By Theo Larue
Disclaimer: Donald Trump’s actions since he became President of the United States have angered many, causing him to receive an overwhelming amount of negative media attention. Because I’m a good imitator, this article is no exception. However, much of the media has been unable to cover every outrageous action Trump has taken, which is why I am writing about what you may not have heard about, and that arguably presents a larger risk in the long run, as opposed to Trump’s orders that are immediately overturned.
It has now been exactly one month since Trump was inaugurated as President of the United States. There has been a decent amount of fear, anger and incomprehension surrounding Trump’s decisions, the most controversial of which was the immigration ban. The vast media backlash and public outcry against it sent a vibrant message to Trump, a message that a lot of Americans and indeed the world condemn his actions. Thankfully, the federal court system has provided some reassurance that the United States is (still) a democracy, after a panel of 3 judges unanimously ruled that Trump’s order was unconstitutional due to its targeting of a specific religion. This decision may have come as reassuring to most people, but to many others, this was simply the natural course of events following such an outrageous executive order. The purpose of this article is not to tone down the suffering of the people whose lives were affected by Trump’s order. However, it is a fact that his immigration ban could not have survived more than a week, as it did. Now, if all the judicial and legislative institutions in the United States provide a safety net for Trump’s megalomania, then that begs the question, what is there really to be afraid of?
The main problem with Trump’s White House is that bodies outside of the executive branch cannot contest all of Trump’s actions. Due to the omnipresence of the immigration ban in the media, some of his other measures, arguably less dangerous in the immediate scope of things, but much more frightening in the long run, have been able to go relatively unnoticed by the general public. Here is a breakdown of what Trump has been doing to undermine the security of us all.
Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon was promoted to the National Security Council, and Trump didn’t even know about it.
It is completely unheard of for a person with no government or foreign policy experience that is not a member of the Presidential Cabinet to participate in the meetings of the National Security Council. This is a body that has considered the nuclear option many times, and given Bannon’s penchant for rash, aggressive politics, one can only shudder at the thought of what the men and women of the US armed forces must feel when they know that their lives now partly depend on the political motivations of one man[i]. The Joint Chiefs of Staff (highest-ranking members of each branch of the US military) have spearheaded this council for decades now, because as career soldiers they are able to place security over politics, even though a lot of them have belonged to the Republican Party. As worrying as this may be, this is only the tip of the iceberg. The real problem is that Trump didn’t even know what he was signing when he promoted Bannon, claiming he hadn’t been fully briefed[ii]. This shows gross incompetence and negligence on his part. If Donald Trump’s actions affected only his chances at remaining President, you would see me cheering. However, his actions affect the well being of millions of individuals across the globe.
In addition to knowing nothing about foreign policy, Trump refuses to use the assets he has at hand.
Two days before Trump’s nominee to Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, was confirmed, the President took an actual gamble by suddenly firing the senior leadership of the State Department, of which some members had been in place since Ronald Reagan’s first term[iii]. One such individual was Thomas Countryman, whose responsibilities entailed signing off on US weapons sales and security assistance abroad. With him gone, the United States’ role as a global military mediator has been put on standby, a genuine risk in the eyes of Joseph Cirincione, the president of a global security advocacy group: “The world doesn’t stop turning just because there is a new US administration. There is an entire global arms regime to maintain. Without US leadership, decisions won’t get made or will get taken in ways that harm our national security. The machinery is still there [in the state department], but there is no one in the cockpit.” And although Mr. Tillerson is one of the more sensible members of Trump’s cabinet, he can by no means run the State Department on his own.
Trump’s nuclear policy is the most aggressive of any US President since the Cold War.
The number of nuclear weapons in the United States has declined every year since 1985, and the amount worldwide has followed the same trend since 1986. Trump poses a threat to this stability, as he deems the current nuclear arms reduction treaty, dubbed New START, beneficial to Russia but not to the USA.[iv] The treaty is meant to last until at least 2021, and would bring the number of active nuclear warheads in each country to levels unseen since the 1950s. Everybody wins, right? Wrong, according to Trump. He’d already expressed his desire to reinforce America’s nuclear arsenal in a December tweet, but members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are now starting to realize the genuine dangers of the direction Trump is taking. “New START has unquestionably made our country safer, an opinion widely shared by national security experts on both sides of the aisle” says Democratic senator Jeanne Shaheen.
Trump’s National Security Adviser Michael Flynn resigned after 24 days on the job, amidst a scandal that he’d conducted diplomacy with Russia before he was legally within his right to do so. Trump knew this for weeks, and didn’t even ask for his resignation.
This last one has been all over the news, but I feel like I had to mention it given how well it illustrates the purpose of this article: Trump’s approach to national security is chaotic. The President said in a news conference on Thursday that he did not instruct Flynn to surpass his responsibilities, but that he would have if he’d had the chance. This shows some amount of cohesion and synergy in the White House. Except the problem is, Flynn resigned not because he was overzealous, but because he lied to VP Pence about the topic of his conversation with Russian diplomats.[v] Trump’s cabinet hasn’t even been fully confirmed (with the most notable exception being Andrew Puzder, the nominee for Secretary of Labor who withdrew his name from consideration after revelations that he’d employed an undocumented immigrant as a housekeeper), and there are already key elements of his administration falling apart. And what to say of the copious leaks emanating from the White House, that make these stories possible to be written at a pace unseen under any prior US President? They are simply an illustration of the already poor relationship between Trump and the people he’s meant to be running the country with.
Of all the words that can be used to describe Trump’s presidency, uncertainty is certainly one of the most fitting. So what might happen next? As a pioneer of the new age of political slander, I don’t see it below Donald Trump to keep on signing outrageous executive orders with the only goal of seeing them overturned, in order to then complain to every media source that isn’t “fake news” that the courts are making it impossible for him to run the country the way he said he would when he was elected. This is extreme, but when has that ever stopped the man before? More realistically, I think Trump’s attitude will change after his first major situation as POTUS, be it a military threat or a widespread economic menace. I believe that it is only at this point that the man will realize that his mistakes now carry real consequences, and cannot be resolved as easily as they have been in the past, with the filing of bankruptcy and the finding of a new business venture.