In recent history, a presidential election which puts the other major party in power has led to a pretty orderly transfer of power, with each party having its own collection of usual suspects that quickly and predictably fill in all the top spots. President-elect Donald Trump’s outsider status, and the number of Republican leadership figures openly opposed to his campaign, means he doesn’t have such a ready-made cabinet, nor likely the inclination to install one.
Instead, Trump’s cabinet is being assembled very publicly, amid a battle that includes neo-conservatives and establishment hawks arrayed against a group of outsiders including the libertarian right, Tea Party Republicans, and a bloc of realists who would normally not be in line for top positions.
Many of the neo-cons and the rest of the establishment had a substantial “Never Trump” bloc that opposed his election appear to feel entitled to the top positions in the cabinet, and indeed, Trump seems to be entertaining candidate like ultrahawk John Bolton for some of his biggest positions.
These establishment candidates are pushing a predictable line of more and bigger wars and an ever-increasing US military role abroad, in particular playing up the idea that this would “reassure” US allies abroad amid very public concern from many NATO members about Trump’s victory.
The other camp seems more in line with Trump’s own campaign statements, expressing doubts about the relevance of NATO and that this interventionist fervor isn’t in America’s best interest. At the same time, the “outsider” nature of these candidates has many facing an uphill battle to try to be considered serious candidates.
Early foreign policy appointees have fallen outside of the establishment, but also not exactly encouraging from an anti-interventionist perspective, with CIA appointee Rep. Mike Pompeo (R – KS) coming into the House as part of the Tea Party vote, but since then has established himself as a hawk on Syria, an outspoken advocate of government surveillance, and a supporter of torture, placing him far outside of the individualist leanings of much of the Tea Party.
Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the former head of the DIA, was a more predictable candidate when Trump picked him for National Security Adviser. He was a major supporter of Trump’s throughout the campaign, and Trump had made much of his interest in putting former military brass into key positions.
Yet Flynn too defies easy categorization within the context of the battle for cabinet posts. His time in Afghanistan with Gen. Stanley McChrystal has seemingly familiarized him with the concept of blowback a lot more than traditional cabinet choices, and he has been unusually candid since his retirement about policy blunders in the global war on terror.
At the same time, Flynn has not advocated the wholesale changes that his underlying premises would seem to support, recognizing that the drone strikes are doing more harm than good but stopping well short of calling for an end to the strikes. While he can presumably be expected to provide Trump with relatively sound advice on what not to do, it isn’t wholly clear he will advocate heavily against such blunders, or offer real alternatives.
Candidates beyond that are still tentative, but include Gen. James Mattis, another military figure who has been willing to criticize the Obama Administration’s “strategy free” wars, but whose actual positions aren’t particularly well established. Mattis’ comments during his time as head of Centcom certainly position him as extremely hostile to Iran. But, he was extremely skeptical of Obama’s planned war in Syria, which played a role in Obama’s decision to fire him.
11 thoughts on “GOP Factions Battle Over Control of Trump’s Foreign Policy”
Pompeo’s appointment doesn’t bode well. Given that the CIA has led us into most of our foreign misadventures, having a hawk at the helm means more death, destruction, disability, displacement and debt.
Don’t worry one bit Trump will be in charge
Pompeo is still an outsider. He’s not an agency man, not a society membership man and he’s stepping in clean, unaffected and loyal only to Trump.. no allegiances within the old regime, that’s what Trump needs. So, although his remarks over the years do not sit well, as CIA director he does not make policy. I haven’t read Flynn’s book, so only have news appearances to judge him by, as a military man, like Mattis, we know they were on the outs for not playing ball with the Obama Adm.
Retired officers have already been pre selected as Obama fired or retired all who didn’t agree with his agenda . This should provide a good pool for Trump to select his best men .Obama’s goal was to weaken America so as to make the global government to appear stronger . Trumps goal is just the opposite . He wants to make America great again .
The most encouraging news since 11/09/16 is that Don Trump may offer Tulsi Gabbard a high position at State, Defense, or UN. She is no neocon.
The transition from NWO republican to a NWO democrat or vice versa was not a change . The transition to Trump might be a real change . I believe Trump will not let them bully him around . We don’t need NATO to help protect America .It would be good if the two most Christian countries in the world could get along a lot better . I think Trump and Putin will get along just fine . And McCain and Graham will get their heads handed to them if they smart off to much .
“with each party having its own collection of usual suspects that quickly and predictably fill in all the top spots”
Yes, those are “the establishment” in politics. That is what Hillary was, and what Trump and Bernie ran against.
What is a new President to do if he does not pick all those ready-made establishment figures? It is a big country. We’ve got lots of good people.
Of course, Guiliani and Bannon are not among them those lots of good people. However, neither are the rightly rejected establishment, which is really more the cause of the current screaming from many quarters.
I keep wondering the same thing. I haven’t heard of one actual non interventionist mentioned. They all just want to do it differently.
I did just see this: http://www.ronpaullibertyreport.com/archives/sanity-walked-through-the-trump-tower-doors-today
Flynn is very bad on Iran. It won’t help to have him advising Trump on “non-intervention” when he wants regime change in Iran because he thinks Iran has a nuclear weapons program.
He’s also said that Russia is aligned with radical Islamists, which makes no sense whatsoever.
I’ve never heard him say or suggest anything like that.
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