Green Global Wreck ~ To bomb or not to bomb? ~ April 2017

Prophetic and prescient? I wrote, in March, that Trump’s way out of his current morass and steady stream of bad news (failed roll out of the “Muslim ban”, failed legislative priority around repealing Obamacare, and of the course the large bear in the room, the “Russian Scandal”), was, to be ultimately cynical, just to “start a war”.

Given the behavior of the North Korean regime, I predicted that within 3 months the US would be in a full on conflict with North Korea. Nothing like a President at war to artificially harvest the support of a majority of Americans.

But history has a way of throwing curved balls, and the Administration’s own flippant comments about Syria, namely the Secretary of State saying that it was up to the Syrians to decide what they want to do with their leader, was perhaps too tempting an invitation for Assad. Immediately after these comments about a “laissez faire” attitude of the new US Administration, Assad launched a second chemical attack on his own people.

Now just for the sake of historical accuracy, this is not the first time. When Assad used bio-chemical agents against his “rebels”, the Obama administration failed to react militarily to his having crossed, famously, the Obama “red line”. Obama opted for a diplomatic solution in cahoots with Russia, to allegedly rid Syria of its chemical weapons arsenal. Obviously, even if they did remove much, they didn’t remove all, witness the atrocities of this past week. It is worth remembering that when the Obama Administration considered how to react to Assad’s use of such weapons, Trump was vociferous about how wrong headed this would be. Not a US national security priority, he barked.

But now, well, things are different. An international distraction is most welcome. The same actors, the same actions, have led to a dramatic 180 degree turn in the US administration’s policy. Never mind that just one week ago the Secretary of State said we would just stay out because it’s not our business. Now, Trump is a convert to military strikes. So the Trump Administration’s first salvo was a strike with 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles.  Limited damage because the US DoD had alerted their Russian counterparts (based on a pre-existing risk management agreement between the US and Russia, in Syria), and of course the Russians promptly warned the Syrians, and so… while there was all the required effect in terms of changing the conversation about Russia, nothing operationally meaningful actually took place with this Tomahawk strike.

But of course, we all know from recent history in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lybia, Egypt, that removing one’s leader and pushing for regime change is a lot easier to say than to implement. To paraphrase Trump’s comments about healthcare “who knew it was so difficult?!”, the Trump administration, the very same one that has just put an ineffectual and virtually absent Secretary of State, the very same that has failed to staff its national security apparatus below the very thin layer at the top, the very same people who just slashed the State Dept’s budget because they don’t believe in spending US money for national building, these very same guys, are about to get sucked into a new war, in Syria. Or perhaps two, including one with North Korea, if they need more “good coverage” from the media.

Note that no one is talking about Russia these days.

So absent the North Korean crisis, which has all the elements of a policy that can go terribly wrong with an unpredictable lunatic leader (not ours, theirs!), even if we just limit the scope of assessment to Syria, there are not many paths forward. I’d say that there are three:

1) War of words, no action: Perhaps it is sufficient, in terms of media coverage and popular support of a “War President”, for an on going war of words between the US and Syria, augmented by the very convenient angle of the US being on the opposite side of the Russians. How can he be accused, after all, of being so “in the hands of Russia” if he is picking a fight with them in Syria?

2) Regime Change, with Russia: The master piece of improvisational foreign policy would be if Putin decides that it is in his personal interest to make a grand bargain with the US. Back off on the Ukraine, torpedo NATO and in exchange we will work with you, or at least won’t actively derail, a US effort to remove Assad. Since the US is hopelessly incompetent at post war planning to “win the peace”, it is reasonable to expect that the result of such a grand bargain would be that Putin would be able to handpick the dictator of his choice, from the Assad Baath party, and the U.S. would declare victory in having a non-Assad new leader committed to defeating ISIS.  This path looks increasingly unlikely as it would create a precedent for Russia “folding under US pressure”, which is contrary to Putin’s brand.

3) Regime Change and war with Russia: This is of course the worse of all possible scenarios – one where Putin has decided that the nascent US administration has done what it needed to do to topple the solid US democratic institutions and that he has outlived his usefulness. If Putin believes that the Trump administration will get sucked into ever growing problems having to do with his Russia ties, blatant nepotism, surprising incompetence, and massive conflicts of interest, he may find it is more useful to Russia’s interest to now cut the chord on this highly successful intelligence operation. In this case, he will buttress Assad and essentially say, or act such that, “any attack on Syria is an attack on Russia”. And so, with this nightmarish scenario, we descend into a hot conflict between the US and Russia. Not likely, but not impossible and if so, a catastrophic turn of events that will go a long way toward making Trump the last post WWII US President, as we careen toward a fully on WWIII. Think it’s impossible? Am afraid it is possible.

