By Daniel Larison
July 12, 2016 “Information Clearing House” – “American Conservative” – Michael Flynn is a retired general and former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and he is currently beingvetted by Trump’s campaign as a possible running mate. Flynn’s name has also come up in the past when people have tried to identify Trump’s possible foreign policy advisers, so it is worth considering Flynn’s view of the world in a little more detail. He has co-written a book with the hard-line fanatic Michael Ledeen, and seems to have turned to Ledeen again to write an op-ed to promote that book. This is what he says:
We’re in a global war, facing an enemy alliance that runs from Pyongyang, North Korea, to Havana, Cuba, and Caracas, Venezuela. Along the way, the alliance picks up radical Muslim countries and organizations such as Iran, al Qaeda, the Taliban and Islamic State.
That’s a formidable coalition, and nobody should be shocked to discover that we are losing the war.
There’s a lot wrong with this, and if Trump agrees with even half of it his foreign policy is sure to be even worse than most people expect. Flynn recapitulates all of the errors of the hard-liners that used to rave about “WWIV” and “Islamofascism,” and he echoes the absurd theories espoused over the years by Rick Santorum and others like him. Just as Bush did with his harebrained “axis of evil” claim, Flynn lumps together states and groups that have little or nothing to do with each other, and he thinks sworn enemies are working together as part of a fictional “alliance” arrayed against us. To make matters worse, he believes this grab-bag of terrorists and third-rate dictatorships represents a “formidable coalition” that is somehow winning a global war that isn’t really being fought. The “authoritarian axis” that some people dreamed up a few years ago still doesn’t exist, and it can hardly be at war with anyone.
To be blunt, a group of states that includes Cuba and Venezuela is the opposite of formidable. Venezuela’s government is mainly a menace to its own people, and the country has become such an economic basketcase that the biggest threat it poses to anyone outside the country is if the regime collapses from its own failures. Cuba was removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism last year in belated recognition that the government hadn’t done anything to merit being on the list in years. North Korea is a horrible and dangerous regime on its own, but it isn’t part of some “global war” effort. Iran isn’t in league with Al Qaeda or ISIS. On the contrary, Iran actively fights against both in Syria. Flynn’s “analysis” amounts to taking every adversarial state and group around the world and pretending that they are all linked together when the connections between them are either tenuous or non-existent. It is an ideological fantasy substituting for analysis, and it isn’t going to make the U.S. or anyone else more secure.
Flynn’s specific recommendations seem to involve endless warfare against what he calls the “the terror armies, above all in the Middle East and Libya,” which would commit the U.S. to an unknown number of conflicts for the foreseeable future that would only be concluded when we “win.” In other words, Flynn offers a recipe for perpetual war in predominantly Muslim countries, and if we take his rhetoric about the “enemy coalition” seriously he may be talking about waging wars in other parts of the world as well. His willingness to blur distinctions between disparate and mutually hostile groups suggests that the U.S. would find itself fighting multiple enemies at the same time. Flynn also thinks that the U.S. should “clearly and forcefully attack their crazy doctrines,” which credits our government with a degree of competence and cultural understanding that it has not demonstrated in decades. The U.S. could denounce various foreign leaders as “false prophets,” as Flynn suggests, but why would anyone inclined to listen to these “false prophets” care what Washington said about them? Likewise, “insisting on the superiority of our own political vision” is all very well, but it would achieve nothing except to intensify resentment against the U.S.
There are many reasons why Flynn would be a poor choice as Trump’s running mate, but his warped foreign policy worldview and dangerous policy recommendations must be among the most important.