The Gray Zone Under Threat: Straining Alliances

The Gray Zone, the civil space that allows for people to exist outside of their private lives and participate in societal, political, economic, and to some extent religious activities, is not just threatened by terrorist attacks and the extremism they’re rooted in, or systemic failures of political and social institutions as they age. It is also threatened when elected and appointed officials, and those seeking elected office, seek to purposefully break institutions for partisan gain. Yesterday the NY Times featured an interview with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. As has been the case several times since he began his run for the Republican nomination and the presidency of the United States, Trump threatened the institutions and alliances that have provided stability and prosperity, albeit an imperfect form of stability and prosperity, since the end of World War II.

Trump’s remarks to the Times included:

He even called into question whether, as president, he would automatically extend the security guarantees that give the 28 members of NATO the assurance that the full force of the United States military has their back.

For example, asked about Russia’s threatening activities that have unnerved the small Baltic States that are the most recent entrants into NATO, Mr. Trump said that if Russia attacked them, he would decide whether to come to their aid only after reviewing whether those nations “have fulfilled their obligations to us.”

As I wrote after the March 10 GOP primary debate, the US is not an empire and we don’t demand tribute from our allies and partners. We now have, however, the nominee of one of the two major political parties in the US announcing that he may not fulfill America’s NATO treaty obligations, as well as other American international commitments. This is at a time when our NATO allies, and especially those in Eastern Europe, are especially worried about the actions and intentions of Vladimir Putin and Russia. The strategic messaging of Trump’s remarks is amazing. The presidential nominee of the Republican Party, the party long put forward as the party of national security (the Daddy Party), has just told Putin that should he be elected, it is not only possible, but also plausible that the US would not honor its everyday commitments under the North Atlantic Treaty, let alone an Article 5 request for collective defense.

For all the sturm and drang about President Obama providing al Qaeda or al Qaeda in Iraq with a clear date and time of US withdrawal from Afghanistan or honoring the Bush 43 Administration negotiated date of withdrawal from Iraq; Trump has now given Putin the time window he would need for planning should he decide to engage in further adventures in the former Soviet states of Eastern Europe. President Obama and Secretary Clinton have been accused of leading from behind because they took the time to work through and with partners or assemble coalitions to deal with major international issues such as Iran’s nuclear program or the terrorism and low intensity warfare of the Islamic State. What Trump has done, in his remarks during the debates, on the stump, and in this interview with the NY Times is actually signal that the US will just not lead at all unless Trump feels it is being treated fairly.

And this brings us full circle back to Trump’s foreign policy speech. When Trump gave his foreign policy address at the end of April, the overarching theme running throughout his remarks was: “America will be treated fairly.” It is quite clear that being treated fairly is actually the overall strategic message, for lack of a better term, that runs throughout the Trump campaign. First it was “the GOP will treat Trump fairly or I’ll run third party”, which was the origin of the GOP candidate pledge to support the eventual nominee. Then it was “the media will treat Trump fairly” or he’d take his campaign activities away from them and deny them the advertising revenue. He actually did this with FOX Cable News when he refused to participate in one of the debates and held a highly controversial counter event to raise funds for veterans. The core of Trump’s pitch to voters is that “only Trump knows how to ensure that they will be treated well.”

The fly in the ointment of all these appeals for fairness, however, is the implicit or explicit “or else…” Trump has told our NATO and EU allies, and by extension other allies and partners, that if he’s elected they cannot necessarily count on American support and assistance, which has been at the core of the post World War II system that the US helped to build to change the security dynamics in Europe that has been a hallmark of the stability and prosperity of the past 71 years. By strategically communicating that the US may not lead, depending on how Trump feels as President about those asking us to do so, he’s told Putin and his planners, as well as those of al Qaeda, the Islamic State, the Peoples Republic of China, Boko Haram, North Korea, and others, that they can develop contingencies for actions to start the weekend of January 21, 2017. With this approach to National security, foreign, and defense policy, Donald Trump has taken the GOP, the oft promoted party of National security, and, perhaps the US, into uncharted territory that threatens the Gray Zone in a way that no terrorist, extremist, or state based actor ever could. More frighteningly, it is unclear what the plan would be for charting this brave new world.

103 replies
  1. 1
    Fraud Guy says:

    Me, not thee.

  2. 2
    bago says:

    He’s like the anti-Reagan of mythos. He puts up a wall and invites Russia to run rough shod over Europe, while letting everyone have nukes.

