Trump-bashing has become a worldwide obsession, a spittle-sputtering, mouth-frothing mania from which I don’t suffer.
Whenever a politician is savagely attacked, I always invite people to consider the options. Making negative statements is easy; offering positive solutions is a task that defeats most critics.
What’s the alternative to Trump? Warren? Biden? Sanders? If I dusted off my old US passport and chose to take part in the next election, I’d be as likely to vote for the reincarnated spirit of Heinrich Himmler as for any of them.
Whether I’d be able to vote for Trump would largely depend on the nature of his intimacy with Putin. If I couldn’t find a benign explanation for it, I’d probably give the election a miss altogether.
So far I’ve steadfastly refused to jump on the bandwagon driven by those who claim that Trump is but a puppet on Putin’s string. Some ascribe this subservient status to natural affinity, others to more sinister motives.
That some link exists is beyond doubt, although for old times’ sake we should refrain from accusing a man of treason in the absence of prima facie evidence to support such a charge. However, even if Trump isn’t Putin’s agent, at times one wonders how differently he’d act if he were.
What’s unfolding in northern Syria is one such instance. Trump has blithely betrayed America’s Kurdish allies and invited Erdogan to launch an aggressive incursion.
By way of justification he has used all sorts of increasingly bizarre statements, such as that America owes no debt to the Kurds because they took no part in the D-Day landing.
Neither did any of today’s NATO members, with a partial exception of the Poles. A few Dutchmen, for example, might have come along for the ride, but certainly not as many as the 20,000 of them who served in the Waffen SS.
Does this mean the US owes no obligation to defend Holland against aggression? And as to the Germans, not only did they not jump on those landing craft, but they even inflicted 10,000 casualties on those who did. Does this mean Germany isn’t protected by Article 5 of the NATO Charter?
The Kurds, says Trump, are “no angels” and “more of a terrorist threat in many ways than Isis.” That’s irrelevant if true. If America only ever offered protection to nice people, the Saudis would have been overrun by Iran a long time ago.
One gets the impression that Trump’s approach to politics is mostly informed by his lifelong career of building glittering monuments to venality and bad taste for ethnically diverse Mafiosi.
He doesn’t seem to realise that foreign relations don’t boil down to personal relationships and mutual pecuniary benefit. There are powers in the world that pursue ends that have no monetary equivalent.
Such powers are driven by wicked motives compelling them to act as global bullies. They can’t be mollified by smiley handshakes and confidential exchanges. Resolute strength is the only possible counterbalance.
It’s to stop the expansion of one such power, the Soviet Union, that NATO was created in 1949. Turkey was drawn into the alliance to protect NATO’s southern flank. She’s home to NATO, mostly US, bases and a recipient of NATO, mostly US, arms.
If Turkey wobbles in her commitment to the Western alliance, the alliance will wobble too; if Turkey switches sides, NATO will be badly, perhaps fatally, wounded.
Now Trump clearly doesn’t see Russia as a threat, a typological heir to the USSR. After all, today’s rulers of Russia, and especially his friend Vlad, don’t want to kill all capitalists.
On the contrary, they are sort of capitalists themselves, as obsessed with money as any American property developer. Fair enough, they do spout a never-ending stream of anti-American invective, but only because Congress doesn’t let Trump meet them halfway.
If Vlad wants to help himself to a few marginal countries or peoples in the vicinity of Russia, that’s just fine and dandy with Donald – as long as he and Vlad see eye to eye on the important things in life.
Some of those countries may not be so marginal; others may even be NATO members. But that doesn’t matter to Trump. What’s important is that both he and Vlad, along with their nearest and dearest, continue to avoid war and prosper.
The day after Trump announced the withdrawal of US troops from northern Syria and openly encouraged Erdogan to intervene, the strategic balance in the Middle East – possibly the world – shifted.
Turkey began to act as Russia’s proxy, clearing the way for Putin’s kleptofascist empire to carve up Syria and get a permanent foothold in the region. She’ll then be controlling the crossroads of the global oil routes, reaping rich rewards in both money and power.
It’s not as if Trump didn’t realise this. He does – and welcomes it. “Syria may have some help with Russia and that’s fine,” he said with astounding cynicism. “It’s a lot of sand.” That sand is so saturated with blood spilled over millennia that one is tempted to think it’s important enough not to dismiss so casually.
If probed, Trump would probably describe himself as a realpolitik pragmatist, thinking in the practical categories of national interest, understood solely in economic terms. If so, he must realise that NATO isn’t just a protector of small nations, but also a conduit of America’s global influence.
Dismantling this guarantor of peace in Europe for 70 years would hurt America’s economic interests, to put the problem in the language Trump understands.
And empowering an evil regime that doesn’t even bother to conceal that it sees the West as an enemy may embolden it to take desperate steps.
To roll it back would then be considerably costlier than to keep it in check before it has gathered a full head of steam. And that cost would be denominated not only in blood but also in money.
However, Trump is doing his best to undermine NATO by pushing Turkey into Putin’s embrace. For example, leaked to the press yesterday was Trump’s insulting letter to Erdogan written a week ago.
As a young man Trump must have read How to Win Friends and Influence People; it’s his kind of book. But, judging by the letter, he didn’t grasp its key points.
“Let’s work out a good deal!” starts Trump in his inimitable manner. “You don’t want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people, and I don’t want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy – and I will.” In other words, by all means act as Putin’s vanguard, but do it nicely.
He started as he meant to go on: “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!” Trump writes at the end.
Now, Turks are known for their pride. If Trump thinks this combination of threats and insults will keep Erdogan on side, he’s sorely mistaken.
The threats are empty anyway: he can’t destroy Turkey’s economy. He can hurt it, but Vlad will be there to take up the slack with an open chequebook and a steady supply of arms and energy. But the insults are real, practically guaranteed to alienate Turkey from NATO.
As I said earlier, I don’t know if Trump is doing Putin’s bidding because of some kind of cloak-and-dagger ‘deal’. It may be just ignorance and naivety. But, in the practical categories Trump swears by, it doesn’t really matter.