Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Circle of Trust Narrows Even Further

I am doing a heap of media (as are other IR types) about the musical chairs at the White House: Tillerson out, Pompeo up, Haspel in.  Drezner had a sharp take, and Vox summarizes my views on Tillerson pretty well.  Oh, and the process, which continues to play out, is a shitshow.

So, quick hits on all of this:
  1. Why now? Who knows?  Trump is easily triggered, and has not been happy with Tillerson since... he was appointed? Was it because of the different positions on Russia's poisoning of a British town?  Probably not since this might have been in the works since Friday.  Maybe because he contradicted Trump on North Korea and trade recently?
  2. What is Tillerson's legacy? Burning down State for a generation while not making much of a dent on foreign policy.  
  3. Will Pompeo be better?  He is far right (his American Conservative Union rating was 96% before leaving the house), but there were few stories of him burning down CIA.  He may or may not support State in bureaucratic battles.  He is closer to Trump, so he has more credibility BUT if he ain't in the room and Trump decides to do something, he will do it without consulting Pompeo. 
  4. What about Gina Haspel at CIA?  First reaction?  Phew, not Tom Cotton. That is also my second, third, fourth and fifty reactions because Cotton would have tried to politicize the agency, perhaps destroying it and American democracy.  Haspel is a professional, so the CIA is likely to mosey along without too much strain.  However, she may be a war criminal, given her role in torturing folks under the Bush Administration.   This makes her hardly unique since those above her in the chain of command have kept on keeping on.  If she pays a price and the males don't, that would be a problem.  And I prefer a professional with, yes, some blood on her hands than a Trump zealot who has no experience at all. 
  5. What does this mean for North Korea talks?  Well, since North Korea hasn't gotten back to the US, who knows?  Tillerson was utterly irrelevant for the NK talks, and had no expertise to bring to bear.  So, no loss.  Pompeo?  Not sure.  He is more likely to blow up the Iran deal since he seems to have preferences on that. I have complete faith in Trump to screw this up, no matter who is advising him.
  6. What about Canada?  Yeah, that has been a question I have been getting from the media here.  My basic take: Tillerson got along well with Freeland, but Tillerson was largely irrelevant. Pompeo is not a from a steel producing state, so he probably is not all that riled up about trade.  And much of US agriculture (Pompeo is from Kansas) seeks export markets.... so I guess this does not really matter too much.  So, keep on working the rest of the US political system.  
  7. I wonder if this will screw up the presentations of my students who are taking on the various roles in the US foreign policy process.  The Tillerson-players will have to get smart on Pompeo fast!

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