Yesterday the President issued a factually inaccurate, morally bankrupt screed dressed up as his official statement, and therefore the official position of the United State’s, regarding the extra-judicial execution of Jamal Kashoggi. The President’s statement referenced the nowhere near finalized Saudi offer to buy US weapons to outfit the Saudi military. An offer that if it were ever actually finalized, is actually a horrible deal for the US. Jared Kushner, negotiating on behalf of the President, negotiated a huge discount on the arms sale that favors the Saudis and agreed to Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman’s demand that 50% of the weapons would be manufactured in Saudi Arabia. The manufacturing portion of the agreement is not going to either protect or create manufacturing jobs in the US.
Yesterday, during his impromptu press gaggle as he was departing the White House to once again go on vacation to Mar a Lago, the President referenced not only the arms sales that haven’t been finalized, but also oil prices.
"It's America first for me," Pres. Trump says.
"We're not going to give up hundreds of billions of dollars in orders…Saudi Arabia, if we broke with them, I think your oil prices would go through the roof." https://t.co/pyOq1DFtLX pic.twitter.com/oMtCJtqpPJ
— ABC News (@ABC) November 20, 2018
This morning he once again referenced the price of oil, Saudi oil production, and why it is good for the US.
Oil prices getting lower. Great! Like a big Tax Cut for America and the World. Enjoy! $54, was just $82. Thank you to Saudi Arabia, but let’s go lower!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 21, 2018
Like so many of his statements regarding Saudi Arabia, US arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and the facts surrounding the extra-judicial execution of permanent legal US resident Jamal Kashoggi by agents of not just the Saudi government, but of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, the President’s statements yesterday and his tweet this morning about Saudi Arabia and the price of oil are also factually inaccurate. It also demonstrates the steady state of his ignorance; he clearly has no idea how the global petroleum market works or what Saudi Arabia is actually doing in regard to petroleum production. It also shows his willingness to disregard the best analysis of the US intelligence community, as well as his contempt for it.
Also, Saudi Arabia has sought to boost oil prices by promising to pump fewer barrels in December. A week ago, it backed a proposal for OPEC nations to cut production by one million barrels per day.
— CBC News Alerts (@CBCAlerts) November 21, 2018
What we’re seeing with the President’s official response, which is now the US’s official response, to the extra-judicial execution of Jamal Kashoggi is the Trump Doctrine in action. As a refresher, the Trump Doctrine, first delineated by me in April 2016, is:
America’s allies are taking advantage of our treaty and other obligations in the national security space; America’s allies and peer competitors are ripping the US off through our trade agreements; the US should go it alone if it can’t renegotiate better deals; and only a President Trump could guarantee that the US would be treated fairly – or else. That only a President Trump could guarantee that the US would be treated fairly, whether in national security arrangements or global trade, was simply an extension of one of the major, if not the major theme of his campaign: Donald Trump would be treated fairly or else and only Donald Trump could guarantee that Americans, especially the forgotten men and women as he phrased it, would be treated fairly or else.
That the US will be treated fairly or else, and that only a President Trump could guarantee that happening became the central, unifying theme of his national security and foreign policy approach was actually a stroke of strategic communication genius. A significant amount of the President’s initial strategic communication approach was through tying his primary opponents, the Republican National Committee, and the broadcast and cable news networks in knots about treating him fairly. This included trying to get Megyn Kelly removed from debate moderation after he felt she treated him badly, as well as actually dropping out of a GOP primary debate on Fox News and holding a competing charity event for veterans because he did not like that Fox wouldn’t comply with his demands. And if they failed to do so he’d deal with them harshly. Then candidate Trump threatened his fellow primary opponents and the RNC by making it clear that if he didn’t feel he was being treated fairly by them, then the “or else” would be his running as an independent candidate, thereby splitting the Republican vote for president, and handing the election to the then presumed Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton.
By making this the dominant theme of his national security and foreign policy approach, he was able to make a singular through line for his campaign – “I, Donald Trump, will be treated fairly or else by the GOP, the RNC, and the news media; only I, Donald Trump, can guarantee that you the forgotten men and women of America are treated fairly in regards to both domestic politics and foreign policy; and only I, Donald Trump, can guarantee that the US will be treated fairly or else there will be serious and severe repercussions for the GOP, the RNC, the news media, elected and appointed officials, and America’s allies, partners, and peer competitors”. Here was the simple through line to connect Make America Great Again both domestically and internationally by placing America first. It is also the essence of the real Trump Doctrine: President Trump and by extension the forgotten men and women of America, as well as America itself, will be treated fairly or else.
The Trump Doctrine, and the President’s application of it, is actually making the world less safe for everyone, including Americans. As I wrote back in October 2018:
As long as the President places being treated fairly, and specifically his subjective understanding of being personally treated fairly, as the central consideration of US policy, we will see more of this type of behavior from the authoritarians, autocrats, despots, tyrants, neo-nationalists, and neo-fascists that the President finds so admirable. During his 60 Minutes interview with Lesley Stahl, he all but gave Putin a green light, and anyone else who was paying attention and might have similar interests, to keep assassinating people – from political rivals to opposition figures to journalists to defectors from Russia’s intelligence services – as long as they’re not American citizens and the wet work doesn’t take place in the US.
While there is an old political science/international relations axiom that state’s don’t have friends, they have interests, the Trump Doctrine has turned the US into a transactional state. A transactional state being run by the head of an ongoing white collar criminal and organized criminal enterprise. It is no surprise that authoritarians and aspiring authoritarians like Muhammad bin Salman are developing strategies that leverage the treat the President fairly part of the Trump Doctrine to get away with whatever they want in order to avoid the “or else” response.
The Trump Doctrine is the gift that keeps on giving to the President, his family, his businesses, his family members’ businesses, and the autocrats, authoritarians, tyrants, despots, and dictators that have figured out that it is in their best interests to treat the President fairly rather than receive an “or else”. Jamal Kashoggi was just the most prominent casualty of the Trump Doctrine to date even if he wasn’t the first. And he most certainly won’t be the last. But as long as the President feels like he’s being treated fairly, what is the US to do? If I was Fethullah Gulen or anyone connected to him residing in the US, I’d be looking into seeking asylum in Canada as soon as possible.
We are off the looking glass and through the map!