  3. 3
    Gin & Tonic says:

    Excellent post. Thanks, Adam.

    My wife is actually, genuinely terrified at the prospect of Trump’s winning.

  4. 4

    Nice continent you got there, Europe, be a shame if anything happened to it… – Trump

    I swear to the Old Gods and the New, every NATO nation needs to break out every classified file they’ve got on the Republican leadership and start leaking that sh-t everywhere until the GOP agrees to throw Trump under the bus.

  5. 5
    Botsplainer, Neoliberal Corporatist Shill says:

    I’ve dealt with shitty, backhanded commercial building owner collections for years. Therefore, I know Trump.

    For these guys, everything is malleable, and every deal is renegotiable up to the bank clearing the final renegotiated check (usually issued only as the result of a continual round of begging, after services were rendered or goods delivered).

    For Trump, jacking around with NATO is just part of this dynamic.

  6. 6
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @PaulWartenberg2016: I’m not watching TV, but the Twitter machine tells me that Nigel Farage was on CNN supporting Trump’s position. USExit now?

  7. 7
    MattF says:

    There’s another fly in the ointment– Trump’s habitual grifting. ‘Fair’ in the Trumpiverse means ‘ceding your dignity to my awesomeness’. And that’s all that matters. Well, um, there’s also the cash that just happens to show up in the Trump bank accounts right after the threats. Just ask those charities that Trump has promised to donate to.

  8. 8
    Amanda in the South Bay says:

    The good news is that being literally pro Putin won’t go well with white swing voters in swing states.

  9. 9
    dedc79 says:

    I managed to find one bright spot in the otherwise absolutely terrifying interview:

    HABERMAN: You had meetings in the last couple months with James Baker and Henry Kissinger. Did they in any way change your views?
    TRUMP: No.

    Jeffrey Goldberg:

    It’s Official: Hillary Clinton Is Running Against Vladimir Putin

  10. 10

    Trump is willing to sell all the good will, prestige etc that the United States has built since WWII down the drain, for what? The man is a menace.

  11. 11
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @PaulWartenberg2016: Oh, and here’s Newton Leroy Gingrich this morning: “Estonia is in the suburbs of St Petersburg… I’m not sure I would risk nuclear war”

    I’d bet Toomas Ilves is having some antacids with his lunch today.

  12. 12
    kindness says:

    At what point can moderates and liberals start pointing out that Trump conservatism goes against all post war (WWII) conservatism here in the US? One would think being able to justifiably say Trump is working with our adversaries (Putin) against our allies (Ukraine, the Balkan states) would have some significance with respect to the conscience of conservatism. And when conservatives refuse to agree we need to then point out the overt hypocrisy. Now, Fox won’t report it. The MSM probably wouldn’t report it that way either but it will sink in. Trump isn’t a problem only for liberals. Trump is a problem for everybody.

  13. 13

    @kindness: David Brooks of all people pointed out Trump’s Russia love in the analysis of the convention with the Giggle Sisters of PBS.

  14. 14
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @kindness: The Ukraine is not an ally of the US.

  15. 15
    MattF says:

    @kindness: Certainly some conservatives have been saying this. But the error they make is to assume that if something isn’t conservative then it must be liberal or (horrors) ‘progressive’. The point to be made is that Trump really is ‘none of the above’. Rather, a native blend of fascism and grift.

  16. 16
    c u n d gulag says:

    I’m speechless!

    Yeah: Finally.

  17. 17
    Betty Cracker says:


    Rather, a native blend of fascism and grift.


  18. 18
    Halcyan says:

    Deadbeat Donald.

    It’s his MO. Do not live up to your commitments.


  19. 19

    @kindness: A lot of Republicanism isn’t really about conservatism, unless you count bigotry as conservative.

  20. 20

    Thanks, Adam.

    Also curious (somebody linked above) what you think of the Goldberg piece in the Atlantic.

  21. 21
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: It’s Ukraine, not “the” Ukraine. And while maybe not an ally by treaty in the sense of the Baltics, there is a lot of security cooperation, and the US is one of the signatories of the Budapest Memorandum.

  22. 22
    Cermet says:

    @c u n d gulag: Whether expanding NATO was or was not a good idea, never would I think someone trying to be President would say such a thing about the most important treaty the US has. This by a person who is running for POTUS!? And the party of military is god!? The rump has just made peak wing nut look like a mole hill … .

