Posted tagged ‘Foreign Policy’

US twin sea buildup against China, NKorea, Iran

February 19, 2017

US twin sea buildup against China, NKorea, Iran, DEBKAfile, February 19, 2017

The conventional thinking until now was that, in the event of an Iranian clash with the US or Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, Tehran would push back by blocking the strategic Strait of Hormuz. Today, American forces have been placed in position to prevent Iran from blocking the Strait of Mandeb, and so choking the main sea route used by oil and merchant shipping sailing to and from the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal, by posting missile bases on Yemen’s western Red Sea coast.

*********************

Donald Trump marked his first month as US President with two major military gambits in the Middle East, Asia and the South China Sea. Early Sunday, Feb. 19, the US Navy said that the Nimitz-class USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier and strike group had begun patrols in the disputed waters of the South China Sea. With them are three air squadrons coming from their Naval Air Station Lemoore: the USS Lake Champlain guided missile cruiser and two guided missile destroyers, the USS Michael Murphy and the USS Wayne E. Meyer.

The deployment comes after Beijing’s warning that a US naval unit sailing near the disputed Spralys, where China has built islands and a military presence, would be seen as a violation of sovereignty, which the US and Japan refuse to recognize.

The Trump administration’s move therefore opens up a potential arena of confrontation between the US and China.  It also caries a message for North Korea, which Trump has called “a big, big problem and we will deal with that very strongly.”

A week ago, on Feb. 12, North Korea launched a missile, using new “cold eject” technology which makes it possible to fire a missile from a submarine. Military experts in Washington and Jerusalem estimate that once Pyongyang has perfected the system, it will be passed to Tehran, an eventuality covered in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s White House talks with President Trump last week, our sources reveal.

Our military sources add that while Washington has publicly announced the transfer of a naval-air force to the South China Sea, the deployment of the large 11th Marine Expeditionary Combat Unit to the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea is being kept low key.

The conventional thinking until now was that, in the event of an Iranian clash with the US or Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, Tehran would push back by blocking the strategic Strait of Hormuz. Today, American forces have been placed in position to prevent Iran from blocking the Strait of Mandeb, and so choking the main sea route used by oil and merchant shipping sailing to and from the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal, by posting missile bases on Yemen’s western Red Sea coast.

The 4,500-strong contingent of MEC marines and sailors is supported by the fighters and attack helicopters on board the USS Makin Island amphibious assault ship, the USS Somerset amphibious transport and the USS Comstock dock landing ship. Their task is to keep the strategic waterway open and safe.

The deployment of the USS Cole destroyer around the strait was announced on Feb. 3, days after a suicide boat attack by Yemeni Houthi rebels on the Saudi frigate Al Madinah off the Yemeni port of Al Hudaydah.

DEBKAfile’s military analysts note that the deployment of these naval and air forces in two international maritime arenas offers President Trump a flexible operational scenario. He can order one of those forces to go on the offensive as a warning to hostile elements in the other one – or go into action in both simultaneously – for example the US could strike North Korean and Iranian targets synchronously.

In line with these moves, a US flotilla departed its Arabian Sea base at Duqm in Oman on Feb. 12 and is sailing towards Bab Al Mandeb.

Tehran reacted Monday, Feb. 20, by embarking on a large-scale three-day military exercise titled Grand Prophet 11. Gen. Mohammed Pakpour, commander of the Revolutionary Guards ground forces, announced that the drill would include missile launches, without specifying their types or ranges.

Iranian leaders have repeatedly stated that they would not allow American warnings to deter them from their missile program, any more than Pyongyang hesitated to fly in the face of those warnings. Those warnings are now backed up by America’s sea and air might in combat positions.

Champagne time: it’s a “bloodbath” at the State Department

February 17, 2017

Champagne time: it’s a “bloodbath” at the State Department, Jihad Watch

(Next? How about the “intelligence community?” — DM)

Break out the hats and hooters: the failed State Department establishment, which has applied and reapplied and reapplied again failed policies that have been shown to be based on false analysis time and time again (Poverty causes terrorism! Islam is a religion of peace!), is finally being cleaned out. May this swamp-draining long continue.

rex-tillerson

“It’s a bloodbath at the State Department,” New York Post, February 17, 2017:

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is cleaning house at the State Department, according to a report.

Staffers in the offices of deputy secretary of state for management and resources as well as counselor were shown the door Thursday, according to CBS News.

Many of those let go were on the building’s seventh floor — top-floor bigs — a symbolically important sign to the rest of the diplomatic corps that their new boss has different priorities than the last one.

