Trump’s Sin: Conducting Foreign Policy Without Permission

Over at Instapundit, Glenn Reynolds posted an interesting message from a Facebook friend who wishes to remain anonymous. Here’s the relevant part:

Following the death of Soleimani, it seems like nearly the entire DC / academia / journo natsec/forpol commentariat has penned variations on exactly the same essay: the President has acted hastily, has no plan, and isn’t capable of envisioning or handling what happens next. The template was established by Ben Rhodes on Twitter a few hours after an MQ-9 Reaper shot a Hellfire missile directly into his professional legacy, and it hasn’t varied much since. . .

What nearly the entire DC / academia / journo natsec/forpol commentariat actually means by its critique, though, is that they weren’t included in any of this.

This instantly reminded me of an observation the late great political scientist Aaron Wildavsky made way back in 1986 over the uproar over Reagan’s failed disarmament deal at the Reykjavik summit with Gorbachev. If you are old enough you may recall the foreign policy establishment/media freakout, which was, however, contradictory. How could Reagan have been so stubborn as to refuse to give up his fanciful “Star Wars” missile defense scheme in exchange for near-total nuclear disarmament, and how could Reagan be so reckless as to have gone along with a rapid and potentially destabilizing disarmament scheme without consulting our allies?

Wildavsky, a sophisticated and pathbreaking political scientist, thought the matter quite simple:

The contempt hurled at President Reagan over the principles nearly agreed to at Reykjavik reveal the intellectual bankruptcy of his critics. . .  One cannot but feel that much of the violent reaction to Reykjavik had no more substantial basis than the extreme pique felt by arms control intellectuals at not being consulted in advance.  That was Ronald Reagan’s real sin in Iceland. For what, after all, was wrong with Reykjavik except that it lacked the imprimatur of the foreign policy establishment?

I tend to think the “deep state” talk is overdone (and is also distinct from the deeper constitutional problem expressed in the similar phrase “the administrative state”), but in this instance it might well be the right way to think about the freakout the foreign policy community is having over Trump’s decision to kill Soleimani. Trump didn’t have their permission!

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