Saturday, January 14, 2017

Could Donald Trump Destroy the United States?

It's Canada's major trading partner so we would do well to think hard on what Donald Trump might do - not to China or Mexico or Europe - but to the United States itself.

Princeton University professor, David Bell, writes that Trump could wind up taking America down.

Not only is Trump becoming the leader of the most powerful state the world has ever seen, but thanks to Republican control of Congress — and soon, quite possibly, the Supreme Court — Trump has the potential to become the most powerful president in American history. And he is one of the most radically unpredictable men ever elected to that office. He is not guided by a distinct, systematic ideology, and he is not, to say the least, constrained by humility or self-doubt. In foreign policy, he has surrounded himself with advisors like Michael Flynn and Frank Gaffney who give credence to conspiracy theories and see Islam — not just radical jihadism, but Islam itself — as an existential threat to the United States. In domestic policy, he has assembled a team whose ties to international business and the “swamp” of Washingtonian corruption contradict much of his own populist rhetoric.


Donald Trump so willful and thin-skinned, so convinced of his own abilities, so enamored of his own unpredictability, and at the same time so unable to concentrate on any particular issue, that he is far less likely to appreciate the constraints that have weighed so heavily on his predecessors or even to understand them. He is also far less likely to listen to his advisors, and these advisers themselves are, overall, far more ignorant of their supposed areas of expertise than any other group of high-level administration officials in American history.

Even in crisis situations, U.S. presidents have generally done their best to follow predictable, well-established decision-making protocols. ...Donald Trump, alas, is almost certainly less likely to follow established protocols than any of his predecessors. In a crisis situation, how is he likely to react? Can anyone know?

...There is no shortage of scenarios — a major terrorist attack in the West, a collapse of the nuclear agreement with Iran, renewed Russian aggression in its “near abroad” — that could present an American president with deeply consequential decisions to make.

In these decisions, Donald Trump’s personality could assume, difficult as it is to apply these words to him, world-historical importance. As a consequence, the personalities of other leaders, especially Vladimir Putin, could also come to matter in critical ways, as they come into conflict with Trump. If impersonal forces led to Trump’s personal rise, it’s now all too easy to imagine his troubled personality leading to his country’s collective fall.


rumleyfips said...

A few weeks ago, Trudeau was in China talking trade. A few days ago the Chinese were insulted by Trump et al. Today we find that China is dropping its seafood tariff from 11% to 5 %. A small step but an important one.

The trade deal with Europe looks better and better.

the salamander said...

.. I believe Donald 'witless one' Trump will try in his unique blundering style
but try to imagine a scenario of Trump & The Joint Chiefs Of Staff
Although backed by his cadre of Ivanka & Kushner Bannon etc
I see him being told 'you're a fool and ass' by mulitple military.. straight to his sagging face..
Look for volume resignations - hight public aftermath & Trump tweets

Trump's 'worldview' if you can use those two words in one sentance
is ludicrous.. the usual Israel lockstep meets Putin bromance..
and all the stinking reek of money laundering, honeypot, debt markers..
His Asian comprehension level is at tweet level & reality tv ratings level only
His only real 'experience' is being a loud, rude, rich, debt ridden A-hole

The Mound of Sound said...

For all the talk we hear about Deep Government, that back room sort of organization may be America's lifeline if Trump, as expected, goes Berserker in the White House. In just one term in office he could irreparably damage America and its place in the world. Relationships with allies that took decades to evolve could be unwound for decades to come.

Galbraith, in "The End of Normal," addresses the preferential "free ride" America has enjoyed for nearly four decades, wanting for nothing, getting preferential "front of the line" access to the world's resources for as close to next to nothing as possible, even as its overall debt and balance of payments and balance of trade deficits steadily mounted. When that hit snags they resorted to "qualitative easing" - writing down the value of debt held by their major creditors. Helping this along was the advantage of 1. holding the world's reserve currency and 2. an adequate supply of printing presses.

This has worked because America's creditors, the nations and people who buy US government debt, see fit for it to continue. But it's madness to imagine that will last forever, especially if Trump becomes the bully in the China shop.

