Sources close to the transition describe Trump’s national security staffing as a “black box,” leaving everyone from Obama administration officials to Trump job seekers and foreign diplomats guessing at who will land crucial positions shaping policy and managing crises.A story in The New York Times has similarly alarming news:
Much of the speculation focuses on the [National Security Council]....
But the Trump team has also not yet announced any appointments below the Cabinet level for the departments of State or Defense, leaving many more important posts open days before Trump’s inauguration.
"This isn't getting attention it deserves. Who will run and implement policy? Right now there is a big vacuum," Max Boot, a military historian and fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, tweeted Tuesday....
“Unlike State, which can rely on its bureaucracy, the NSC has to be ready on Day One as most of its old team leaves,” said Philip Gordon, who held senior NSC jobs in the Obama and Clinton White Houses. “In a normal world, even before a single presidential phone call or meeting or decision the NSC team would prepare background, points, facts, etc. They will not have a team ready to do that.”
The Obama administration has written 275 briefing papers for the incoming Trump administration: nearly 1,000 pages of classified material on North Korea’s nuclear program, the military campaign against the Islamic State, tensions in the South China Sea, and every other kind of threat the new team could face in its first weeks in office.And yet all we're told is that "a Trump official" assures us that "members of the team had read some of the memos and praised their quality." Oh, good -- they've read some. (I'd have felt better if that had been "the bulk of the memos" or "the key memos." "Some" is not reassuring.)
Nobody in the current administration knows whether anyone in the next has read any of it....
N.S.C. officials began drafting briefing papers for the next administration last summer. Some focused on nuts and bolts: How do you arrange meetings? How do you circulate information to the agencies? Others discussed the evolution of administration policies or contingency planning for crises. Most were three to five pages to make them easy to digest.
I don't know the extent to which the president-elect has thought about this. I can't imagine he's particularly focused on it.
And really, why should he be? Now, I'm not the sort of person who thinks Trump and his crew want an international crisis.
It's all so familiar. Almost as if they want a terror attack to give them an excuse to start a war and clamp down on civil rights! https://t.co/R0FW6u6DxX— SuburbanGuerrilla (@SusieMadrak) January 18, 2017
On the other hand, there's no question that, because he's a Republican who acts like a tough guy, his approval ratings will shoot to 90% if, for instance, there's a major terrorist attack on the United States, even if it later turns out that the attack happened because the administration was asleep at the switch. If there's another kind of foreign policy crisis, even if it's one the administration could have headed off, Trump's numbers are also likely to rise.
I don't think there's a cynical calculation here, but I'll note that being under attack is Trump's comfort zone. He likes to offend his enemies; when they respond, he lashes out and his fans cheer. The rhythm of Trump's life requires this. And because (like George W. Bush) he was born into wealth and has never known poverty despite failing badly in business, he simply hasn't developed the habit of being alert to the possibility of disaster, which is a survival instinct for most people. Hey, disaster has never hurt him much, has it?
Bush seemed to stumble into a situation in which being attacked paradoxically brought him glory. I don't think he saw that coming. Trump expects that to happen when he's attacked. He thinks he's the toughest SOB anywhere, and he clearly would like to deal out the ass-kickings he thinks he's extraordinarily capable of dispensing rather than work to head off crises.
He probably doesn't think he needs to do any work whatsoever to avert crises. I'm sure he thinks he scares would-be enemies of America just by writing nasty tweets. It doesn't work that way, but he doesn't know that. So prepare for the worst.
Oh, but according to The Washington Post, Trump has done some thinking about how he'd like to use the military:
“Being a great president has to do with a lot of things, but one of them is being a great cheerleader for the country,” Trump said. “And we’re going to show the people as we build up our military, we’re going to display our military.Parades. He's thinking about military parades.
“That military may come marching down Pennsylvania Avenue. That military may be flying over New York City and Washington, D.C., for parades. I mean, we’re going to be showing our military,” he added.