Regarding other international chess moves, it’s all pretty much a lot of wind and no action. For instance, after much noise about the urgency of building a wall with Mexico, there is no evidence of movement down that path.

With regard to China, the other major target for Trump attacks during the campaign as the country that has “raped” the U.S., and after a lot of chess beating, the summit with President Xi that took place at Mar a Lago (a historic case of conflict of interest since the US tax payers pay to the Trump organization enormous fees to host the President on his own properties!!), was carried out with a surprising lack of sparks. It seems that this President has a Modus Operanti that can be summarized as “escalate before folding”. Lots of strong words about Taiwan and the one country policy, about China as currency manipulator etc, but… once in person, it’s all smiles and no substance. But, to his credit, having launched the Tomahawk strike during his dinner with President Xi does have the benefit of reinforcing his brand that this President is both unpredictable and prone to fast action, whether thought through or not. This will surely impress the Chinese government as a new kind of threat that they have not had to deal with before. Perhaps it will translate into new momentum for the Chinese to put pressure on North Korea.   A breakthrough in collaboration to remove President Kim in North Korea is of course possible, but very, very unlikely.  Anyone with a smidgeon of Asian history will understand that removing the current leadership of North Korea is a non starter.  China fears to outcomes: 1) a US military action that would send North Korean masses across the border into China and 2) a successful integration of Korea under the leadership of South Korea, which would translate into a more powerful enemy/competitor for China.  More likely, China will work toward a middle path that keeps a buffer zone in the form of a North Korean independent state, while putting a stop to the rush toward nuclear capability.

As the US Pacific Command moves a full battle ship’s ecosystem of support vessels for a show of force near Korea, I’ll maintain my earlier prediction of an all out conflict with North Korea, which will secure for President Trump several months of Russia-free headlines.

In other “Green Global Wreck” news – after vilifying NATO as an obsolete organization (despite a formidable track record of avoiding war for 5 decades), Trump has done a 180 degree turn and now considers NATO to be an effective and important organization.  What happened between this and that? precisely nothing.  Just changed his mind.  In this case, it goes in the right direction, but the more worrisome thing here is this: there is nothing stable or historically-warranted or consistent with either decades of US diplomacy or months of campaign pronouncements in Trump’s action.  It’s as if every day is a brand new universe and nothing done or said before matters.  It is all situational and tactical.  A President-child with A.D.D. and nuclear weapons, a temperament that errs toward bluster and revenge, a never seen before level of ignorance about serious world issues and pre-existing US alliances forged over decades, and zero concerns about inconsistency,  That’s the leadership of the United States right now.

And it’s not 100 days yet.  The media is rewarding him for military bluster and he is getting praise for “acting Presidential” – so now… he’s got his formula.  More wars, less heat on the Russian scandal.  Fasten your seat belts as this is just the beginning…

Ben

 

23 thoughts on “Green Global Wreck ~ To bomb or not to bomb? ~ April 2017

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Out of the loop? I am afraid there is no rock to hide under. Thailand is smack in the middle of the South China sea emerging conflict between the U.S. and China, so hate to break the news….Military adventurism ala Trump has the potential to dramatically affect the balance of power in your neck of the woods… Just sayin’

      Nope we did not change anything. No idea why there is suddenly a lack of recognition. Sorry about that…

      Ben

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Gilda, we have no idea why there is this issue with repeated entry of details.. we changed nothing. This blog seems to have a life of its own and we are often befuddled by it. If anyone has anyone suggestions for remedying this situation, feel free to advise.

      Ben

  1. Anabel Marsh

    I haven’t felt so worried about the world since the 1980s, the last time I really thought we might all go up in a nuclear cloud. What scares me about Trump is that he seems to have so much power as President to do just what he wants. I suppose it was always thus, but having comparatively reasonable people in office (and I’d go so far as to include Dubya in that in comparison to Trump) it was less obvious. In the U.K. we’re also familiar with leaders increasing their popularity with a little bit of war (Thatcher and the Falklands is the obvious example) and it’s still going on. As soon as Spain mentions Gibraltar and Brexit in the same breath the more excitable Tories are threatening gunboats. I fear they will never learn until we are all toast.

    On a brighter note, it’s Spring here at last so I’ll go out and enjoy it! Have a good day wherever you are.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      You know it is a sad day when the world looks back at the presidency of George Bush (with its duplicity and wrong headed military adventurism to “bring about democracy in the Middle East”, as the “good old days.” Before your British colleagues get to worry about Gibraltar, they might have to process through the irony of wanting to slam down Irish separatism in the same breath as they seek to separate from the E.U.