  23. 23

    IPrediction:This thread will bring forth Bob in Putinland

  24. 24
    trollhattan says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:
    Methinks B-Bob has been b-banned. Ain’t it a shame?

  25. 25
    Harold Samson says:

    the US is not an empire and we don’t demand tribute from our allies and partners

    This is like saying that Trump isn’t fascist because he doesn’t wear jackboots.

  26. 26

    @trollhattan: He was Bernie-bot before, I bet he has morphed into a Trump supporter now.

  27. 27
    NonyNony says:

    @Amanda in the South Bay:

    The good news is that being literally pro Putin won’t go well with white swing voters in swing states.

    Swing voters? They probably couldn’t tell you who Putin is. Anyone politically disconnected enough to not have an opinion on who should be President is someone not politically connected enough to care much about foreign policy at all.

    OTOH – if by swing voters you mean “conservatives who haven’t decided it they’re voting for Trump or sitting this one out yet” then yeah, this could have an impact. Hopefully they can push Gary Johnson up in the polls!

  28. 28
    Procopius says:

    I’m actually in favor of anything that makes those guys in NATO headquarters less favorable to pushing Russia as hard as they can. Our neocons in the State Department (who promoted Victoria Nuland?) are playing very, very dangerous games to get Europe more tightly under American control. NATO should have been disbanded in 1993. We have no legitimate business bringing the Baltic States into it.

  29. 29
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Gin & Tonic:

    It’s Ukraine, not “the” Ukraine.

    OK, so it’s not “the” USA, it’s USA. Got it.

    Ukraine is the most corrupt country in Europe and I suspect that any security cooperation between us and them amounts to “Keep your crooks to yourself.” As to the Budapest Memorandum, how’s that working out for them? Apparently the only thing the signatories agree on is that after the nukes were gone, who cared?

  30. 30
    Gin & Tonic says:

    America First, isolationism, nascent fascism? Everything old is new again.

  31. 31

    @Gin & Tonic: There is nothing nascent about Trump’s fascism.

  32. 32
    Chris says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    ::stands in front of mirror; turns the lights out; lights a candle::

    Bob in Portland, Bob in Portland, Bob in Portland!

  33. 33
    dedc79 says:


    . We have no legitimate business bringing the Baltic States into it.

    I think your tense is off there, and that is pretty significant.

  34. 34
    rikyrah says:

    thanks for this breakdown of the interview.

  35. 35
    Amanda in the South Bay says:

    @Procopius: My rule of thumb is that anyone who mentions Victoria Nuland on a left wing blog is a nut.

  36. 36
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Do you say “the Spain”? “The France”?

  37. 37
    sigaba says:

    @NonyNony: I have not reviewed the appropriate literature but I’m pretty sure Johnson is anti-NATO as well. The conservative base wants to kill Muslims and it has no time for “commitments” or “collective security” anymore.

    This is all a consequence of the total collapse in credibility of our hawk establishment. They supported military intervention in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, and justified it over and over again as preventing another Hitler, or R2P, or securing WMDs, and in every instance the outcome was inept folly or catastrophe. So now conservatives think the post WWII diplomatic equipoise is bullshit.

    EDIT- Most Republicans are soft on Putin and could care less if he rolls through the Baltic states. And every time there’s a war they want to have they see our allies in Old Europe taking away the toys.

  38. 38

    BTW what is this BS about treating America fairly. Which country is treating America unfairly?

  39. 39
    Tripod says:

    I’m sure President Trump’s trading the Baltics for peace for our time will be a smashing success.

  40. 40
    trollhattan says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:
    Wouldn’t surprise me in the least. He’s a big fan of oligarchs and we’ve got a doozy in Trump.

    I blame the CIA.

  41. 41
    low-tech cyclist says:


    We have no legitimate business bringing the Baltic States into it.

    The U.S. has recognized the Baltic States since the 1930s if not before. (My knowledge of this bit of interwar history is spotty, so I’m not good on exact dates.) We continued to recognize them throughout the five decades of Soviet occupation of and control over the Baltics. Even if the USSR hadn’t broken up, we’d have sought to pry the Baltics loose from it after the breakup of the Warsaw Pact. They have every reason to expect us to continue to have their backs, and under any rational Administration, we will.

  42. 42
    low-tech cyclist says:

    @Gin & Tonic:

    Do you say “the Spain”? “The France”?

    The difference is, it was ‘the Ukraine’ during the USSR years, and for some of us, the habit is hard to break.

