If the New York Times is to be believed – a problematic proposition – then it looks as if Trump Derangement Syndrome has gone international. In a front page article headlined “As Trump Era Dawns, A Sense of Uncertainty Grips the World,” we are told:
“The Germans are angry. The Chinese are downright furious. Leaders of NATO are nervous, while their counterparts at the European Union are alarmed.”
Oh heavens-to-Betsy, whatever shall we do?
So what’s the source of this latest Trumpanic? It’s an interview with Tory mandarin Michael Gove and Kai Diekmann, a former editor of the German newspaper Bild, in which the President-elect reiterates what he’s been saying to the American people for the past year, and on the basis of which he won the election: US foreign policy is going to change, and in a big way.
However, to Times reporter Steve Erlanger, this all comes as a big revelation, evidence that “Trump has again focused his penchant for disruption on the rest of the world.” Oh, the poor babies! Perhaps they need to find a safe space in which to park themselves for the next four-to-eight years.
This being the Times, there’s the requisite Russia-baiting:
“No one knows where exactly he is headed – except that the one country he is not criticizing is Russia and its president, Vladimir V. Putin. For now. And that he is an enthusiastic cheerleader of Brexit and an unaffiliated Britain. For now.”
If this reads like a paragraph torn out of one of the Hillary Clinton campaign’s strategy memos, well then consider the source. And speaking of the source, what exactly did Trump say in this supposedly “disruptive” interview that has the Powers That Be in such a tizzy?
They ask him about Brexit, and he endorses it, as he has in the past. They ask him if he’d vote for Angela Merkel in the upcoming German elections, and he demurs: “I don’t know who she’s running against.” Besides which, isn’t it a bit unseemly for an American President-elect to endorse a candidate for office in a foreign country? It surely would be in bad taste if the situation were reversed. They press him on Merkel’s open invitation to the entire nation of Syria to emigrate to Germany: was it “insane,” as he said during the campaign? Or has he changed his mind for some reason? He reiterates his often-stated view that “it was a big mistake for Germany,” and then broadens out his answer to include an analysis of the regional chaos caused by the administration of George W. Bush, whom he doesn’t mention by name but it’s clear where he places the blame:
“Look, this whole thing should never have happened. Iraq should not have been attacked in the first place, all right? It was one of the worst decisions, possibly the worst decision ever made in the history of our country. We’ve unleashed – it’s like throwing rocks into a beehive. It’s one of the great messes of all time. I looked at something, uh, I’m not allowed to show you because it’s classified – but, I just looked at Afghanistan and you look at the Taliban – and you take a look at every, every year its more, more, more, you know they have the different colours – and you say, you know – what’s going on?”
Those pathetic Republican “foreign policy experts” who are now complaining about being on an “enemies list” kept by the Trump transition team deserve to be on that list: they, after all, were the architects of the ongoing disaster described by Trump, and he clearly doesn’t care to reward failure. This is precisely why the GOP foreign policy Establishment campaigned so hard against him: that these losers are now locked out of the administration is good news indeed.
More good news: Trump is taking direct and very public aim at their patrons, the Military-Industrial Complex that Dwight David Eisenhower so presciently warned us against. Even as he pledges to upgrade the US military, the President-elect clearly knows who his enemies are:
“Boeing and Lockheed Martin are you know big contractors for this country and we have an F-35 program that has been very, very severely over budget and behind schedule. Hundreds of billions of dollars over budget and seven years behind schedule. And, uh, they got to shape up.”
Employees of both Boeing and Lockheed-Martin gave record amounts to the Clinton campaign: indeed, the entire industry went for Hillary in a big way.
Asked about his top priority as commander-in-chief, Trump had one word to say: “ISIS.” Asked how he’d deal with ISIS, he demurred. Yet it isn’t at all hard to imagine what his strategy will be: he’s not saying we should “get along with Russia” because he’s a secret Putinite, as our crazed conspiracy theorists would have it. Clearly he means to enlist Russia’s support in what he envisions as a short but effective campaign to eliminate ISIS entirely, at least when it comes to the Syrian “Caliphate.” After all, Russia is already in Syria in a big way: and Trump’s hostility to the Obama administration’s campaign to overthrow Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad indicates he’s likely to align with both Syria and Russia to restore some sort of order to the region. As to what degree he’ll farm out this task to the Russians and the Syrians, we’ll see. We’ll also see how “quick” this joint campaign will be: history does not bode well, in any case. Yet it’s clear he wants to minimize our involvement.
This segues into what is the most controversial part of the interview:
“Q: Talking about Russia, you know that Angela Merkel understands Putin very well because he is fluent in German, she is fluent in Russian, and they have known each other for a long time – but who would you trust more, Angela Merkel or Vladimir Putin?
