Thursday, March 3, 2016

A circular firing squad?

The concept of a 'circular firing squad' is well-known.  Basically, it's when critics of a particular person or idea damage themselves by their criticism.  The Republican establishment doesn't seem to have taken that lesson to heart.

A number of alleged 'GOP national security leaders' (whom I've never seen or heard formally 'anointed' or appointed as such by the GOP) have published an 'Open Letter on Donald Trump'.  It's apparently meant to damage Mr. Trump and diminish his appeal to 'thinking' members of the Republican party.  Instead, I think it exposes the short-sightedness and blinkered vision of those self-appointed 'leaders'.  (I might add that I'm neither a fan nor a supporter of Mr. Trump;  I simply try to keep an open mind on the state of politics in this nation.)

Let's take a few examples from the letter, and see whether they hold up.  The text of the letter is in italics, and my response in normal print.

  • His advocacy for aggressively waging trade wars is a recipe for economic disaster in a globally connected world.  Oh, yeah?  Then why is it that other countries are aggressively waging trade wars with the USA (e.g. China in steel, Saudi Arabia in oil, etc.)?  They clearly don't regard it as a 'recipe for economic disaster'.  Perhaps, if they were threatened with retaliation in kind, they'd be less eager to target US commerce and industry.
  • His embrace of the expansive use of torture is inexcusable.  On this point, I happen to agree, because I'm a retired pastor and have a Christian perspective on the use of torture.  However, why single out Mr. Trump for criticism on this point when previous US presidents initiated the 'expansive use of torture', including using foreign/third-party 'proxies' to do their dirty work (through the process known as 'extraordinary rendition') and the use of 'black sites'?  Mr. Trump has, in so many words, merely undertaken to continue the same policies - policies I don't recall having seen criticized in the past in a similar 'open letter' signed by the same 'leaders'.  An oversight, perhaps?
  • His hateful, anti-Muslim rhetoric undercuts the seriousness of combatting Islamic radicalism by alienating partners in the Islamic world making significant contributions to the effort. Furthermore, it endangers the safety and Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of American Muslims.  Mr. Trump's rhetoric is no better or worse than that found in everyday discourse throughout the USA.  I disagree profoundly with such rhetoric - I've written extensively on the subject - but after recent incidents it's unavoidable, whether or not it 'alienates partners'.  Radical Muslim fundamentalists have made that inevitable by their actions.  Any US president failing to take such action would be regarded as ineffectual at best, and at worst a traitor to his oath of office, by the citizens of this country.  Mr. Trump's words do no more than express that reality.
  • Controlling our border and preventing illegal immigration is a serious issue, but his insistence that Mexico will fund a wall on the southern border inflames unhelpful passions, and rests on an utter misreading of, and contempt for, our southern neighbor.  And what did Mexico build - at its expense - on its southern border in 2010?  That's right . . . a wall.  If Mexico can wall off its southern neighbor in that way, it's surely legitimate for the USA to do the same.  As for Mexico paying for a US border wall, why is it needed?  Because Mexico won't stop the flow of illegal aliens crossing its northern border into the USA.  In fact, Mexico has agreed to speed up the flow of illegal aliens across its territory.  If Mexico was exerting itself to stop them, I'd agree that it would be unreasonable to ask Mexico to pay for the wall.  However, Mexico isn't exerting itself at all - in fact, it provides guidebooks to those seeking to cross the US border.  Furthermore, its economy benefits to the tune of about $23 billion every year from money (a.k.a. 'remittances') sent back to Mexico by illegal aliens in the USA.  Sorry.  Mexico's the root of the problem;  therefore, I have no issue with expecting Mexico to pay at least part of the costs to mitigate it.
  • ... his insistence that close allies such as Japan must pay vast sums for protection is the sentiment of a racketeer, not the leader of the alliances that have served us so well since World War II.  Oh, really?  According to the Heritage Foundation:  'On average, 22 percent of all U.S. servicemen were stationed on foreign soil during 1950–2000'.  The costs of doing so were borne almost exclusively by this country.  Why is it 'the sentiment of a racketeer' to insist that nations benefiting from the presence of US forces should pay at least part of the costs of that benefit?  Why should the burden be borne entirely by the US taxpayer?
  • His admiration for foreign dictators such as Vladimir Putin is unacceptable for the leader of the world’s greatest democracy.  I can only quote Winston Churchill during World War II:  "If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favourable reference to the devil in the House of Commons."  The USA made common cause with Stalin during World War II, and Stalin was a far more bloodthirsty and ruthless tyrant than Mr. Putin.  We'll doubtless ally with more such tyrants in future, if our national interest requires it.  That's the nature of realpolitik.
  • He is fundamentally dishonest. Evidence of this includes his attempts to deny positions he has unquestionably taken in the past, including on the 2003 Iraq war and the 2011 Libyan conflict. We accept that views evolve over time, but this is simply misrepresentation.  I agree on the 'misrepresentation'.  However, where is the signatories' condemnation of Hillary Clinton for her many lies and misrepresentations?  Mr. Trump is doing no more and no less than any other candidate for political office in modern times . . . but I don't see them calling out other candidates for that.
  • His equation of business acumen with foreign policy experience is false. Not all lethal conflicts can be resolved as a real estate deal might, and there is no recourse to bankruptcy court in international affairs.  Agreed on the last point.  However, given the current disastrous state of US foreign policy, how can Mr. Trump possibly do worse?  At the very least, businessmen understand a cost/benefit analysis - something politicians don't seem to grasp, because they personally never have to pay the cost (in money or blood) of their decisions.

