Wednesday, June 28, 2017
How Desperate is Trump to Cover His Tracks? Would He Resort to War for a Smokescreen?
Here's the theory. The Russia investigation begins to close in on Donald Trump. Congressional Republicans seeking to save their own skins abandon their president. A desperate, authoritarian president throws his own nation to the wolves of war.
Waterloo prof and author of "The Upside of Down," Thomas Homer-Dixon paints a chilling scenario:
"...commentators have generally concluded that the Mueller inquiry is safe. But two factors will destabilize the current equilibrium over time. The first will be Mr. Trump’s rising motivation to stop Mr. Mueller’s inquiry as it progresses. Pursuing the Russian connection, the special counsel will probably ask the Internal Revenue Service to hand over Mr. Trump’s tax returns. Many astute observers think the reason the President hasn’t released his returns is that they contain proof of compromising financial links with Russia. If that’s indeed the case, Mr. Trump will do everything he can to prevent their release.
"The second factor will be Mr. Trump’s manipulation of the broader political environment in which Congress and the presidency operate. As Jack Goldstone, an expert on state failure, and I argued before the 2016 election, Mr. Trump can generate “a new political and social reality – an ‘emergency’ in the U.S. and around the world – that justifies … attacks on democratic institutions.”
"The most likely emergency of this kind is a war, because U.S. presidents have the most room for independent action on the international stage. Also, the start of a war almost always produces a “rally round the flag” effect and a big boost in presidential poll numbers. According to Gallup, George W. Bush saw a 13-per-cent surge in approval at the start of the Iraq invasion in 2003. In the opening days of a new war, a similar surge in Mr. Trump’s poll numbers could encourage congressional Republicans to back the President, should he move to fire Mr. Mueller simultaneously.
"The United States is closer to a war – perhaps more than one – than any time since 2003. Events could easily go awry with North Korea over its nuclear buildup, Iran over its support for insurgents in Yemen and elsewhere or Russia over an incident in Syrian airspace. And Mr. Trump doesn’t have to go to war intentionally to reap the domestic political gains I’ve described. He could stumble into war through his breathtaking foreign-policy ineptitude and then opportunistically exploit the crisis to fire the special counsel.
"After observing Mr. Trump’s first five months in office, no one should now doubt that – if not for the U.S. political system’s checks and balances – the President would accrue to himself dictatorial powers. He’s contemptuous of the rule of law, constraints on executive power, the investigative role of a free press and judicial review. So far, however, those checks and balances have stymied his authoritarian impulses. And to many people’s surprise (but not mine), the President’s sheer administrative and political incompetence has deprived him of opportunities to consolidate and expand his power.
"But in foreign policy, the reverse relationship could easily hold: Incompetence could create crisis and crisis could enable authoritarianism. If so, Mr. Trump still has one very powerful card up his sleeve."