It's important to understand how dependent the US is on foreign support. All of its wars have been funded on borrowings. The same can be said of the tax cuts and benefits afforded the 1%. How will those industries and the oligarchs behind them react if that's imperilled recklessly?

A coup? Probably not. A crazed gunman assassination? You can't rule that out.

Owen Gray said...

There's a reason why the man is a serial bankrupt.

Anonymous said...

. Helping this along was the advantage of 1. holding the world's reserve currency..
This position is only good as long s the USA can go around and take what it wishes by military force.
As the USA military shrinks and the competition of Russia and China increase then the US dollar will lose ground.
The US Navies Aircraft carriers are for the first time in many years all at home port possibly due to an over extension of US force these last few years and too little maintenance.
Just as the USA wore down Russia in Afghanistan( via the Taliban) causing financial ruin ; the US faces the same as their obscene military budget seems to be taking it's toll at home.
The Philippines seem set to throw their lot in with China; who's next?


The Mound of Sound said...

As I watched Obama place the Medal of Freedom around the vice president's neck I asked myself how the same nation capable of producing people of the calibre of Joe Biden could install people of the calibre of Donald Trump in their White House. The incoming president has the attributes of a barn animal - part pig, part goat, part rutting bull.

Dana said...

I plan to have a lot of fun laughing at Trump supporters as they realize they're getting fucked over. No compassion, no understanding. Just laughter and ridicule - including American members of my extended family. They voted for him, they deserve what they get and I don't give a shit about them.

Plenty of compassion and rage for the rest of the world that has to suffer the consequences of the stupidity of the hillbillies.

Purple library guy said...

This is all pretty much true, but I do wonder--so what could he do short of actually pressing the nuclear button (which I really don't believe he would do no matter how much people shriek about it--if anything Hilary would have been a bigger risk there) that would be worse in a substantive way than what his more intelligent, thoughtful predecessors have been doing? Like, say there's some major terrorist attack, let's see, what's the stupidest thing he could do? Oh, hey, what if he responded by invading some country that wasn't even connected to the attack and wrecking the place, turning it into a haven for terrorists, while cozying up to the very country that sponsors all the terrorism? Oh wait, already done--9/11, invaded Iraq, still best pals with Saudi Arabia.

Anonymous said...

The Russians promised long ago to bury them. Between Ayn Rand and Trump, perhaps they will succeed.

Scotian said...

"(which I really don't believe he would do no matter how much people shriek about it--if anything Hilary would have been a bigger risk there)" PLG

HRC is in your mind an inherently bigger NUCLEAR risk than Trump?!?!?!?


look, I get those on the left having questions and concerns about HRC on the foreign and security fronts, I do, I really really do. I do not share those concerns mostly but I get the basis for them. This one though, this one? Exactly where has HRC ever shown even the slightest carelessness regarding the use of nuclear weapons as an issue, nor shown even the slightest inclination to use such?

As to what is the stupidest thing he could do in the wake of an Islamic terrorist attack? Here's one. Nuke fucking MECCA! I think THAT might, just might, be seen as much more stupid than the entire Iraq fiasco was and is. You want, I can find a few more that can make the Iraq idiocy look relatively minor for the blowback and destabilization effects that would follow, not just for America but the entire human race!

You need to get your head out of your ass on this one PLG, Trump is not anything we have seen before, and trying to normalize him as more of the same or even better than more of the same HRC would have been I find appalling, disconnected from reality, and frankly being a useful idiot like those that helped paint HRC as history's greatest monster because of EMAILZ. This while Trump snuck into power despite some much more serious conflict of interest grounds, blackmail/extortion grounds, and the very real possibility that he is not only the preferred choice of a major foreign power and antagonist to the US and western nations but even the very real possibility of being actually owned by such.

Trump assured us he would never be so stupid as to be recorded in Russia doing anything wrong last week I believe. Well if those master spies at Access Hollywood and that super spymaster Billy Bush can record him confessing to loving being able to be a sexual predator without any trouble in the years before he ran for President, I find that assurance rather hollow now.

Danneau said...

