Learning from History

When it first appeared that Donald Trump was a serious presidential candidate, close friends tried to ease my fears of a Trump White House by suggesting that, if elected, he would surround himself with “leading experts.” These experts would aid him in making important decisions, both in domestic and foreign policy matters. To appreciate the importance of these staffing decisions, one needs only look back to the last President who won the presidency while losing the popular vote, George W. Bush.

Although he had some administrative experience, having been the governor of Texas, Mr. Bush knew little of foreign policy upon taking office. He had a likeable and strong personality (I am the decider) but was not particularly fond of reading or listening to a detailed examination of the pros and cons of any issue. Author Jean Edward Smith in his monumental work, “Bush,” suggests that Bush’s first truly colossal mistake was to delegate to his vice president, Dick Cheney, the task of selecting the players who would surround the president as he formulated his policies. Cheney selected highly partisan figures who told the president only what he wanted to hear and did not press alternative points of view.

A close examination of the deliberative process that surrounded the inner circle of John F. Kennedy’s White House during the Cuban Missile Crisis reveals the absolute necessity for a robust exchange of varied points of view as well as the presence of a commander in chief who possesses the ability to make well-informed critical assessments. The intellectual prowess that President Kennedy demonstrated in his pointed questioning of the generals who favored a military confrontation with the Soviet Union was all that stood between us and World War III.

Sign Up for E-News

George W. Bush, in the aftermath of 9/11, needed an easy target. One of his main advisors who had the president’s ear was a neoconservative by the name of Paul Wolfowitz, who was a strong advocate of “regime change” in Iraq. Even though there was absolutely no evidence that Iraq had aided the terrorists who had attacked us, Bush succumbed to Wolfowitz’s point of view that taking out Saddam Hussein would be an easy victory and certainly make Americans feel that we were “winning” the war on terror. Secretary of State Colin Powell, in his memoirs, “Soldier: The Life of Colin Powell,” describes how frustrating it was to get the president to look at the complexities and nuances of policy and not see everything in stark black-and-white terms. Powell persuaded the president to take his case to the United Nations. With no real evidence of the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Powell was forced to do President Bush’s bidding and implore the United Nations to take action against Iraq.

In the end, President Bush committed what many believe to be the worst foreign policy blunder in our country’s history—the invasion of Iraq. Without provocation, the United States invaded a country that posed absolutely no threat to our security and safety nor had harbored or aided in any way terrorists who we were seeking at the time. In the process, Bush established two catastrophic policies that no one in his inner circle dared challenge: the Bush Doctrine, which condoned the use of pre-emptive force, and the unbridled use of torture in contravention of the principles of the Geneva Convention. As time went on, even his loyal inner circle finally began to express discontent. But, the Bush White House was not built such as to allow a lively exchange of opposing points of view; therefore, when Secretary Powell courageously voiced strenuous objections to Mr. Bush’s ill-conceived policies, he was replaced. The president’s ego was such that he refused to reconsider his position. Bush loyalist Donald Rumsfeld, in his fascinating book, “Known and Unknown: A Memoir,” chronicled a similar fate when he dared to challenge the Boss’s course of action.

Bush believed that he was on a mission—which he often described in biblical terms—to bring western-style democracy first to Iraq and then to the entire world. If history has taught us anything, it has taught us that whenever we try to impose our will on other lands, no matter how well-intentioned, it ends up being an expensive recipe for disaster. The invasion of Iraq was no different; the price tag in both monetary and human terms was enormous. We lost close to 5,000 young men and women while the Iraq death toll was over 500,000 men, women and children. Monetarily, it is estimated that we spent north of $2.4 trillion ($6 trillion if you include the military action in Afghanistan). In the end, all we succeeded in doing was to lethally destabilize the region and lay the groundwork for the birth and growth of ISIS.

President-elect Donald Trump, like George W. Bush, is neither an avid reader nor a fan of detailed examinations of the pros and cons of policy. He has said that he likes to rely on his gut. His campaign certainly demonstrated his propensity to say whatever is on his mind no matter how absurd or extreme. Similarly, he sees the world in black-and-white terms (winning and losing) while rejecting the suggestion of a nuanced reality. These facts alone make it imperative that he surround himself with a diverse group of well-informed and experienced advisors who can balance Mr. Trump’s initial impulses with a more-seasoned view, taking into account our history and long term goals.

Unfortunately, as I write this column, it appears that this will not be the case. Mr. Trump is choosing advisors whose only qualification is loyalty, and not expertise. For example, one of the president-elect’s first choices, Stephen Bannon—who will serve as a senior advisor to the President—is the executive chairman of Breitbart News, a far-right news and commentary website noted for its connection to hate-oriented positions. His selection alone will only exacerbate the rift that is so clearly evident in our country.

No one knows what crisis awaits our country in the next four years. One can only hope somehow, some way that the course of action chosen by the new president is sound and wise. To think otherwise is just too painful.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TAPinto.net or anyone who works for TAPinto.net. TAPinto.net is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


God Is Just! Schneiderman Is Out!

Whenever you doubt that God is just, remember last Monday. That is the day New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman resigned.

As you know, I have had him in my sights for a long time. He has squandered our tax dollars with more than 100 lawsuits against the Trump administration. Plus, his lawsuits against Big Oil and trying to nullify our double jeopardy laws. Most will go nowhere as ...

A Scientific Look at Decision-Making

Seven years ago, when I first began sharing my thoughts with you, I posed the question: What are the neurological mechanics of decision-making? I was referring not only to decisions about our actions, but also to the method by which we form our beliefs and preferences, political and otherwise. What inspired that inquiry, at that time, was my observation that our nation was increasingly polarized ...

Bias in Media, in Me, in You

While listening to an interview with a voter on my car radio, I thought I had excess ear wax that obstructed my hearing. The voter (whose name is Bruce) said this about one of the qualifications that a Senate or House candidate must have to earn his vote: “I don’t want anyone with ideas. We have enough of those already.”

I’m a journalist and have been one my entire ...

Cross My Legs and Hope to Die

One morning, I had a big cup of coffee as I usually do, and then I got in the car and drove 40 minutes to a clothing store I had been curious to check out. I don’t normally drive 40 minutes to go shopping, but since I am a stay-at-home mom and everyone knows we stay-at-home moms just spend our time shopping and eating bonbons, I figured, “What the hey.”

Having had the ...

Don’t Mix Politics with Business

May 17, 2018

When every year is an election year, it’s hard to avoid “talking” politics—but business leaders need to try.

The problem is that talking politics changes relationships. You quickly go from business owner or salesperson to Democrat, Republican, etc.

Putting a political sign in front of your business is a clear sign (literally) of your views. Not only do you tell your ...

Upcoming Events

Wed, May 23, 8:00 AM

Mercy College, Yorktown Heights

Business Enterprise and Employment Opportunity ...

Business & Finance

Fri, May 25, 10:30 AM

Yorktown Community Cultural Center, YORKTOWN HEIGHTS

Tai Chi for Women with Cancer

Health & Wellness

Sat, May 26, 12:00 PM

Club Fit, Jefferson Valley

Yoga for Women with Cancer

Health & Wellness

Yorktown Youth Soccer Club Roundup

May 18, 2018

YORKTOWN, N.Y. – Yorktown’s Girls U9 Team, the Hurricanes, defeated the Poughkeepsie Fireflies with a 1-0 win at Hunterbrook Field in Yorktown.

Hurricane’s goalies Cameron Parise and Avery Pugliese shut out the Poughkeepsie offense with several key saves. Yorktown controlled the ball throughout the game with outstanding performances by midfielders Samantha Nastasi, Macey ...