A clear and present danger
There’s a rhythm to this blog since I took over the running of it.
The week is given over to detailing the parlous state of our Republic.
The weekend is when we recharge with an open thread highlighting the best of what humanity can do.
It’s a rhythm I hardly ever break.
The last time I broke this pattern was when the young people from Parkland held their rally for gun control.
Today is another one of those days.
It seemed as if we’d avoided the worst. So-called president Donald Trump was strong-armed into agreeing a communique with the other leaders of the G-7 nations. It, indeed, seemed as if an acrimonious end had been avoided.
But, in a fit of pique, while on his way to Singapore to meet with murderous dictator Kim Jong Un, whom he will gladly fellate in return for a good news cycle, Trump had a change of mind after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had sharp words for him. He instructed US representatives to not agree to the joint communique.
This is something which has never occurred in the history of G-7 meetings. And that the scuppering of the communique comes from the leader of the G-7 is even more catastrophic.
Any nation is only as strong as its alliances. This holds true for the United States.
Trump’s obsession with Iran is unfathomable on a purely geopolitical basis. Iran has no allies aside from Syria and Hizbullah. It has protection, for now, from Russia and China, but only because it serves their interests as a thorn in the side of the US. It will be jettisoned as soon as realities change.
But the G-7 grouping of the world’s most powerful industrialized nations, along with NATO, is one of America’s greatest alliances.
The G-7, for better or worse, runs the world’s economy. It has been the backbone of the post-World War II global economic order.
The G-20 grouping is all fine and well. But it doesn’t have the power of the G-7. Any decisions which impact the global economy are taken there.
And in one tweet, Trump has undone the work of US presidents since Nixon.
The US is the world’s only empire. But it is not an empire in the traditional sense. It works through alliances and consensus. It is the primus inter pares. It guarantees a world order which promotes stability through its network of alliances and agreements. Even the US has neither the economy nor military to exert its wishes without these alliances.
Now, it’s in no way a question that Donald Trump is subservient to Russian interests.
What galled Vladimir Putin more than the sanctions imposed by the West after his annexation of the Crimea was being kicked out of the G-8, to which Russia had been invited in 1997 as a signal of the end of the Cold War. Economically, Russia didn’t deserve the recognition. But, as the world’s other major nuclear power, it was considered expedient to have it onside.
Now, in Trump, Putin has a vessel to upend 70 years of Western condominium. Never mind that this Western hegemony is what has kept the world away from World War III. He was insulted, and he will have his revenge.
Trump was an easy mark, a sociopathic narcissist whose business was a failure, but whose ego couldn’t tolerate that fact. In Trump he found a man who had as much of a grievance against “elites” as he did. And in Trump he found a man susceptible to his overtures, as Trump had and has no loyalty to American ideals. All he cares about is feeding his own ego.
Many of us, me included, thought, through Trump’s first year in his stolen office, that Putin wasn’t getting what he had bargained for. The sanctions were still in force, the Western alliance, though frayed, was still standing.
Now, there is no doubt that Trump is fulfilling his side of the bargain. By starting a trade war with our oldest allies, Putin has succeeded in driving a wedge between the US and Europe. What he couldn’t achieve by bluff, he did by cyber war.
And make no mistake: Putin is waging war on the West. We see this in the US. We see this in the rise of nationalist-fascist parties in Europe. Russia, which is weak economically, is leveraging digital power in an asymmetrical war, playing up the natural divisions which exist in any democratic society.
The West’s openness is its Achilles heel. The internet’s anarchic nature is a Pandora’s box. No intelligence agency in the West expected this cyber war. And no intelligence agency is to be blamed for this lack of vision. Putin was brilliant in exploiting this weakness in the West’s defensive cordon. He wouldn’t crash through the Fulda Gap with tank divisions which would be destroyed by NATO airpower, but instead use the West’s very openness to undermine it. And in Trump, he found the perfect dupe.
The US and the world system now face a clear and present danger from Donald Trump. He is what the Founders feared the most: a president whose loyalty was to a foreign power. It’s why the Founders restricted the presidency to natural born citizens. They thought that was the only way foreign allegiance could infect the executive. It’s not their fault they weren’t seers and could forecast our Digital Age.
Our allies can help, but they can’t fight this fight for us. It’s up to every one of us who value this Republic to not waver until we defeat this cancer. For make no mistake: we are in an existential crisis. We can be glib and argue that demography is destiny. But that was supposed to be the case in 2016. I fell prey to that surety myself. And, in the abstract, it is still true. But we can’t wait. We can’t fight with the army we wish we had, but with the one we have.
Vast majorities are against what Trump is doing. These vast majorities, though, must be convinced to come out and perform the only act which matters: Vote. Nothing other than a massive groundswell of opposition to this regime at the ballot box will have an impact. Trumpism and modern conservatism must be dug out root and branch. I make no hyperbole when I say that our future as a species depends on this.
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