Friday, 14 April 2017

Trump's Sledgehammer Style Might Actually Work

Donald Trump is not a clever or sophisticated man; he just thinks he is. He is the Delboy Trotter of politics; a champion bullshitter who mangles his sentences, misuses his words and imagines that he is a sophisticate because of the way he dresses and the way he lives. He has got where he is today because he doesn't worry about rules and because he cheats.

But we have just had a clever and sophisticated man in the White House and look where that got us. Obama was like a liberal wet dream of a president. He was like Jed Bartlett of the series The West Wing. He was also a foreign policy disaster.  I love West Wing. But it was a fantasy. The Obama approach failed, it diminished America and created a vacuum in the world.

And so maybe the Trump approach to diplomacy is one destined to be more successful. It's not a doctrine as such but it is transactional and it is simple. Trump means to use American power to get what he wants. If that means going back on promises and on his rhetoric well he is shameless enough to do it and then to deny that he ever said what we all heard him say. He is brash enough to send in warships, fleets of overwhelming power, to drop, entirely gratuitously the mother of all bombs, to send in cruise missiles to bomb the shit out of Assad, to send a message. So what if this is the opposite of what he said when he was running for president. He won didn't he?

He is playing his classic game of bluff and who blinks first. It is dangerous and potentially disastrous. But it is also showing signs that it might work. Is it also intended to distract us from his previous dealings with Russia, his financial ties, his campaign's discussions with them? Probably. He certainly hopes that it will do so. But maybe that was transactional too. Everything is with Trump. He feels no loyalty to anyone except his family. If Putin helped him win then that is in the past. It is now politic to face down Putin and to drop massive bombs to send a message. It's not sophisticated but it might work. He is dealing with people as unprincipled and cynical as he is. But he has more firepower.

Next on the agenda is North Korea, almost certainly planning on having another nuclear test this weekend. China may have been persuaded to do something about North Korea. But it might be too late. What will Trump do? Is that fleet steaming into the area a bluff or does he mean to use it? The problem with North Korea is that they will see this as an affront to their dignity. Their military is entirely used to preserve the regime. It has no other purpose. They are bluffers too. Not especially good ones. But they may feel they have no choice but to make good on their bluff. They may feel they want to do more than test their atom or nuclear bomb and to fire off their missiles into the sea. The Fat Leader imagines that he is a sophisticate too. He may finally have bluffed too far.

Something has to be done about North Korea. It might well be that Trump's blunderbuss approach will work. If it doesn't stand by for carnage.

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