As President Trump nears his 100th day in office, pundits and journalists alike are beginning to publish their critiques, concerns, and complaints. For most outlets, the 45th POTUS represents an ideology that runs antithetical to the very fundamentals of liberalism and democracy—a move that they feel endangers the entire nation. Tensions with Russia are rising. North Korea is growing increasingly agitated. Syria continues to be a hotbed of instability.
However, a select few remain optimistic. Mattis, McMaster, and Tillerson have been affectionately coined “the adults in the room,” serving as level-headed negotiators to calm President Trump’s sporadic and seemingly impulsive behaviors. Many outsiders trust these men to prevent inappropriate, rash, and ineffective policy measures (including a motion to re-institute torture as official policy).
In the abstract, this is a valid and convincing argument. Mattis, McMaster, and Tillerson all possess highly esteemed resumes that impress President Trump’s base while placating hysteria on the Left. However, I approach this with cautious optimism—a Cabinet of nay-sayers is no obstacle for a president hell-bent on pushing policy through.
Those of a sentient age during the George W. Bush administration may remember it as an era characterized by immense patriotism and fervent war rhetoric. I feel that it is important to evaluate decisions made during this time in the context of 9/11 and the damage to the American psyche; however, faulty evidence and narrow-sighted visions led this nation into Iraq and refused to let us out. The 2nd Gulf War was not without opposition—but those who spoke up were steamrolled.
Both Condolezza Rice and Colin Powell were largely ignored during the Iraq invasion. This is perhaps an obvious statement given the brazen lack of State Department presence in the post-Sadaam “nation-building” efforts, but it serves my major point. The position of Secretary of State was simply discounted during the Iraq War, cast aside for the more hawkish Secretary of Defense.
It would be an oversimplification to equate the downsides of Bush foreign policy to the sheer domination of Rumsfeld, Bush, and Cheney. However, it shows that rational voices in the Cabinet, no matter how powerful their positions, can be overruled by the sheer force of a dogmatic president. If President Trump decides to wreak havoc in North Korea, Syria, or Russia (to name a few), it’s up to Mattis, McMaster, and Tillerson to pull the emergency brake. If they can’t, it might be a serious case of déjà vu for the United States of America.