Mike Flynn Was Forced Out Of Office For The Stupidest Possible Reason
For a whole host of reasons, Gen. Mike Flynn has always been an extremely worrisome figure. He was clearly one of the few people on Earth with an ability to directly shape Trump’s worldview, which was at first inchoate and scattershot, and then over the course of the 2016 campaign materialized into something slightly more cohesive. To the extent that Flynn exerted influence over Trump, it was to encourage some of Trump’s most malign instincts: namely, the blanket criticism of Islam as some kind of sinister Civilization-destroying force, against which the United States must be at perpetual “War.” According to Flynn, one of the most important things any public servant can do is intone the phrase “Radical Islamic Terrorism” with a sufficiently ominous inflection, as if those are the magic words that will “restore American leadership” and reinvigorate U.S. foreign policy with the “strength” that had been so sorely lacking.
On top of that, Flynn’s view of Iran is simply nuts, and his melodramatic announcement earlier this month that Iran would be “Put On Notice” is the kind of clunky force-projection nonsense which could easily lead to some kind of war outbreak. Iran poses no meaningful threat to the United States, but a claque of National Security types want to continually impart to Americans that they must be very diligent about countering this non-existent menace — Flynn merely embodies the most unhinged incarnation of that kind of thinking.
So if there’s anything Flynn ought to have resigned over, it’s one of the above: his loony Islam theories which are liable to provoke some kind of conflagration, as well as his Iran bellicosity, which was also liable to provoke some kind of conflagration. But the fact that he resigned over the least offensive aspect of his public portfolio speaks volumes about the establishment groupthink that infects Washington: what really roiled the “nat sec” types was his supposedly illicit communications with… Russia. Of course.
For memory-refreshment purposes, here’s the underlying offense Flynn committed, which was the impetus for so much consternation, and eventually led to his having to resign:
As one of his last major foreign policy actions, Obama had imposed a round of rash punitive measures against Russia, escalating hostilities with that nuclear-armed power as retribution for the purported “hacking” that it had carried out during the 2016 presidential campaign. The public evidence for this “hacking” has always been completely hazy, but its occurrence was accepted as incontrovertible truth by all Serious persons, so Obama chose to expel Russian diplomats from the country and impose sanctions — worsening U.S./Russia relations in such a manner that would clearly cause problems for his successor.
So Flynn gets on the phone with the Russian ambassador, and says what amounts to, “Hey fellas, don’t overreact here, a new Administration is imminently entering office and we’ll reevaluate the situation then.” That’s…incredibly innocuous. If anything, it was advisable; encouraging Russia to not overreact, and thereby potentially sour relations with the incoming Administration, was a prudent course of action and probably to the benefit of U.S. foreign policy. Ironically, it was Obama who acted hastily in this circumstance, not Flynn.
Prudence is not known to be one of Flynn’s most visible traits, but he exhibited it here: so of course that’s what caused the foreign policy establishment to utterly flip out. Not the Iran alarmism; not the Islam conspiracy theorizing. The pursuit of accord with Russia was the real nonstarter.
The context for their freakout is that “Intelligence Community” operators were already incensed at Trump for doubting its claims regarding “Russian hacking,” and Trump-CIA warfare had spilled out into the open in a fashion that really was unprecedented. Trump, then the president-elect, literally likened the U.S. intelligence community to the Third Reich. That’s not a statement that will be soon forgotten within the Deep State bureaucracy.
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So last night Flynn resigns, ostensibly because he “misled” or “lied to” Mike Pence about the nature of his conversation with the Russian Ambassador — the contents of which were only known because intercepts were selectively leaked by unnamed “officials” to the Spooks’ favorite house organ, the Washington Post.
Again, the underlying offense — conveying to the Russian government that the new administration will seek detente rather than increased hostilities — was innocuous, and even prudent, but that was the straw which broke the camel’s back for Flynn. The public explanation for Flynn’s termination appears to be that he made the Vice President look bad, but that appears very likely to be a cover story, designed to obscure the fact that Flynn was under mounting internal pressure from Natsec agitators. (Of course the Administration wouldn’t outright admit this, as it would make their position look weak.)
It’s not even clear that Flynn lied. He says in his resignation letter that he did not deliberately leave out elements of his conversations with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak when he recounted them to Vice President Mike Pence. The New York Times and Washington Post reported that the transcript of the phone call reviewed over the weekend by the White House could be read different ways. One White House official with knowledge of the conversations told me that the Russian ambassador raised the sanctions to Flynn and that Flynn responded that the Trump team would be taking office in a few weeks and would review Russia policy and sanctions. That’s neither illegal nor improper.
(Yes, I’m well aware of the myriad problems with Eli Lake, but that doesn’t mean he’s wrong here.)
That’s why it’s ridiculous for #TheResistance to cheer this as some kind of victory, rather than the product of Deep State machinations that they’d probably loathe in any non-Trump context. Flynn being undesirable doesn’t necessarily make brazen Deep State power plays desirable.
All this saga will do is encourage Democrats to pursue their frenzied Russia line of inquiry with even more vigor; it will also place pressure of Republicans to abandon Trump, for fear of being seen as abetting the sinister designs of the Russian menace:
But this is certain liberals and neoconservatives have always wanted: Deep State intervention.
Normally intercepts of U.S. officials and citizens are some of the most tightly held government secrets. This is for good reason. Selectively disclosing details of private conversations monitored by the FBI or NSA gives the permanent state the power to destroy reputations from the cloak of anonymity. This is what police states do.
Flynn was only forced out because elements of the national security state who wield massive power decided to extra-legally leak his phone conversations. Isn’t this a tactic which liberals could easily envision being used against them at some later juncture?
Celebrating this move is incredibly myopic, but myopia is to be expected when liberals’ sole goal in life is to Make Trump Look Bad, regardless of ancillary consequences. Those who claim to be worried about the rising tide of authoritarianism, but nevertheless herald this event, show that it’s not stemming authoritarian overreach they’re after, but cheap political gamesmanship.