VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- A new 150-page Pentagon white paper asks why Russia is winning the race for global influence. A better question: Why is America losing that race? It might have something to do with a lack of discipline, evident in a freewheeling foreign policy vulnerable to special interests and self-serving grifters looking to make a quick buck from the chaos.
It's the same foreign policy responsible for the fact that Iran is back to aggressively enriching uranium. And really, who can blame the Iranians? Nuclear power gets respect -- and photo ops like the one last week between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Even the CIA had confirmed that Iran was holding up its end of the bargain and not enriching uranium under the nuclear deal struck between Iran, the European Unionand the members of the U.N. Security Council (plus Germany). The Trump administration reneged on the agreement anyway and then made it a burden for other nations to uphold their part, lest their multinationals end up criminally charged for violating Trump's reimposed sanctions.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says Iran's uranium enrichment is unacceptable.
"The United States is committed to negotiating a new and comprehensive deal with the Iranian regime to resolve its threats to international peace and security," Mr. Pompeo said.
Seriously? You HAD that. Why would Iran, or any other country, have any interest in good-faith negotiations with the U.S. when it has already demonstrated a propensity to shred agreements whenever the mood strikes?
Mr. Trump has criticized the Iran agreement as "defective at its core." His administration balked at the lifting of sanctions, which allowed Iran access to billions of dollars in frozen assets. The anti-Iran hawks in Washington have fever dreams about that money ending up in the hands of their sworn enemies. Instead of dreaming up hypothetical scenarios, why not focus on how the weapons America has sold to its allies have made the world a more dangerous place?
The New York Times reported last week that markings on four American anti-tank Javelin missiles found at a compound controlled by the leader of a Libyan rebel group indicate that they had been sold by the U.S. to the United Arab Emirates. The UAE is the primary supporter of U.S. citizen Khalifa Haftar's coup attempt against the internationally recognized government in Libya -- which itself was installed after a U.S.-backed coup that resulted in the death of Muammar Gaddafi.
Chaos attracts profiteers -- not only the kind who have defense-contractor relationships with the Pentagon, but also two-bit chancers.
There have been reports of private citizens trying to sell the Trump administration on letting them take over the war in Afghanistan, or help overthrow Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. One can only imagine the pitches these guys are dreaming up for Iran.
Even Rex Tillerson, Mr. Trump's former secretary of state, was reportedly shocked by how untethered foreign-policy freewheeling is from government control. Testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee earlier this year, Mr. Tillerson said he was angry when he learned that White House advisers Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner had a private dinner with leaders of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, discussing plans to blockade Qatar without input from the State Department. The meeting took place just weeks after Kushner had sought a business loan from Qatar and was denied.
Mr. Tillerson also told the committee about walking into a Washington, D.C.-area restaurant and seeing the Mexican foreign secretary dining with Mr. Kushner:
"And I could see the color go out of the face of the foreign secretary of Mexico as I very -- I smiled big, and I said: 'Welcome to Washington.' And I said: 'I don't want to interrupt what y'all are doing.' I said: 'Give me a call next time you're coming to town.' And I left it at that.
"As it turned out later, the foreign secretary was operating on the assumption that everything he was talking to Mr. Kushner about had been run through the State Department and that I was fully on board with it. And he was rather shocked to find out that when he started telling me all these things that were news to me, I told him this is the first time I'm hearing of it."
Does anyone think that the Russian foreign minister would walk into a Moscow restaurant and see Vladimir Putin's son-in-law holding a meeting with another nation's foreign minister without his knowledge?
Big government may be a drag, but foreign-policy anarchy clearly isn't a good alternative, either.
Rachel Marsden is a columnist, political strategist and host of an independently produced French-language program that airs on Sputnik France. Her website can be found at www.rachelmarsden.com.