Everybody and his goat has weighed in on the election, so I will too. This will make no difference to Trump’s core followers, for whom he is a cult figure, or to those who detest him. The undecided may be interested.
Note how insubstantial Trump has been, pretending to be what he isn’t and claiming to have done what he hasn’t. Does no one notice? He has heavy support from Evangelicals. Ask him to name the books of the Pentateuch, or the second book, or what church he regularly attended, or ever attended, in New York. He was going to end the wars, but what war has he ended? To reduce the trade deficit, but it has grown. To get rid of all illegal aliens withing two years, but have they gone? To bring back factories from China and Mexico, but how many have returned? He is called a law-and-order President. Yet he hid, besieged, in the White House during the greatest eruption of lawlessness the country has ever seen, with a statue being pulled down across the street from his house. His handling of the virus? America remains hardest hit in the world, and it worsens by the day.
Trump, like all Presidents, has fulfilled the two critical jobs expected of him, protecting Wall Street and the military budget. What else has he done?
Almost nothing. All in good fun. But in the crucial field of international relations, he has been a disaster. I suspect that few of his followers in Flint and Gary study things beyond the borders. They should.
Here context matters. The US, or those who control the US, are trying to maintain American hegemony, or near hegemony, over the world. America has 600-800 military bases around the globe depending on what you regard as a military base. While many tens of thousands of America sleep on the sidewalks, while infrastructure crumbles, while standards of living fall and medical care is pricey but poor, the Pentagon always gets its budget. At the level of the White House, the Five-Sided Wind Tunnel, the arms industry, the important thing is to maintain the flow of money. And dominate the world.
Trump is the embodiment of this looking-for-a-fight attitude. Not good. He has surrounded himself with over-age Cold Warriors, with generals, with the pathologically aggressive hangers-on from think-tank Washington: John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, Nikki Haley, Steve Bannon, and minor squibs of like outlook. He has pulled the US out of the arms-control treaties, START, INF, Open Skies. He has pushed NATO against Russian borders. In the Legion halls of Idaho, this may seem virile, the sort of thing that John Wayne would do. Back the commies down. Show them who is boss. No. It is just pointless and dangerous.
Worse, there is a new kid on the block. China is growing. It behaves no worse than other countries, does not inflict on the world nearly the destruction and horror that the United States does, but it is growing. For Washington, this makes it not a competitor but an enemy. This is very much Trump’s policy. Don’t negotiate. Threaten. “Do as I say, or I will break you.”
Those favoring the continuance of Empire might note that, even at this, Trump has been a disaster. The First Rule of Empire is Don’t let your enemies unite. Trump, having made Russia and China into enemies (why?) has forced them to unite. This is—how shall I put it?—stupid. Russia and China are not natural allies. China is a crowded country with 1.4 billion smart, industrious people, rapidly growing influence, and a very long indefensible border with Russia. Russia has barely 146 million people, a comparatively static economy, vast empty lands with rich resources. The Russians may have noticed this. The two have had territorial disputes. This is not a marriage made, as we say, in heaven. Instead of playing them against each other, allying with one against the other, or leaving them the hell alone, Trump has forced them into close alliance.
This is Trump’s policy, in the sense that if it happens during his presidency, it is his baby, though it is fairly evident that Pompeo is Trumps brains and Trump is Pompeo’s enabler.
Then there is Iran, a geopolitical linchpin, having eighty million people, a large and competent military, and lots and lots of oil. Under the JCPOA, the nuke deal, the Iranians were posed happily to integrate themselves into the Western economy—buy hundreds of airliners from Boeing and Airbus, telecommunications gear, sell oil, have western companies develop its huge hydrocarbon reserves.
Then Trump pulled out of the treaty and, led by the egregious Pompeo, tries to starve the Iranians into installing a puppet government. Iran, seeing that the West is not friendly, turns to the East, allies itself tightly with Russia and China. Tehran and Beijing are about to sign a twenty-five year, multimanymuchoslotsa billion dollar development deal.
Three enemies, united, where none was before.
Fucking brilliant, Mike. Just fucking brilliant.
Then Trump had Soleimani, an Iranian hero, murdered. This doubtless played well with his partisans in Joe’s Bar in Chicago, being manly and decisive and making America great again. It was also idiotic, making Iranians even less likely to cave to American pressure.
The same counterproductiveness appears in his “trade war” with China, in fact an attempt to wreck China commercially and technologically. This is packaged by Trump as “standing up to China,” “deterring China,” “containing China,” but it might as accurately be called “encouraging the genie to leave the bottle,” or “asking for it.”
A quick example: Huawei was contentedly using Google’s Android operating system on its smartphones. Android and iOS, both American, dominated the world market for operating systems. Huawei, with the predictability of sunrise, responded by crash-developing its own OS, Harmony. With equal predictability and suddenness it will improve it, further grow its app store (HMS, Huawei Mobile Services) and, on a guess, encourage other companies to use it. It will be said that a new OS won’t work, can’t compete, will take decades, and all the things that are customarily said of things China does. Wait.
Trump’s result: A new and, likely, serious competitor to Google. Good job, Don.
There is more to come. Precisely because of Trump’s technology-denial policy, China has launched a massive program to make itself tech-independent. It will take time, but it will happen. Every time China develops a replacement for an American product, US companies will lose the Chinese market for it—and shortly face a competitor.
The root of the matter? With Trump the country elected an attitude, not a President. Truculence, bravado, and an in-your-face aggressiveness are no substitute for competence. Trump has demonstrated repeatedly that he is blankly ignorant of history, geography, technology, the military. In Hawaii, when taken to the USS Arizona memorial, he didn’t know what it was. He has opined that the Spanish flu of 1917 (his date) influenced the end of WWII. It would be instructive for a reporter to ask him what countries border Iran, where one finds the Strait of Malacca, and why it matters.
The more enthusiastic of his followers seem to be equally ignorant and, worse, have no idea why a President should know such things. Is this how we choose Presidents, and the sort of Presidents we choose?
Write Fred at [email protected] Put the letters pdq anywhere in the subject line to avoid heartless autodeletion.
Check out Fred’s splendid books! Sedition, outrage, distortion, treason and other amusements. Enjoy accounts of America, not the disaster by the same name now peddled as the real thing. Cheap at the price.