A method to Trump’s madness? probably not, but when it works…

January 14, 2020

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).


We are rushing toward a World War I-like calamity but in the nuclear age; two crazy men face off…

July 30, 2017

The news is so bad, so depressing, so scary, about all I do is read the headlines — every now and then going in for more detail.

If ever there was a bad time to have a crazy man at the helm of our nation it is now. We have a nuclear arms buildup something akin to the arms and  war ship building race between Germany and Britain leading up to World War I and the rivalries among nations with conflicting alliances that could blow up like a power keg set off by a spark.

North Korea is rattling is sabers and threatening to hit the U.S. We had been told until just recently that North Korea was several years away from being able to threaten us but now seemingly overnight the story has changed to they could possibly hit all or much of the U.S. mainland and may already have or are close to having the capability of arming missiles with nuclear warheads.

And I am sorry to say all you Trump supporters, whoever you may be, we have an incompetent fool as president who is in way, way over his head. He is certainly not a leader; he has created disarray in his own political party and daily, mostly in the wee hours, dashes off silly and threatening statements via Twitter.

There is another mad man at the helm in North Korea — Kim Jong whatever his name is. Both men deserve each other but none of us deserve them.

At the same time, with the U.S. weakened to the point of near impotence due to the lack of leadership, we have Iran going ahead with its nuclear missile program, and even our ally South Korea reversing its previous position and looking to build up a missile arsenal. And did not Trump suggest that Japan should build up a nuclear arsenal itself and not depend upon the U.S.? Imagine, the only nation to have ever suffered a nuclear attack, at our hands at that, having to resort to building up a nuclear defense program. Yeah that’s what we need nuclear proliferation.

And don’t even talk about domestic politics. While I can understand some sentiment for returning to more conservative values (although turning back the clock is out of the question and impossible), Trump is just making a mockery out of human decency.

He needs to be stopped. Impeached. Removed for being mentally incompetent, or something (and I do not mean violence).

This is not politics talking. I don’t care what your political philosophy is. This what we are going through, and if it continues it cannot have a good ending.

The only good ending is an end to the Trump administration.

Actually he seems to be losing power, not being able to get anyone of import on his side anymore. Maybe he will self destruct.

I can only hope.

Okay, this was somewhat of a rant. And I did not go into specifics. No time. I am at work, at my real job, just taking a break. Maybe later I’ll get specific. But if you follow the news you have to know what I mean.

The World War I analogy was something like if we strike North Korea then China will feel obligated to strike us. And there could be other such disastrous chains of events as well.

We are rushing toward a World War I-like calamity but in the nuclear age. It might not be survivable.

 

 

 

 


We pay the most, field the most in NATO, and that has added to our power…

May 31, 2017

My personal take on NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) is that it is a convenient cover for projecting United States power, plain and simple.

It gave us an excuse to install our own military bases in places such as Germany, Spain, and Italy after World War II, allowing us to have forward staging areas in our face-off with our ally (from World War II) turned enemy, the old Soviet Union.

A side benefit was that the Western European democracies got an almost free ride being relieved of the cost of maintaining strong national defenses of their own. In turn they were able to rebuild from the rubble of WWII, with the added help of our monetary assistance through the Marshall Plan.

So why were we willing all this time to let them slide? And yes, the European nations did (do) supply their own troops and equipment and some monetary contribution, but way below that of what the U.S. did. The answer is obvious. Since we paid the biggest bill, we held the most power.

Having those European bases came in handy when we needed to respond to crises in the Middle East, as an example.

But now President Trump has chastised member nations for not paying enough dues and although finally indicating continued U.S. membership in NATO, has previously questioned its relevance in the post Soviet world (of course Russia is still expansionist, particularly in bordering East Europe).

All I am saying is that I always figured NATO was just a convenient method for the U.S. to project or maintain its power.

Even though I am not big on interventionism, I continue to believe it is in the best interests of the United States to maintain its power.

German chancellor Angela Merkel has warned her European neighbors that they can no longer depend upon the United States alone.

Right now the economic power house in Europe is Germany. Germany is no longer militaristic (over time that could change), but is does take part with us in our Middle Eastern conflicts.

President Trump has criticized Merkel and Germany.

I personally think we ought to stay on Germany’s good side.

And there is an argument for dropping out of NATO, but we ought to consider what we will lose in the form of the strategic staging of our military forces.

As far as pressing other members of NATO to pay their fair share, well that is fine, but it could be done more quietly.

And why are we complaining about being king of the hill?

Sadly, under Trump, the U.S. is losing its status all over the world at this time.

The emperor has no clothes and there is no real method to his madness.


Secrecy can have its value even in a democracy, but Trump can’t keep a secret anyway…

May 30, 2017

While it is troubling that President Trump and his administration (and his preceding campaign) seem to have or have had so much secret communication with the Russians and that Trump seems to respect dictators more than the leaders of the Western democracies, it would be good if he and his administration could work behind the scenes, perhaps with China and Russia (and anyone else who could help) to deal with threats posed by North Korea. Since it is in the mutual interest of some of even our adversaries to arrest the growing cancer that is Kim Jong-un’s North Korea they would likely be willing to help us under the cover of secrecy.