  43. 43
    low-tech cyclist says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    BTW what is this BS about treating America fairly. Which country is treating America unfairly?

    In Trump’s view, all our allies, don’t’cha know? Just like the blahs, they’re just a bunch of moochers and takers and freeloaders.

  44. 44

    While I agree with most of what you are saying, Libya was sold as accepting a request from our allies in NATO, with the important support of the Arab League, to begin a bombing campaign NATO wanted, then get the Hell out as NATO took over because this was not our war or decision. And that’s what we did.

  45. 45
    trollhattan says:

    Baltics-Balkans, potayta-potahta, why are we interested in any of it? I say spend the money here, fighting Mexicans!

  46. 46
    trollhattan says:

    @low-tech cyclist:
    Secretary of State Melania will have a good deal to say about the Baltics, donchano.

  47. 47
    catclub says:

    @Amanda in the South Bay: Is this an attempt at humor?

  48. 48

    IPrediction:This thread will bring forth Bob in Putinland

    @schrodinger’s cat: No, it won’t. He’s been permanently canned.

  49. 49
    Matt McIrvin says:

    In Trump’s worldview, whenever you’re in a stronger negotiating position, you do your best to screw the other player. To not screw the other player for immediate short-term advantage is stupid, and maybe even immoral. It’s the most bedrock assumption of his entire existence. The United States is the 900-pound gorilla of global affairs, and if we’re not screwing everyone else for the maximum concession we can squeeze out of them, that means they’re cheating us. Trumpism can’t see the situation any other way.

    Of course, this means that in real-world business, there are legions of former partners, vendors and customers who won’t do business with him any more. But Trump’s still doing all right and there are all these assholes who admire him, so he figures it’s genius.

  50. 50
    catclub says:

    Why no mention of the loss of grey areas in Turkey? I thought that should be a relevant aspect to how grey areas are disappearing.

    Egypt was first in the latest round.

  51. 51

    @CONGRATULATIONS!: Right to Rise keeps making frequent appearances despite a permanent ban. What is stopping Bob from doing the same.

  52. 52
    NorthLeft12 says:

    WTF? Even here in Canada it is pretty much a non-issue about us sending some military [air, naval, and ground] forces to the Baltics to participate in exercises to show our support of NATO.
    I know a shooting war would be a different kettle of fish, but I think the Canadian public at large would support us supporting our allies and NATO, and be upset if we backed out of our commitment.

    And Trump is getting away with this mercenary/cowardly approach?

  53. 53
    Chris says:

    @Gin & Tonic:


    As one of my grad school professors once pointed out, it should be noted that “isolationism” was never a universally enforced principle. In the old days, we used military force in Latin America, then the Pacific, and then occasionally Asia, all the time. “Isolationism” mostly just meant “stay out of the problems of Europe and other great powers,” or to be more blunt about it, “don’t start fights with people who might actually win.” (Note that the one European empire we were happy to pick a fight with, Spain, was decrepit and falling apart at that point). That changed with the Cold War, but largely because the major power in question was a communist one.

    I bring this up because Trump is actually pretty consistent with that form of isolationism. Engage in military action in failed states against insurgent movements that, whatever their staying power, have no chance of defeating you on the battlefield (i.e. bomb lots of Muslims); but shy away from any confrontation with anyone who’s in your weight range or close (i.e. Putin’s Russia).

  54. 54

    Trump wants America to be more like Russia and he wants to be a dictator/strongman just like Putin.

  55. 55
    Procopius says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: I think all the good will the U.S. earned after World War II has been squandered in a bunch of sleazy, half-hidden, self-serving deals since 1963. The last time we were honest about our foreign policy and succeeded at it was the Korean War. Right wingers claim we didn’t “win” that war, but we achieved our strategic goal and real national interest. That’s succeeding the way I define it. Since then our goals have not been what were publicly stated, and we didn’t achieve them, anyway. I have to qualify that with Gulf War I, where we did quit while we were ahead, and Cheney gave a clear, reasoned, thoughtful explanation of why that was the best way to end things. To bad he didn’t stick with that.