I find this 'open letter' disingenuous and self-serving.  I think it's yet another example of the GOP 'establishment' trying to knock out a candidate they can't control.  I have no idea whether or not Mr. Trump would make a good President, and I'm neutral about his candidacy;  but I'm not likely to be persuaded either way by such letters.  Voters can tell 'hit jobs' when they see them . . . and this letter has 'hit job' written all over it.  It's yet another example of what Bob Lonsberry calls "spitting in the voters' faces".  (Go read his whole article at that link.  It's good.)  I think he's right.



Bob said...

It is astounding to me how the establishment Republicans are pulling out all the stops to destroy one of their own candidates. We are told that today Mitt Romney will be dragged out to abase himself publicly by trying to trash Trump at the behest of the Republican elite.

Whether Trump is a fraud or a liar or whatever makes him no different than any of the other running for office, he's just more blunt, and hasn't taken (so far)blood money from the rick and decadent scum that consider themselves our betters. They are offering us a Cuban and a Canadian, who, IMO, are not eligible to be the next American president.

And now Romney is about to shoot himself in the face, in an attempt to derail a globalist wheeler-dealer.

It has gotten to the point that I will not even admit to my friends that I was once a Republican.

Not that the Democrats are any better. A worn out Communist and a lying power-mad bitch. What a choice they offer.

I am beginning to agree that the whole damned batch needs cleaning out and replaced with some real Americans.

I am glad I am 77 years old and will not be witness to tomorrows "America".

Mike said...

His hateful, anti-Muslim rhetoric ...

Yeah, it's just terrible how Trump wants to restrict immigration from countries seething with violence and anti-Americanism, but a commander-in-chief who orders the incineration of innocent civilians in Iraq and Syria is a wise and responsible leader.

Got it.

Borepatch said...

It's noting short of astonishing that they keep sending out this sort of thing, when every single time they do it, his support *increases*.

I guess it's true: those whom the gods would destroy, first they drive mad.

sth_txs said...

I guess they forgot that 'humble foreign policy' speech from Bush II. We all know how that turned out.

Uncle Lar said...

I've read that the flow of money sent home by Mexican workers in the US, both legal and otherwise, is second only to the flow of drug money in the same direction. And that both are now essential parts of the Mexican economy. I expect that Trump looks at just the yearly amount that the US gives Mexico in foreign aid and allows as how a small portion of it would pay for a very nice wall.
Since WWII most of our allies have maintained at best token armed forces, relying on US military might to defend them in time of conflict. This allows them to fund their vast social welfare programs. So, in actuality it is we the American taxpayers who make it possible for our European cousins to work short hours and take long extended vacations, or to simply exist on a government stipend and not work at all.
Cruz and Rubio should have gone into a closet and flipped a coin weeks if not months ago and decided who runs for president and who settles for vice. I would have supported either outcome over Trump. Since they obviously cannot bring themselves to doing so, I did not even bother to vote in the primary. I will vote for whomever the Republican candidate turns out to be, but if vested Republican interests and the other candidates somehow manage to ruin their chances with a hissy fit over Trump and give the election to that evil criminal witch, I am done with that party for all time.

Michael Brazier said...

Tone-deaf and blinkered indeed. It's obvious by now that the main promise Trump is making is that the sort of people who would sign a letter like this will, if he's elected, have no say in directing US policy. So nothing they can say will check Trump in the slightest; every condemnation they utter only stokes the desire to see them banished from public life forever.

The only thing that could discredit Trump is proof that, if elected, he would fall in with the DC consensus and do nothing to change the federal government at all. I am convinced myself that that's exactly what would happen. But by the nature of things such proof could not be presented by anyone who subscribes to the DC consensus; it has to come from someone who's outside of it, ideally from one whom the consensus has rejected and condemned.

Vincent Binder said...

Part of the problem is the president just doesn't have the juice to fix what's broken (unless he ignores the constitution and everyone lets him (hmm that could never happen...again... Right?) So I think we're down to choosing who will screw things up the slowest.

I'd rather have Trump than Rubio and I'd rather have Cruz than either, but I'm not likely to get that option. I'm an Anarcho-Capitalist by inclination and practicing libertarian because I've got enough sense to know that human nature makes Anarcho-Capitalism untenable. We need rule of law, we need some government just to keep us from complete chaos, war lords, and tribal wars.

I've given up on the idea of fixing anything - it won't happen, it's far too late. So, for me the question is which path to collapse is going to leave us in the best position to rebuild. Sadly, I'm not nearly smart enough to figure that out. Part of me just wants to sit back and watch it burn, maybe pull out the marshmallows and hotdogs. Part of me wants to speed it up - I suspect Trump might do that where Cruz might make it hobble along for another few years. Which is better? I wish I knew. Do I expect any of them to be able to improve anything - no. Not without completely breaking the system first - you know marshal law, become the dictator while you clean house (and senate). Of all of the candidates the only one I could see making that work would be Cruz, the rest of them would want to be dictator for life - maybe Cruz would too, I don't know, but I sure can't see Hilary, Bernie, or Trump doing anything else.

If Trump takes the same "It's my toy, I'll do what ever the hell I want" approach as Obama then he might actually stop immegration of muslims, build his wall between us and mexico, nock some sense into the press - maybe. Will it help - sort of depends on whether a slow or fast collapse is better.

Jonathan H said...

Have you seen the memes and articles going around that compare Trump to Hitler and Stalin?
As the others have said, the GOP seems to believe that if they can't get one of their preferred (and malleable) scions nominated, they would rather lose the race and are pulling out all of the stops to destroy the front runner instead of try to work with him.
This fits with your article 2 days ago about the establishment, although in this case it is the DC based Republican part of it at work.

Gail said...

I'm from Arkansas and believe me, you don't want a Clinton in the White House. I'll not say more. Hope people do open their eyes to that truth.