Blogs: Paul Pillar

Uniting, Against Trump's Policies, for Peace

America Alone

Paul Pillar

The strategy document, and much of Trump’s other rhetoric, suggest that “America first” also implies a need to attend to the strength of America at home, and so it should.  But again the chasm between rhetoric and policy is gaping.  The illustrations of this are numerous, but consider just some of what has been in the news the past several days.  The Republican tax bill heads the list.  It (along with ostensibly deficit-hawkish resistance to Barack Obama’s stimulus program when the United States was still struggling out of the Great Recession) stands sound fiscal policy on its head.  It rewards owners and inheritors over workers and strivers.  The heavy blow it delivers to the public finances will make more difficult, politically as well as economically, many ways of strengthening America to better enable it to advance its interests in a turbulent world, from improving the health of its citizens to rebuilding decrepit infrastructure.  Donald Trump talked a good game about infrastructure, but he has done little or nothing to make good on the talk and in the post-tax bill world is even less likely to make good on it.  One infrastructural deficiency—the unwillingness to pay for the installation of proven technology that prevents speeding by trains—allowed this week's fatal train crash in Washington state.

At least as important in defining a strong America as a competitor on the world stage is the strength and integrity of American democracy.  Here, too, the recent trend has not been good.  In addition to voter suppression laws and gerrymandering, the biggest additional issue since Trump’s rise has been Russian interference in U.S. elections.  Rather than leading, as any U.S. president should, a principled effort to uphold the integrity of representative democracy in the United States, Trump has tried to deny the whole problem.  With his kind of leadership, members of his party are trying to discredit and derail the one investigation with the best chance of getting to the bottom of it all.

Honest and open discourse and debate are essential to the healthy functioning of any democracy.  Trump’s constant dismissal of inconvenient truths and his raising of lies to the same level as any truth have been corrupting that discourse and debate all year long.  Here the relevant development of the past few days is another turn in the administration’s Orwellian attempts at thought control by banishing certain terms or concepts from any part of the discourse it can censor.  Its previous efforts expunged discussion of climate change—the most blatant big omission from the national security strategy document.  The latest censorship was the attempt to impose on the Centers for Disease Control a list of banned terms such as “evidence-based”.

As an example for the world, the America of Donald Trump is becoming less the shining city on a hill of Ronald Reagan’s (and John Winthrop’s) America and more an embarrassment.

Don’t expect to find real strategy in the latest national security strategy.  Do grieve at the discrepancy between favorable-sounding words in that document and the reality being wrought by the man whose name appears on it.

Image: People burn a t-shirt depicting an American flag during a protest against Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, outside the U.S. Embassy in Athens, Greece, December 8, 2017. REUTERS/Costas Baltas

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Dragging U.S. Intelligence into the Anti-Iranian Mud

Paul Pillar

The strategy document, and much of Trump’s other rhetoric, suggest that “America first” also implies a need to attend to the strength of America at home, and so it should.  But again the chasm between rhetoric and policy is gaping.  The illustrations of this are numerous, but consider just some of what has been in the news the past several days.  The Republican tax bill heads the list.  It (along with ostensibly deficit-hawkish resistance to Barack Obama’s stimulus program when the United States was still struggling out of the Great Recession) stands sound fiscal policy on its head.  It rewards owners and inheritors over workers and strivers.  The heavy blow it delivers to the public finances will make more difficult, politically as well as economically, many ways of strengthening America to better enable it to advance its interests in a turbulent world, from improving the health of its citizens to rebuilding decrepit infrastructure.  Donald Trump talked a good game about infrastructure, but he has done little or nothing to make good on the talk and in the post-tax bill world is even less likely to make good on it.  One infrastructural deficiency—the unwillingness to pay for the installation of proven technology that prevents speeding by trains—allowed this week's fatal train crash in Washington state.

At least as important in defining a strong America as a competitor on the world stage is the strength and integrity of American democracy.  Here, too, the recent trend has not been good.  In addition to voter suppression laws and gerrymandering, the biggest additional issue since Trump’s rise has been Russian interference in U.S. elections.  Rather than leading, as any U.S. president should, a principled effort to uphold the integrity of representative democracy in the United States, Trump has tried to deny the whole problem.  With his kind of leadership, members of his party are trying to discredit and derail the one investigation with the best chance of getting to the bottom of it all.

Honest and open discourse and debate are essential to the healthy functioning of any democracy.  Trump’s constant dismissal of inconvenient truths and his raising of lies to the same level as any truth have been corrupting that discourse and debate all year long.  Here the relevant development of the past few days is another turn in the administration’s Orwellian attempts at thought control by banishing certain terms or concepts from any part of the discourse it can censor.  Its previous efforts expunged discussion of climate change—the most blatant big omission from the national security strategy document.  The latest censorship was the attempt to impose on the Centers for Disease Control a list of banned terms such as “evidence-based”.

As an example for the world, the America of Donald Trump is becoming less the shining city on a hill of Ronald Reagan’s (and John Winthrop’s) America and more an embarrassment.

Don’t expect to find real strategy in the latest national security strategy.  Do grieve at the discrepancy between favorable-sounding words in that document and the reality being wrought by the man whose name appears on it.