  56. 56
  57. 57
    hugely says:

    @Gin & Tonic: in french you do :)

  58. 58
    Miss Bianca says:

    There is so much WTF inherent in this whole situation that I’m not sure I can absorb it all. I mean, Thru’ the Looking Glass ain’t innit…

    1. NATO treaty obligations are optional? Who knew?
    2. Or – they’re based on highest bids status? Or “what have you done for me lately”?
    3. And the Republican Status Quo, such as it is, is on board with the notion that their candidate says we just roll over and put all our paws in the air whenever Putin wants to fuck up some former Soviet bloc country?
    4. And Sec. Clinton is the real villain here because Emails and Benghazi??
    5. Likewise Obama for Presidentin’ While Black?
    6. And the media is for the most part saying, “nothing to see *here*, but how about those emails!”

    Jesus H. Chicken-Fried Christ. I never really realized it before, but WWIII can only really happen once people decide that all those lessons we learned from WW II – and all the institutions and alliances we put into place as a result – are just…negotiable. Or non-important. Subject to the whims of power-maddened grifters and putsch artists.

  59. 59
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @PaulWartenberg2016: This makes it much, much harder for the current administration to maintain long term commitments from our coalition partners to spend treasure and/or risk blood to deal with IS or Chinese ambitions in the South China Sea or a number of different problem sets.

  60. 60
    David Fud says:

    Adam, I have a genuine question here about one of your assumptions:

    the US is not an empire and we don’t demand tribute from our allies and partners.

    Is the basis for this assertion to do solely with the fact that we don’t demand tribute, or some other characteristics that I am unaware of? The reason I ask is that it is routinely asserted that we are, in fact, an Empire, and that we enjoy de-facto benefits from our mostly beneficial military rule, including the use of our currency as a reserve currency, open markets for our goods, etc., as well as more or less blanket immunity from laws where our military operates according to whatever bilateral agreements we negotiate.

    So, while I tend towards the camp that believes that we gain a lot from Empire-like spending on the military, I am curious as to how exactly you define what we are doing if we are not, in fact, an empire.

    Thanks for your thoughts ahead of time.

  61. 61
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @MattF: Yep, “I (Trump) will be treated fairly” is all about Trump getting the other party to knuckle under and abase themselves.

  62. 62
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Gin & Tonic: What does that make Finland, a bedroom community?

  63. 63
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @kindness: It’ll be pointed out, but I’m not sure what the news media will do with this pointing outing.

  64. 64

    American Brexit. To be followed, presumably, by war in Europe.

  65. 65
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Major Major Major Major: I thought it was well written.

  66. 66
    D58826 says:

    @dedc79: following that article is this one

    The Hollow Men
    Why didn’t the most talented, most influential Republican politicians—men like Chris Christie, Tom Cotton, and Paul Ryan—do more to stop Donald Trump?

    He talks about the ‘honorable’ men like Romney and the Bushes who opposed Trump. Which is fine as far as it goes but all of the supposedly honorable men have said they will not vote for Hillary. So who are they going to vote for? At this point it isn’t enough that they tried to stop ‘old little hands’ during the primary, they have to step up and put country above self and party in the general election. If that means supporting Hillary then so be it. Come November there is a binary choice – Hillary or Trump. Sitting on the sidelines isn’t an answer. They don’t have to campaign for her or formally endorse her just say that given the choice Hillary is the best candidate for the sake of the nation. If they do that then I will agree that they are honorable men. However if they sit on the side lines then like Pilate they are just washing their hands of the mess and hoping to position themselves in a post_trump GOP. That is just as craven as Christie if less obvious.

  67. 67
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Procopius: I’m not in favor of escalating a largely cold conflict into a hot war – of high or low intensity – with Putin, but NATO most certainly should not have been disbanded in 1993. The North Atlantic Treaty was not just about opposing the Soviet Union. Rather it was part of several institutions that the US either was directly involved with creating or supported in order to change, hopefully permanently, the pre WW I and WW II dynamics of Europe. NATO militarily binds the European nation-states to each other. Every member of NATO state’s militaries have, at this point, grown up in a Europe and served in their state’s militaries within the context of France and Germany and Britain and Spain and Italy and Greece and Portugal, etc, etc, etc are all allies. They’ve been on joint training missions, participated in high stress, little sleep joint exercises, and been assigned to joint billets. And because of the EU they and/or their relatives work, travel, and play all over Europe. All of this is intended to forge strong, tight, and effective bonds to prevent the parochial political, social, economic, and/or religious ambitions of people within each of these states being wrapped into nationalism and gushing forth in the death, destruction, and waste of The Thirty Years War, World War I, and WW II. For over 70 years it has worked. Does NATO’s mission need to be regularly reassessed and periodically adjusted? Without a doubt. But scrapping NATO doesn’t make Europe or the world safer, it makes it less stable and more dangerous.

