Trump has dismissed the US intelligence coordinator Dan Coats and nominated John Ratcliffe, a Texas Republican, to replace him.
A full-blown defenestration announced and executed in mere days. For many, this would be business as usual, as the Trump administration has seen a succession of substitutions over the course of the President’s term owing to his volatile nature; ever willing to drive employees out as soon as their popularity begins to wane.
It’s a simplistic explanation, which fails to take into account what has really been going on within the imperial court in recent years. In fact, if we limit ourselves to these notable defenestrations, and their profound effect, something entirely different has happened.
Secret wars in the White House
Trump had selected a fairly moderate team, spearheaded by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and National Security Advisor Raymond McMaster (succeeding Michael Flynn, who was quickly overthrown by Russiagate).
The underground war against the White House, waged by neocons and liberals using Russiagate, as well as something altogether murkier, has backed Trump increasingly into a corner, undermining what had been promised (and what he himself had promised) to do during the election campaign.
Appeasing Putin, in particular, has proven to be a haphazard approach, even if something of substance has come from it. Exploring a potential agreement with Xi Jinping for a new China-Russia-United States world order has not even been a possibility since Trump has been obliged to go down the route of full-scale confrontation (Piccolenote).
The agreement with North Korea is still suspended, even if some signs of it do remain, and withdrawal from the Middle East (including disengagement with Iran) has fallen through.
As a business owner who knows all about compromising when under pressure, Trump has relented on everything he could, throwing his staff overboard to stay afloat; onboarding John Bolton in place of McMaster and handing the administration’s keys over to the neocons both for the appointment granted to the US hawk and for the influence of the person in question.
Tillerson, who had defended the Iran nuclear deal, is now replaced by anti-Iran saboteur Mike Pompeo on the proviso that he supported reconciliation with North Korea. This was something he has only done in part and, even then, sometimes managing to sabotage things (so much so that Kim Jong-un was moved to say to Trump that he does not appreciate his “gangster-like” stance).
Mattis, whose career has made him the administration’s strongest moderate, is the last to be sacrificed, even if it’s not in order to onboard a hawk into his position down to the veto of the US military apparatus, which over the years has developed an opposition to crazy warmongering by the neocons. What remains, is a weaker Secretary of Defense than Mattis casting a shadow over the almost omnipotent Bolton.
All in all, the neocon’s stance on the war had so far paid off, almost succeeding in isolating Trump. This was seen in the recent crisis where a US drone was downed by Iran, and the president, pressed by his own side to carry out a raid as punishment, just about managed to stop it.
The Coats sign
The defenestration of Coats indicates a turnaround, which may or may not be temporary. Much has been made of a loyalist being chosen (obviously he needs people he can trust …).
Others added that Ratcliffe could open up an inquiry into how Russiagate came about (see the in-depth article by The National Interest), as is hoped by Trump who attributes it in particular to “corrupt” Hillary Clinton.
But what is equally significant is the fact that Coats had been openly critical of Trump’s breakthrough with Putin and played down chances of an agreement with North Korea, directives which the new Director of Intelligence will nevertheless presumably favour instead.
What’s more, the Director of Intelligence is a “close adviser to the president and the National Security Council, producing each day’s top-secret Presidential Daily Brief”. (Axios).
Trump will, therefore, be able to exploit it to undermine the siege to which he is subjected by his internal adversaries.
The nomination comes at the end of Russiagate, which sees Trump actually acquitted and therefore stronger.
He will most likely want to play the card of an inquiry into Russiagate in view of the upcoming elections, but he will also want to detoxify the air around him a bit in an attempt to revive, as much as possible, those foreign policy directives the scandal had denied him. Overseas successes are particularly useful for electoral campaigns.
In this way, Ratcliffe’s appointment is also a sign to the world to say: “Yes we can”.
Translation by Natalie Payne