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Keeping All the Cards on the Imaginary Table

It’s hard to imagine a worse foreign policy than the one America has been pursuing for the past seven and a half years or so, but then again we don’t have the imagination of Donald J. Trump.
We cannot conceive of any remotely plausible circumstances that might compel an American president to launch a nuclear missile at anywhere in Europe during the next four years or so, for instance, but Trump has told an interviewer on internationally broadcast television that he wants “keep all the cards on the table” just in case. Neither can we imagine the unimaginable tragedy that would result from North Korea and Japan engaging in a nuclear war, and although Trump insists he shares our preference that it never come to pass he then literally shrugs and waves his hands and adds that at least it would be over quickly and “if they do, they do.” Although we can well understand why pressure should be brought to bear on our North Atlantic Treaty Organization partners to shoulder their share of the alliance’s many burdens, we cannot envision a more-or-less peaceful world without it, but Trump openly muses about making demands that our allies “pay up, including for past deficiencies, and if it breaks up NATO it breaks up NATO.”
Trump’s so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters will find all this appealing, and explain what a shrewd negotiator he is, him being the best-selling author of “The Art of the Deal” and the guy who came out ahead of his sucker creditors in four bankruptcies and numerous failed businesses and all, but the rest of the world is seeing it quite differently. Pretty much everyone at every end of the political spectrum in Europe and Asia and the Middle East are alarmed about the prospect of a Trump presidency, and the entirety of the Latin American world has its own concerns, of course, and Africa should should soon join in just as soon as Trump finds some reason to insult its unfortunate people, and although sneering one’s way into the opprobrium of an entire world of damn foreigners will also appeal to Trump’s so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters it strikes us as a rather poor start to repairing the last seven and a half years or so of godawful foreign policy.
The last seven and a half years or so of godawful American foreign policy have been guided by the worst of left-wing isolationism, which holds that American is so morally corrupt that any influence it exerts on the world is bound to be harmful, and the worst of left-wing internationalism, which holds that American influence can be justifiably exerted so long as it isn’t in American interests and is approved by a bunch of damn foreigners. This is hard to beat, but the Trump response combines the worst of right-wing isolationism, which holds that America is so pure that any contact with all those damn foreigners in the outside world will be corrupting, and the most random sort of right-interventionism, which claims it was against the Iraq war even though it’s no where on record saying so and is on record saying otherwise on the Howard Stern radio show in between the nude lesbian segments, and was critical of the pull-out from Iraq but still says “Bush lied, people died,” and is one day there with boots on the ground in Syria and is the next content to “bomb the “s**t” out of them and is neutral on that whole Israel-Palestinian thing but assures us that’s just another bluff.
At least he’ll stand up to that blustery and buffoonish Putin, unlike that craven weakling Obama, but the strong man Trump has been flattered by Putin’s praise and spoken kindly of his “strength” and noted that America kills people too and suggested that the current unpleasantness in Syria is best handled by Putin and one of the crack team of top-notch men that Trump always surrounds himself with is a big investor in Russia’s state-owned natural gas company and best in known in foreign policy circles as slavish apologist for Putin, but we’re assured they’re going to make great deal. Trump’s front-running Democratic counterpart was the Secretary of State who offered that disastrous “reset button” to Russia, but at least it didn’t reset relations back  to the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact. The other options are the self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders on one the Democrat side, for crying out loud, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who has used “neoconservative” as a slur but otherwise sounds at least reasonable on the other side, so we’re hoping the rest of the world well.
Perhaps Trump’s geo-political genius is simply beyond our imagination, and he’s playing some brilliant gambit by discomfiting everyone in the entire world except his so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone fans, but we doubt it. In that disastrous interview with the Washington Post where he pressed on the specific of his foreign policy Trump veered from a question about the Islamic to a boast about how he’d vanquished Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in the primaries by calling him “Little Marco,” and he seemed to expect that the editorial board of the Washington Post would be convinced that he could deal with any international adversaries just as effectively, and we’re sure his so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone fans will agree, but we aren’t reassured and neither can we imagine any foreign leaders will be.
In that same disastrous interview Trump described his foreign policy as “America First,” which has a nice ring to it unless you’ve read enough relatively recent history to recall that was the slogan of the isolationists who would have let the Axis powers rule the world outside fortress America. We don’t that Trump has read enough to know that, but former “pitchforks brigade” insurgent outsider anti-establishment Republican candidate surely did, as he wrote a book long after the fact arguing that American darned well should have allowed the rest of the world to be ruled by the Axis powers, as it as in America’s interests, and we note that he’s endorsing Trump’s variety of nationalism.

— Bud Norman

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One response

  1. My version of Conservatism wishes to conserve that which is good and true and wonderful. But wishing to conserve that which has been because that’s “the way we have always done it” reminds me of this wonderful story.

    It seems that a loved family recipe for a roast ham began with the instruction to cut off the first two inches of the bone and place the remainder of the ham in the pan to roast at 325⁰ for 45 minutes per pound. The instructions had been handed down from great-grandmother to grandmother to mother. One day, while teaching her young daughter the secret family recipe, the daughter asked her mother why it was necessary to cut off the two inches of bone. Her reply was that it was always done that way and the ham was delicious. But the daughter persisted and so the question went from daughter to mother to grandmother to great-grandmother who explained that the reason to she cut off the bone was because her small roasting pan could not hold the entire ham.

    Sometimes things outlive their usefulness and we forget why we have been doing things in a particular way. We forget that NATO was a pact to contain the Soviet Union which no longer exists. And that nuclear non-proliferation efforts, designed to keep membership of the nuclear weapons “club” to the US and the USSR has already failed spectacularly and, thanks to the Godawful manner in which Obama has handled foreign policy, practically guarantees that Iran – ruled by men who hope to see the Mahdi emerge from the well and end the world – will get nuclear weapons paid for by American taxpayers.

    So those of us who long to see Trump shoot someone on Fifth Avenue think that it may be useful to re-evaluate things that we are doing. Perhaps our roasting pan is large enough to hold the entire roast because cutting that two inches of bone off is no longer necessary and the result may serve the family even better. Perhaps we don’t want to see every country run by a death cult have nuclear weapons but if that genie is out of the bottle we may want to think about what we should do next. Bribery, hashtags and summits don’t seem to have done the job. Our attic is cluttered with stuff that we never threw away but kept in case we ever needed it. It’s when you get ready to move to a new home that you realize it’s all useless clutter and you have a yard sale and what no one else wants you throw away.

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