  68. 68
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Gin & Tonic: And “The” Gin & Tonic too!

  69. 69
    D58826 says:

    @Adam L Silverman: There was an old joke about NATO being an exercise to keep the ‘US in, the Russians out and Germany down’. Still has a lot of truth

  70. 70
    dedc79 says:


    the most talented, most influential Republican politicians—men like Chris Christie, Tom Cotton, and Paul Ryan

    Ugh. These guys are neither talented nor influential.

  71. 71
    ericblair says:

    @Frankensteinbeck: The NATO campaign in Libya was authorized by the UN security council resolutions 1970 and 1973 (where Russia has a veto, so if they didn’t want it to happen it wouldn’t have happened). After the mission the Libyan government requested an extension but the UNSC said no.

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    Trump wants America to be more like Russia and he wants to be a dictator/strongman just like Putin.

    Russia’s current main exports are oil and corruption. I believe that Putin is honestly pleased that Trump praised him, plus he’s got either a friendly face or an actual agent running Trump’s presidential campaign (Manafort). While generally Putin would prefer having Trump in power, both because he thinks he could do business with Trump and Trump would completely fuck up the US’s foreign policy, it’s a really dangerous game. Trump is ignorant and volatile and probably clinically mentally ill, and it would take one incident to set him off. These strongman assholes get along fine with each other until they don’t.

  72. 72
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: Someone seems to, when briefing Trump on NATO, mention that some of the member states are not living up to the commitments in terms of maintaining their own militaries at the minimum size specified by NATO. He seems to have spun this, as well as significantly misunderstanding how we handle US foreign basing commitments, into an argument that he repeated several times in the debate, and at his rallies, and now in this NY Times interview, that our allies and partners are ripping us off blind. It fits within his worldview that every American president, Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense, and their representatives since WW II has negotiated terrible agreements for the US, which are allowing our allies and partners to fleece us. And that our allies and partners are laughing at us because they’re robbing us blind. While it is true that some of our NATO allies need to bring their military personnel and equipment levels up to NATO minimum standard, the US regularly works with these militaries to do so. And sometimes we subsidize our allies and partners because it is in our best interests to do so and some times they pay for what we’re doing for and with them. Trump doesn’t understand any of this, clearly doesn’t care, and thinks he’s got another effective wedge issue to hammer on with his list of grievances about how the US is being poorly treated and taken advantage of by our allies and partners.

  73. 73
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @catclub: Different post. The civil space in Turkey is threatened not because Trump is challenging the reasoning behind and survival of NATO, but because of challenges and threats internal to Turkey. Some of those I covered in my post Turkish coup post. Egypt is also a different matter entirely.

  74. 74

    @Adam L Silverman: Do you have any insight into what the Republican foreign policy establishment thinks of Trump?

  75. 75
    Miss Bianca says:

    @Adam L Silverman: So, is this “argument” of Trump’s – “we’re being robbed! Robbed, I tell you! And *I’m* going to make it stop!” – finding any traction anywhere beyond the red-meat base? Because if it is, we’re fucked.

    @schrodinger’s cat: Corollary to your question, I think.

  76. 76
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @David Fud: Its a good question. Yes, we are the reserve currency. And yes we do get a lot of benefit for being the sole super power left. But we negotiate, we don’t simply take. We may cajole as part of our negotiations, but we don’t simply dictate. And when our allies and partners don’t support us because of their own interests, say France in regard to OIF or Turkey not allowing us to enter Iraq during the initial phase of OIF from Turkey, or Canada having caveats in their support that they would assist us in Afghanistan, but that their personnel would not go to Iraq, we respect them. Sure Americans and (some) American politicians might bitch about it, but officially government to government and military to military we respect the decisions, take the assistance where we can, and do our thing. If we were an empire we would have threatened/forced Canada into providing personnel not just for OEF, but for OIF as well. We wouldn’t have just had a bunch of Congressmen and Senators renaming the french fries in the cafeteria, we would have really punished France. That’s the difference.

  77. 77
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @D58826: Yep.

  78. 78
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @dedc79: Goldberg isn’t either, but he thinks he is.

  79. 79
    NorthLeft12 says:

    @low-tech cyclist: Didn’t one presidential candidate get in trouble for denying that the Baltic states [or Poland?] were under the control of the Soviet Union? I’m thinking it was Ford. Yep, it was Ford.

