Trust, But Verify…And Confirm…And Clarify…And Double-Check

By Linda Stockton

Richard M. Nixon went to China. It was not, at the time, a popular or even imaginable thing for a sitting United States President to do. After what was basically a twenty-five year “cold war” with China and a level of distrust between the two nations which had been in place for decades beyond that, there were many skeptics, critics and even those who accused Nixon of treasonous collusion. It turned out to be a thawing and the beginning of a trade partnership that, at least initially, was mutually beneficial. His trip was, history has largely born out, a diplomatic gesture of goodwill and grossly mischaracterized at the time.

Jimmy Carter was a peace seeker. Many described him as a pacifist. To oversimplify it, he believed that the Middle East was profoundly misunderstood and that the problem was the Soviet Union. In his tenure as the Commander-in-Chief, he consistently looked to the Soviets as the cause of nearly every and any conflict in the region, and threats of military action against them were numerous….if never really serious. He both condemned and then sought friendship with the likes of Arafat and Amin.

While it is true that Soviet troublemakers have been involved in the chaos and destruction for many decades, Carter had a unique ability to completely disregard any misbehavior on the part of the Middle Eastern nations themselves.  This further froze relations between the U.S and the Soviets and Israel began to doubt our alliance with them as Carter seemed to sympathize with Palestinians. Again, history has proved that the so-called Carter Doctrine in regards to foreign policy was completely in error and we have seen the morphing and fracturing of such groups as Hamas and Hezbollah into even more extremist groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS in the years since.

Ronald Reagan, with his simple but wise maxim, “Trust, but verify,” took a different approach to the Soviet Union. He saw them as enemies but respected their strength and intelligence. He was well aware of their capabilities, but also their desperate social weaknesses and the deplorable class system in which many suffered oppression and poverty. He faced them with a smile, a handshake, and a firm warning: We will embrace you but we will do it on our terms. If not, we have the means and power to destroy you. He gave no other options, he showed no wavering or weakness, and he allowed no critics to sway his determination to end the Cold War. History has proven that his ability to shake hands with the enemy did not result in a capitulation to that enemy’s power or will. History has shown that wisdom outweighs populism.

Barack Obama reinstated relations with Cuba. After fifty long years of sanctions and embargoes, condemnation and friction, trade resumed amid a swirl of criticism towards the President. Accusations, mostly from the right, that he was inviting trouble and disregarding sensible policies set to protect our nation. Some pointed fingers and claimed that Obama was a closet Communist and Castro loving socialist. Others predicted that we would be inundated with even more immigrants that we could not absorb.

Some saw a simple outstretched hand as a symbol of forgiveness for a brutal dictator’s treatment of his people. Again, history will show us in time what this act will accomplish in the long run…whether good or bad for the U.S. But, so far, so good. And Fidel Castro is dead now…we will have to see if and how Raul will respond to us and other nations.  But, the point is that the doomsayers and alarmists who predicted disaster because of a show of acceptance and willingness rather than rejection and hate have been disappointed yet again.

Again, history will show us in time what this act will accomplish in the long run…whether good or bad for the U.S. But, so far, so good. And Fidel Castro is dead now…we will have to see if and how Raul will respond to us and other nations.  But, the point is that the doomsayers and alarmists who predicted disaster because of a show of acceptance and willingness rather than rejection and hate have been disappointed yet again.

This brings us to here and now and President-Elect Trump. And to his Russian “ties” and “sympathies” and “bromance” with Vladimir Putin. Let me be clear: Yes, it makes me very uncomfortable. I don’t like Putin. I didn’t like him when George W. Bush looked into Putin’s eyes and said he saw his soul.  I didn’t like him when Obama told his ambassador that he would “have more flexibility after the election.” And I don’t like it now when it has been proven by our intelligence agencies that top Russian officials likely were involved with attempting to influence our election. But, what I won’t do is call Mr. Trump a traitor.

I won’t label his kind words to another world leader as treasonous. I will not accuse him of being a plant with a mission to take down the U.S. I completely understand that Trump is no Reagan when it comes to wisdom and no Obama when it comes to diplomacy. I don’t even know if he’s up to Carter’s level as far as good (if misplaced) intentions. I am scrupulously avoiding any comparison to Nixon at this time 😏… But, what I do know is that no one knows what his motives or relationships with regard to Russia actually are.

We cannot afford to jump to conclusions about what his intent and vision are with regard to foreign policy, relations and diplomacy. Because, as history has shown us, we are likely to be wrong. I think we should be vigilant and aware of what Trump is doing and when he is doing it. But, I thought exactly the same thing about President Obama. I don’t think that he should continually be convicted of crimes that he might do, or is accused of thinking about doing or has possibly heard about someone else suggesting that he might consider thinking about doing. If he screws up, I will call him on it. If he does something good, I will commend him.

I will not jump on the bash Trump bandwagon just because I don’t like him. I will likely bash him because I don’t like him…but it won’t be because of his governance. It will likely be because of his tweets. Or his annoying ignorance. Or his arrogant, narcissistic bloviating. Or his….well, you get it. But it doesn’t mean he has an evil intent to hurt our country. And, unless he proves otherwise, as he holds the Office of The President of The United States of America, I am willing to Trust, but verify.

 

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