Messaging is a critical component in the conventional foreign policy theory of deterrence, which has been the cornerstone of American foreign policy since Ronald Reagan. America has seen success with this policy; always be willing to talk and work things out, but keep a battle carrier group on speed dial. Its simplicity is its beauty.
This piece was shared by the Brookings Institute, a champion of Barack Obama’s foreign policy and fierce defender of his legacy. Even they understand the need for a unified message.
"Largely because of the strength and coherence of the foreign policy team that Trump assembled, 2017 in fact witnessed a far less dramatic departure in American foreign policy than has often been alleged." https://t.co/kdHYzp2OBO
— Brookings FP (@BrookingsFP) January 6, 2018
There are three key figures that define President Donald Trump’s messaging besides his controversial Twitter feed: His daughter Ivanka Trump, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and Ambassador to United Nations Nikki Haley. All three represent the White House in one aspect or another, so the messages they send, whether implicitly or explicitly, are significant to America’s friends and enemies.
Ivanka Trump represents, unofficially, her father’s personal brand. She has done so since his reality television days. Besides having to explain or defend ridiculous things said by her father, she also has the additional baggage of being married to Jared Kushner, an aloof and controversial figure in the current White House due to his questionable business dealings. Ivanka is sincere and graceful, but she’s too close to her father’s orbit and has no experience whatsoever to deliver any kind of national message effectively on a global stage. She’s purely cultural, and that doesn’t make for great policy.
Look, Ivanka Trump is controversial based on proximity alone, but there are plenty of women who don’t spend all day on the internet obsessing about identity politics who might think “hey, she always seems classy and poised and dresses really well” or “she seems like a good mom,” which makes her message effective for some in America and the West where people identify with people they are like. It’s possible, but it is limited in its scope.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis is fantastic at defending America in every sense of the word. The messaging from him is everything one would want to hear from the person tasked with defending one’s country. His message projects the power of Trump’s Office (the real power of the Executive Branch, not the power to make liberals hysterical) but lends little to the culture needed to drive media interest. The general message one gets from Mattis is he is just here to stop enemies. It isn’t flexible. If you have to talk to that man on a diplomatic level, you are already in a world of shit.
Mattis has seen combat and written policy. He gets the attention of his, now decades old, foes in the Middle East, and since he’s been in charge of the defense of the United States, South and North Korea have agreed to hold peace talks. This is a basic and factual timeline. But still, projecting power is completely within Trump’s orbit and only one part of diplomacy. Ultimately Mattis is tied to Trump given that he still needs the president to authorize any action of escalation. There will be no linking of General James Mattis in this piece. One doesn’t link Mattis, Mattis links you.
Then there’s Nikki Haley. She was chosen to represent the United States at the United Nations, which has all of the sudden become the arbiter of all disputes due to the recent protests in Iran. This sudden change came after the United States threatened to strip funding for the international governing body in December of last year. The UN is a riddle for the Trump White House; on one hand, his base wants him to abandon it to ruin; on the other, there is the undeniable fact that a large part of the world relies on UN funding for aid and stability, which makes the world safer and ultimately the United States safer.
Haley wasn’t a vocal Trump fan, and she doesn’t engage in the President’s tussle with the American media. She has recently instructed the press pools to keep questions solely to foreign affairs before a recent press conference over Iranian-supplied Houthi missiles that were fired at Saudi Arabia. She appears to have been able to distance herself from the President and operate according to standard conservative foreign policy principles, and this places her the farthest away from the Trump orbit.
She has a complex and tumultuous global landscape to navigate, filled with bitter and nefarious rivals. The global elites who pushed the Obama White House out of Ukraine, allowed red lines to be crossed in Syria, and demanded the US sign on to the ineffective Iran deal scoff at her for her lack of notoriety in sensitive global matters, but what they fail to grasp is her time as the governor of South Carolina was about as tumultuous as it gets in modern America due to racial terrorism against black Americans.
In 2015, a crazy white supremacist filled with hate walked into a South Carolina black church and killed nine American worshippers. That’s twice as many lives taken as the Birmingham Church Bombings in 1964, and Haley’s steady hands guided her state to the calm after a horrific storm. She found reconciliation for the people who chose her to lead. Furthermore, the daughter of Indian immigrants made the hard call in a difficult moment to remove Confederate flags from state grounds, which earned her scorn from some in her own party, and to acknowledge that race was still an issue to be addressed in America. All that she did was in an effort to reconcile divided parts of her state.
This is every bit the “real America” as all the unfortunate things pointed out by the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations Friday afternoon in an attempt to deflect from Iran’s own naked slaughter of fellow Muslims across the Middle East.
After the U.S. called for an UNSC meeting on Iranian protests, Alizer Miryusefi, communications director for Iranian mission to the United Nations tweeted that “This is nothing but another desperate attempt by the US admin. to escape forward, as it has lost every shred of moral, political and legal authority and credibility in the eyes of the whole world.”
The people who have sworn to drive Israel from the Middle East and into the sea — pretty much a zero sum from any angle — have the nerve to say “These measures are not needed to simply fight back against fake news, rioters and electoral interference, but more ominously in the fight against terrorists, including ISIS. This fight, distinguished members and colleagues, is not zero sum: we will either win together or lose together.” That’s a direct quote from a speech Friday by Gholamali Khoshroo, Iranian ambassador to the UN. But Khoshroo also says “Trump and some other U.S. politicians have joined ISIS and its patrons in our region to openly incite and encourage violence.” It seems like the Iranian ambassador is asking the UN to fight American politicians. That’s a terrible idea as Republicans are seriously contemplating stripping allocations from the budget and the rest of the globe knows it.
Khoshroo also focused on racial tension as if it would trip Haley up and get her off message, but that is foolish ground for the Iranians to choose for a messaging and media war for the narrative. It’s ground Haley has navigated many times in efforts to bring about reconciliation, which has long been apart of the American consciousness, though it’s rarely discussed by those trying to undermine America’s role as global leader.
The United States invested in its own reconciliation and reconstruction immediately after the Civil War. It reconciled with the British after the War of 1812, Japanese and Germans after World War II, and Saudi Arabians after 9/11. While America has its sins and faults, reconciliation has been a continuous national sentiment since its inception. After all, reconciliation is good for business.
Though there’s great hope for reconciliation with the Iranian people, it’s crystal clear reconciliation with the theocratic regime in Tehran is impossible. For now, the efforts to change that are diplomatic.
Diplomacy is the preferred route and The Message is everything in diplomacy and peace — it is the heartbeat of deterrence. What many have forgotten or failed to learn is maintaining the leverage of deterrence costs a pound of flesh, but gaining that leverage back once lost will cost far more. The messaging moving forward for the White House needs to be tight, clear, and with Haley leading it, as she is the one least encumbered by the baggage one acquires in Trump’s orbit.