    And now Trump seems to be getting away with basically saying that NATO allies need to meet some criteria to receive support from the US?

  80. 80
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: Just what is being written about and posted. You’ve seen Professor Tom Nichols’ stuff – he served on the staff of a GOP senator before going on to his current position at the Naval War College. And AL has highlighted a number of tweets from Max Boot, Richard Kagan, and others. A large number of them seem to be very, very concerned. There isn’t a lot of introspection about how their domestic political preferences helped to establish the conditions that have led the GOP to its currently disheveled state, but the impression I’m getting is that they are very, very unhappy with the foreign policy approach being proposed. Whether that’s enough to have a sizable number come out, like Nichols and Kagan have, in support of Secretary Clinton, I have no idea.

  81. 81
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Miss Bianca: I haven’t seen anything indicating its playing anywhere outside his supporters and the GOP. But I’m not sure anyone’s polled on it because I’ve never seen anyone articulate it this way. As far as I can tell the “I will be treated fairly. Or else…” is my formulation only – I haven’t seen anyone else use anything similar. But it is certainly revanchist, which has now been used a few times over the past week.

  82. 82
    Chris says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    Seconded. People have been talking since Brexit about the EU’s role in keeping the peace in Europe. But it’s at least as true of NATO.

  83. 83
    ericblair says:


    Seconded. People have been talking since Brexit about the EU’s role in keeping the peace in Europe. But it’s at least as true of NATO.

    The EU really has been dragged reluctantly into the security side of things. They’ve been keeping the peace internally by tying countries together strongly enough that war between them is currently unthinkable. Externally to the EU, they’ve been playing catch-up.

    There are plans for a more united EU armed forces, and there have been very recent agreements with NATO to cooperate better. It’s complementary and not competitive. For example, there’s not very much that NATO can do between issuing a strongly worded press release and dropping bombs, but EU can put all sorts of economic and political pressure to ramp things up and down a lot more smoothly.

  84. 84
    liberal says:

    @low-tech cyclist:

    Even if the USSR hadn’t broken up, we’d have sought to pry the Baltics loose from it after the breakup of the Warsaw Pact. They have every reason to expect us to continue to have their backs, and under any rational Administration, we will.

    Why? Name a single strategic interest of the United States that that serves.

  85. 85
    liberal says:

    @Miss Bianca:

    So, is this “argument” of Trump’s – “we’re being robbed! Robbed, I tell you! And *I’m* going to make it stop!” – finding any traction anywhere beyond the red-meat base? Because if it is, we’re fucked.

    Of course, Trump is full of crap, and I don’t even think he’d do the things he’s claiming to do (well, though it’s hard to tell, since he takes all 100 sides of every issue). But the fact is that we are subsidizing the defense of a lot of these countries.

    Look at the military spending/GDP ratios of some of the countries that whine about needing our support. IIRC most of them spend little more than 2% of their GDP on their militaries, and some spend less. And these are countries that whine about a big, bad wolf next door? LOL.

  86. 86
    Miss Bianca says:

    @liberal: Strangely, I’m not finding anything to LOL about. I guess I’ve lost my sense of humor about world order.

  87. 87
    Emma says:

    @liberal: Keeping the Russians penned. Every few decades they get an itch to protect the Rodina by pushing their outer boundaries out. It always begins by seeking to annex the nearest warm water ports. I think this is a great part of their Syria push; just getting control of Bania would be a major coup. The problem is, once they start, they never stop pushing. Better containment than all-out war down the road.

  88. 88
    Ian says:

    I don’t think the Baltic states that applied for membership would agree. I also don’t think any pro-Ukrainian people in Crimea would agree. Perhaps these alliances have validity, maybes??

  89. 89
    Ian says:

    @David Fud:
    Until our overseas provinces and territories are given statehood or independence I will consider us an empire.

  90. 90
    gvg says:

    I can remember not to long ago when the hint of a staffer with Russian ties would probably end the career of any politician caught that way. Now we have both Bernie and Trump with such ties and neither ran away from them. It boggles my mind. I thought it was a good thing that people didn’t run screaming from Bernie because of his socialist ties, but I honestly don’t like either case of the actual Russian ties because I consider them to be then to be corrupt dictatorship ties. Previously I had only seen the accusation of socialist to be in my view misused. Now it’s like everyone has forgotten history. That isn’t safe. It’s like forgetting how to read a map with dragons on it. I mean I don’t consider Communism to be a super powered boggieman, but a dictatorship is a bad thing to live under.
    Something simular is happening with the supposed religious dominated GOP picking Trump. These conservatives don’t really believe what they said they did. About 2006 all the sane ones left the party and the dumb and insane is all that is left. Before that there were quite a few that were obviously faking it for election advantage but I thought their voters believed it.