The staffing changes came as Tillerson was on his first foreign trip — attending a G-20 meeting in Bonn, Germany.

“As part of the transition from one administration to the next, we continue to build out our team. The State Department is supported by a very talented group of individuals, both Republicans and Democrats,” State Department spokesman RC Hammond told CBS.

“We are appreciative to any American who dedicates their talents to public,” he added.

This week’s round of firings marks the second time State Department personnel have been cleared out since President Trump took office last month.

Four top officials were cleared out of the building at the end of January….

Is This The Coup the Left Wanted?

February 15, 2017

Is This The Coup the Left Wanted?, The Resurgent, February 15, 2017

trumpandflynn

There is no evidence that Donald Trump’s campaign and Russian intelligence cooperated to steal the election from Hillary Clinton. But the New York Times waits for the third paragraph of this sensational story to tell you. First, they want you to know intelligence sources say Trump campaign staffers had multiple, repeated contacts with the Russians.

What we are seeing is an intelligence community trying to sabotage the President of the United States. We should all be concerned even if we have our own concerns about the President and Russia.

It is more and more apparent that, while Mike Flynn misled Vice President Pence and should have been fired, we only know this because members of the intelligence community engaged in an opposition research dump on Flynn with the media. They engaged as a separate and distinct branch of government, and that is a dangerous situation.

The left is cheering on the outcomes, as are some on the right, but they are all ignoring the process. When the intelligence community ceases to serve the Commander-in-Chief and instead tries to sabotage him because they do not like the direction he is taking the country, they are putting their interests ahead of the voters and the electoral process.

The same problem exists with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and its decision on the immigration order. In large part, the court based its decision on Donald Trump’s campaign statements that he wanted a Muslim ban. At first blush, that may seem legit to people but consider Barack Obama and Obamacare.

Chief Justice John Roberts upheld Obamacare’s constitutionality because he said it fell under the taxation powers of the constitution. But Barack Obama had campaigned on Obamacare saying that it was not a tax. Had the Supreme Court used President Obama’s campaign statements against him, they would have thrown out Obamacare.

While one may cheer on the outcome from the Ninth Circuit, they should not cheer the process and flawed legal reasoning.

Both the intelligence and court situation raise troubling issues. By cheering outcomes based on deeply problematic processes, people are rapidly moving towards “ends justify the means” reasoning. That will bring about the very creeping authoritarianism the left fears from Donald Trump.

They cheer this on now because it is working to their advantage as rogue leakers try to undermine a President they do not like. But it will eventually happen to them. By then they will have surrendered any and all moral high ground to cry foul.

The intelligence community serves at the pleasure of the President, not the other way around. The President must be able to depend on the intelligence community’s assessments. Right now, the intelligence community is causing a breakdown in trust with the Trump Administration through leaks designed to undermine his authority.

If a terrorist attack on our soil happens because the President felt he could no longer trust the intelligence community’s assessments, that will be on them. This behavior, in a democratic republic, must be considered unacceptable.

It is possible to be happy Mike Flynn is gone and also be deeply bothered by the means through the intelligence community designed his ouster. People on all sides should be speaking up loudly that the behavior of the intelligence community in damaging leaks is unacceptable.

Finally, we know that Mike Flynn intended to reform the intelligence community and expose side deals made with Iran to secure a diplomatic agreement. President Trump should commit to replacing Mike Flynn with someone as hell-bent on reform and exposure of the Iran deal as Mike Flynn was. The intelligence community cannot be rewarded for bad behavior that undermines the democratic processes of this nation, even if some of us are happy Mike Flynn is gone.

What Hath Barack Wrought?

January 8, 2017

What Hath Barack Wrought? PJ Media, Michael Walsh, January 7, 2017

obama-salman-saudi-sized-770x415xtObama and Saudi “king” Salman (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst – RTS77JX

Over at the Weekly Standard, my friend Lee Smith — one of the shrewdest voices in American journalism on the subject of the Middle East and foreign policy — takes the measure of the Obama administration’s foreign policy. It ain’t pretty:

The Obama chapter in American foreign policy ends like the climax of an action movie—with a fireball growing in the distance and filling the screen as a man in silhouette approaches in slow motion and then veers off camera. Barack Obama has set the Middle East on fire, and now it’s spreading.

