When I started this series of posts entitled Green Global Wreck, at the start of the Trump Presidency, I had few illusions about the trajectory of US foreign policy, military entanglements abroad and the overall “brand” of US Democracy. It was merely a matter of chronicling the inevitable missteps or wrong headed moves that this Presidency would take.
A few months ago, a few posts ago, I made the case that a dwindling Presidency would seek ultimate refuge in playing the “war card”. A war, any war, would likely deliver this President a positive bump in the polls, as there is a long standing practice in the U.S. of “standing with your President”, when at war. And of course the steady stream of justification before going to war would no doubt ensnare some who may lack the historical or geographic background or interest and would react to the theatrics of flexing the US military muscle.
There were multiple options for a war to become the next “change the topic” tool of choice, changing the topic from the one and only significant topic out there, namely the increasingly recognized facts around a Presidency that was in essence a Russian Intelligence play that went horribly right (for them). They perhaps only intended to divide and reduce the US brand by supporting a clown who would do what he does and in the process make a mockery of the US democractic process. But this intelligence play, well, it went way beyond the Kremlin’s expectations, and Trump won. The purpose here is not to re-prosecute the Russian intelligence operation – the very able and still in charge Robert Mueller has deployed an army of lawyers and financial forensic experts to gather the necessary supporting details, to go down the many rabbit holes, to set the stage for unscrupulous traitors to start devouring each other. Mueller is still standing and his team’s work will be revealed in due time.
But in the meantime, the Trump play is to change the topic. He does so daily, by playing the media and the populace like a fiddle. He knows that the nation’s attention span is measured in 140 characters and possibly hours, not days, and certainly not weeks. One of the more amusing/pathetic one was to throw out there on a day that had strong evidence of yet another Russian influence angle the non policy “policy” that trans-sexuals could not serve in the military. Never mind that the DoD quickly corrected that there was in fact no such policy change, but… it did not matter. This simple tweet occupied the airwaves long enough to obliterate the less “sexy”/explosive topic of yet one more set of indications of successful Russian interference in our political process.
OK, so it is clearly established that changing the topic is a preferred modus operanti. And the bigger the Russia news, the bigger the need to change the topic. And so it follows in my mind that starting a war would be the ultimate topic changer. I mused then, months ago now, that the US would probably tilt toward a war in North Korea. After all, only 32% of Americans can point to where North Korea is on the world map and Kim Jong Un, like his father and his grand-father, offers such a caricatural picture of the “mad man” that it is simply irresistible from a “wag the dog” point of view. On queue, Kim Jong Un accelerated North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile program, as if itching to play a role in Trump’s warmongering imperative. And who could possibly fail to support a US President intent on eliminating a nuclear threat from North Korea?
The problem of course is that beyond the theatrics, there is reality. And the reality, as anyone who knows anything about North Korea will quickly explain, is that crazy or not, the belief system in North Korea is that the regime’s ONLY chance at survival is indeed to go forward and to maintain – at ALL cost – the momentum toward establishing North Korea as a nuclear power. And that’s kind of a problem. Right below North Korea is South Korea – a historic US ally, a vibrant economy, a host to tens of thousands of US troops that are positioned there as a sort of “trip wire” – invade South Korea, you’ll be putting US Troops in harms’ way, and a US response is guaranteed. This deterrence play has worked rather well for a few decades. And of course, there is Japan, also within easy striking distance. And not only are they a formidable economy, a critical part of the global economy and global supply chain of goods, but so far they are the only country to have actually experienced what a nuclear war’s effect is.
And so… the combination of these factors make North Korea a tempting target, but a very dangerous one indeed. Trump plays the same game as Kim Jong Un – he plays the part of the unstable, unpredictable leader who may indeed be crazy enough to start a nuclear war. And who doesn’t believe that both of these maniacs are indeed perfectly capable of leap frogging past any kind of human normalcy and to not voluntary plunge the world right into a nuclear abyss?
As of this writing, the US and North Korea are saber-rattling, and it seems as though the saner voices on each side are having some kind of impact at reigning in the “crazy”. But… that is only perhaps because there has been a few days of quiet on the Russian front. I remain committed to the notion that the psychological / emotional handicap of this US President makes it entirely possible that he will think only minimally about the difference between firing a 140 character tweet and a 140 megaton nuclear weapon.
So what would you do in this context? I know! Quick, give him someone else to go after – if he is going to start a war for poll improvement purposes, he needs to be given another option than thermo-nuclear warfare. After all, the Kim issue will be resolved either by a) accepting a nuclearized North Korea, which is then slowly merged into a reunified Korea or b) the mad leader will be given a few billion dollars in cash and a beautiful dacha in Russia and he will go on his merry way. There is no need to start a nuclear war, to avoid a nuclear war!
And so last week, President Trump got a new toy: He may just choose to invade… wait for it… Venezuela! The economy is in shambles. The people are unhappy. There is wanton human rights abuses AND they have oil! The fact of course that the U.S. continues to buy 90% of the oil output of this bankrupt oil producing nation doesn’t seem to bother anyone in the U.S. The absurdity of it is just “business as usual”. But now there is a beautiful new shiny object – maybe the US can invade Venezuela. Crazy as this seems, if you consider that the alternative is to launch a nuclear war with North Korea, this might make for a perfectly rational plan B.
FInal point: there may not be a need for a war quiet yet. All he wants to do is change the conversation. And voila… courtesy of the neo-Nazi and KKK movements in the U.S., re-coined the “white nationalists” or even more blandly the “alt-right”, topic changed! No longer are CNN, MSNBC, ABC, Fox news talking about Russia – they are talking about those racist and anti-semitic mother fuckers who mowed down a peaceful counter-protester. To the uninitiated in the art of Trumpism, this might all seem like bad, bad news. But… please re-adjust your dial – this is good stuff for Trump. No one is talking Russia. And since his only priority is to get off the topic of Russia, lest it becomes widely accepted that he is essentially a small time New York mobster who got in with the wrong crowd as a money launderer for Russia’s axis of Kremlin kleptocracy… then fine, let everyone hyperventilate about the horrible, horrible descent of the US Presidency into the moral abyss of providing cover for the KKK.
So as of today, the choice on the menu is:
a) American Presidency as a tool of Russian intelligence
b) US war somewhere, anywhere
c) Moral collapse and official acceptance of the KKK and nazis as legitimate participants in the political discourse.
AND… we are not even one fourth of the way into his first term.
Welcome to our new world. Optimists need not apply. This is a one way downhill race to the bottom that only has destruction – either military, political or moral as outcomes. Or maybe all three.
What do YOU think?