Russian election hacking as a national security issue
The story on the Trump family collusion continues to expand, with more family members reportedly having had contacts, and a former campaign manager's home raided by the FBI. Russia may be finding its efforts to establish ties to the White House frustrating, however, as it forced the removal of over 700 U.S. diplomatic staff from Russia. In response, the United States ordered Russia to close its San Francisco consulate; however, given how far this is from any political centers, the move lacks any real effect.
Black Friday in Foggy Bottom
The State Department continues to hemorrhage top level staff. The shocking number of career diplomats who are taking early retirement means that critical positions are unfilled and that institutional knowledge is lost, leaving the United States in a substantially weaker position on a host of issues. The director for the Bureau of International Organization Affairs is leaving, as is the Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement. (http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/08/27/top-state-department-officials-step-down-in-black-friday-exodus/ ) And early this week the head of the Office of Global Criminal Justice was reassigned to the legal affairs office, effectively demoting and pushing out the top lawyer at State. (http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/08/30/with-departure-of-top-lawyer-state-department-exodus-continues/)
This appears to be a pattern, as Secretary Tillerson's reorganization of the Department eliminates 36 of 66 special envoys or representatives -- including those for Muslim Affairs, Climate Change, and Syria. (http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/08/29/state-department-reorganization-eliminates-climate-muslim-and-syria-envoys/ ) The latter is especially surprising, given the threat of the Islamic State and the lack of formal diplomatic relations with Syria. It all but abdicates our position to Russia.
Lost in Afghanistan
The Afghanistan policy announced last week leaves very little room for nonmilitary capacity building: "...although his approach contains many good elements, his de-emphasis on the need for significant improvements in Afghan governance and political processes is deeply misguided and could be a fatal flaw in the strategy. Even as senior U.S. officials sought to reemphasize the need for improved governance after his speech, his "no-nation-building" words will not be easily erased and send a very wrong signal to Afghan politicians." https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2017/08/29/the-fatal-flaw-in-president-trumps-approach-to-the-war-in-afghanistan/
Face Off on the Korean Peninsula
The DPRK launches another missile over Japan, and again all we see is bellicose and stupid rhetoric from the President. But what's new?