The Obama administration’s nuclear agreement with Iran has emboldened the world’s leading state sponsor of terror, which now makes war openly in four Arab states (Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen) and is a growing threat to Israel and Saudi Arabia. The deal with Tehran that Obama boasts of as his signature foreign policy initiative guarantees, as the president himself acknowledged, that Iran will have an industrial-scale nuclear weapons program within 15 years.

After a 40-year absence from the Middle East, Russia has returned to the region, where it bombs Syria’s schools and hospitals as America and Europe watch helplessly. Washington’s traditional regional allies are scrambling to adjust to the new reality, which for the likes of Israel, Jordan, and Turkey means an opportunistic power on their borders that is allied with their existential enemies.

For Europe, the millions seeking refuge from the conflagration are agents of potential instability on the continent in the years to come; some in their midst are terrorists plain and simple. In just four years, or one presidential term, a civil uprising that started in Syria became a great Middle Eastern war over a host of sectarian, religious, and political hostilities dating back centuries.

Naturally, the country’s first affirmative action president doesn’t see it that way; no doubt, by his lights, he’s still every bit the equal of FDR and Abraham Lincoln he’s always thought himself to be. For a chief executive like Barack Hussein Obama, coddled practically from birth by a series of handlers, sycophants, media worshipers, excuse-makers and hagiographers, being an utter failure means never having to say you’re sorry.  The half-black president with the Muslim name was supposed to at least bring some cultural empathy to the thorny, if not to say intractable, problems of the Middle East — not just the eternal Arab-Israeli conflict but the even more eternal Muslim-Muslim conflict, not to mention the collateral damage of the one-sided Muslim-Christian conflict. That he hasn’t solved any of it is not his fault, but that he has exacerbated it most surely is.

Critics and even admirers of the president say that Syria will be a stain on his record. But that’s not how Obama sees it. The death and suffering of so many undoubtedly pains him, as he says. He says he wonders if he could have done anything else. Of course he could have, but he believed he had better reasons not to….

Obama’s foreign policy issued in part from his understanding of global realities but more from his interpretation of the American character. He believed that Americans tend to make a mess of things around the world. Obama is like a narrator in a Graham Greene novel; in our relations with the rest of humanity, as he sees it, we are 300 million naïfs abroad, whose intentions may be good but who lack the tragic sense that the rest of the world feels in its bones.

So who’s the naif now? Obama was less a Graham Green figure than Mark Twain’s Innocent Abroad. The way Smith sees it, Obama’s entire rationale was to wean America from what he saw as its shoot-first second nature; his entire foreign-policy apparatus became Dickens’ Circumlocution Office from Little Dorrit, dedicated to the proposition of How Not to Do It:

The Circumlocution Office was (as everybody knows without being told) the most important Department under Government. No public business of any kind could possibly be done at any time without the acquiescence of the Circumlocution Office. Its finger was in the largest public pie, and in the smallest public tart. It was equally impossible to do the plainest right and to undo the plainest wrong without the express authority of the Circumlocution Office. If another Gunpowder Plot had been discovered half an hour before the lighting of the match, nobody would have been justified in saving the parliament until there had been half a score of boards, half a bushel of minutes, several sacks of official memoranda, and a family-vault full of ungrammatical correspondence, on the part of the Circumlocution Office.

This glorious establishment had been early in the field, when the one sublime principle involving the difficult art of governing a country, was first distinctly revealed to statesmen. It had been foremost to study that bright revelation and to carry its shining influence through the whole of the official proceedings. Whatever was required to be done, the Circumlocution Office was beforehand with all the public departments in the art of perceiving — HOW NOT TO DO IT.

And that’s the Obama foreign policy in a nutshell. Of course in domestic affairs, the Choom Ganger from Punahou has been the exact opposite, baldly lying about such sub-rosa proclivities as same-sex marriage and hairy transvestites in the ladies’ loo until he was well past his final election. In both areas, however, he’s been a disgrace to the office and to the country, and we will be well rid of him when he finally leaves on Jan. 20.

Obama’s foreign policy, in the end, was not primarily about the rest of the world—it was about transforming the character of America. So where are we eight years on? Gelded, as he intended.

And, to coin a phrase, that’s one of the many reasons we now have Donald Trump. America never has been and never will be a neutered metrosexual among nations. As the Obama-ites are about to find out.

