The other day we had to call in a plumber, and he duly materialised in the shape of a young man sporting a whole gallery of body art.
Since I find this genre not only morally defunct but also physically nauseating, I could hardly look at him. That made communication difficult, but we managed.
Within a few minutes the basin pipe was unclogged, and water happily began to flow down the drain unimpeded. The plumber collected his cheque and left.
Now that young man provides a useful analogy with President Trump.
This thought occurred to me in the context of the fuss kicked up by Trump’s declared intention to withdraw from the INF Treaty with Russia banning all land-based missiles with ranges between 300 and 3,000 miles.
I find Mr Trump revolting as a person. Someone with his background has no business being as much of a vulgar, barbaric, narcissistic savage. It’s bad enough if he really is all those things. But, if this is merely an image he deliberately cultivates, that’s even worse.
However, Trump isn’t someone I contemplate inviting over for dinner (not that he’d accept such an invitation, I hasten to add). He presides over Britain’s most valuable ally by far, one that for the past 73 years has effectively protected the West from history’s most evil regime.
And, extending him the same leeway I afforded that walking exhibit of body art, I have to admit that most of the things Trump does in his official capacity work as well as my basin does now.
Specifically, every international treaty he has pulled out of richly deserved such a treatment. Each one of them, the Paris accords, the Iran nuclear deal and now the INF Treaty, put America – and therefore her allies – at a severe disadvantage.
Signed during the halcyon days of Gorbachev’s (phoney) perestroika, the INF Treaty was specifically designed to protect not so much America as the countries lying within the ranges specified. Us in other words, and I use this pronoun broadly, to include the countries who, like us, belong to Western civilisation.
So protected we’d be, if Russia kept her end of the bargain. But the Russians cheated, as anyone who knows anything at all about that place post-1917 knew they would.
After all, with the exception of the Nazi-Soviet pact, they’ve cheated on every treaty they’ve ever signed, emphatically including those on arms limitations. SALT I, SALT II and so forth – as far as the Russians were concerned, they were ruses designed to gain strategic superiority over the West.
The same goes, in spades, for the INF treaty. While the Americans removed their cruise missiles from Europe, the Russians developed and deployed several new generations of such weapons.
The latest one, the Novator 9M729, is particularly deadly. (‘Novator’ means innovator in Russian – not to be confused with its cognate ‘Novichok’, which means novice.)
This land-based cruise missile can be fired from a mobile launcher, and it’s equipped with a supersonic booster. Therefore it’s extremely hard, practically impossible, to intercept.
The only way to counter the Novator is to threaten counterstrikes with similar weapons. However, the US hasn’t deployed them in Europe in compliance with the INF treaty.
Any contract becomes null and void if one party cheats on its terms and refuses to comply. Hence one would hope that anyone who doesn’t wish to see Europe dominated by Putin’s kleptofascist junta would hail Trump’s decision as highly welcome and long overdue – hoping that, having slipped the shackles of this sham compact, America still has time to redress the balance of power.
Alas, such hopes would be forlorn. For the ‘liberal’ establishment can’t do with Trump what I did with the tattooed plumber – separate his person from his job.
Their hatred of the US president is not only hysterical but also irrational. For shorthand purposes I describe such an animus as stupid.
Like me, they dislike Trump as a person. Unlike me, however, they also hate every policy he has put into effect, even though most of them have either worked admirably or – like his withdrawal from this and other larcenous treaties – are admirable.
Allowing emotions and personal idiosyncrasies to cloud one’s judgement of strategic issues is – for shorthand purposes – idiotic. In due course and under some circumstances it may also prove suicidal.
Chaps, it’s the cardsharp who’s in the wrong, not the player who caught him with an ace up his sleeve. It’s not Trump who’s the warmonger. It’s Putin. It’s Europe that’s staring down the barrel of those Novators. It’s Trump who wants to have a free hand to defend us.
When there’s no danger on the horizon, by all means let’s have some nice clean fun at Trump’s expense – he deserves it. But when yet again we have to rely on America for our freedom, do let’s give him his due. He deserves that too.