On September 18 Presidents Trump and Macron met in New York and said a few words in front of the media. It was a love-fest, with Trump pouring out a honey-stream of compliments and one of his observations was that Emmanuel Macron is “doing a terrific job in France. He’s doing what has to be done. He’s respected by the French people,” which was one of his more dubious statements of recent weeks.
Some 53 per cent of French citizens disapprove of President Macron, which is exactly the same as Trump’s domestic disapproval score, so it can’t be claimed that either of them is “respected” by a majority of their country’s deeply polarised populace.
The depths of Trump ignorance are verging on the unfathomable, but it isn’t that aspect of his psychotic character that is disturbing to the point of danger for the world as a whole. The scary thing about his comments was his ecstatic enthusiasm for blasting trumpets, roaring aircraft, rumbling tanks and all the paraphernalia of martial belligerence. He said he had loved the Bastille Day parade in Paris and “we may do something like that on July 4th in Washington, down Pennsylvania Avenue... We’re going to have to try and top it... we had a lot of planes going over and we had a lot of military might, and it was really a beautiful thing to see...”
When I was a soldier I participated in many parades and still warm to bands and like to see smartly marching troops. The general public in almost every country in the world likes them, too, and there is no reason to propose that such events be curtailed. But. BUT: I have grave doubts about a national leader who is so worked up and excited about them being “a lot of military might and... really a beautiful thing to see.”
This man also cherished parades and believed that military might was beautiful.
The day after proclaiming his enthusiasm for the pageantry of war, President Trump attended the UN General Assembly and announced that if the United States “is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea... Rocket Man [President Kim of North Korea] is on a suicide mission for himself... If the righteous many do not confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph.”
Four days after his feverish diatribe, in which he also threatened Iran and Venezuela, President Trump ordered B-1 Lancer nuclear bombers, escorted by F-15 Eagle fighters, to fly along North Korea’s eastern coast in a display of military provocation, exactly as he and his predecessors have directed over the years that there be confrontational fandangos by US combat aircraft and missile-armed warships along the coasts of China and Russia.
Did Mr Trump really think that publicly insulting President Kim and sending nuclear bombers to fly along his country’s seaboard would make him bend his knee and bow his head and say he’s terribly sorry but he got it all wrong? It had quite the reverse effect, with North Korea announcing on September 26 that “Since the United States declared war on our country, we will have every right to take counter-measures including the right to shoot down US strategic bombers even when they are not yet inside the airspace border of our country.” The crisis gets worse, threat by threat; tweet by tweet.
In his UN speech Mr Trump then menaced Venezuela, of all places. To be sure, the Venezuelan people have had a rough time over the past few years, after the oil-price collapse destroyed its economy, with presidents who have demonstrated a mix of ignorance, ultra-nationalistic hubris and blustering incompetence. (Remind you of anyone?) The country has enormous problems and can’t really be called a democracy, but then, neither can that faithful Trump ally Saudi Arabia, which the CIA Factbook in the section “Political Parties”, notes that there are “None.”
Trump vowed to help the Venezuelan people “regain their freedom, recover their country and restore their democracy”, and declared in front of all the nations in the world that he was ready to take “further action” if the government of Venezuela “persists on its path to impose authoritarian rule”.
What action does the martial Trump contemplate concerning Iran and North Korea and Venezuela? His threats are plain enough, so what comes next?
This is the man who said in February that “We have to start winning wars again. I have to say, when I was young, in high school, and college, everybody used to say we never lost a war. We never lost a war... America never lost. And, now, we never win a war. We never win. And we don’t fight to win.”
In fact the US lost the war in Vietnam that was going on while he was in college, but he believes he’s going to win Washington’s next war, wherever it is. He has already approved a futile new strategy in Afghanistan where, he said, “Our troops will fight to win. We will fight to win.” But US troops have been fighting in Afghanistan for almost sixteen years, and over two thousand of them have been killed. Mr Trump might be determined to win his war in Afghanistan, but its few thousand raggy-baggy Taliban insurgents have proved undefeatable for a very long time and are still fighting. The US has spent over a trillion dollars on the war, so far, and the Taliban control over forty percent of the country.
The Taliban in Afghanistan haven’t got any aircraft or rockets or submarines or nuclear weapons, but North Korea has all of these things, albeit in rather more modest quantities than the US, which has a higher military budget than Britain, China, France, India, Japan, Russia and Saudi Arabia combined. Washington has 1,367 deployed, instantly ready-to-use nuclear weapons, and it would take only one North Korean nuclear bomb or rocket to prompt a riposte.
Trump’s threat to bring “fire and fury” to North Korea and his belligerent tweet that “Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at UN. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won't be around much longer!” can’t be interpreted in any other way than presenting a warning of doomsday. He then declared on September 26 that “We’re totally prepared for the second option. [It’s] not a preferred option, but if we take that option it will be devastating — I can tell you that — devastating for North Korea. That’s called the military option. If we have to take it we will.”
The President of the United States is hell-bent on ultimate military confrontation, but his own country will be inviolate if the Korean Peninsula experiences his “military option.” He’ll be snug in his White House bunker while countless thousands die in a war that will almost certainly escalate to use of nuclear weapons by “little rocket man”.
Trump might be able to punish or even invade Venezuela and Iran, but they aren’t going to retaliate with the nuclear option. His goading of Kim is bringing our world ever-closer to nuclear catastrophe, and he should attend to what wiser minds are advising him.
China made its stance clear on September 26 by stating that “blindly flaunting one’s superiority with words to show off and mutual provocation will only increase the risk of confrontation and reduce the room for policy manoeuvres. A war on the Korean Peninsula will have no winners and would be even worse for the region and regional countries.”
Back off, Trump, before you drag us down to catastrophe.