In the past two weeks, the United States’ position in the world has slowly moved from difficult to dangerous. This decline endangers both our domestic political capability to act sensibly and our ability to protect ourselves abroad.
Internally, the confrontation between fired FBI Director James Comey and President Donald Trump made it clear to a solid majority of Americans that the president had tried to force the FBI director to give up his investigation of Russian influence on the president’s key advisers — Mike Flynn, Carter Page and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law.
The American political class is currently in the throes of deciding what to do — subsist with or impeach the president. Can Republicans recognize danger and get their act together?
Top scholar and former U.S. Ambassador Robert E. Hunter put the problem succinctly: No matter how the drama plays out, “there will be unwelcome collateral damage, notably to the effective conduct of the nation’s foreign policy, beginning with a clear assessment of America’s national interest.”
Confusion and dissension are evident. Almost at the same hour Trump was siding with the Arab states in their conflict with Qatar, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis were announcing that our air-defense relations with Qatar are vital to supporting our positions in the Middle East.
It is sobering to remember that a similar blunder by Secretary of State Dean Acheson in 1950 is now considered one of the proximate causes of the North Korean invasion of the south.
New York Times columnist Ross Douthat says no one looking seriously “would doubt that the entire Middle East is on the verge of its own version of a European Great War.”
Indeed, what the Saudis are doing in closing borders and waterways and halting flights is already a traditional definition of an act of war. Can we help stop this before it engulfs our 28,000 airmen and our planes and equipment?
To keep the peace in this area, we rely on the Saudis not to start a regional war because they depend on us for military hardware. We depend on our sometime-enemies the Iranians not to start a regional war because they have no backup, and our friends the Israelis not to get in over their heads.
But once a war starts, all bets are off. Can we risk this by inattention and foolish posturing?
As Trump’s numbers continue to fall — pollsters say he may be headed for all-time lows — will the Republican Party screw up its courage and remove him?
Kentucky’s Republican congressional representation is not encouraging. Only Rep. Hal Rogers has occasionally stood independently for Kentucky and its coal miners — as well as the rest of us.
Sen. Rand Paul is at least opposing the American Health Care Act, which will gut coverage for over half a million Kentuckians, as well as millions of other Americans. Sen. Mitch McConnell is the ultimate sellout — pushing the AHCA and supporting the fickle Trump in whatever he wants to do.
He is a sad comedown from former Kentucky Republican Sen. John Sherman Cooper, who steadily helped the commonwealth while supporting America’s efforts abroad.
And finally, have you heard anything about foreign policy issues from our 6th District Republican Congressman Andy Barr? He’s given canned speeches at his few recent rallies, and likes to spend his time with deep-pocket donors and bankers. He’s a sad comedown in so many ways from our own native son, Henry Clay.
We may not be able to influence directly the great events of the day from Lexington, but it’s time to put real heat on the politicians who are on the very point of screwing this nation up by greed, indolence and stupidity.
John D. Stempel is senior professor emeritus of international relations at the University of Kentucky Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce.