Tuesday, June 6, 2017

What did Donald Trump do today?

He took credit for the diplomatic shunning of Qatar by other Middle Eastern nations, even as US intelligence officials were concluding that a Russian disinformation campaign was the real trigger, and the US military was stressing its continued partnership with Qatar.

Yesterday, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and several other middle eastern countries broke off diplomatic relations with Qatar, a small oil-rich country on the Persian Gulf. Qatar has been controversial in regional politics for some time, and some of its wealthier citizens are believed to have collaborated with Iran in the funding of violent militia groups. This morning, Trump claimed that his recent visit to the region was the precipitating event, and even suggested that by doing so, he may have personally brought about "the beginning of the end of the horror of terrorism."

There are at least two problems with Trump taking credit for this development. The first is that the United States is heavily dependent on use of Qatari airfields for its operations throughout the Middle East. American diplomatic and military officials were quick to pour oil on the waters, with Defense Secretary James Mattis referencing Qatar's prominent role in anti-ISIS campaigns and adding that he was "positive there will be no implications coming out of this dramatic situation at all."

The other problem is that American intelligence officials now believe that the real cause of the diplomatic rift was a disinformation campaign undertaken by Russian government hackers--or "fake news," as Trump would put it--designed to destabilize the relationship between the US and its allies.

What's so bad about that?

  • Presidents should check with their military, diplomatic, and intelligence agencies before tweeting about matters that involve all three.
  • It's bad to take credit for things you didn't do, and it's bizarre for a president to take credit for things that don't seem to benefit the United States.
  • Presidents who are this easily manipulated by fake news are not capable of doing the job.