Is there a method to President Trump’s madness?
Some observers see his decision to take out an Iranian general (on Iraqi soil) a bold move that so far, despite grave threats from Iran, has only met with a token response, missiles lobbed at U.S. bases in Iraq, with an early warning from Iran.
Added to that, the Iranians seemed to have been so nervous or trigger happy that they apparently accidentally shot down a civilian airliner taking off from their capital Tehran, killing all 176 on board. The passengers included people from various parts of the world, as well as Iran itself.
That action has apparently aroused the ire of large numbers of Iranian citizens, who have protested against their own government, but at the same time have vented their anger at the U.S.
Meanwhile, the U.S. is hard pressed to go too far in condemning Iran for the airliner incident seeing as how it (we) did the same thing in 1988 (by accident) during the Iraq-Iran war. The death toll was 290.
I might stop right here to inject the thought I have that airliners do not belong in war zones. But the only problem is that the Middle East is always at war. (We sent most of our troops to Vietnam via commercial airliners).
While many, including me, think that Trump acts by impulse, and a dangerous one at that, others might point out that while other presidents hesitated to take out the infamous general who is credited or blamed for masterminding terror in the Middle East or making use of terrorists as proxies for Iran, Trump took action.
It ain’t over yet I am sure, but some observers claim that Iran, weakened economically by U.S. sanctions over the past decade and only getting worse now (Trump has applied more), is hard pressed and quite reluctant to face the U.S. head-on in combat.
Personally, I am not a militarist or hawk in general. While the war was raging on one side of the world, I did my service in what I call the Beetle Bailey-style U.S. Army, far from danger of flying bullets (except in relatively safe practice) in Germany, but I have one up on a lot of war hawks. I served. What did you do in the war? I might ask any of them, be it Donald Trump, Joe Biden, or whomever.
I’m not at all sure there really is a method to Trump’s madness. His actions show more impulse than anything else. He does not read, by his own admission. He is not into civics, history, geography, or diplomacy as it might ordinarily be recognized.
However, his recent action shows he knows something about dealing from a position of strength.
I don’t want to criticize President Obama, in that I think his Iran nuclear deal (from which Trump has withdrawn the U.S.) was a plausibly good one in that it at least discouraged that nation from going full speed ahead with developing nuclear weapons (or did it? really? I don’t know), thus avoiding another confrontation between the U.S. and others in that part of the world — we have our hands full now.
A problem, though, is that many think Iran has continued its development in secret nonetheless. I always am dubious when I hear that international inspectors have found Iran to be in compliance. Sure Iran or any country, say North Korea, is going to give international inspectors a grand tour of their nuclear facilites, even the ones where they may be actually hard at work on the bomb or new type missiles. Gee maybe they would actually be doing it in a hidden place — you think? And if there is technology that would pick that up, why do we need the inspectors on the ground?
(North Korea developed nuclear weapons and missiles in violation of its agreement over years, apparently going undetected, or we just didn’t want to know?)
Another problem is that Iran continues to be a threat to the stability of the region in that it foments terrorism and is doing its best to work its way into the government of Iraq, one of our nominal allies in the region (who used to be an enemy).
Trump has at least wisely extended an olive branch of peace while a the same time warning Iran to behave or there will be consequences.
And maybe the positive is that the Iranians know that Trump acts more on impulse than anything else, making him all more the dangerous (to them and the U.S. itself one might say).
Curiously, Trump campaigned partly on pulling the U.S. out of the Middle East — while at the same time fighting the terrorists by bombing oil facilities and ports from where they get the product that reportedly finances much of their activity. He has not done that.
In fact, Trump pulled troops out of Syria and abandoned our allies and vaunted fighters, the Kurds, to their enemies the Turks. But he then decided to re-insert some troops to protect the oil as he put it. I can’t stand Trump, but at least he was honest in this one respect, maybe. Our involvement in the Middle East is primarily based on oil. The history of it, intertwined with the protection (and control) of the world oil supply, has to do with the Cold War confrontation between the Soviet Union and the West.
To be brief, much of the misery we find ourselves dealing with in the Middle East is of our own making. We have taken part in toppling governments, some elected by the people, supplied arms to all sides (where there is money to be made), and have killed thousands (millions?) of civilians (caught in the crossfire or standing too close to enemy soldiers or terrorists).
But this is now and we cannot go back. We can only go forward.
Like so much of what Trump does, agree with him or not, and usually I disagree, my concern or notion is all of it could be done without his personally crass and disrespectable behavior towards anyone who challenges him and his policies. His actions and behavior threaten our (small d) democratic government and our much-needed alliances in the world. I mean you can, say, prod the NATO countries into paying and in fact increasing their own dues without insulting them. And a president of the United States should never even suggest that he has any racist thoughts.
I also think it is about time that his prospective Democratic Party challengers tell us in some detail what their foreign policy might look like. They may do so tonight, I don’t know.
Now a presidential candidate cannot and should not go into every minute detail with scenerios and all that. The idea of telegraphing adversaries is nonsense and dangerous, but we need an outline, a realistic and sound clue.
One reason for Trump’s wishy washiness in the Middle East, to stay or to go, is that saying one thing on the stump is a lot easier than facing the real facts once you have the job.
In terms of foreign policy maybe what we need is a kinder and gentler Trump, I just doubt that Trump himself can fill the bill.
And I personally don’t buy the argument used by so many Trump supporters that you just have to excuse his rudeness because that is just him. No, that rudeness is doing what could be irreperable harm to our democracy or to our democratic republic and our relations with the world. And what a terrible example to young people. Are we teaching them that incivility and ignornace is a positive?
We are not an island unto ourselves.
A lot of young people or a lot of not-so-young people have a scant knowledge of history or any at all (of history). But while the United States came out of World War II in 1945 as the strongest nation on the planet and has maintained that post all this time, it has not been without help. The Western allies might not have won the war without us, but we probably would not have won it without them. It was a team effort. Since then we fended off the Soviet Union and its then Eastern European satellite nations with the combined forces of most of the Western European nations, called NATO, standing at the ready. And we fought a hot war in Southeast Asia, Vietnam to be precise, that was a proxy war with the Soviet Union, with the help of something called SEATO. Austrailians and South Koreans (and others?) fought valiantly. While we lost that one we did do much to weaken the Soviet Union in the process. It eventually dissolved as a result of draining itself of resources with too much military spending in general and getting mired in its own Vietnam, called Afghanistan (and darn it if the U.S. has not fallen into the Afghanistan tar baby trap since).