Manic Monday Musings

Manic seems to be the word for the new decade. I crave having boringly competent leadership who do their jobs with a focus on real problems. I crave a world in which problems are not caused by the people in leadership positions. I crave people in leadership who understand the importance of relationships and do not view everything through a transactional lens. Yet, these are only cravings in a manic world.

The tenuous and scary position the US is in with Iran is not a surprise. Leaving an agreement that was signed by seven countries, whose other six asked us not to leave, and whose US Defense Secretary asked not to leave, could only end up with conflict. And, what makes this scarier, per Admiral Mike Mullens, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under the previous two presidents, says we appear to have “no off ramp” as we ratchet up things with Iran.

The tenuous position with North Korea is not a surprise either. The question which has an obvious answer, but seems to be lost on the US people in leadership positions is why would North Korea give up the one thing that got the US to the bargaining table? The answer is they would not. Kim wanted global recognition. He got it. I was all for discussions with North Korea, but we needed a leader who was conversant on the issues and concerns, not someone who led with his gut, which he said was smarter than most experts, which is an excessive amount of hubris.

The tenuous position the UK has with the EU is also unsettling. I have only slightly more confidence with the UK prime minister than I have with the US president, which is not saying a whole lot. There is something about truthfulness that seems to be lacking. I have felt from the outset, Brexit was not the right path forward, but fully understand the concerns of the leavers. Yet, I worry that the future will be mishandled and our UK friends will be in a malaise longer than expected.

The tenuous positions of the Muslim worshipers in China and India is of concern. It gets less notoriety than the Hong Kong issue, but China’s government is strong arming Muslims into forsaking their religion for the state. It reads right out of the old days of Russia, China and Nazi Germany. In India, Muslims are given second class citizenship and are now crying foul. It was an unforced error and such a move should be protested, to be frank.

There is more mania out there than I note above. On the flip side, many good things happen everyday in spite of or without help from those in leadership. Thank goodness we don’t have to rely on people in leadership to live our lives. I recognize fully that people who do not live in a free society may not have such luxury. Yet, the less we need to rely on the decisions of leaders to live every day, the better off we will be. It would be nice, though, if they helped us rather than stood in our way. Or, just made us crazy.

Credibility

Former CIA Director Michael Morell said on CBS Morning News today he is persuaded from the evidence Iran is most likely behind the attacks on Japanese and Norwegian tankers. Yet, he also spoke about a credibility problem the US must overcome to convince its allies. He is not alone as newspapers in the European Union and United States have made similar reports.

Morell notes the US faces three credibility issues and he does so with chagrin and in a matter-of-fact way.

First, he said the US is remembered for the ardent and contrived evidence of Weapons of Mass Destruction that led to the invasion of Iraq. This information helped build a coalition of support. A UK commission faulted both President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair for being less than forthcoming.

Second, Morell said “let’s face it,” the US president is known for being untruthful on a recurring basis. So, anything he says must be verified. America is less trusted because its White House incumbent is untrustworthy.

Third, many allies view the US as contributing to this mess. By pulling out of a nuclear deal between Iran and six countries, when our allies and US intelligence noted Iran was in compliance, set us on a different path forward. It should be noted Secretary of Defense Mike Mattis said at that time we should remain in the deal. By asserting more pressure on Iran, we are pushing buttons that need not be pushed.

Morell said neither country wants to go to war, but all it will take is an attack on US interests or Saudi Arabia or Israel acting aggressively. It could be an actor that wants to instigate a fight. This should worry us.

I do not disagree with Morell and have tended to find him a voice of reason. What also concerns me is a president who is not (nor cares to be) a student of history and is more concerned with perception than reality. Reality is about to bite him on the behind and we have damaged one of our greatest strengths – our allied relationships.