This is why the US governance is divided into three branches so that the SC and Congress can act as a...oh, Shit!

The Mound of Sound said...

I'm with Danneau - the planetary alignment of the branches of US government sort of thing. With the Democrats struggling to hold on until the bell ends the round the only thing that might stand in the way is this oft denounced Deep Government.

PLG asks what could Trump do? The risk isn't of him launching a major, peer on peer, war nearly so much as it is him backing America into a war that becomes unstoppable. That's how the Great War broke out. Nobody wanted it but they lost control.

Professor Bell touches on something that's been gnawing at me - Trump's chronic and severe inability to concentrate on significant issues. If he was a 12 year old, he'd be on IV Ritalin. That's a major psychological defect for the commander in chief of the world's most powerful military. Layer atop that his other narcissistic and compulsive behaviours, and they're deep seated in this 70-year old juvenile, and governments around the world should be terrified.

Donald Trump imperils his nation and all others which is why I think there's a significant chance this could end with a bullet.

Hugh said...

It was bad policies of previous govts which led to banks running amok with the subprime mess, which almost took down the financial system. A new govt needs to fix all that.

The Mound of Sound said...

You might be right, Hugh, but this government, as constituted with Trump's cabinet picks, isn't the government to do that.

Purple library guy said...

Scotian, no, you need to get yours out. It has been declared by certain communities that the Serious People consider Donald Trump to actually be insane and so now there is not only a sort of moral panic about him but the people foaming at the mouth are certain they're the only sane ones and talk down to everyone else. So you get to YELL IN CAPITAL LETTERS at people who want to look at reality dispassionately instead of running in circles like chickens with heads off.

Trump isn't insane. He's a pretty ordinary vulgar, narcissistic asshole/dickhead, written a bit larger because he's got more money. He isn't even stupider than half the morons in US public office. He just isn't a career politician so he never adopted politician style in his bullshitting; he jars because he's not part of the culture. But he functioned fine dealing with other capitalists, TV industry people, and even politicians he was peddling influence to, for decades.
In the case of the foreign policy culture, that's a disadvantage because he doesn't understand the unwritten rules about what to say and not say--this is bound, for instance, to piss off the Chinese who consider respect and etiquette important. But it's also an advantage, in that he isn't deeply committed to the dominant foreign policy agenda, which is, to quote you Mr. Scotian, FUCKING INSANE. Ages of groupthink have taken the US foreign policy establishment to depths of hubris and self-deception far beyond what one independently-thinking narcissist can manage. Hilary Rodham Clinton is strongly committed to systematically pushing Russia with the end goal of breakup or loss of independence, as is the foreign policy community and apparently a good chunk of the intelligence community. This is a really stupid goal. Further, they seem to systematically concentrate on the brilliance of their own moves while assuming that the Russians are morons who are not watching what the US does and will make no countermoves. And, against all available evidence, they seem to assume that intimidating Russia will be an effective way to reach their goals. Further, quite a few of them seem to think that with the right combination of rapid first strike and missile defence, they could WIN A NUCLEAR WAR. You see papers about it in top establishment foreign policy/military strategy journals; none of them seem to have ever heard of fallout or nuclear winter. This is completely batshit insane; these people systematically fence out evidence and thought which might suggest their goals and approach aren't such a good idea. The end result of all this is to step by step, as Mound said, back America towards a war which could become unstoppable. Hilary backing this well-established line would have been a huge risk. Trump is not risk free, but he does not have a systematic ideology of pushing us to the brink of nuclear war.

Trump will certainly ruin the American economy faster and harder than another president would have. He will be even more blatantly corrupt than another president would have been. And he will set various groups of the American people against each other even faster and harder than the existing and worsening structural tensions would have. And he will commit foreign policy blunders which will cause violent death and reduce American prestige, maybe even more than other presidents. But as to the nuclear button . . . chances are not zero under Trump, and they certainly would not have been 100% under Clinton, but they are lower for Trump than they would have been for Clinton.

The Mound of Sound said...

PLG - there's a real difference between insanity and moderate, even severe personality disorders but, in the context of the American presidency, personality disorders can be potentially far more dangerous.

