Nearly three years into President Trump’s term, it’s becoming obvious that world leaders haven’t bought what he’s selling. The America Trump projects could definitely be great–and fearsome–if the man in the White House actually had the goods he’s been promising.
It’s pretty obvious that he doesn’t.
Every move with a foreign leader seems to have a single purpose: To move the media. One move might be designed to move the media to cover something Trump thinks would look good, and another might try to deflect the media from something Trump doesn’t want front and center.
For more than three years, this game of Three Card Monte kept the president’s approval ratings remarkably steady, regardless of the scandal of the day. The main reason it worked is because the media (and their politically like-minded friends in government) kept falling for the scam again and again.
We know there was no Russian collusion, at least not on purpose, because the Trump campaign’s goal was to win by messaging, not by facts. When he won, Trump appointed people he thought would look good in the office. That’s why he had dinner with Mitt Romney, because the criteria was “straight out of central casting.”
The closer one gets to Trump, the more likely the cabinet member is to resign or be fired.
But Trump can’t fire Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin, or Kim Jong-un. These wily despots never bought Trump’s bill of goods. In fact, they’ve used Trump’s media circus at home as effective cover to do whatever the hell they want around the world.
Now we’re seeing the effects of this failure to engage except out of regard for “central casting.”
When Trump betrayed the Kurds who fought alongside U.S. troops against ISIS, and Erdoğan began to fulfill his own ambitions to destroy them, the president wilted.
Speaking to reporters, the president said that while the stateless Kurds had fought alongside American troops against the Islamic State, or ISIS, they had done so out of self-interest, “for their land,” and noted that “they didn’t help us in the Second World War. They didn’t help us in Normandy.”Trump Calls Turkey’s Syrian Offensive a ‘Bad Idea,’ but Opposes ‘Senseless Wars’, New York Times, October 9, 2019
Who cares about what happened in Normandy when we’re fighting ISIS and dealing with a rogue NATO state that makes better deals with the Russians than America? The Canadians did help us in Normandy, and Trump has treated them very poorly, by the way.
But the price to be paid could be much worse than having Kurdish blood on our hands.
North Korea’s Kim Jong-un seems to have played Trump like a virtuoso plays Chopin. The net gain of all the public meetings, displays of affection, love notes and flattering tweets has been….zero.
This weekend, for example, in a development that barely registered amid the impeachment frenzy in the United States, U.S. and North Korean officials met in Sweden to revive nuclear negotiations. The talks have been stalled since the latest encounter between Trump and Kim. Over the course of the past year and a half, North Korea has not made any concessions other than a provisional halt in nuclear- and long-range-missile tests, the unverified destruction of a nuclear-test site, and a vague commitment to the “denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.” [my emphasis]On North Korea, the Chickens Are Coming Home to Roost, The Atlantic, October 8, 2019
All through the Russia investigation, while Democrats and the media have been trying to pin something on Trump domestically, and now through the ridiculous idiocy of the Ukraine call, and the China call (and who knows what is next?), the very nations we should be concerned with as, you know, actual enemies, are running like the own the world.
The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), that the U.S. never ratified but has treated as settled policy (along with most of the rest of the world, except North Korea), is in danger of being trashed. And the Open Skies treaty, which allows 34 nations to have reciprocal overflight privileges (notably, the U.S. and Russia are the main participants here) to photograph the others’ land and assets, might also be abandoned.
Even worse, the New START nuclear arms treaty is expiring in 2021, and Trump sees no need to limit a nuclear arms race. More than that, the Russians and Chinese have heavily targeted our cyberspace assets, both military and commercial. The domains for the next massive arms race do not necessarily favor the United States.
In 1990, Trump said this about nuclear war:
I’ve always thought about the issue of nuclear war; it’s a very important element in my thought process. It’s the ultimate, the ultimate catastrophe, the biggest problem this world has, and nobody’s focusing on the nuts and bolts of it. It’s a little like sickness. People don’t believe they’re going to get sick until they do. Nobody wants to talk about it. I believe the greatest of all stupidities is people’s believing it will never happen, because everybody knows how destructive it will be, so nobody uses weapons. What bullshit.
It’s ironic that the man who said those words thinks it’s silly to spill American blood in “endless, senseless wars,” yet believes it’s inevitable someone will pop a nuke. Not one hostile foreign leader believes that President Trump, commander-in-chief of the military of the world’s only superpower, would commit American troops to stop them.
Turkey is buying a Russian-made sophisticated S-400 air defense system; in fact they’ve begun to take delivery. Now Turkey is freely invading northern Syria, fighting against a group of U.S. allies. China is beginning to build military bases around the world. They are using their economic ties to Western Hemisphere nations–including in South America–to leverage military sites.
Yet Trump plays nice with both Erdoğan and Jinping.
It’s all a show to Trump. None of this is “real” except his ratings and what he sees on late-night Fox News shows. He cares much more for what CNN and MSNBC are saying than what he should say on a phone call to a foreign leader.
Trump treats friendly nations like he treated contractors bidding for work on a new resort hotel. But hostiles are handled with kid gloves. If anything were impeachable conduct, it’s that, not asking Ukraine for dirt on Hunter Biden.
Don’t talk to me about other nations paying their “fair share.” Of course, we want that. But not at the cost of letting tyrants, communists, and criminal regimes enjoy carte blanche while America holds the door for them.
The cost of Trump’s media show could be extremely high. While our nation is focused inward, playing out our own drama, our enemies are very busy ensuring that future “endless, senseless wars” will take a much higher toll in blood and treasure.