Trump: the unguided missile
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US leader portrayed as a dangerous force with a penchant for making rash decisions with a poor grasp of the consequences
Shannon Ebrahim is the Foreign Editor for Independent Media
FOR AMERICANS at least, this year hasn’t got off to a great start. The release of Michael Wolff’s sensational book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, has flown off the shelves, shot to the top of Amazon’s bestseller list and confirmed the worst fears of many. Despite some inaccuracies and betrayed confidences, Wolff has managed to convincingly portray Trump as a man who lacks the intellectual capacity to fulfil his role as president.
What should be most concerning to the international community is the way in which Trump allegedly arrives at decisions. According to those Wolff interviewed in his inner circle, his decision-making process is depicted as uninformed, random, based on emotion and influenced by personal connections.
The theme of his preference for instinct over expertise runs through the narrative.
Perhaps most telling was the quote by National Economics Council director Gary Cohn: “Trump won’t read anything – not one-page memos, not the policy brief papers, nothing. He gets up halfway through meetings with world leaders because he is bored.”
Trump’s disdain for reading and preference for television is widely known, but to hear his closest policymakers say he hardly reads and struggles to process information is really worrying.
But the antics of the person are less of a crisis than his penchant for making rash unilateral decisions, at times without the advice or counsel of his own staff.
The most notable example in the book is the firing of FBI director James Comey last May, which was a hasty decision made allegedly out of anger at the rapidly expanding investigation over whether the Trump campaign had colluded with the Russians.
According to those interviewed by Wolff, the president acted entirely on his own with no input from his policy team and many of the West Wing staff found out about the axing from Fox news.
What does seem clear from Wolff ’s interviews is that the decision to fire Comey came after weeks of lobbying from his daughter, Ivanka, and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who were reputedly concerned about what such an investigation could reveal about their finances.
If the book is to be believed, not only Americans but the world is confronted by a president who shuns reading, is bored by policy briefings, acts hastily and on emotion, is heavily influenced by his immediate family and, most importantly, fails to understand the consequences of his actions. There are few who would deny this is a dangerous recipe.
Interviews with diplomats and foreign officials have characterised Trump’s foreign policy as catastrophic, terrifying, incompetent and dangerous, according to Susan Glasser, columnist for Politico.
Many believe that agreements with the State Department can all too easily be overturned by Trump’s tweets and that there is no strategic direction, consistency or professionalism.
It is one thing to be incompetent, but when the US president has unfettered power to make major foreign policy decisions, someone such as Trump has the potential to be a dangerous force on the world stage. It is no wonder that his staff were at pains to get him to stop talking about North Korea after he vowed to meet North Korea’s provocations with fire and fury like the world has never seen (hence the title of Wolff’s book).
It is clear that Trump has not grasped the real consequences of a nuclear conflagration with North Korea and the potential decimation of the Korean peninsula and potentially even parts of the US.
As with North Korea, Trump has failed to grasp the consequences of the US pulling out of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, displaying his unbelievable ignorance by continuing to deny the reality of climate change. In 2012 Trump referred to climate change as a myth propagated by the Chinese and there is nothing to suggest a shift in his attitude.
This is despite the fact that in November, 13 US federal agencies unveiled an exhaustive scientific report that says humans are the dominant cause of the global temperature rise that has created the warmest period in the history of mankind. It seems that Trump, as many insiders have suggested, is allergic to facts.
Whether it is the bombing of Syria, the surge in Afghanistan, the decision to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem or the hostile stand-off with North Korea, Trump has consistently ignored the facts.
In the end this has nothing to do with ideology – unlike what drove past presidents in the pursuit of reckless foreign policies.
For Trump it is about being famous and liked. He has succeeded in the first, but Fire and Fury is sure to put a nail in the coffin of the latter. They say many a US president started a war as a desperate measure to boost their popularity – watch this space.
LOOSE CANNON: According to those interviewed by Michael Wolff, President Trump’s decision-making is uninformed, random and based on emotion.