Tag Archives: Donald Trump

Nonsense news

I have mentioned before my belief in the Biblical maxim about the mote and the beam, and I have repeatedly emphasized on this blog, including my last post, the need for greater self-awareness and greater humility. An editorial in yesterday’s New York Times reveals this need very clearly.

The editorial used former FBI chief James Comey’s testimony to Congress to lambast Donald Trump for his lack of integrity, describing Trump as a ‘venal, self-interested politician who does not recognize, let alone uphold’ the ‘legal principles at the foundation of American democracy.’ The headline made the editorial’s point very clear. ‘Mr Comey and All the President’s Lies’, it said. Telling the truth, it seems, is something that the New York Times values highly.

Or maybe not.

What the editorial didn’t tell readers was that the transcript of Comey’s testimony contains the following exchange between Comey and Senator Jim Risch:

RISCH:  I remember, you — you talked with us shortly after February 14th, when the New York Times wrote an article that suggested that the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians. This is not factual. Do you recall that?

COMEY: Yes.

RISCH: OK. So — so, again, so the American people can understand this, that report by the New York Times was not true. Is that a fair statement?

COMEY: In — in the main, it was not true. And, again, all of you know this, maybe the American people don’t. The challenge — and I’m not picking on reporters about writing stories about classified information, is that people talking about it often don’t really know what’s going on. … I mentioned to the chairman the nonsense around what influenced me to make the July 5th statement. Nonsense, but I can’t go explaining how it’s nonsense.

Later, Senator Tom Cotton returned to this subject.

COTTON: On February 14th, the New York Times published a story, the headline of which was, “Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence.”

You were asked earlier if that was an inaccurate story, and you said, in the main. Would it be fair to characterize that story as almost entirely wrong?

COMEY: Yes.

The New York Times has done a lot to stoke the accusations of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, going so far on one occasion as to publish an op-ed by Louise Mensch. But while refusing to address the issue of collusion directly, Comey nevertheless poured cold water on it, as seen by the following exchanges with Senators Burr and Cotton:

BURR: Director, the term we hear most often is “collusion.” When people are describing possible links between Americans and Russian government entities related to the interference in our election, would you say that it’s normal for foreign governments to reach out to members of an incoming administration?

COMEY: Yes.

COTTON: Let’s turn our attention to the underlying activity at issue here: Russia’s hacking into those e-mails and releasing them, and the allegations of collusion. Do you believe Donald Trump colluded with Russia?

COMEY: That’s a question I don’t think I should answer in an open setting. As I said, that — we didn’t — that (ph) when I left, we did not have an investigation focused on President Trump.

So, let’s get this straight. James Comey in effect says that he doesn’t think Trump colluded with Russia (‘we didn’t’, as he says above), and denounces the New York Times for publishing ‘nonsense’, in a story about alleged collusion which was ‘almost entirely wrong’. Yet, the response of the New York Times is not to apologize, and indeed not even to mention the matter, but instead to publish an editorial saying that Donald Trump is a liar.

Perhaps he is, but another maxim comes to mind: one about stones and people in glass houses. Recent research indicates that ‘public trust in the media [is] at all time low’. I wonder why.

Zaphod Trumplebrox and the Deep State

Douglas Adams nailed it [The Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy (Pan Books, 1979)]:

But it was not in any way a coincidence that today, the day of culmination of the project, the great day of unveiling, the day that the Heart of Gold was finally to be introduced to a marvelling Galaxy, was also a great day of culmination for Zaphod Beeblebrox. It was for the sake of this day that he had first decided to run for the Presidency, a decision which had sent shock waves of astonishment throughout the Imperial Galaxy – Zaphod Beeblebrox? President? Not the Zaphod Beeblebrox? Not the President? Many had seen it as clinching proof that the whole of known creation had finally gone bananas.

… It might have made much difference to them if they’d known exactly how much power the President of the Galaxy actually wielded: none. Only six people in the Galaxy knew that the job of Galactic President was not to wield power but to attract attention away from it.

If he wants a peaceful life, Donald Trump (Not the Donald Trump? Not the President?) should take heed and learn his rightful place.

Dimwitted and dangerous

At some point during last year’s American presidential campaign, the Democratic Party decided that it would play the Russia card and accuse Donald Trump of being at best a Kremlin stooge, at worst a Russian agent. The Democrats then turned this card almost into the centrepiece of their campaign, repeating the charges against Trump again and again. Quite why they they though this strategy was a good one, I cannot imagine, as it merely reinforced their lack of connection with ordinary American voters, but I am guessing that after a while they had said it so often that they came to believe it.

We now know that following Hillary Clinton’s defeat, her advisors met to discuss how to react to their electoral disaster, and that they decided that the best option was to blame it on the Russians. Again, I can’t fathom why, except perhaps that it a) had now became a matter of faith, and b) it excused them from having to examine their own failings.

Since then the Democratic Party has been waging non-stop war against President Trump, focusing on his, and his close associates’, allegedly dubious connections with Russia. Abetting them have been members of the security and intelligence services who have been leaking information to the press at every appropriate opportunity in an effort to derail any attempted rapprochement between the USA and the Russian Federation. The ‘deep state’ (if you believe in such a thing) has been hard at work.

You might say that ‘all is well in love and war’, and that it’s quite fair to use whatever weapon one can in order to attack your political opponents. But in this case, I think, the attacks have not only long since became entirely divorced from reality but have also descended into gross irresponsibility.

Take, for instance, the latest allegations about Trump divulging secrets to the Russians. Horrified by this supposed abuse of power, unknown intelligence officials with the help of the Washington Post have divulged these secrets not merely to the Russians but to THE ENTIRE BLOODY WORLD. Personally, I’m not too bothered by this; my own short career in the world of intelligence persuaded me that it’s far less important than people think it is. Nonetheless, it is extraordinarily hypocritical of Trump’s critics to complain about breaches of secrecy while breaching secrecy themselves on a far grander scale. Trump’s enemies accuse him of being irresponsible, but who’s being irresponsible here?

Next – and I will go out on a limb here and make my biases very clear – I am firmly of the opinion that it is a positive thing if states have good relations with one another. And it’s especially important that powerful states do so. Which is better? A world in which the major powers are in conflict with one another, or a world in which they get on with each other? Obviously, the latter. Thus, IMPROVING US-RUSSIA RELATIONS IS A GOOD IDEA. When Trump said that during the election campaign, he was entirely right. However, his enemies are working flat out to achieve the opposite result. In an effort to undermine their president, they are doing all they can to sabotage US-Russia relations. In other words, they are jeapordizing their own country’s interests, and more broadly the security of the entire world, because they think it is a good way of gaining domestic political advantage. Again, I ask, who’s being irresponsible here?

Finally, in seeking to destroy Trump in this way, his opponents are threatening the internal order of their own country. Perhaps one other explanation for the obsession with Russia is that the ‘Never Trumpists’ aren’t seeking electoral advantage so much as some form of ‘soft coup’ or palace revolution. The hope isn’t to harm Trump’s electoral prospects in 2020, but to force him to resign or to get him impeached. They are, in essence, trying to get around the electoral process.

What makes this dangerous is that many Trump supporters are already convinced that the elites who govern the United States don’t care about their interests and have rigged the system to do them down. Now that they’ve finally got their man elected, they aren’t going to take too kindly to seeing him booted out in such a way. Were this tactic to succeed, it would alienate a large section of the population even more thoroughly than it is already, and could even, in the worst scenarios, have violent consequences (right-wing militias are already responsible for much more violence in the USA than any other type of political group). The Democrats and their allies in the security and intelligence services are playing with fire. Once again, who’s being irresponsible here?

Speaking in Sochi today, Vladimir Putin summed it up well, saying:

They are shaking up the political situation in the USA using anti-Russian slogans. Either they don’t understand what harm they are doing to their own country, in which case they’re simply dimwitted, or they understand fully, and then they’re simply dangerous and unscrupulous.

Personally, I think they’re both.

Can-do attitude

For obvious reasons, military institutions like to have soldiers with a ‘can-do attitude’. When you tell your troops to do something, you don’t want them replying that it all looks a bit too difficult, and they’d rather not, thank you very much. You’d prefer to have people who regard difficulty as a challenge and strive to get the job done however impossible it may seem.

That’s all well and good, but sometimes the job is just plain wrong, and shouldn’t be done at all; or it just can’t be done, no matter how hard you try; or it can only be done at disproportionate cost. In such cases, what you need is not a can-do attitude, but somebody who will say ‘Sorry, boss, but this immoral/stupid/impossible, don’t do it.’

Continue reading Can-do attitude

One thing Trump is right about

Originally posted on CIPS blog here.

Throughout the Cold War, the amount of military violence worldwide grew steadily, reaching a peak in 1992. A major reason was interference by the superpowers in local conflicts. The proxy wars that resulted when the United States and the Soviet Union backed one side or the other in any given country dragged wars out longer and killed an ever-increasing number of people. When the Cold War came to an end, these proxy wars ended too, and the magnitude of worldwide conflict plummeted. Bad relations between the major powers are bad for everybody.

Sadly, proxy wars are now making a minor comeback. The most notable example is Syria, where Iran has backed one side (the Syrian government) and Saudi Arabia and Qatar have backed the other (the rebels). As if that weren’t bad enough, Russia and the United States have also gotten involved. Rather than co-operating against a common enemy, the former is backing the government, and the latter is backing some of the rebel groups. As a result, the Syrian civil war is proving to be prolonged and bloody. Once again, the lesson is clear — disagreement between the USA and the Russian Federation is bad for everyone.

This might seem obvious, but it apparently isn’t. Donald Trump’s desire to mend fences with Russia has made him a target of abuse from his political enemies and from the security studies commentariat. But in this regard, Trump is far more sensible than his numerous critics. In response to their complaints, Trump said on Twitter that, “Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. Only ‘stupid’ people, or fools, would think it is bad!” He is entirely right.

Meanwhile, there are forces pushing the Canadian government to use whatever influence it has in Washington to try to sabotage Trump’s attempts to seek rapprochement with Russia. Following Chrystia Freeland’s appointment as Canadian Foreign Minister, the Latvian and Ukrainian ambassadors to Canada publicly urged her “to encourage the incoming Trump administration not to become too cozy with the Kremlin.” According to the Canadian Press,  “The envoys also say new Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland can deliver that message to Washington because of her strong network of contacts in the U.S., as well as her past experience as a journalist who reported extensively from Ukraine and Russia.”

Just what benefit Canada would derive from pressing the Trump administration in this way is not clear. Relations with the new American government are likely to prove tricky enough without adding any extra complications. In any case, a better relationship between Russia and the United States is something we ought to be encouraging, not trying to prevent. Better relations between Russia and Canada would also be useful, and ought to be a priority for the new Foreign Minister. Here’s hoping that Ms. Freeland has the good sense to see the bigger picture and to ignore the ambassadors’ appeal.