However, in the Trump administration it seems secrecy does not exist.

I mean most of us who want good government call for transparency. Well in a way we have it with the Trump administration, that is to say it is transparently inept. And it is doubtful its leader, President Donald Trump, could keep a secret if he had to. He bragged to the thug dictator of the Philippines about submarines we have deployed off the coast of North Korea (military commentators said that is supposed to be classified info). He reportedly shared tidbits of intelligence we got from Israel with his Russian buddies, and well, if you keep up on the news you know the rest.

Ok, I’ll go on: his son in-law Jared Kushner, it has been brought out, tried to open a secret back channel with the Russians during the presidential transition.

Now actually, who knows? This could be or could have been a positive thing. If the Russians are willing to work with us in secret for our mutual benefit, it does not have to be a bad thing. Basically for the thirty years of the Cold War we worked with the Russians (to a degree) as the world’s two superpowers of the time under the threat of mutual destruction, not only of each other but the whole world.

Not much has changed, except now there are more players in a way. The U.S. is the only remaining superpower (at least for the moment) but various adversaries have realized that they can wield power or threats over their own size by getting the bomb — Iran (working on it), North Korea (very close to full nuclear attack capability it would seem), and who knows? So-called Islamic terrorists?

It would also be good if the United States could work more closely with the Russians in the Syria situation in which both nations are trying to fight Islamic terrorists there but are at odds over the Assad regime in Syria (Assad is a Russian ally but a ruthless dictator who murders his own people by the thousands as far as the U.S. in concerned). Syria is vital if for no other reason than the instability it creates and the refugees it produces who have swamped Europe.

A more conventional administration with sober and experienced hands could use all this intrigue to all of our benefit (although history shows we did some intrigue that was really not).

But so far I don’t see much real promise in the Trump government by chaos, sprinkled with ignorance (mostly at the top) style of governance.

Another problem is that evidence that keeps coming out indicates the Trump administration has ulterior motives in working with the Russians — it all has to do with private business arrangements to line the pockets of Trump and his family and associates — that is the implication. One wonders if they would be willing to sell out their own country in the name of the all-mighty dollar.

p.s.

And Trump and his tweets: So tweeting is I guess kind of like instantly transmitting random thoughts that zip through your mind to the whole world. If we all just automatically did this we would live in a glorious world of, using that current pet word of the good governance crowd, transparency. True chaos and mayhem would also ensue. Some of those random thoughts are involuntary and some don’t  take into consideration all the evidence and, besides, in civil society there is such a thing as discretion.


The man who is making U.S. foreign policy (Trump) doesn’t even know what ‘Middle East’ means…

May 23, 2017

The humiliation of at least generally intelligent Americans never ends when Donald Trump is president.

The dunderhead in chief just informed his hosts in Israel that they are not the Middle East.

A slip of the tongue? He was tired? Yada, yada, yada.

No, we know from his public history that he is actually not well informed, not curious, and incapable of holding on to a thought for more than maybe a few seconds.

And this is the man who is making our foreign policy.

Now I realize that in this world of jet travel one can go to far-off places and never see much more than an airport and then maybe the hotel.

I’m a long-haul truck driver but what do I mostly see? The interstate, the truck stop, the industrial area, and then back home again. Sadly it is completely possible to travel and see and learn nothing.

But I do have curiosity. I have done some traveling outside of truck driving. And I have seen and learned things.

If you share my level of curiosity or even mildly so, you and I would be better at making foreign policy than Trump.

Trump was telling his Israeli hosts how he just visited Saudi Arabia, the Middle East. “We just got back from the Middle East”, he said. One official briefly covered his face with a hand in discomfort no doubt.

You might dismiss it as a gaffe.

No it’s called Trump.

The great masses of the uninformed and uninterested got their man in the White House.

I hope they are happy. I’m not.

p.s.

Geographical terms can be tricky because they have changed somewhat through the years. But even with all of that, just look it up and you will see that Israel is, well just about in the middle of the Middle East.

Trump geography:

https://www.popsugar.com/news/Donald-Trump-Middle-East-Comment-Israel-43565034

 


Have to agree with at least one part of Trump speech to Muslim nations: U.S. security is the prime concern…

May 22, 2017

The good news is that President Trump apparently did not say anything stupid or insulting to his Saudi Arabian hosts and to others in a major speech to leaders of Muslim nations in which he urged them to join with the U.S. to fight world terror.

While I have neither listened to all the speech nor read the full transcript (from which he may have deviated a little from time to time) I think I agree with this excerpted paragraph, as provided by The Atlantic site:

—————-

America is a sovereign nation and our first priority is always the safety and security of our citizens. We are not here to lecture—we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship. Instead, we are here to offer partnership—based on shared interests and values—to pursue a better future for us all.


Back to my words:

I think our problem in the Middle East and elsewhere is nation building. We work with cultures we do not understand and stir up resentment even among people thought to be friendly to us.