      Enjoy Spring. We have a constant summer here.

      Ben

  2. Anita @ No Particular Place To Go

    Your observation that we’re only in the first 100 days of the DT administration is what continually stops me in my tracks as it feels like the roller coaster ride of of clown cars has gone on forever with fresh new worries careening off the track at every turn. It is difficult for me to understand that a minority of narrow-minded, bible thumping authoritarians. racists, environmental rapists and misogynists from the 1% are wreaking such havoc on what the US has stood for. And, for a narcissist of the first order, DT is right where he wants to be, basking in his front and center position on the world stage. His unpredictability continually diverts our attention from how Russia interfered with the US election, the blatant lying of Jeff Session’s and so much of his staff to Congress and the funneling of tax payers’ dollars to his and his cronies bank vaults. Saddened, disgusted and anxious …

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Anita, the bottom line here is that it no longer is the part of the electorate which got him in power that controls the game. DT clearly has no moral dilemma associated with changing positions, policies, orientation, on a dime, and so many of the policies he is now trying to execute are increasingly divorced from the mirage of a platform. Clearly, launching what will necessarily be only the opening move of a Syrian adventure, is anathema to the people who voted him in, on the concept of “America first”. A clearly isolationist bent that is inconsistent with the sudden policy reversal and decision to go to war with Syria.

      Of course, this just means that you have two problems. On one hand, the harsh realization that a very large segment of the U.S. population meets the characterization in your comments and as well, DT himself, the potential dictator who is getting an early taste for the “glories” associated with military adventurism.

      I fear that beyond the merit or lack of merit of a military engagement in Syria or in North Korea, or in Yemen, or in any number of future theaters, our current president could get addicted to pulling the trigger as his main mean of engagement with the international community. It is telling that the budget for defense that he and his advisors put together prioritizes defense spending with a significant boost while at the same time slashing the budget for the state department, and any of the skills needed to actually execute the necessary re building that comes after a military campaign. In short, this dude has learned nothing from the past decades of U.S. foreign policy. But of course no surprise there!

      Ben

  3. Gib Cooper

    There is a gang in control of executive, legislative and judicial so I doubt if there will be a successful effort in Wash DC down a path that makes sense to thinking American citizens. Your analysis explains a couple of scenarios with the usual suspects. After using his pen to exercise the power of executive orders, something which he enjoyed, he now has reached into the toy box of military force. Unfortunately for us, the congress will not rescind their order allowing the president preemptive attacks against “terrorism”. I am sure the Chinese are working overtime to fortify their man made islands while undercover of the sideshows.

    1. Ben

      Hey Gib! Yes, I fear there is a downward spiral of military adventurism facing us…. The combo of Tomahawks in Syria and MOAB in Afghanista is IMHO just the wind up to the first real crisis of the Administration – North Korea.

      The Administration’s need to divert from Russia combined with the legitimate need to work toward risk diminution in NK, factoring in the inability to resist a perceived slight, and i think we are looking at the recipe for a preemotive strike at NK’s mikitary infrastructure.

      Books have been written in the field of nuclear deterrence about the importance of rational actors. But when you have two irrational, delusional authoritarians, both new at their jobs / reign, the potential for escalation is high…

  4. Jeff Bell

    I knew Trump would be unpredictable and the fact that he is an idiot and liar was well-established, but I’m a bit shocked that he has already flip-flopped on so many things. You are dead right though – no one is talking about his failures now that misses are flying and sabers are rattling. This will be a long 4-8 years, give or take an impeachment.

    1. Ben

      “Give or take impeachment”, that’s good…

      Forgive me for apocalyptic thinking, but we are a mere 100 days, not 100 weeks, into the new Administration and besides all the crazy we all read about daily, the US has essentially escalated on two crises (Afghanistan, Syria), and is upping the dosage both with Iran and with NK. In short… they WANT this. No sane President already dealing with syria, Afghanistan and NK, would voluntarily add more instability to the mix. So 100 days! Can you just visualize what 1 year or 4 years look like? I simply cannot see it going any way other than through a phase of expanded military action. Pick a country, any country…

  5. Pamela

    I get headaches thinking about DT; his policies (when he has them) are scary. His lack of policy except to save his own ego is beyond frightening.