Facing North Korea and Iran, Trump Must Strengthen Nuclear Deterrence

January 3, 2017

Facing North Korea and Iran, Trump Must Strengthen Nuclear Deterrence, National Review, Tom Rogan, January 3, 2017

Ultimately, the nuclear issue is just one challenge the incoming Trump administration faces in foreign policy. The U.S. needs a new strategy of realist resolution. After years of Obama’s fraying credibility with allies and foes alike, the United States must resume leading. Kim Jong-un and Iranian supreme leader Khamenei are arrogant. If given an inch, they will walk the nuclear mile. And history tells us that great power and totalitarian zealots rarely blend positively.

***********************************

How President Trump should strengthen America’s ICBM-deterrence posture. Like Big Brother in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un holds absolute power. And Kim, the same as his father and grandfather, wants to forcibly unify the Korean peninsula under a xenophobic ideology of self-sufficiency.

Since the end of the Korean War, the Kims’ wacky “Juche” ideology has sparked Western laughter as much as fear. We have rightly assumed the Kims are deterred by their understanding that a conventional-arms conflict with America would destroy them. While the U.S. has had to occasionally reinforce this conventional deterrence, it has been sustained for 60 years.

Over the weekend, Kim Jong-un announced that the North’s development of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) is advancing rapidly. Unless America appeases him, Kim warned, he will build a “preemptive striking capacity with a main emphasis on nuclear force.” Recently successful rocket tests suggest we should take Kim at his word.

Still, it’s not just North Korea the West should be concerned about here.

Today, alongside other malevolent activities, the Islamic Revolutionary Republic’s ballistic-missile research is advancing unabated. In his wisdom, President Obama decided to exclude a ban on such research from his legacy Iran deal. He lacked the threat-of-force credibility to compel the Iranians to cease their missile development. Unfortunately, when Iran perfects ballistic-missile technology, it will break the nuclear deal. By then, sanctions relief will have made Iran tens of billions of dollars richer.

Collectively, these developments threaten not just the stability of international peace, but the civilian population of the United States. They demand a robust response in U.S. nuclear-deterrent posture. President Trump should deliver it.

First, Trump should reform the Iran nuclear deal to include prohibitions on Iranian ballistic-missile development. This is the realist compromise between scrapping the nuclear deal entirely and attempting to make it work better.

Second, Trump should enforce a new, proactive strategy to deal with North Korea’s increasingly advanced ICBM program. Whereas, in the past, the U.S. has simply monitored North Korean missile tests, stronger action is now required. North Korean ICBMs demand it. After all, the base-minimum range of an ICBM is 3,400 miles. But seeing as 1960s-era Soviet and U.S. ICBMs easily exceeded 6,200-mile ranges, we must assume North Korean ICBMs will exceed the minimum range. And with just 125 miles more than the minimum, North Korea could strike Darwin, Australia. An extra 270 miles would put Anchorage, Alaska, in range. Hawaii, a little over 4,300 miles from North Korea, would also be vulnerable.

Countering this threat, Trump should supplement the U.S military’s multi-phase missile-defense programs. He should publicly announce that if the North tests an ICBM, he will establish three North Korea focused missile-test defense sectors. Trump should be clear that any North Korean ICBM that enters or passes these sectors will be shot down. U.S. military planners would, of course, fine-tune such proposals, but here’s one example of what the defense zones might look like.

Trump could establish a northern sector — focused on protecting Alaska — off the Japanese coast in the Sea of Okhotsk. Second, a western sector — focused on protecting Hawaii and the U.S. west coast — could be set up approximately 1,000 miles west of Midway Island, at the southern tip of the Emperor seamounts. Third, a southern sector — to protect Australia — could be established south of Palau Island between Papua and Papua New Guinea. These sectors should be maintained by U.S. Navy destroyers and cruisers (and hopefully allied assets), equipped with the Aegis missile-defense system.

Next, Trump should clarify his willingness, where facing imminent nuclear attack, to use nuclear weapons in a “first strike” role. That demand is urgent because President Obama has equivocated on this fundamental precept of U.S. nuclear-deterrent posture. Namely, the understanding that U.S. nuclear weapons serve both deterrence (preventing an attack) and capability (destroying an enemy). A retained first-strike capability is necessary to prevent the loss of millions — or tens of millions . . . or hundreds of millions — of American lives in a nuclear showdown. Yes, ideally, the U.S. would be able to use conventional non-nuclear capabilities to achieve that objective. But idealism is a dangerous master. For one, U.S. military pilots might not be able to penetrate enemy air defenses in time to prevent a ballistic-missile attack. Similarly, conventional bunker-busting bombs might not destroy enemy nuclear platforms.

