Muftic: Chaos in the White House makes America vulnerable (column)
February 21, 2017
A White House in chaos is a danger to our national security. This is a period when those who want to do us harm see a softness in our ability to respond with a unified voice and is at risk. They see no clear chain of command needed to respond effectively in case of a national security crisis. For our own sakes, let us hope that the Trump administration corrects the situation as quickly as possible.
It may be that the uncertainty caused by the inexperience and peculiarity of President's personality traits might give pause to a wannabe attacker. Any reaction, say to a 9/11 size event, might make an attack a gamble knowing Trump is so impulsive. On the other hand, taking advantage of a situation when the chains of command, the boundaries of power, or its policies have not been clearly established, might be seen by an attacker as an opportunity. The danger is that to understand us better, they will test us to see how we react such as parking a spy ship near our coast or firing off a missile test, which has already happened.
With the firing of General Michael Flynn, his controversial National Security adviser, Trump's first choice to fill the post, retired Vice Admiral Robert Harward, bowed out for family reasons, though some close to him said Harward was also worried about access to the president and the ability to choose his own staff. He announced his new pick Monday, Lt. General H.R. McMaster, which is a step toward more order. Donald Trump has denied disarray in the West Wing, asserting his administration was running like a "fine tuned machine". Views that there was chaos came from Leon Panetta, former Secretary of Defense and past CIA Director and Senator John McCain.
Who possibly could stand in the way of a national security adviser's access to the President? The closest to President Trump is Stephen Bannon, the former head of Breitbart Media, an ideologue of the farthest right with a stated goal to disrupt the Establishment.. He maneuvered to be appointed the National Security Council where such coordination of the flow of information from State Department, intelligence agencies, and the Pentagon takes place.
Even with a well coordinated and competent leadership of the West Wing, we have had a history with national security fumbles early in an administration. The George W. Bush administration was staffed at higher levels with experienced men from the outset before 9/11, but were so focused in other matters, such as filling lower vacancies and legislation, they had not devoted enough attention to the warning signs noted by the FBI of some Saudi individuals taking pilot training, even in the face of well known attempts abroad by terrorists to turn a commercial plane into a weapon. The new security team is headed for a rocky shake down cruise.
Confusing those abroad, friends and foe, have been mixed messages delivered by VP Mike Pence in his recent tours of Europe and NATO and Nikki Haley, the new US ambassador to the UN regarding policies toward Russia . They seem to contradict Trump's coziness with Russia , speaking with a harder line toward Russia.