    1. Ben

      Ah but the good news is that the current era of worrying about what COULD go wrong still represents “the good old days” compared to the destruction that he will undoubtedly unleash in the coming weeks and months ( days?). Fasten your seat belt and breathe…

  6. LuAnn

    Once I moved beyond my post-election fog I vowed to jump into activist mode, going to marches and meetings, making phone calls, signing petitions, watching the daily news in order to stay informed, reading articles ad nauseum. Looking back all I have managed to do is ratchet up my stress level, leaving me little time or motivation to continue writing, one of my passions. I do believe it is important to take an active role, but not at the expense of all else that feeds our spirit. I have stepped back a bit, allowing myself time in nature, which always soothes my raw nerves. Being an empath, I have always struggled with dishonest people, so the pathological liar who is at the head of this new administration has pushed me close to the brink. Taking some deep breaths, I choose to step away from the edge. My desire to be a part of the solution is still very strong; I just need to have more balance in my life. I suspect hubby and I will look to move away from our home country for a time if this madness continues, and I don’t see our situation changing in a positive manner any time soon. Thanks for this incisive post Ben.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      You make a very valid point, LuAnn. There is a tipping point where individual passion and activism can only go so far, and one must strive for balance. I hate to poke at your vision, but if “this madness continues”, we are looking at a very serious set of military engagements, and it might make it all the more difficult to travel. On the other hand, I hear that there will be some cheap real estate soon in North Korea, so you can always manifest a pied a terre in Pyongyang… 🙂

      Ben

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Hmmm… I think that to marginalize the Trump risk as “just another politician” is optimistic beyond my sense of credibility. This is not a case of “all politicians lie” or anything like that. Never before has the U.S. been led by an administration so explicitly intent on deconstructing the Western world order. This ain’t normal. At all.

      Thanks for your commenting…

  7. My Inner Chick

    –I don’t know how he got there or why he’s in the White House. ( a place where GREAT men and women reside. )
    I have no respect for this person or his family & this frightens me…
    because I was brought up to observe my President as a role-model…
    but he, unfortunately, he is not my President.

    —Love from MN. xx

    1. Peta kaplan

      Unfortunately if it was just that I / you do not like this President then we would just be in a similar situation to say 48% of Americans who did not like President Obama. But I fear the situation is far far worse. It is not only the President but the majority of his White house staff that is either incompetent or has nefarious intent. It is also that there is outright damage done to most go ernment agencies and departments which are not being staffed amd therefore simply cannot do their job amd it is also about Republicans in congress who are still timid about pyshing back hoping that they can get something of value to them if they can accomodate this president. Bottom line, we are facing a system shutdown and true derailment of U.S Democratic institutions.

      So it is a lot worse than just not liking or respecting this president, it is a historic car wreck in slow motion.
      Ben

  8. Stephanae McCoy

    It’s interesting playing catch up because in the days since this post, among other things, Sally Yates has testified and directly contradicted the WH story on Flynn. What’s unbelievable or rather not surprising the “President-child with A.D.D.” up to his usual antics of tweeting said awful things about Sally and after her testimony once again said the whole Russia connection is “fake news.” What’s scary to me are the folks that are still siding with him and making excuses for his behavior. I get that no one wants to be told they are wrong but at some point, we have to recognize when we are being hoodwinked and bamboozled. Peta, I really enjoy reading your summations on the current state of affairs/

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks Stephanae for your comments. I want to get “credit” for my (Ben) analysis! 😉 haha…

      As you write, this is indeed a fast moving situation. You mention Sally Yates and her testimony, which was 24 hours ago. This, in Trump world, is “old news”. Today, Trump FIRED Comey, the head of the FBI!!! no doubt, because he was getting too close to adding to the Russian scandal.

      This is yet another OUTRAGEOUS abuse of power. Yes, of course, the President is entitled to putting in place his “team”. But this case is indeed unique. The President and his immediate entourage is directly the target of FBI investigations into serious wrong doing. His Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, had to recuse himself because he, himself, was not clear re Russia. And now, we are supposed to believe that the President will put in place an FBI Director who will watch out for the integrity of the US institutions and for the good of the country and go “wherever the investigation leads”? Give me a break! This President is turning the US into a banana republic and a farce of a credible, democratic government. It is positively SICKENING. And… the Republicans will just keep justifying it because Power Corrupts and absolute power, corrupts absolutely.

      The US system will not recover from this. It is now permanently soiled as the unwillingness of the Republican controlled Congress to confront the President’s Russian connection and abuse of power is showing that the problem is no longer just Trump. The system has been upended and the pieces will not be put back together simply by removing Trump. Game over for the U.S. democratic experiment.

      (Ben)

  9. Pingback: Green Global Wreck ~ August 2017 – Empty Nesters on a Green Global Trek

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