Weekly Letter to the President
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INAUGURATION, January 20, 2009
Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape
To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.
The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.
Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.
--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
--- Native American proverb
July 24, 2020
Mr. President: The recent whistleblower complaint against Secretary of State Mike
Pompeo accused him of questionable activities. Aside from using State Department
staff for personal use like running errands, there is the more serious: Apparently, he
has approved controversial arms sales secretly without proper congressional
It also turns out that the department's own Inspector General, Steve Linick, was about
to conclude an investigation into all this and file his report, when he was fired by
President Trump. Shenanigans may be de rigueur for the Trump administration, but
there is a wider question:
Is there a Trump foreign policy? That is, aside from crawling back into a shell like a
frightened mollusk to the contempt of friends and rivals alike. Well, retreat is a policy
but 'making America great again,' Trump's famous MAGA does not appear to be
The U.S, military umbrellas defending Europe and Japan also enhance trade. And if
Russia is not looking for full-scale war, it is not averse to economic advantage.
Neither is China ... as has happened with Iran.
Threatening Iran with war in search of a 'better' deal, Mr. Trump has scrapped a
nuclear agreement to the consternation of European signatories. Iran has since
jumped into China's open arms which also embrace Russia. Pakistan used to be a
long-time ally of the U.S. but its treatment after the Afghan war has led to a festering
resentment; and with Pakistan goes Afghanistan. Pakistan is also bonded strongly to
China and has been for decades. All of which has left India as Trump's new friend,
although backing India against China might be not unlike betting on a mangy draft
horse against a thoroughbred.
Thus the new alignments. China, Iran, Russia, Pakistan and Afghanistan on one side
of India and China's ally Myanmar on the other. That is not all. Trump is pulling out
of Iraq. Its Shia-centered government and Syria's are closely allied with Iran as are
Lebanon's Shia, now the most powerful sect (thanks to Iran) in the country. Indeed a
sorry picture particularly after the $2.5 trillion Iraq and Afghanistan wars, plus the lives
lost on both sides ... that run into the hundreds of thousands in the countries torn
apart. The long-term effects are apparent in the refugees crowding Europe that Mr.
Trump is busy banning from the US.
So what is US foreign policy? Damned if I know. A hodge-podge of actions seemingly
taken by an unstable drunk setting a fire that has changed the landscape. And the
A peek out of that mollusk shell reveals a new world with existential challenges like
climate change, a raging pandemic, and a disappearing middle class as good jobs
vanish. It is a time to focus on renewal, to tackle global problems in concert with other
nations, equitably without trying to win at the other's expense. The Art of the Deal,
borrowing the title from that book you ostensibly wrote Mr. Trump is not winning but
reaching a fair deal that keeps both sides happy. And thus willing to work together
towards common solutions to the difficult problems ahead, problems requiring global
not unilateral solutions.