Reports surfaced yesterday that President-elect Donald J. Trump has offered the role of national-security adviser to retired three-star Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. Flynn had been among a number of controversial advisers to the Trump campaign, including alt-right media mogul Steve Bannon, who will serve as chief strategist in the Trump White House. Nevertheless, the reaction inside the Beltway to Flynn’s appointment is revealing of the foreign-policy establishment’s preference to antagonize, contain, and demonize Russia, Syria, and Iran (for all intents and purposes the new and improved neocon Axis of Evil) rather than focus on the Salafist terror threat that has struck in as varied and far-off places as Baghdad, Beirut, Paris, Brussels, and San Bernardino.
Nevertheless, in Flynn, Trump has found someone who clearly shares his penchant for indulging in dog-whistle rhetoric. He once infamously tweeted “Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL.” No surprise, he also boasts ties to some of the more unhinged elements of the neoconservative movement like the author Michael Leeden. A neoconservative polemicist who is currently “Freedom Scholar” at the rabidly neoconservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Leeden was Flynn’s co-author on book Field of Flight, which was praised by none other than former Senator Joe Lieberman as a “strategic plan by General Flynn of how to win the global war against radical Islam and its big power supporters. The leaders of the next American administration would benefit from reading The Field of Fight.” In an op-ed in (where else?) the New York Post promoting the book, Flynn stated his belief that the United States is 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.”
In other words, we must wage global war for global peace. What could possibly go wrong?
In addition to Flynn’s manifest militarism and his controversial comments on Muslims, his alleged ties to Russia have also been the focus of much speculation. In July, Clinton campaign mouthpiece Vox explained, “There’s one other important thing to know about Flynn: He is weirdly, strangely friendly with Vladimir Putin’s regime.” The proof Vox trotted out for this assertion was a December 2015 dinner Flynn attended in Moscow to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the state-run media outlet RT. Still more damning, Flynn, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency and a commander in Iraq and Afghanistan, “sat at the head table, with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and had delivered a talk on his view of foreign affairs today beforehand.” Fans of Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein may remember that so-called “liberal” media outlets like MSNBC made similar play over Dr. Stein’s attendance at the same dinner.
Flynn came under fire for his “pro-Russia” stance by Politico’s Michael Crowley, who sneered, “Flynn now makes semi-regular appearances on RT as an analyst, in which he often argues that the U.S. and Russia should be working more closely together on issues like fighting [ISIS] and ending Syria’s civil war.”
Yet despite the braying of the Beltway media class, Flynn’s Russian connections are likely nonexistent; yet there are other very real reasons to be concerned with his appointment. One often overlooked contradiction at the heart of the Flynn’s alleged pro-Russian bias is his repeated condemnation of the Iran nuclear deal, behind which Russia was a driving force. After the deal was signed, Flynn observed, “Russia is the big winner in this deal as they are backing an Iranian program knowing that they can also sell to the Iranian antagonists in the region and make double the money on arms and nuclear technology.” According to Flynn, with the Iranian nuclear deal, “The U.S. gets nothing but grief.” In his view, “the U.S. and others were too anxious to get any deal. We gave up all our leverage.” Sounding a lot like candidate Trump, Flynn continued, “We got beat by a nation of expert negotiators who got everything they wanted and needed from the deal for only making promises of allowing future observations.”
In the end, Flynn’s appointment is yet another worrying sign that the administration of Donald J. Trump will, like the Obama administration, be held captive to the reigning foreign-policy orthodoxy of interventionism and militarism that has done such damage to America and the world over the past 15 years.