Among the countless postmortems, deconstructions, critiques, and diatribes of Trump’s meeting with Putin and all that happened thereafter appears this tidbit at Bloomberg. Dan Coats, director of national intelligence, is dubbed a “hero” by writer Eli Lake. I won’t assess why – you’re welcome to read the piece yourself if you wish. The stand-out for me was this nugget:

Coats said on Thursday that he would not advise the president to meet one-on-one with the Russian leader again.

Why?

There’s a long-standing belief in diplomatic circles regarding the conferring of “legitimacy” when a President meets with, shakes hands with, or otherwise engages the head of a hostile state, and therefore such engagements should be avoided in favor of communication by lower-level intermediaries. But, seriously, this is Putin, not some banana republic meathead who cares only about hanging an 8×10 glossy of his handshake on every wall in his palace. And, there’s another reality. Intermediaries are fine and dandy, but decisions percolate up to the top, to one man, and if there’s to be dialogue, sometimes the dialogue is best held by the decision makers.

Coats’ admonition stands in contrast to statements by Senator Rand Paul, who’s catching flak from all sides for defending Trump:

I think engagement with our adversaries, conversations with our adversaries, is a good idea.

I agree. After Helsinki, there’s been a giant chorus of tut-tuts from neocons, globocop Republicans, and militarist conservatives, reprimands that sometimes sound like they’d prefer we roll tanks instead of having face-to-face talks between the heads of America and Russia. This is echoed in concerns over Trump’s response regarding a theoretical invasion of Montenegro.

For the record, I’m with Trump on the notion that the big European members of NATO have been riding America’s coat-tails in terms of their national defenses and their obligations to the treaty. I think that a nation $20T in debt cannot sustain its globocop and Pax Americana position – selective and inconsistent as it is – and that it’s unfair to the American people to underwrite the welfare states in Western Europe by doing so.

I’m also in favor of talks over tanks. I know the concerns, that Trump is an untethered id who’ll be outwitted and outfoxed by Putin, but I still prefer talks over tanks.

Trump recently indicated plans to invite Putin to the White House this fall. Again, good. When communications cease, bad things are more likely to happen.

I get why some are concerned about Trump talking directly to Putin. They simply don’t trust Trump not to screw the whole thing up, and want “adults in the room” to do the talking. This is, in essence, a demand that the guy who got elected be overridden by people who were not elected. Call it “deep state,” call it the permanent bureaucracy, call it whatever you will, it promotes unaccountability, it declares that “your” beliefs are of greater weight than those of your fellow countrymen (weight, not validity – you may very well be right and they may very well be wrong, but you don’t get to cram yours down others’ throats just because), and it diminishes our system of government. For better or worse, Trump’s the guy in charge, just as Obama was the guy in charge before him. We can criticize Trump and his handling of this, and absolutely should when we feel he’s done wrong (and, if we’re loud enough, we can actually get him to walk back those wrongs), but we play a dangerous game when we do things to delegitimize the structure of government or the proper job of the President.

It’s also very dangerous to thump war drums. Not only does failure to back them up cause great harm, should someone call a bluff, actually backing them up with tanks and planes and bombs and dead soldiers is not what I’d call a good outcome, either. Before that tragic road gets taken, there should be talks, talks, and more talks.

Rand Paul is right and Dan Coats is wrong. Engagement is better than a freeze-out.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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