“Trump: Well, I start off trusting both – but let’s see how long that lasts. It may not last long at all.”
Oh, how the “experts” and the political class went ballistic over that one! How dare Trump equate our “ally” Germany with our evil “adversary,” the perfidious Putin! And yet the reality is that neither Germany nor Russia is inherently either friend or foe: they are simply actors on the world stage whose relations to the US are based entirely on what is in America’s interests. As George Washington warned in his Farewell Address:
“[N]othing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated.”
Trump’s “realist” value-free characterization of our relations with the leaders of both Germany and Russia represents a return to the foreign policy of the Founders, from which we have strayed to our great detriment. It is, as Trump proclaimed so often during the campaign, a foreign policy that puts America first.
As he’s being interrogated by a Brit and a German, much of the interview deals with Europe, and specifically policy toward Russia. Asked if he can “understand why eastern Europeans fear Putin and Russia,” he says “Sure, oh sure,” and then goes very quickly into a critique of NATO, which he says is “obsolete.” It’s obvious he thinks the fears of the east Europeans are vastly overblown, as indeed they are. Trump complains that “the countries aren’t paying their fair share. So we’re supposed to protect countries but a lot of these countries aren’t paying what they’re supposed to be paying, which I think is very unfair to the United States. With that being said, NATO is very important to me.”
Yes, but how important is “very important” in TrumpWorld? Europe’s welfare cases shudder as they contemplate the answer.
Gove avers that “Britain is paying,” and Trump agrees, but says: “There’s five countries that are paying what they’re supposed to. Five. It’s not much, from twenty-two.” And as Trump no doubt realizes, the costs of NATO involve more than money: we are obligated to defend twenty-two countries in case they are attacked. That’s twenty-two tripwires that could set off a major war: the price of that is incalculable. Is it worth it?
Trump clearly has his doubts, and it’s this that has the Euro-weenies in an uproar. After all, they’ve been coasting along on Uncle Sam’s dime for all these years, financing extensive welfare programs for their own citizens as well as a horde of migrants: the idea that the gravy train is going to dry up has them up in arms.
And of course the issue of NATO is really about the Russian question – is Putin really intent on annexing his “near abroad” and re-establishing the Soviet empire? This nonsensical fantasy, based on nothing but rejuvenated cold war hysteria, is clearly doubted by Trump and his advisors. So when he’s asked if he supports the continuation of European sanctions against Russia, Trump replies:
“Well, I think you know – people have to get together and people have to do what they have to do in terms of being fair. OK? They have sanctions on Russia – let’s see if we can make some good deals with Russia. For one thing, I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially, that’s part of it. But you do have sanctions and Russia’s hurting very badly right now because of sanctions, but I think something can happen that a lot of people are gonna benefit.”
In short: sanctions can be ended as part of a grand bargain with Russia to reduce nuclear weapons arsenals on both sides and guarantee European security. Ambitious? – Yes. Praiseworthy? – Certainly. Can he do it? Only by overcoming the War Party’s opposition in Congress, led by Mad John McCain and joined by the now-Russophobic war-crazed Democrats out to obstruct anything and everything Trump does, even at the cost of world peace.
It’s absolutely wonderful how Trump’s offhand remarks rub the commentariat the wrong way, especially because what he says is indisputable. Asked which number he dials if he wants to talk to Europe – a riff off a remark by Henry Kissinger – he names Merkel on the grounds that “you look at the European Union and it’s Germany. Basically a vehicle for Germany. That’s why I thought the UK was so smart in getting out.”
Zing! Poor Angela Merkel – she can’t get no respect!
Elaborating his view of the EU, Trump averred:
“People, countries want their own identity and the UK wanted its own identity but, I do believe this, if they hadn’t been forced to take in all of the refugees, so many, with all the problems that it, you know, entails, I think that you wouldn’t have a Brexit. It probably could have worked out but, this was the final straw, this was the final straw that broke the camel’s back.
“I think people want, people want their own identity, so if you ask me, others, I believe others will leave.”
We can’t forget that the interviewers are Europeans who have been sucking at the American teat since the end of World War II, as one of the final questions makes all too clear:
“Your policy platform of America First implies you’re happy to see the rest of the world suffer. Do you?”
Spoken like a true dependent, and yet Trump lit right into them with the unvarnished truth:
“I don’t want it to be a disruption – I love the world, I want the world to be good but we can’t go – I mean look at what’s happening to our country – we are $20 trillion [in debt] – we don’t know what we’re doing – our military is weak – we’re in wars that never end, we’re in Afghanistan now 17 years … it’s the longest war we’ve ever been in.”
Endless wars, endless payments to feckless “allies,” endless hectoring by these ungrateful wretches who accuse us of wanting to “see the rest of the world suffer” – