The impeachment distraction
Democrats force Trump to deal with their fantasies instead of looming threats
Any impeachment proceeding — even one as flimsy as the one being pushed against President Trump — is the greatest possible distraction from his responsibilities. Mr. Trump’s inability to ignore even the slightest insult will multiply that effect a hundredfold, his responses lashing out on Twitter as they already are.
In 1998-99, when America last endured an impeachment drama, the world was a relatively calm place. Two decades later the dangers to our nation are more serious and immediate. They will, despite the president’s inevitable focus on impeachment, demand his attention.
Russia, China, Iran and North Korea (among others) are preparing to interfere in our 2020 election to their greatest ability. House Democrats have passed a bill that they claim would prevent such interference but, in fact, would do essentially nothing. Congressional Republicans need a lot of guidance and pressure from the president to do more.
The war in Afghanistan is now in its 19th year. American troops, as well as those from some remaining coalition nations, are still being killed. There is no prospect of even a cease-fire agreement with the Taliban, far less a settlement by which they will abide.
The Sept. 14 attack against major Saudi Arabian oil facilities were perpetrated by Iran. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said flatly that the drones and cruise missiles were not launched from Yemen. The attacks are believed to have been launched from western Iran by Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps troops or Hezbollah terrorists (Iran’s proxy) or both in cooperation.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has said that a war between his nation and Iran would cause the world’s economy to collapse. His overly dramatic statement illustrates the Saudis’ near panic after the Iranian attack.
Mr. Trump has dispatched more troops to Saudi Arabia, along with a Patriot missile battery, to add to their defenses. Is he prepared to fight to defend Saudi Arabia?
Although Mr. Trump’s economic sanctions have crippled the Iranian economy, those sanctions haven’t deterred Iran’s military aggression. As the September attacks on Saudi Arabia demonstrate, economic sanctions are no longer enough. Stronger measures are required. Will the president choose a kinetic response?
Unfortunately, our principal NATO allies — Britain, France and Germany — while blaming Iran for the September attacks are still doing everything else they can to appease Iran. They are trying to get Mr. Trump to agree to another nuclear weapons deal like the one former President Obama made in 2015. Mr. Trump has a lot of work to do with those nations to bring them back to reality.
Those concerns are enough to keep any president in the Oval Office burning the midnight oil, but they are only at the top of the pile.
Russia’s proxy war in eastern Ukraine goes on. Will the Ukraine-related impeachment charges deter Mr. Trump from acting effectively against Russia? Russia is also militarizing the Arctic from its base in Franz Josef Land above the Arctic Circle and is creating weapons whose sole purpose is to work effectively in sub-zero temperatures.
China, too, is asserting itself in the Arctic. We have done virtually nothing — only a few coldweather exercises of troops — to meet these new challenges. And that’s the least China is doing.
Chinese debt-trap diplomacy, conducted through its Belt and Road initiative, is rapidly turning independent nations into tributary states. In Pakistan, that process is almost complete. Forty out of 55 African states have reportedly signed memoranda of understanding with China for Beijing to build roads, airports and port facilities, which the Chinese will then control. Its militarization of the South China Sea continues at a fast pace, threatening U.S. allies such as Japan.
China’s cyberwar against the United States goes on unabated. Mr. Trump is trying to negotiate a trade deal with China that would at least slow its theft of U.S. secrets — both commercial and military — but despite the threat of U.S. tariffs, China is unlikely to agree to such terms or abide by any such agreement. North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, despite two meetings with the president and Mr. Trump’s proclamation of mutual love, has not agreed to disarm his missiles and nuclear weapons, and never will. North Korea continues to fire missiles while rumors are circulating about another Trump-Kim summit.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s re-election — after the second Israeli election this year — still hinges on his ability to form a national unity government with his rivals. Continued instability in Israel’s government may incent Iran into ordering Hezbollah to launch another war against Israel at any time.
There are too many other emerging threats to recite here. Mr. Trump has a good team around him and he will inevitably delegate much to them during the impeachment. But he remains — in the words of former President George W. Bush – “the decider.” Only he can decide which actions we will take to answer the litany of international threats. And decide he must.
By initiating impeachment proceedings, the Democrats have created a distraction for the president that will last the rest of 2019 and most of 2020. They clearly are placing less value on our ability to deal with the likes of Russia, China, Iran and North Korea than on forcing the president to spend most of his time and energy dealing with their political fantasies.
By initiating impeachment proceedings, the Democrats have created a distraction for the president that will last the rest of 2019 and most of 2020.
Jed Babbin, a deputy undersecretary of Defense in the George H.W. Bush administration, is the author of “In the Words of Our Enemies.”