Fourth, Trump should aggressively confront illicit ICBM research-and-development networks. Specifically, Trump should push Pakistan, Russia, and the former Soviet states to take action against smugglers in their nations. In the case of Pakistan and the former Soviet states, such action should be tied to U.S. aid payments. A philosophical evolution of U.S. tactics is equally important here. Put simply, instead of treating nuclear smuggling as a law-enforcement matter, the U.S. must be prepared to coerce or kill those who support the illicit nuclear industry. Fear is always the best guarantor against a nuclear holocaust.

Ultimately, the nuclear issue is just one challenge the incoming Trump administration faces in foreign policy. The U.S. needs a new strategy of realist resolution. After years of Obama’s fraying credibility with allies and foes alike, the United States must resume leading. Kim Jong-un and Iranian supreme leader Khamenei are arrogant. If given an inch, they will walk the nuclear mile. And history tells us that great power and totalitarian zealots rarely blend positively.

ISIS seizes big Russian-Syrian T-4 air base

December 12, 2016

ISIS seizes big Russian-Syrian T-4 air base, DEBKAfile, December 12, 2016

cairo_terror480

Islamic State forces pushed their assault forward to retake the central Syrian town of Palmyra Monday, Dec. 12. By evening, they had entered the big Russian-Syrian T-4 air base outside the town, carrying off substantial quantities of Russian armaments. Reporting this, DEBKAfile’s military sources add that the booty they snatched included different types of ground-to-ground missiles as well as anti-tank and anti-air rockets.

Russian forces manning the base were hurriedly evacuated from Palmyra and the T-4 base, after the worst defeat Russian armed forces had ever experienced at ISIS hands in Syria. Military circles in Moscow commented grimly that the Russian army had suffered “a major disgrace” in Palmyra.

According to our sources, long convoys of ISIS fighters backed by tanks taken booty from the Syrian army, first forced the Syrian 11th Tank Division to abandon the strategic Jhar Crossroad. After that, the way was clear for the jihadis’ column to reach the T-4 base.

DEBKAfile reported on the ISIS terrorists’ fresh momentum Sunday.

Judging from the rash of reports claiming US-Iraqi military progress in the Mosul offensive against ISIS and the extra American special operations forces personnel posted to Syria for an impending US-Kurdish operation to capture the ISIS Syrian stronghold of Raqqa, the Islamic State ought to be cowering under siege, finally defeated – or at least on the run.

But the facts tell another story. ISIS is on the offensive – so far in the Middle East. Over the weekend, Islamist terrorists accounted for dozens of deaths and injured hundreds more.

Sunday, Dec. 11, at least 25 people worshipping at the Coptic St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s church adjacent to St, Mark’s cathedral in Cairo were killed and scores injured. The Coptic pope often leads the prayers there. DEBKAfile’s counterterrorism sources reveal that the attack was carried out by Islamist terrorists from Raqqa who bided their time until they struck in the Egyptian capital. Saturday, six Egyptian troops were killed by another Islamist bomb near the Giza pyramids.

On the same day, ISIS fighters pushed back into the ancient Syrian town of Palmyra, nine months after their expulsion.

The Raqqa terrorist stronghold is clearly alive and kicking on more than one front. A number of contributing factors enable the Islamic State to unleash a fresh spate of terror.

1. The US-Iraqi-Kurdish drive has stalled without driving ISIS out of Mosul or choking off the terrorist fighters’ freedom to move between Mosul and Raqqa, their Syrian bastion.

US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, who arrived in Baghdad Sunday, Dec. 11, was assigned by the Obama administration to make a last effort to reactivate the Mosul campaign. His chances of success are slim. The military coalition which launched the campaign two months ago has lost a vital component, the Kurdish Peshmerga, which backed out three weeks ago. The Iraqi military units which captured some of the city’s outskirts stopped short when they reached the strongest defense lines set up by the Islamic State and have been unable to break through, even with US air support.

The pro-Iranian Iraqi Shiite front which undertook to seize Tal Afar in order to sever the ISIS connecting link between Iraq and Syria are parked outside, having been warned by Turkey not to set foot in the town.

Added to these setbacks, the US CENTCOM which is running the aerial war in Iraq is at loggerheads with the Iraqi Air Force command and has practically grounded all Iraqi warplanes.

Even if Carter can wave a magic wand and resolve all these issues, the momentum and high hopes that actuated the Mosul campaign when it started have been lost and can hardly be recovered before Barack Obama leaves the White House.

At least two of the incoming president Donald Trump’s designated security advisers – Defense Secretary Gen, James Mattis and National security Adviser Gen. Michael Flynn – have criticized the operation in is current form.