  91. 91

    Loony left and fringy right are in agreement again. Somethings never change, do they?

  92. 92
    ericblair says:


    I can remember not to long ago when the hint of a staffer with Russian ties would probably end the career of any politician caught that way. Now we have both Bernie and Trump with such ties and neither ran away from them. It boggles my mind.

    For Bernie supporters, his is mostly due to historic lefty sympathies plus a good deal of enemy-of-my-enemy thinking, I believe. They consider the US/Western establishment to be their enemies, and so does Putin, so hey, he stands up to The Man, he’s an ally. The fact that he is The Man, and they’re supporting an imperialist ethnic chauvanist oligarchy of oil billionaires, is pushed under the carpet.

    For Trump supporters, they are authoritarian followers and Putin is a strongman. All this shirtless shit waving guns around and absurd macho posturing looks ridiculous to us but resonates like hell to these guys. He’s a Winner and he don’t take no shit from no losers, and knows how to put those uppity brown people and homos in their place.

  93. 93
    El Caganer says:

    If anybody’s been aggressively expansionist, it ain’t the Russians.

  94. 94

    @ericblair: “For Bernie supporters, his [Russian ties are] mostly due to historic lefty sympathies plus a good deal of enemy-of-my-enemy thinking”

    My word no. US left sympathy with the USSR was pretty much over by 1960 except for the Communist hard core, and Sanders younger supporters hardly even remember the old USSR. As far as I can tell Sanders ties to the Soviet Union consist of a trip in 1988, when the USSR was nearly done. The trip was a working honeymoon in Yaroslavl as part of a “sister cities” program. This is something that only the crankiest cold warrior would find objectionable. Trump’s connections with Russia – not the USSR – are much stronger.

  95. 95
    Wrb says:

    @Gin & Tonic: you do say The Chalk, The Netherlands, The Arctic, The Balkans etc. “the” is used for geographic regions. Which the Ukrain is, featuring mainly cabbages.

  96. 96

    @Adam L Silverman: “scrapping NATO doesn’t make Europe or the world safer, it makes it less stable and more dangerous.”

    Ideally, this peacekeeping function would be subsumed into a global federation. Practically, well, maybe only if environmental stresses get really, really bad. Which they may. But in the anti-globalist panic that is upon the West, anti-globalist factions seem determined to undermine what peacekeeping institutions we have.

  97. 97
    Bobby Thomson says:

    This is what happens when people assume that those with money know what they’re talking about.

    He’s an idiot.

  98. 98
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Raven Onthill: Yes to the latter half. Not sure how you get to a true global federation though. The westphalian system may not have always traveled well outside of Europe, but its the foundation for what we’ve got and until someone proposes not just a better system, but an actual way to get there that is feasible, acceptable, and suitable we’re stuck with the system we have. Or a catastrophic system failure. Whatever works…

  99. 99

    @Adam L Silverman: like I said, I think we’ll only do if we’re desperate, but environmental disasters will likely take us there. It will be either federation, empire, or collapse, and I am for federation. Also, look for religion as a factor. (Just had a flash; Ted Cruz on the road to Damascus?! The gods do love their jokes.)

  100. 100
    J R in WV says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    Trump: “All of them, Katy!”

  101. 101
    J R in WV says:


    How about global freedom for all?

    Or do you care about freedom anywhere but your house?

    These tiny countries are democratic bastions (well, too small for bastions, but still) in an area of the world that has been autocratic for all of history. Well for a few months the democratic elements were in control, but the bolshevics took over from them, and it’s pretty much been brutal dictatorship ever since. And for centuries before, under the Tsars and Mongols.

  102. 102
    jake the antisoshul soshulist says:

    @Amanda in the South Bay:

    The typical response to this line of thinking is Hillary is even worse.

  103. 103

    […] sorry ass.  Josh Marshall wrote an elegant bill of indictment a week ago, and Adam L. Silverman has gone into some detail on the extraordinary damage Trump is wreaking on more than a half a century of […]

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