The idea of Trump propelling America into a major, devastating war – with North Korea, Iran, or even China − is a threat all of us need to take seriously, and act on in 2018, by restoring a two-party balance (or a Democratic majority) into Congress as a check on Trump’s dangerous instability.
Colin Powell, unlike Donald Trump, served in Vietnam at the beginning of a distinguished military career. What has become known as “The Powell Doctrine” reflects his deep knowledge of the enormous waste of war that makes it only sensible as a national strategy when all other political, economic, and diplomatic means have been exhausted.
- Is a vital national security interest threatened?
- Do we have a clear attainable objective?
- Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?
- Have all other non-violent policy means been fully exhausted?
- Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?
- Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?
- Is the action supported by the American people?
- Do we have genuine broad international support?
The answer to all these questions regarding the disastrous Iraq War was “No.” As a country, we shouldn’t repeat that mistake, especially now because it involves the potential for nuclear war.
Regarding North Korea and Iran, none of those preconditions – not even the first − has been met. More dangerously, none of them are characteristic of how Trump has demonstrated he would deal with the very real foreign policy threats the U.S. is now facing.
- Trump has no foreign “policy” based on a well-informed, rational understanding of global threats to America’s safety and how best to deal with them.
He has no sense of the complexity of foreign relations, of the facts of international agreements, or of the lessons of history. Instead, Trump lives in a black and white world of “good guys” (people who praise him and agree with him) and “bad dudes” (anyone who doesn’t feed his insatiable cravings for applause). That distinction applies especially to foreign leaders (and previous U.S. presidents) whose challenge to his elevated sense of his own greatness drives him personally crazy.
Following the twisted world view of Steve Bannon and his ilk, Trump sees the world as a zero-sum power struggle with winners and losers. Diplomacy, therefore, is another form of weakness which he, as a self-styled strongman, abhors. “[Tillerson] is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man. Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!”
The dangerous verbal war of words between Trump and “Little Rocket Man” Kim Jong Un — which the saner “grown ups” in the White House can’t control — is personal and irrational.
The same inability to understand the complexity of difficult foreign relations with potentially dangerous adversaries creates a comparable threat of war with Iran, and perhaps even China.
- Trump loves the idea of war−so long as other peoples’ children do the fighting, suffering and dying.
In threatening North Korea, Trump, perhaps inadvertently, alluded to President Truman’s warning to Japan prior to the dropping of nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. ““They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” August 2017.
The same love affair with war has characterized his approach to terrorism. ““You have to fight fire with fire. We have to be so strong. We have to fight so viciously, and violently because we’re dealing with violent people viciously.” June 2017
Again, violence is an essential aspect of Trump’s character, as his unrelenting attacks against people who disagree with him politically should make transparently clear. “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters,” January 2016
- Trump really believes he (and he alone) is personally smarter and tougher than the foreign leaders whose regimes threaten the United States (with the possible exception of Vladimir Putin).
Just one example among so many: “Being nice to Rocket Man hasn’t worked in 25 years, why would it work now? Clinton failed, Bush failed, and Obama failed. I won’t fail. “ October 2017
Trump’s fixation on his alleged “High IQ” goes back a long time. “Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest — and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure, it’s not your fault.” May 2013
- Trump really believe that he (and he alone) is personally smarter than America’s military, intelligence, and national security experts.
“There’s nobody bigger or better at the military than I am.” June 2015
“I know more about ISIS [the Islamic State militant group] than the generals do. Believe me.” November 2015
“I know more about military offense and defense than [the generals] will ever understand, believe me. Believe me. Than they will ever understand. Than they will ever understand.” July 2016
“There is nobody who understands the horror of nuclear more than me.” June 2016
- Trump may need a war to take America’s attention off the growing evidence of his incompetence, greed, and lust for power.
2018 could be a miserable year for Trump:
Increasing evidence of collusion with the Russians in influencing the 2016 elections
The threat of a Democrat-controlled Senate (and the possibility of impeachment proceedings)
His continued low approval ratings as America’s middle and working class begin to realize how they’ve been duped by the “tax reform” bill and on-going GOP cutbacks to the social safety net.
It’s a dictator’s oldest strategy for staying in power: whip up public anger and fear of an “enemy” so that any objections to his policies are now “unpatriotic,” and those who oppose him are “traitors.”
So we’re left with two very dangerous possibilities:
Trump’s ignorance, arrogance, and fragile personal ego may cause him to blunder into war.
Trump’s insatiable lust for power may cause him to provoke a war in order to protect his flawed, fragile vision of himself as a “great man.”
- Call the Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121 An automated voice will ask for your ZIP code and you’ll be routed to your senators. A congressional aide will answer and record your concerns and pass them on. It takes 5 minutes.