The Dangers Of Know-Nothingness

I don’t know which is more maddening–the ignorance of the voters who were willing to turn the country over to a man who had no concept of domestic policy or world affairs and a clear disinclination to learn–or the hubris of an aggrieved con artist who fancies himself immensely more able than he is.

Trump is a walking manifestation of the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

The New Yorker has published an article detailing the reactions of experts–aka people who actually know what they are talking about–to Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran accord. The article begins by confirming that Iran is in full compliance with the terms of that agreement, and that the other signatories–including countries we consider close allies–all counseled against Trump’s action.

Critics were scathing about the U.S. withdrawal. James Dobbins, a former U.S. Ambassador to the E.U., who negotiated with Iran after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and now works at the RANDCorporation, said that the decision “isolates the United States, frees Iran, reneges on an American commitment, adds to the risk of a trade war with America’s allies and to a hot war with Iran and diminishes the prospects of a durable and truly verifiable agreement to eliminate the North Korean nuclear and missile threat.”

Wendy Chamberlin, a former career diplomat who is now the president of the Middle East Institute in Washington, warned that by forfeiting American leadership in the one successful multilateral deal in the volatile Middle East, Trump risks making a bad situation worse.

The withdrawal from the agreement comes days before the U.S. moves its Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, another controversial decision that has inflamed anti-American passions. “Trump is pouring gasoline on a Middle East in flames already, with his Iran and Jerusalem decisions,” Bruce Riedel, a former C.I.A., White House, and Pentagon staffer who is now at the Brookings Institution, told me.

Trump’s decision also undermines the transatlantic alliance, crafted after the Second World War, between the United States and Europe. The President defied a determined last-ditch pitch by America’s three most important European allies, made during visits by French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the British Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson.

Daniel Kurtzer, a former Ambassador to Israel and Egypt now at Princeton University, said Trump has reneged on America’s word and undermined American credibility.

“The United States used to be the leader, the convener, and the engine of international diplomacy. Trump’s actions have turned us into an untrustworthy and erratic diplomatic outlier.”

Re-imposing sanctions on Iran will create the greatest division between Europe and the U.S. since the Iraq War, Mark Fitzpatrick, the executive director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies office in Washington, told me. “Only this time it will be worse, since not a single European state sides with the U.S. on this matter.” Beyond Europe, American credibility worldwide “will go down the tubes,” he said. “Who will ever want to strike a deal with a country that, without cause, pulls out of a deal that everyone else knows has been working well? America will be seen as stupid, arrogant, and bullying. Pity the poor U.S. diplomats who have to explain this illogical decision to their host countries.”

And then–once again–there’s Russia. As several foreign policy experts have pointed out, Trump’s decision benefits Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin.  It strengthens Russia’s hand and diminishes that of the United States. On CNN, Michael McFaul, a former U.S. Ambassador to Russia, was blunt. “We’re playing into Putin’s hand.”

Is that collusion? Or just Trump’s trademark incompetence?

The Know-Nothings–Trump and his base–don’t care. They are incapable of distinguishing between bluster and substance.

Meanwhile, the rest of us are watching an un-self-aware ignoramus lay waste to America’s global influence and good name.


Sheila Kennedy  May 10, 2018