2. What is happening in Raqqa doesn’t fit the designation of an offensive. At most, small Kurdish and Syrian rebel groups are mounting sporadic raids against ISIS fighters on the town’s outskirts, with the support of the Obama administration. Our military experts say that Raqqa can’t be captured from the Islamist terrorists by conventional means – mainly because it is spread over a large area of mostly empty desert. ISIS has taken advantage of this terrain to distribute knots of defenders across a vast area ranging hundreds of kilometers from northern to eastern Syria up to the winding, heavily overgrown banks of the Euphrates River.

So when Ash Carter announced Saturday that he would be sending another 200 Special Operations Forces into Syria to join the battle for Raqqa, he had no idea that he, the Russians and the Syrians were about to be caught off guard by a fresh ISIS initiative to reoccupy Palmyra, the ancient Syrian two from which they are thrown out in March.

This was a poke in the eye for Russian President Vladimir Putin who proclaimed Palmyra’s capture from ISIS as a signal coup for the Russian army in its war on Islamist terror.

3.  He might well commiserate with Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi. For two years, the Egyptian armed forces have been fighting an uphill battle to crush the ISIS groups infesting the Sinai Peninsula. The jihadists constantly elude punishment with the help of supportive Bedouin tribes.

Every few months, they pose a real threat to the stability of the El-Sisi regime by striking inside Cairo, the capital, with some terrorist atrocity, for which they are aided by the Muslim Brotherhood underground and Palestinian Hamas extremists in the Gaza Strip.

The bombing of the Coptic church Saturday was unusually the work of jihadists deployed from Raqqa, Syria.  Egypt has reacted by placing extra guards at Christian sites and declaring three days of national morning for the disastrous bombing attack on Egypt’s largest minority.

The new Islamist drive is looking ominously like the onset of the Christmas-New Year holiday terror onslaught the Islamic State has threatened to unleash in the Middle East and beyond. US and European security services have been placed on high alert in the belief that returning jihadis are programmed to strike at home.

Trump Says He’s ‘A Smart Person,’ Doesn’t Need Daily Intelligence Briefings

December 12, 2016

Trump Says He’s ‘A Smart Person,’ Doesn’t Need Daily Intelligence Briefings, PJ MediaWalter Hudson, December 11, 2012

trump-primaries-sized-770x415xt

President-elect Donald Trump continues to defy convention and ruffle institutional feathers. In a wide-ranging interview with Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday,” Trump indicated he will delegate daily intelligence briefings to subordinates. From the Daily Mail:

“I get it when I need it,” [Trump] said on Fox News of the top-secret briefings sessions, adding that he’s leaving it up to the briefers to decide when a development represents a “change” big enough to notify him.

“I’m, like, a smart person. I don’t have to be told the same thing in the same words every single day for the next eight years,” Trump said.

Read in excerpt like that, Trump’s remarks may come across as arrogant. He presumes that he will be in office for two terms, touts his own intellect, and downplays the importance of a critical presidential role.

However, when viewed in context [below], Trump’s position proves much less provocative. His “smart person” comment comes off less as a reference to some exclusive ability, and more like the standard capacity most of us have to remember something when first told. He could have just as easily said, “I’m not an idiot. I don’t have to be told the same thing in the same words.”

Trump went on to note that his generals and Vice President-elect Mike Pence will receive routine daily briefings, presumably including the redundancies he seeks to avoid. This is consistent with his articulated tendency to delegate tasks to “the best people.”

Trump also addressed bipartisan concerns regarding Russia’s influence in the election.

“It’s ridiculous,” Trump said of the CIA’s assessment [that that Russia tried to interfere with the presidential election].

[…]

Trump’s incoming chief of staff, Reince Priebus, shrugged off allegations that Russia helped Trump win.

He said: “The Russians didn’t tell Clinton to ignore Wisconsin and Michigan.”

The Democratic candidate was expected to win in these two states but they went to Trump instead.

“She lost the election because her ideas were bad. She didn’t fit the electorate. She ignored states that she shouldn’t have and Donald Trump was the change agent,” Priebus said on ABC’s ‘This Week’.

Priebus may be overstating the case when he says the election results “had nothing to do with the Russians.” But those claiming Russia’s influence was decisive likewise overstate their case.

It remains unclear what actionable conclusions could emerge from investigations into suspected Russian hacking. Indeed, given the likely role Hillary Clinton’s private email server played in any such hacking, Democrats might be wise to let the issue go.