May 8, 2020 – President Trump’s mismanagement of the Coronavirus response — and the resulting public health and economic crises that the nation faces — has obscured his administration’s broader ongoing national security malpractice. But it hasn’t gone away. Far from it. As all eyes are on Coronavirus, the Trump administration continues to mismanage and neglect global challenge after global challenge — many of which the administration either created itself or has needlessly exacerbated.
As the Coronavirus crisis continues, National Security Action will provide regular updates on the national security and foreign policy challenges that continue to deteriorate under the radar:
China: Trump’s approach to China has been exposed for what it is: empty, fawning, and entirely self-interested. Trump himself signaled that China may not meet its trade purchases, despite touting the deal in January — and prioritizing it over America’s public health must when he should have been heeding countless warnings. This follows on Trump’s unconvincing ploy to put a spotlight solely on China’s failures during the pandemic rather than on his own profound and tragic mistakes.
Immigration: Trump’s all-out assault on immigrants and the values that underpin our immigration system has only accelerated. His invocation of emergency authorities has made it all but impossible for unaccompanied minors to enter the country as refugees. He has threatened to withhold federal funding necessary for local COVID responses from sanctuary cities. And he pushed (again) to corruptly transfer billions of dollars from the Pentagon to accelerate his expensive and ineffective border wall, including a $500 million insistence on painting it black.
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Arms Control: A group of nonproliferation experts warned this week that the Trump administration is “blundering towards nuclear chaos,” an assessment reflected in developments around the world. While Trump rushed to praise Kim Jong-Un after his re-emergence in public, denuclearization negotiations are at a standstill as North Korea continues to accelerate its program. In Iran, Trump’s “maximum pressure” strategy is doing little but cause suffering, and the administration last week admitted it would attempt to rely on provisions in the Iran deal, despite having withdrawn from the pact two years ago. Adding injury, Trump appointed a special envoy for arms control who has a record of “dismantling or blocking” effective agreements.
Climate Change: Trump’s climate denialism continues unabated, despite its devastating consequences during the coronavirus crisis. In the past week, Trump accelerated efforts to drill, mine, and cut timber on public lands and announced plans to roll back safety measures that regulate offshore drilling operations. All the while, scientists continue to sound the alarm: a new report in the National Academy of Sciences projects that climate change could result in 1 to 3 billion people living in extreme heat by 2070.
Endless Wars: For all of his empty promises to extricate America from endless wars, Trump has only made matters worse. Trump vetoed a war powers resolution to constrain the use of armed force in Iran, keeping the door open to another disastrous conflict in the Middle East. U.S.-Taliban negotiations remain on life support. ISIS attacks in Iraq doubled in April. And, to hide our deepening involvement, the Pentagon announced that it would no longer provide regular updates on the number of airstrikes in key theaters, including Afghanistan, despite calls from Democrats for much-needed transparency.
Venezuela: Trump and Secretary Pompeo denied involvement in the botched effort to overthrow Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro, not long after the State Department placed a $15 million bounty on Maduro for information leading to his capture or conviction. The chaos and questions around the affair only drive home Trump’s erratic and incoherent approach.
Human Rights: Trump’s silence on global human rights abuses has been deafening. In the Philippines, a U.S. ally, the government shuttered the country’s largest broadcast network, which had been critical of the president. India’s anti-Muslim government has used a counterterrorism law to arrest journalists and activists, continued its ban on high-speed internet in Kashmir in the midst of coronavirus, and launched a concerning surveillance application to track citizens. In Russia, three doctors have mysteriously fallen from hospital windows in the past two weeks after complaining about a lack of PPE. In Lebanon, months-long protests against government corruption and ineptitude are again growing volatile.
Domestic Extremism: Trump is encouraging anti-government protests as he pushes states to reopen despite the fact that most of them have not met White House guidelines for doing so. Trump’s encouragement has given license to armed militias, conspiracy theorists, and white supremacists to join and organize anti-lockdown demonstrations, with dangerous consequences. This month, for example, authorities arrested a Colorado man in possession of four pipe bombs.
We are former senior officials and policy experts, academics and civil society leaders who have seen first-hand how the United States is stronger, safer and more respected in the world when we stand strong with our allies, pursue principled diplomacy, and stay true to the values that have long defined America at home and abroad. www.nationalsecurityaction.org