WITH THEIR decision to launch an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, congressional Democrats have embarked on a step that will have profound implications both for American domestic and foreign policy. Much of the media discussion about the Trump impeachment inquiry has centered on handicapping this latest phase in the political battle between Republicans and Democrats to retain or regain the presidency. Far less attention has been paid to the question of the implications that the inquiry may have for the security and integrity of our republic.
Yet it is in this latter question where the stakes are highest. Absent decisive and forceful leadership, America will become more vulnerable to the designs of other nations. As Robert W. Merry has recently observed in these pages, a central reality of American politics is that “when the president is weakened at home, America is weakened abroad.”
The impact of Watergate, for instance, was anything but trivial. Arms-control efforts with the Soviet Union collapsed. An ignominious retreat from Vietnam took place. OPEC was emboldened. In short, the consequences were grave as American credibility around the world was tarnished. Not until the 1980s did America begin to regain the prestige and luster, the confidence and pride, that it had once enjoyed.
What happened before can happen again. This is why the move toward impeachment proceedings is cause for concern. If the impact of the earlier Mueller investigation serves as any guide, the implications of what Ukrainians are sardonically calling the “Monica Zelensky scandal” for American foreign policy might be significant. The earlier Russiagate controversy played an important role in hardening American policies toward Moscow, as the White House strove to counter a fusillade of accusations that the president was acting as an agent of the Kremlin. The charge that Trump sought personal political benefit by holding up congressionally-mandated military assistance to Ukraine is likely to impose similar constraints on his handling of the warfare between Kiev and Russian-backed forces in Ukraine’s east, thereby rendering a solution to the conflict less, not more, likely.