regard to the U.S.’s foreign policy, for many voters America-first means a reversal of the overseas adventurism carried out by both the Bush and Obama administrations.
Trump very successfully distinguished himself from Hillary Clinton, whose State Department tenure was an exercise in interventionism, by talking up a foreign policy approach that would place diplomacy over military action in every possible circumstance. And the president-elect repeatedly pummeled Clinton over her support for the failed Iraq War and her doctrine of destabilization in the Middle East to underscore the very kind of mistakes he wouldn’t allow his administration to make.
But judging by names being floated to head the State Department, Trump is likely about to make the first of what will become a series of overseas blunders under his watch.
Trump transition spokesman Jason Miller confirmed to reporters Wednesday that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani are currently being considered for the spot. Miller reportedly wouldn’t confirm who the other contenders are, but media reports suggest that Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Corker, former CIA Director David Petraeus and retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly are also under consideration.
If these are these are the names on the list, America’s in for more of the same overseas adventurism and incompetence under President Trump.
Let’s start with Romney.
Remember all of Clinton’s Cold War scaremongering about Russia during the election? Well, that’s classic Romney. He’s also, like Clinton, interested in aggravating tensions with Russia by launching a full military intervention to overthrow Syria’s leader.
It’s also worth noting that Romney’s harsh opposition to Trump during the election and his intense desire for Trump’s job make it likely that a Romney State Department would have other parallels to Clinton’s version of State. That is, Romney— who fancies himself a “foreign policy prophet” and who called Trump a “phony” and a “fraud”— is likely to buck the president at every turn and focus more on his own political brand than what’s right for the U.S.
Many people who don’t like Romney for the position suggest that Giuliani is a good bet.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who opposes Romney for State, said Giuliani has the “right temperament” for the job.
He also has virtually no foreign policy record beyond having been mayor of NYC when it was attacked by Islamic terrorists. And that shouldn’t be discounted because it at least means Giuliani wouldn’t hesitate to name Islamic terror as a problem like members of the Obama cabinet.
But it also shouldn’t be enough, especially considering the few things we do know about Giuliani’s foreign policy views based on his past comments.
Here’s a good one from 2006 wherein the former mayor suggests that continued intervention throughout the Middle East will end Islamic terror:
Bush got the big decision of his presidency right: the big decision that he made on September 20th, 2001, when he put us on offense against Islamic terrorism. I give him great credit for that. Because we had been dealing with Islamic terrorism incorrectly up until then. We had been on defense. We had been responding. Bush set a whole different mindset. It was: Let’s anticipate, let’s see if we can prevent another attack. That led to Afghanistan, it led to Iraq, it’s led to the Patriot Act, it’s led to electronic surveillance, it’s led to changing our intelligence services. All that is very, very good. Mistakes have also been made. Mistakes were made particularly in the period of time after the capture of Saddam Hussein and, now, a year ago, when we got to the surge policy.
That’s only good for folks who appreciate massive intrusions on American citizens’ privacy and the longest running military engagement in U.S. history.
But Giuliani, you see, subscribes to the wrongheaded belief that the U.S. can somehow spread democracy and appreciation for Western values like wildflowers. Thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans happen to disagree. So do the ISIS terrorists using the nation’s the U.S. destabilized over the past decade and a half staging grounds for attacks.
Corker, meanwhile, is just a good old fashioned fan of massive government. As Obama ironed out his Iran deal, the lawmaker was instrumental in securing its passage by giving the White House a virtual override of Congress via manipulation of the Treaty Clause.
Petraeus’s former position at the CIA means he has deep ties to the deep state. He also holds many of the same foreign policy positions as Clinton— Petraeus, in fact, was likely headed for a cabinet position had she won. He also has in common with Clinton a penchant for putting state secrets at risk.
Kelly, at a glance, is less horrible than the other candidates mentioned— but given his tough positions on securing the nation’s borders, perhaps he’d be a better pick to head DHS.
Anyone named for the secretary of state position is going to come with potential drawbacks. But Trump’s current roster of candidate’s is shockingly full of adherents to the same Bush-Obama-Clinton foreign policy style that set the world on fire.
Sen. Rand Paul, a perpetual critic of that style of foreign policy, noted in a recent op-ed that Trump’s best bet is a pick who recognizes those failures as well as the foreign policy changes that will help the incoming president achieve his domestic agenda.
The U.S. has spent over $100 billion on infrastructure in Afghanistan, including $80 million on a Clinton disaster of an embassy in Mazar-e Sharif that will never be occupied because the State Department ignored every security restriction and built a facility so unsafe that personnel refused to move in. The Obama Pentagon also spent $45 million building a natural gas fueling station in Afghanistan, a country that did not have a single vehicle that runs on natural gas.
Donald Trump needs a secretary of state who understands that we can’t build nations abroad and have enough money to rebuild our own nation. Both Trump’s foreign policy and domestic policy depend on him picking someone who has fully learned the historic lesson of the Iraq War: regime change and nation building don’t work and cost too much.
Later, congressional conservative Rep. Justin Amash tweeted Paul’s piece with the note: “Trump should pick Rand Paul.”
And that sounds like a damn good idea.
Not only was Paul the only candidate during the presidential primary to offer a plan for defeating ISIS without engaging in a war based on overreaction to terror threats, his is also the only brand of foreign policy that the U.S. hasn’t actually tried in since 9/11. Paul has called for a Middle Eastern foreign policy that focuses on choking off ISIS resources while requiring more from U.S. allies in the region.
And why not try it? Has anything else the U.S. done in the region aided in stability?
As Paul noted during his failed campaign for president: “There is often variations of evil on both sides of a war. What we have to decide is whether or not regime change is a good idea. It’s what the neoconservatives have wanted. It’s what the vast majority of those on the stage want. They still want regime change. They want it in Syria. They wanted it in Iraq. They wanted it in Libya. It has not worked. Out of regime change you get chaos. From the chaos you have seen repeatedly the rise of radical Islam. So we get this profession of, oh, my goodness, they want to do something about terrorism. And yet they’re the problem, because they allow terrorism to arise out of that chaos.”
If that sounds familiar, it’s because that’s the kind of stuff Trump was also talking about before he began considering a bunch of Clinton clones to head the State Department.
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