$60 Billion, James Mattis and ISIS

Here is a sample letter I posted to a few Senators’ websites. Please feel free to adapt and use with your Senators and Congressperson. I encourage people to reach out to their legislators, commenting on good work and needed efforts.

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Senator, three thoughts to chew on:

– the southern border wall will take $30 billion to build and $30 billion to maintain – it is not a just $5 billion issue. It also will do little to solve a problem which is blown out of proportion (per new Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney when he called it a “simplistic solution” in 2015).

– James Mattis’ resignation is very troubling as we lost a brilliant mind who understands the value of global relationships and the history behind them. We lost a key governor of a mercurial and ill-informed man and the world and our nation is a less safe place. A wall cannot overcome these concerns.

– I understand the reason for leaving Syria, but the work is not done and this was handled in a very offensive way, not conferring with allies, Congress and our military leaders. It shows a lack of good faith dealing which is par for the course with this ego-centric President.

Please protect our nation’s interests addressing real problems. Also, please safeguard Robert Mueller, as this investigation may be our best hope to remedy a major problem in the White House, which is fast-getting out of control. The Trump legacy will haunt our planet, nation and the Republican party, which has lost its footing.

A military term defines the White House – SNAFU

People who have served in the military have a unique language to define poor management of situations. Borrowing from their vernacular, they might define the modus operandi of the current White House as a SNAFU. The first three letters reference “Situation Normal All,” with the last two letters referencing a more colorful way of defining “screwed up.”

Last year, conservative columnist David Brooks defined the White House as “equal parts chaos and confusion.” It has gotten increasingly worse over time with rampant turnover and turmoil, but now it is in full meltdown mode. The last grown up has announced his resignation – General James Mattis.

To be frank, I have viewed the biggest threat to national security to be Donald J. Trump. Now, my concerns have heightened. The last of the defense filters will be leaving and we will be left with an even more unfettered, mercurial and uninformed man calling the shots.

I would encourage people to read “Fear” by two-time Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Bob Woodward. It is based on over 750 hours of taped interviews with White House personnel. It defines Trump as an unhinged man who does not have the patience or willingness to listen to others or know the details of any issue. Narcissists like to he told they are right, so sycophants who know this, get the President’s ear and he closes others out.

The first key takeaways from the book is Trump’s lack of good faith dealing with others regardless of rank. His word means nothing and he will demean anyone who openly disagrees with him. In business, this is a ominous management style. If you don’t want to know the truth, then any decision will prove problematic. Time and again, people went to great pains to brief him, only to have him ridicule them and the process.

The second is the recognition by everyone that the President is untruthful. There are several colorful ways that people defined this, but the cleanest version came from former National Economic Advisor Gary Cohn who simply said Trump is a “professional liar.”

As the various investigations heat up further and get closer to Trump, he will become further unhinged. And, he will make more impulsive decisions to either appease his base or distract the media. Plus, many of his decisions are based on bumper-sticker assessments of problems and simplistic solutions. When this transactional view is combined with his lack of respect for allied relationships, we end up in a worse place.

The rashness of decisions will be less tempered without Mattis. The President does not understand or appreciate what it takes to execute decisions. The Syria withdrawal caught everyone by surprise and went against the advice of others. But, one thing is for certain, the echo effect has not been fully vetted. Just this morning, I heard the Kurds will have to release 3,000 ISIS prisoners as they have nowhere to keep them. Yet, this is just one example of not studying a problem and getting input from others (think travel ban fiasco that was pulled after two days).

As I shared with Senators by email, this will get worse as the noose tightens. The SNAFU descriptions may undersell the amount of chaos, confusion and imcompetence. This frightens me.

Let’s Honor our Vets – Avoid Unnecessary Fights

On this Memorial Day, we honor our veterans who paid the ultimate sacrifice and who are no longer with us. And, we should. But, we must honor their sacrifices more by doing every thing in our power to avoid conflict in the first place and fight with purpose and planning when we cannot.

Many soldiers lost their lives in Vietnam, a war which fell out of favor as its purpose could not overcome the loss of life witnessed on the nightly news. And, in what may have been his worse abuse of power, which says a lot given Watergate, President-elect Richard Nixon purposefully and clandestinely derailed the peace process, so it could be accomplished on his watch. Many more Americans died as a result.

Later, we did not learn the lessons of fighting a war without clear mission and follow-up, by invading Iraq under false pretenses. We fudged questionable intelligence to invade and overthrow Saddam Hussein. A former Vietnam veteran and Congressman made an impassioned speech that if we invade, we need to be prepared to stay for 30 years.

We are now 14 years in and it looks like we will remain a while longer. We did not understand what success looked like, trusted the wrong advisors, did not understand the differences between Shia, Sunni and Kurds, and went in with too few troops and inferior equipment. General Shinseki resigned because of his disapproval of these last two reasons and our troops commonly referred to our efforts as a “clusterf••k.”

To honor our troops, we need to avoid fighting battles whenever possible. But, when we do send our troops in harm’s way, let’s make darn sure we have a clear cut plan, sufficient support and follow-up after the battles are won. Allowing the new Iraqi government to fire the police force from the Hussein days and to maltreat the minority Sunnis helped create ISIS.

We owe it to our troops to avoid risk whenever possible and to minimize their use of the term “clusterf••k” to define our modus operandi when we must fight needed battles. As General James Mattis said, if we lessen funding of diplomacy, we will need even greater funding of the military.