It's pretty obvious that Donald Trump is in over his head, way over.
It's one thing when you create your own world, a lavish bubble, and call all the shots within that gold-plated fantasyland. That's lousy preparation for taking over the Oval Office. The presidency isn't a business. You don't always get to call the shots and fire anyone who doesn't meet your every whim.
If there's one thing I wish I could have changed about Trump two years ago before he quested for the Republican nomination it would be his uncontrollable Pavlovian nature. He's exactly like Pavlov's dog. Show him the easy meat and he promptly drools all over the floor.
In Trump's case you can substitute provocation for the meat. Challenge Trump, mock Trump, criticize Trump, goad his fragile narcissistic ego and he compulsively responds, always with vitriol, always to excess, worst of all, always utterly predictably. It's not an impulse, it's a compulsion. It's a gaping rent in the presidential suit of armour.
Some dangerous people who have nothing but ill will for the United States have been watching the Great Orange Bloat for the last two years, observing, dissecting and analyzing his bizarre psychological tick, what Angela Merkel graciously calls his "thought environment." They've watched the video of every campaign rally, every debate, every press conference. They've logged every middle of the night/pre-dawn tweet. It's their business to understand his every weakness and how he can be used to undermine the Great Satan. I'm betting they like what they see.
What better way to start than opening an insurmountable hurdle to any prospect of mutual trust and respect between a hapless incoming and damaged president and the very intelligence and security services he'll so desperately require?
Meanwhile, America's national security and intelligence agencies are shitting bricks. They've discretely run their own assessments of their incoming commander in chief. They know what America's enemies know and they know that America's enemies know what they know and how that chasmic vulnerability between a naive rookie president and his own security officials might be exploited. They know the threat their new president represents to the United States, America's allies, the world. It's their job to serve the president but not at the expense of the safety, even survival of the country. There is a line that, until now, has never been in danger of being crossed.
In another time we used the term "the Great Game" to refer to Russian and British rivalry over Central and South Asia spanning most of the nineteenth century. Something along similar lines only this time targeting the United States of America could be unfolding.
My guess is that they want to exploit Trump's inclination to retreat, to withdraw America from its global hegemony. They may see this as their best, perhaps only chance to put the post war Uncle Sam genie back in the bottle.
How to do that? One way is to give Trump a crash course in reality. Demonstrate to him the very real limits of the power of the American presidency. What limits? Consider this. For the past fifteen years, presidents vastly more competent than Trump have repeatedly failed to impose America's will as the U.S. did leading up its zenith, the glorious Desert Storm victory of George H.W. Bush. It's been downhill ever since. America still has All the King's Men and All the King's Horses but, despite the expenditure of thousands of American lives, hundreds of thousands of Muslim lives and trillions of dollars of American treasure, they have achieved precisely no victories. Not one.
It's easy to vilify Putin but, in fairness, he has his reasons. Every president going back to and including Reagan has made a mess of the Middle East. Reagan facilitated the rise of radical Islam when he backed the Mujahideen resistance to the Soviets in Afghanistan. He, with the Saudis in the background, incubated bin Laden and al Qaeda. Bush Sr. left a devastating power vacuum with the defeat of Saddam Hussein in Kuwait even as radical Sunni Islamists ran free. Clinton - more of the same only with sanctions that never harmed Saddam's people but caused the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives of ordinary Iraqis, especially children, due to embargoed medicines and aid. Nice one, Bill. George w. Bush? 9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq, the restoration of al Qaeda. Enough said. Obama? Conflict returns to Iraq. ISIS consolidates and then spreads to Syria before metastasizing throughout the Muslim world from northwest Africa to Afghanistan to Southeast Asia. "The Troubles, Mk. 2," spreads to Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and parts distant and near including Europe.
Think of this from the perspective of a slightly different Vlad Putin, one who's not a thug. You're just a little sensitive because those goddamned Westerners, this time the lot of them, have rolled another army right up to the Rodina's doorstep. You've been pushed back, even isolated from Europe and run out of the Middle East. Now you sit back and watch your historical adversary and recent punisher falter, run out of steam and then elect an utter buffoon to the presidency. You're suddenly presented with a golden opportunity gift wrapped at your feet. Do you just say, "Oh no, I don't think that taking that opportunity would be right, not when they're down and in disarray"? Or do you take an opportunity that may never come your way again? No, you don't want to obliterate the United States. You just want to neutralize it enough that you can restore your presence/hegemony in both Europe and the Middle East.
Remember we're talking about Vladimir Putin, a guy whose entire career and rise to power were based on never missing or failing to take an opportunity.
Then you've got Beijing. China, a country whose economy is expected to grow larger than America's by 2025, latest. They know history. They know that there's rarely been a peaceful transfer of global economic dominance between countries so alien to each other. They remember their Century of Humiliation. That's a powerful lens through which they view what they consider the inevitable turmoil ahead.
Recall here the "Bush Doctrine" that was lifted wholesale from the bellicose manifesto of the Project for the New American Century, the Knights' Temple of neoconservatism. The Bush Doctrine, among other things, proclaimed that America reserved the right to use military force to defeat any nation or group of nations (hostile or friendly) that challenged America's military and economic domination. Hint: America needs muscle, loads of it, to keep other nations in line so that it can continue, indefinitely, to accrue ever more foreign debt while still running trade and payment deficits that will never be paid off (cf. James Galbraith, "The End of Normal," chapter 7).
China only continues to carry America's IOUs while it is not yet quite ready to ascend the throne. They want to be Number One and they do want to expand their global influence and hegemony as any dominant power wants, they want American-style preferential access to resources and money, but they don't want the Americans to get all nihilistic about it.
To grease the skids, China would be happy if America abandoned its political and military domination of the East/Southeast Asia region. China wants to be the hegemon in its own back yard. Seeing America descend into presidential chaos, perhaps even paralysis, must be massively enticing to Beijing.
Let's face it, these are powerful and sophisticated people with plenty of resources at hand, both cyber and conventional. By now they probably have a full run of tests on the heavy metals and other toxins in Donald Trump's hair follicles, the sugar count in his urine, and the evidence of malignancy and the onset of other chronic disease in his stool. And they've also got their psychological profiles. Couple that with the fact that he'll be 70 when he's sworn in, the oldest incoming president in America, and, unlike even Reagan, already demonstrating signs of mental issues they must see both as danger and immense opportunity.
I remember as a kid, we used to test the ice out behind the house and onto the lake by taking it a step at a time. You would walk very gradually, listening to the cracks. You listened as the sound of the cracks changed as you kept going further out. Then you had to make a personal decision on when you had gone far enough and would go no further.
America's enemies and its rivals are in much that same position. They have to test the ice, Donald Trump, and there's no better time to do it than when he first comes to the presidency with all his intellectual and psychological difficulties unresolved.
And so this is beginning to unfold. The Taliban are issuing demands, not to the White House, but to the president to be. They're speaking to Donald Trump. They're telling him to either release prisoners from Afghan cells or they'll decapitate American hostage, Kevin King.
The Chinese, meanwhile, are warning that the US risks war if, as Tillerson has has threatened, it blocks Chinese access to the South China Sea.
China has controversially built fortifications and artificial islands across the South China Sea. Rex Tillerson, Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, said China’s “access to those islands … is not going to be allowed”.
China claims nearly the entire area, with rival claims by five south-east Asian neighbours and Taiwan.
ISIS, al Qaeda, China, what's next? Oh yeah. Moscow, the Kremlin, Vlad Putin.
We know that every Russian premier going back to Gorbachev is thoroughly pissed with Washington for deigning to march NATO to Russia's front door while it was floundering and weak.
Obama just dispatched the makings of an armoured brigade to Poland. The deployment, said to be a message to Moscow, has infuriated Putin. He sees it as a provocation. That much has been splashed about our local media.
What hasn't been widely circulated in Canada or the United States is what's going on in Sweden. It's been in most of the European papers since December. Sweden has invoked its equivalent of DefCon 2. In its simplest terms, the Swedes are anticipating a potentially imminent attack from Russia. Sweden has re-activated its Cold War, "Total Defence Strategy." How much of Swedish apprehension is triggered by Putin and how much by the fears of a Trump presidency is unclear.
There's another Trump button begging to be pushed.
I do feel sorry for the bastard. He may not have time to take a proper crap on the Oval Office throne before America's enemies and its rivals begin pushing Trump's buttons. I don't think he's remotely ready to handle this.