Image: People burn a t-shirt depicting an American flag during a protest against Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, outside the U.S. Embassy in Athens, Greece, December 8, 2017. REUTERS/Costas Baltas

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The Sources of Mission Creep in Syria

Paul Pillar

The strategy document, and much of Trump’s other rhetoric, suggest that “America first” also implies a need to attend to the strength of America at home, and so it should.  But again the chasm between rhetoric and policy is gaping.  The illustrations of this are numerous, but consider just some of what has been in the news the past several days.  The Republican tax bill heads the list.  It (along with ostensibly deficit-hawkish resistance to Barack Obama’s stimulus program when the United States was still struggling out of the Great Recession) stands sound fiscal policy on its head.  It rewards owners and inheritors over workers and strivers.  The heavy blow it delivers to the public finances will make more difficult, politically as well as economically, many ways of strengthening America to better enable it to advance its interests in a turbulent world, from improving the health of its citizens to rebuilding decrepit infrastructure.  Donald Trump talked a good game about infrastructure, but he has done little or nothing to make good on the talk and in the post-tax bill world is even less likely to make good on it.  One infrastructural deficiency—the unwillingness to pay for the installation of proven technology that prevents speeding by trains—allowed this week's fatal train crash in Washington state.

At least as important in defining a strong America as a competitor on the world stage is the strength and integrity of American democracy.  Here, too, the recent trend has not been good.  In addition to voter suppression laws and gerrymandering, the biggest additional issue since Trump’s rise has been Russian interference in U.S. elections.  Rather than leading, as any U.S. president should, a principled effort to uphold the integrity of representative democracy in the United States, Trump has tried to deny the whole problem.  With his kind of leadership, members of his party are trying to discredit and derail the one investigation with the best chance of getting to the bottom of it all.

Honest and open discourse and debate are essential to the healthy functioning of any democracy.  Trump’s constant dismissal of inconvenient truths and his raising of lies to the same level as any truth have been corrupting that discourse and debate all year long.  Here the relevant development of the past few days is another turn in the administration’s Orwellian attempts at thought control by banishing certain terms or concepts from any part of the discourse it can censor.  Its previous efforts expunged discussion of climate change—the most blatant big omission from the national security strategy document.  The latest censorship was the attempt to impose on the Centers for Disease Control a list of banned terms such as “evidence-based”.

As an example for the world, the America of Donald Trump is becoming less the shining city on a hill of Ronald Reagan’s (and John Winthrop’s) America and more an embarrassment.

Don’t expect to find real strategy in the latest national security strategy.  Do grieve at the discrepancy between favorable-sounding words in that document and the reality being wrought by the man whose name appears on it.

Image: People burn a t-shirt depicting an American flag during a protest against Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, outside the U.S. Embassy in Athens, Greece, December 8, 2017. REUTERS/Costas Baltas

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Outside-In Won't Resolve the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Paul Pillar

The strategy document, and much of Trump’s other rhetoric, suggest that “America first” also implies a need to attend to the strength of America at home, and so it should.  But again the chasm between rhetoric and policy is gaping.  The illustrations of this are numerous, but consider just some of what has been in the news the past several days.  The Republican tax bill heads the list.  It (along with ostensibly deficit-hawkish resistance to Barack Obama’s stimulus program when the United States was still struggling out of the Great Recession) stands sound fiscal policy on its head.  It rewards owners and inheritors over workers and strivers.  The heavy blow it delivers to the public finances will make more difficult, politically as well as economically, many ways of strengthening America to better enable it to advance its interests in a turbulent world, from improving the health of its citizens to rebuilding decrepit infrastructure.  Donald Trump talked a good game about infrastructure, but he has done little or nothing to make good on the talk and in the post-tax bill world is even less likely to make good on it.  One infrastructural deficiency—the unwillingness to pay for the installation of proven technology that prevents speeding by trains—allowed this week's fatal train crash in Washington state.

At least as important in defining a strong America as a competitor on the world stage is the strength and integrity of American democracy.  Here, too, the recent trend has not been good.  In addition to voter suppression laws and gerrymandering, the biggest additional issue since Trump’s rise has been Russian interference in U.S. elections.  Rather than leading, as any U.S. president should, a principled effort to uphold the integrity of representative democracy in the United States, Trump has tried to deny the whole problem.  With his kind of leadership, members of his party are trying to discredit and derail the one investigation with the best chance of getting to the bottom of it all.

Honest and open discourse and debate are essential to the healthy functioning of any democracy.  Trump’s constant dismissal of inconvenient truths and his raising of lies to the same level as any truth have been corrupting that discourse and debate all year long.  Here the relevant development of the past few days is another turn in the administration’s Orwellian attempts at thought control by banishing certain terms or concepts from any part of the discourse it can censor.  Its previous efforts expunged discussion of climate change—the most blatant big omission from the national security strategy document.  The latest censorship was the attempt to impose on the Centers for Disease Control a list of banned terms such as “evidence-based”.

As an example for the world, the America of Donald Trump is becoming less the shining city on a hill of Ronald Reagan’s (and John Winthrop’s) America and more an embarrassment.

Don’t expect to find real strategy in the latest national security strategy.  Do grieve at the discrepancy between favorable-sounding words in that document and the reality being wrought by the man whose name appears on it.

Image: People burn a t-shirt depicting an American flag during a protest against Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, outside the U.S. Embassy in Athens, Greece, December 8, 2017. REUTERS/Costas Baltas

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