I'm familiar with your take on Hillary Clinton but, on that, we'll have to disagree. Your mind's made up and I won't try to change it.

As I've stressed before, the threat of war we face today isn't the Dr. Strangelove type but rather leaders who, through personality disorders or ignorance or hubris, back themselves into conflicts they fail to foresee. Trump brings to the table personality disorders, ignorance and hubris, the Trifecta. He won't even realize he's sparked a war until well after the fact.

Anonymous said...

Speaking about sanity,
BBC reports that in a recent interview Trump "condemned the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 as possibly the worst decision ever made in the history of the country..." While hrc supported destruction (i.e. mass murder&atrocities) of Iraq and Libya and destabilization of Syria.
So, who has saner thoughts?
Looks that PLG has ;-)

The Mound of Sound said...

Yeah, A..non, only that's not true. Quite the opposite. He's on record as first saying that it was the right thing to do. Yes, later, when it fell apart, he changed his mind. It's what he does. Okay for a private citizen. Not okay for a president.

Scotian said...


Normally I don't care about having the last word, but this, this is simply too serious a topic for me to do so, I'm just sorry it took this long to get back to it.

You clearly are allowing your biases and your partisanship to form fantasies about HRC that are not supported by reality, while ignoring ones that are supported by evidence regarding Trump. What makes this truly appalling though is your doing so on the use of nuclear weapons. THAT is why I find myself unable to leave this alone. Were we talking about less severe issues I probably wouldn't have come out so hard nor find myself revisiting several days later, but seriously man, nukes? You really think that HRC is an inherently greater risk for authorizing the use of NUCLEAR, not conventional, NUCLEAR weapons use than Donald Trump. I can at least see an argument, one I don't agree with, but at least an argument about her being more inclined towards use of conventional forces than Trump, but the nuclear path?

Sorry PLG, that is a delusion truly Trumpian in nature.

You want to lecture me about nuclear weapons, their use, and such, you better have a HELL of a lot better argument than you have been making! Some of us grew up living under the direct threat of being nuked (born and raised in one of the few known first strike targets), and decided the best way to deal with that fear was to understand the nature of the threat, and even post Cold War I have always kept up on this file even more than most. What you are arguing here is not supported by the facts, evidence, anything but your own irrational biases against HRC, which are blinding you

You make me disgusted we share a hobby in common with this, to be honest.

Purple library guy said...

Scotian, I used to respect you. But this is just nasty BS. You're yacking, but there's no substance. You're asserting that you know what you're talking about (really--the argument from authority, except the authority is you?!), that I am delusional and apparently disgusting, that it is terrible that I should be saying what I'm saying instead of saying what you're saying. But you advance no arguments for your point of view, you're just utterly shocked that anyone can see all the media fear and not be scared.

On the basic question of which of us is more likely to be delusional, well, your politics are fairly close to Democratic politics. You are, basically, a Democrat. I on the other hand am a radical, and generally consider the two parties sufficiently close on the more important political and economic questions that the distance between myself and both of them far outweighs the distance between the two. Sure, I hate the Republicans marginally more, but I don't identify with Democrats.

So OK, we now have a major uproar in the media which is basically a Democratic (big D), liberal (small 'l', in the US sense) phenomenon. The Democrats as a party and people broadly allied to them are pushing hard at certain claims. It is not surprising that a more-or-less Democrat takes these claims as gospel truth and a radical looks beneath them a bit. It is also not surprising if a radical has been paying more attention to the imperialist record and neocon associations of Hilary Rodham Clinton than a Democrat.

So overall, I would have to suggest that an outsider trying to ascertain the truth would be wise to give more weight to the thinking of the person with less of a dog in the fight (which is to say me), rather than the one firmly committed to a side.

Final note: I suppose, hypothetically, Trump (or any other US president) could start a nuclear war with China. But the major threat of nuclear war is and always has been with Russia. So, tell me: Is Trump dangerous because he's in cahoots with Putin, or because he'll start a nuclear war with Putin? I don't see how it can be both, so how about you Democrats make up your damn minds?