LETTER: Foreign policy should be handled by administrations in power

To the editor:

In America’s foreign policy, one administration at a time speaks for the country. That’s the way it is supposed to work. Unless it is the pre-Jan. 20 Trump administration, as Robert Lee seems to argue on June 24.

Of course there are no “back-door deals” with President Trump since Jan. 20. No need for that. He either trumpets his dealing prowess to awe us on Twitter; or, he simply ushers our adversaries through the front door of the oval office, as on May 10 when he presented sensitive classified information to Russian officials — and without Mr. Lee’s “rabid media.”

Candidate Richard Nixon’s 1968 interference with nascent Vietnam peace talks — lightly brushed by Mr. Lee — further stains Nixon’s legacy. Were the 21,000 U.S. deaths there between 1969 and 1975 the price paid to elect him? We may never be sure, but it argues well against citizens meddling in foreign policy until officially handed the reins of power.

Revisionist historians occasionally dabble in theories of President Roosevelt’s alleged instigation of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. Debate is fine, but Mr. Lee’s source citation of Dr. Charles Tansill is interesting.

Tansill probably belongs in a curio cabinet of academics, only to be cited with a caution label. While lauded by historians for his World War I scholarship, he meets more circumspection about his FDR/Pearl Harbor arguments. Those citing Tansill may pause upon learning of his pro-German views prior to World War II and his advocacy of segregation and eugenics. In later years, he was arguing in favor of impeaching President Kennedy over nuclear disarmament.

While Mr. Lee continues to pile on President Obama’s Iran deal, he is surely aware that even Mr. Trump isn’t scrapping the deal yet. As late as April 18, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson grudgingly acknowledged Iran’s continued compliance with it.

As Robert Lee forays into writing diplomatic history, he should bear in mind that the best history results after years of simmering, and perspective to emerge.

Douglas Smith