Sunday, February 26, 2017
It may be rather dated story by now, but I received the news of the firing of Trump's National Security Advisor Michael Flynn with great delight. It isn't because I take pleasure in seeing the failures of Trump's new administration. Rather, it is because I think that Flynn was one of the most dangerous people ever to hold such a position of power and influence in the West Wing. It is the National Security Advisor's responsibility to serve as the chief advisor to the president on national security matters, member of the National Security Council, and chair of the Principals Committee in the absence of the president. This should be a non-political and non-ideological position.
Soon after the election, I had speculated that Trump would start to become more educated on matters of intelligence and national security as he received his Presidential Daily Briefs. Even before the inauguration, Flynn interfered in that process, setting the stage for Trump's battle with the intelligence community, and making him distrustful of their information. As the primary advisor to the president on matters of national security, Flynn has been in a position to control the flow of intelligence information to the president. And he has been complicit in shielding Trump from the information the president needs. Let us hope (and we do have every reason to believe) that McMaster, the new National Security Advisor, will take his role more seriously.
Flynn is a loose cannon who has shared intelligence info without authorization and failed to follow security protocols while serving as a general in Afghanistan. Despite that, he went on to become director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and was fired from that position in 2014 by Obama. His leadership was reputed to be chaotic and disruptive, and was met with resistance from both his subordinates and his superiors. But more than that, he directly defied Obama's Middle East policy by trying to turn it into a war between Christians and Muslims. Of course, Flynn hasn't changed his stripes since then, and he continues to spout his dangerously divisive rhetoric. Once again, while Flynn's inflammatory rhetoric plays well with Trump's supporters, we can all be grateful that McMaster takes a much more rational and realistic view of dealing with Islamic terrorists. National security is serious business, and should not be left to ideological zealots.
In the campaign leading to Trump's election, Flynn was an active promoter of fake news and conspiracy theories, including the story about Hillary running a pedophilia ring, which was started by his own son, who was fired from the Trump campaign staff when the source of the story became known publicly. Flynn senior survived that scandal and continued to promote fake news stories and even Russian interests (including the subversion of the presidential election), appearing repeatedly on Russia Today, the state-sponsored worldwide television news and propaganda outlet for Putin.
But aside from manipulating the American public with fake information, Flynn has been manipulating the president himself, working to shape his opinions, especially with regard to establishing a friendly relationship with Putin. By interposing himself between Trump and all national security issues, he filters and limits the information that Trump sees, making him ill-prepared to deal with all manner of real-world events (and especially Russia). In this manner, Flynn has attempted to set himself up as the czar of intelligence and national security. He was even reported (by his own son) to have proposed eliminating the Director of National Intelligence, and having all intelligence agencies report directly to himself. This might be just another fake news story, but I, for one, am quite happy that we won't get a chance to find out.
With the removal of Flynn, a major source of concern and a major source of danger to our national interests has been alleviated. This is a significant victory for those of us who care about what happens to the United States, as well as to our allies around the world. But there is still plenty of cause to be worried about what Trump might do. Trump is easily manipulated, and needs to have responsible adults around him who place the interests of the nation above their personal ideology and the desire to obtain power. There is one more key staff member in Trump's administration whose removal would be still better news for all of us: Steve Bannon.