I've been trying to figure out Trump's foreign policy. Key to my confusion is listening to Donald Trump. So I turned to Michael Flynn to try to resolve it. His views seem to have "evolved" from when he was still in the military to the present moment. Not too long ago he conceded that the rise of ISIS/Al Qaeda was the responsibility of George W. Bush and the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003. At one time he was in charge of our Defense Intelligence Agency. During that time he was in charge of interrogations. He was in charge of "torture lite" while in the military, he did shut down the amateur hour "torture heavy" efforts. Now he says;
"I felt the country was at such risk and I was advising five of the candidates running for president. They all reached out to me … Carly Fiorina, Scott Walker, Ben Carson Ted Cruz, and Donald Trump. … They would ask me about national security, what’s happening in the world, my thoughts on particular issues." CNN_Flynn
Trump firt went to Russia while still:
"in the military [while director of the Defense Intelligence Agency]. I went there on a fully approved trip. I had a great trip. I was the first U.S. officer ever allowed inside the headquarters of the GRU [Russian intelligence]. I was able to brief their entire staff. I gave them a leadership OPD. [Professional development class on leadership] and talked a lot about the way the world’s unfolding." CNN_Flynn
He admits that:
"We were working closely with them on the Iranian nuclear deal." CNN_Flynn
Ultimately with Russian and Chinese cooperation we got a Nuclear Deal. Thanks to Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry's efforts. He, like Kerry, doesn't want to give them any credit for making such a deal for partisan reasons.
Bullying the Arabs
Flynn talks about demanding respect in return for continual aid from the USA. He maintains that we have to demand a relationship with Arab (and NATO) members:
"to be one based on respect and acknowledging that there is a cost for not doing that. There is a cost." CNN_Flynn
In that first part it sounds like he is talking about mutual respect. But he's talking about "respect" mafia style. He literally contradicts himself later in the same interview:
"you can put a different set of demands on these guys. Our conversations have been too polite. Our conversations have been political conversations with political people who try to be politically correct and not with people who can say, okay, what is it we want to have going forward? CNN_Flynn
Flynn is closer to Trump's views than Pence is. Like with Bush signing the Status of Forces agreement they blame Obama for, they criticize our involvement and then call for more involvement. Both seem to want to send in more troops, but bully the Arab states to pay for them. Maybe they want to invade Saudi Arabia next.
Why was he fired?
But I wrote this article as a vehicle for answering the question of why Flynn was fired. The answer is that apparently Flynn had his own ideas about Military Strategy. The Wasington Post reports:
"In 2010, Flynn rankled many of his counterparts in the intelligence community when he published an article that was sharply critical of the information that spy agencies were assembling in Afghanistan. The effort was so focused on tracking insurgents that U.S. military and diplomatic leaders got little to help them understand the political, economic and cultural issues driving the insurgency." [Washington Post]
The reality is that the article illustrated Flynn's frustration with fighting an insurgency that it was obvious the senior brass wanted no part of. The Washington Post reported:
"Flynn clashed with other high-ranking officials, including Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael G. Vickers. Officials said Flynn had opposed Vickers’ efforts to make significant cuts to large intelligence centers established to support the U.S. military’s regional overseas commands. A former CIA operative, Vickers has sought to model the DIA’s training and overseas presence more closely on its civilian counterpart, according to current and former U.S. officials." [Washington Post]
Flynn wanted the DIA to be more involved in the conflict. Not less.
Business Insider shared the "water cooler" arguments:
"Flynn attempted to push DIA analyses and operators into the field and other high-intensity operations. This ran counter to how the DIA saw itself, leading many to believe that Flynn's vision for the agency was disruptive." BI Article
He wanted to make DIA more like the Joint Special Ops Forces he'd run before coming there.
"Flynn's critics also maintained that his management style was chaotic and that his aggressive push for changes often did not include an adequate follow-through." BI Article
If you are going to integrate field battalion level Intelligence with Brigade level and Division level intelligence, then you institute policies to do so with the collaboration and cooperation of the people involved. Flynn wrote an article on the subject, but he doesn't seem to have followed through with his talk. And since he was the man in charge, it was his job to develop a plan and execute. He had taken over an intel operation that was using "Torture Heavy" techniques strait out of the Inquisition or the Russian playbook. He would implement less heavy handed "torture lite" techniques that met the Geneva Conventions (barely). He'd take credit for the "new" methods.
"Flynn previously served as a senior intelligence officer for the Joint Special Operations Command. During this time he was credited with creating innovative interrogation techniques leading to significant breakthroughs in counterterrorism operations in Iraq and Afghanistan." BI Article
I'm not sure what he actually did. But I can guess that he stopped the heavy handed methods and had his interrogators applying more FBI style questioning methods. I'm not sure he stopped the extreme isolation and sensory deprivation techniques, but I know Obama ordered him to.
Michael Flynn seems to have been actually booted for not respecting the chain of command, assuming that the Obama Administration and joint chiefs, had "no strategy" and for pushing for changes that would have required more boots on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, than anyone wanted to put there. His 2010 report "Fixing Intel" pushed for better intelligence integration, and more focus on understanding the local politics and culture. However, the strategy that the administration is pursuing is to pull out of direct action in Iraq and Afghanistan not to send in more Troops and DIA agents.
Calling Out Islamic Extremism
Of course he says he was booted for calling out Islamic Extremism. In a Washington Times Article:
“As brutal as Saddam Hussein was, it was a mistake to just eliminate him,” Gen. Flynn said. “The same is true for Moammar Gadhafi and for Libya, which is now a failed state. The historic lesson is that it was a strategic failure to go into Iraq. History will not be and should not be kind with that decision.” [Washington Times]
After saying that, he then contradicts himself! Saying we need:
"Iraq-style boots on the ground operation and the same type of coalition Mr. Bush assembled for Iraq is needed to defeat the Islamic State. He stressed the importance of giving Arab nations a leading role in the conflict, but he said Western troops would have to do much of the heavy lifting." [Washington Times]
Essentially he seems to want us to re-invade the Middle East!
Which is of course exactly the strategy he criticized when talking about President George Washington Bush! So the problem isn't that Obama and the Joint Chiefs don't have a clear strategy it is that he has his own ideas and doesn't like any strategy they might come up with. But essentially has no strategy that would reduce the human carnage of folks from the United States.
He also hints at the real problem with our efforts against ISIS:
“if we catch them financing, if they funnel money to IS, that’s when sanctions and other actions have to kick in.” [Washington Times]
He blames Obama for financing ISIL, but he neglects that our real problem is that our Sunni Allies are often on both sides, or ambivalent, about stopping ISIL, that the rebels against Assad are often half in the ISIL camp and that this is a thorny diplomatic subject due to the oil regime. The strategy he seems to want to pursue is to enlist Russia and Assad to help us attack ISIL, while bullying the Sunni Arab Gulf States. I'm sure that would work as well as invading Iraq or toppling Qaddafi. Meanwhile Trump talks about simply stealing the Oil.
- 2010 Report "Fixing Intel: http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/AfghanistanMGFlynn_Jan2010.pdf