But at the same time, just like Trump said, the safety and security of our citizens is our first priority — and of course how we get there in world hot spots is another question.

Example: we have no right to tell North Korea how to run its internal business. But the hands-off approach to the crazy-man regimes there has now come to a point where we are in peril.

We went into Afghanistan ostensibly in a search for Osama Bin Laden or maybe him and his Taliban but we got bogged down — not learning from the disaster the Russians had years earlier when they invaded that country — and at the time we supported Bin Laden against them. It gets so complicated.

There has already been criticism that Trump ignored the issue of human rights in Muslim nations he wants to work with us in the fight against terrorism.

We can encourage, sure, but it is not our business. Somehow I think the evolution in the Middle East will eventually lead to democracy. Some thought it would have happened rapidly during the so-called Arab Spring like it did for much of Eastern Europe when the old Soviet Union fell apart. It spent so much time using police and military force to repress its people and building up armaments and sowing seeds of socialist revolution around the globe that it caved in of its own weight. It failed to address the needs and aspirations of its people.

And back to the present. And then there was this is Trumps speech:

“Yesterday, we signed historic agreements with the Kingdom that will invest almost $400 billion in our two countries and create many thousands of jobs in America and Saudi Arabia.

And it all comes down to this. An arms deal. We want their oil and they want our armaments.

Nothing ever changes.

But if Trump made no major gaffe that’s good.

And perhaps the realpolitik approach is better than the Obama apology approach. I understand they respect power or at least the attempt to project power and self interest in that part of the world — that is how they operate.

(Obama is a better man. He is a grownup. Despite his age, Trump does not seem to be much of the time. But in this instance the practical approach seems best. He did not write his speech.  But if he can stick to the script and lay off Twitter, we might all weather it for the time being.)

And really isn’t it about time we told the Muslim world to quit fighting among themselves over how to believe in God and drawing the rest of us in? Even Trump could not have said that, but isn’t that how you feel?


The wrong-way armada; loose lips sink ships, but loose tongues start wars…

April 19, 2017

I know President Trump has said that he is giving the military a freer hand rather than micro managing its actions in our ongoing conflicts but according to reports Tuesday it would seem either he did not know what the Navy was really doing or he and his administration spokespeople just lied.

More than a week ago the president claimed he was dispatching an armada of ships to the waters off North Korea in reaction to that wayward nation’s missile tests and continued nuclear arms development.

Working off the official word, news outlets reported it like this excerpt out of a USA Today story of April 9:

………………The aircraft carrier and its accompanying ships had been scheduled to leave from Singapore for port visits to Australia on Saturday, but Adm. Harry Harris, head of U.S. Pacific Command, ordered the strike group to head north toward Korean waters instead.   ……………

But now we are being told there was some kind of confusion between the ships’ officers and the Pentagon and the administration and the press and therefore the American people (and the world) were misled. Instead the naval task force headed the other way, toward Australia after all, and only now is it headed toward North Korea.

If the ships really are headed there now I am not sure what difference it all makes but it makes one wonder how much control Trump has (and the president, a civilian, is at the top of the chain of command over the military by our constitution).

Now I realize it might not be a good tactical idea to broadcast the position of our ships but I think the American people have a right to know what is being done in our name and while I would generally applaud the idea of a president not micro managing the military as presidents have done since LBJ, I would like to think the president knows where our warships are going.

And if Trump just made that all up on the spur of the moment to put a scare into Kim Jong-Un — the totally savage and totally nutty leader of North Korea who is constantly threatening to send nuclear-tipped missiles our way — and risk war when really were not doing anything, we really have a problem. This is too serious. I mean even if North Korea’s last missile failed shortly after launching, going kerplop in the ocean, that nation has a tremendous conventional forces and might draw in China and Russia on its side.

Yeah, so maybe this having our ships go the wrong direction was a diversionary tactic and it was a good idea not to give the exact position — loose lips sink ships. But loose lips can cause war when the president makes am impromptu announcement he’s dispatching war ships to a country.

And if he dispatched the fleet in the name of a crisis of the moment that overrode congressional consideration then why did it apparently take a detour?

Now we know we cannot trust anything Trump says in this post-truth era and we know there is a problem of deliberate false reporting, and now we must suffer incorrect news coming out of our government either by design or incompetence.

Trump was lauded by many for his decisive action in the Syria bombing but now we find that it amounted to a tremendous waste of ordnance, at least I think, despite launching billions of dollars worth of Tomahawk missiles the airfield target was not rendered useless.

And then there was the mother of all bombs (short of nuclear bombs) dropped in Afghanistan this past week but are we supposed to believe it was worth it and civilian lives lost justified?

By all accounts the big bomb was a big success military wise, killing scores of the enemy — but then again the American people have been lied to before about how effective our military operations are.

And finally, congress needs to step up to the plate and reassert its constitutional authority on declaring war and presidents need to quit dispatching ships and drones and troops hither and yon like some geo-political board game.