President Trump went to our Capital city with an intention to drain the swamp.
Good luck with that. However, if I’m not mistaken, the swamp in that Chesapeake area was drained at about the time President Washington took office, over 200 years ago, and Congress decided to build us a Capital in that environs.
Now two weeks into the Trump administration we already see some rearrangement of the chairs from which our multi-layered executive branch of governance will administrate.
With Gen. Michael Flynn’s resignation as National Security Advisor, all the media talking heads were abuzz yesterday with speculation about what this early switcheroo means for the future of our security and national defense. Trump’s shoot-from-the-hip leadership style seems to impose on his nascent administration a wild wild west kind of drama upon which the media talking heads thrive.
In order to gain some comprehension of what is happening on that national security front, I, citizen, was listening on my radio yesterday to Tom Ashbrook’s NPR talk-show On Point.
Host Tom’s introduction of his 2/15/2017 guests included a few words about William Burns, who is President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
That mention of the Carnegie Endowment triggered a 2015 memory in which I had been walking along Massachusetts Avenue in Washington, DC. On that summer day, I had snapped this pic:
I suppose I had thought to take this picture because the legacy of Andrew Carnegie in our national development has, for a long time, fascinated me. His work as an immigrant industrialist turned out to be a fulcrum in our exceptional westward continental expansion. Carnegie’s role, in later life, as a generous philanthropist is legendary.
So Ambassador William Burns’ role as President of that Carnegie foundation for peace got my attention. Furthermore, I found Mr. Burns’ comments to be informative and well-delivered.
I daresay it was the voice of experience glinting through in his cogent analysis that lent authenticity to Ambassador Burns’ observation. William Burns’ former role (2005-08) as Russian ambassador certainly lent to his perspective a readily identifiable authenticity on the currently hot topic of Russian influence in our internal affairs. It seemed to me his perspective is not that of your run-of-the-mill inside-the-beltway pontificator, but rather, a truly informed opinion.
Our former Ambassador to the Russian Federation said,
“New administrations typically try to do a couple of things early on. The first is reassure your allies and partners, and the second is to sober your adversaries. What we’ve seen in less than a month is almost the opposite of that, creating a fair amount of unease among allies and unnerving partners, while at the same time giving adversaries and potential adversaries the sense that there are opportunities out there.”
After hearing this, and listening to yesterday’s On Point discussion, I visited the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace website. I read there an Op-ed letter written by William Burns that the New York Times had published on Jan. 7.
In the letter, he describes Vladimir Putin as a leader who is playing rough.
He observes that Putin has sought a deferential government in Kiev while grabbing Crimea and trying to provoke a dysfunctional Ukraine.
Vladimir is flexing Russia’s military muscle in Syria to preserve Assad’s brutal government, thus emasculating the West by making us appear conciliatory. The Assad/Russian brutality forces many war-displaced Syrians to flee toward Europe and the West. Putin’s Assad-boosting military adventure thus spawns the infamous emigration that destabilizes those countries to which the Syrian refugees flee. Putin exploits this ongoing destabilization by striving to replace, by strong-arm intimidation, European instability with Russian power.
This scenario becomes evidence of our need to maintain our “absolute commitment to NATO.” William Burns writes, “Our network of allies is not a millstone around America’s neck, but a powerful asset that sets us apart.”
I agree with this statement. American alliances based on shared values and principles that cultivate liberty do set us apart from the bullies of the world–the historical ones such as Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Pol Pot, Castro, Chavez etc, but also those dictators who may be lurking in the world today, waiting for an opportunity to pounce on weakened nation-states.
Ambassador Burns served in Moscow as our Ambassador during 2005-2008. He expresses respect for the Russian people and their contributions to Western civilization. But he warns that Putin’s aggressive tactics must be countered with American firmness and vigilance. We Americans should remain confident in our enduring strengths, and unapologetic about our values.
Our values call for, I remind you, government of the people, by the people and for the people.
Not power plays by bullies.