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.
.. they're already pushing his buttons .. until its revealed exactly who holds his debt markers and for how much, it may be wise to assume the worst. The smell of money laundering, even if unwitting is becoming obvious & this complete buffoon is on what bankrupty now? Bankruptcy is Trump's 'Brand' if there is such a thing.. I've made the point before that he is simply a valet for the Pandoras Box of the Republicans & Tea Party & the Supremacists - racists.. He'll be outwitted and outmanouvered for 2 years at most, then forced to scram once the real shakers and makers consolidate & clean house. It'll be a true shitshow.. and Trump is the perfect dupe, the perfect deflection shield. And that's just on the domestic USA side. As you've detailed quite effectively, the Big Picture of the real apex predators who are already in motion will be fully revealed with Pense or Paul Ryan as el presidente - a front for the So called Trump Team. Trump will end up as a talk show weiner & collecting one million $ speaking fees for a strange ignorant, even dangerous mob of admirers & idolizers
With one exception, I generally agree, and that exception being, I feel no sorry for him at all. He chose this, he wasn't forced, he wasn't chosen by fate or destiny, he did this I believe because Obama crushed his ego at the 2011 WHCD between his order to take Osama out and the public knowledge of it on its heels. This was a vanity project for him, nothing more, all in his world is a vanity project for him, Hells, he is a branding markerteer and lisencer, vanity is at the core of such a business model, almost has to be for it to survive by definition!
I do though suspect his physical health will quickly show the strains, and his mental even faster, which in an American President I find terrifying, and I have to assume the rational global actors are even more aware of this than I. I agree btw with the way you presented Russia and China's interests and Putin as more than just an enemy thug, I always consider things from the perspective and interests of those under examination, not merely the way they are seen/perceived from our side of things, because as I said in a prior comment, no one perspective ever shows a whole image/reality, and the more you have the better you get to that full picture. That also means understanding how to walk a mile in someone's shoes, and that means more than just what you would do in their place at that moment, but how you would act in that moment had you lived in their shoes all the way to that moment, something a lot of people seem to not get in my experience when they use that expression.
It is going to be a very interesting time indeed, the only question left is how powerful is that going to prove out to be in the curse sense as opposed to all the rest.
Welcome to the nightmare is my guess, alas.
" Seeing America descend into presidential chaos, perhaps even paralysis, must be massively enticing to Beijing."
Had tRump 'drained the swamp' rather than filling it with Wall Street & deranged Generals and shown he was serious about ending American hegemony, your assessment of Beijing's mood might be right.
No, neither Clinton nor tRump would be found 'enticing'.
tRex (Exxon guy) is already threatening Chinese control of their own front yard.
Trump's deficits are numerous, Mound. And his adversaries have catalogued them all.
Trump will be lucky to escape with his life, he is probably targeted by the corporate predators who really run america.
jail will be another reality show theme for Trump, if he is lucky.
This asshole is a bully and a fraud and he deserves be living under an underpass and shittting into a shoe box.
Dispatching of US armoured brigade to Poland is like dispatching Russian brigade to Canada.
Completely useless from any military and diplomatic viewpoint.
Let's Uncle Sam spend his money.
But wasting ~ 350 million Canadian dollars for "defending" Baltic states is pure nonsense.
When it comes to pushing Trump's buttons and making it impossible for him to work with his intelligence community, seems to me the Americans are doing it to themselves. No matter how the "Trump is a Russian Spy" silliness plays out, it's going to delegitimize both the presidency and the intelligence community and increase the hatred between different groups of US citizens. It's quite the impressive "own goal"--the US has always subordinated foreign policy to domestic politics, but just at the moment when they can least afford to do so they're doubling down on it and then doubling down again. All the Russians and Chinese have to do is
watch. If your opponent is screwing himself, step out of the way.
And the ironic part is that the ones doing it are not the guy known for being infantile and unreasonable but the supposedly mature, intelligent types in the elite consensus. Although I'm sure Trump will do some screwups of his own if he's given the chance. I think, though, that you've got the wrong end of the manipulation--the Russians and Chinese probably don't want Trump to lash out. Trump's weakness is the size and fragility of his ego; he will lash out if it's threatened, but he will probably purr if it is stroked. Even though he's been officially hostile to China, he's not part of the foreign policy community and he doesn't have a fixed ideology or strategy; make nice with him and he might well change his mind.
For me the bigger question is, as Canadians should we care? Is there some reason I have to have a side in whether the Americans can keep on bullying the whole world or whether the Russians and Chinese will be able to carve out chunks that they can bully instead? Putin may be a "thug", although I'm unclear what different actions he would have taken if he were just, say, a "pragmatist". But overall, the Russians to an extent and the Chinese definitely seem less interested in violent approaches than the Americans. US culture is violent from the base to the elites, and politically they've been captured by their war business much more than Russia or China. Plus at a basic level I tend to prefer a multi-polar to a uni-polar world--the former tends to leave a lot more wiggle room for smaller countries to try their own approaches to things, because there's a bit of space between the bigs. So if anything, it's probably better for Canada and most other countries if the US loses some ground to competitors, even if there's nothing especially inspiring about the competitors themselves.
Losing some ground in a controlled gradual rational manner, I can see the logic of and for, and can even agree with. Losing some ground the way I believe we will see under Trump, not so controlled, gradual, nor rational, not so much. So excuse me and I suspect others who think that perhaps, just perhaps, this is something which could blow up the world order and stability in ways that have worse outcomes than the mess/reality we currently have, because Trump is simply too unstable for anything else!
As Canadians, yes we kind of should care given that we are protected by the USA they are our only defacto neighbour, and they are still our largest trading partner. We have to care by virtue of geography and our linked history. To think otherwise I find incomprehensible.
As to the "Russian spy silliness" you called it, it isn't silliness. There are more than enough blanks and legitimate linkage questions surrounding Trump and his closest circle to raise this as a very real possibility that has yet to be actively disproven. It isn't as if this is coming out of nowhere. I agree it isn't proven, and that it is one of the more unlikely and worst case scenarios with Trump and Russia, but neither is it fanciful, outlandish, nor without more than a fair bit of real weight behind it, and no, I am NOT talking about the MI6 agents dossier but all the rest which is currently getting obscured because of that dossier and the uproar around it.
You and I, we have rarely agreed on anything (except that manga is good reading) but this time, this time, I am really having a hard time understanding your certitude and confidence in what you are writing/saying. I've seen the Russia/Red card played many times before in American politics, but never on the GOP side by the Dems, that is a first, and it is a first because this is also the first time where I have seen a legitimate case for it to be played. Something is very wrong here, was very wrong throughout the election cycle/campaign, and continues to be so.
I fear that you may get what you have so clearly wanted, a weakened America, but I am not so sure you will like the new reality that comes out of it. There is a reason why one of the older cliched wishes for someone to suffer is may you get exactly what you wish for. I fear you may well be on that path.
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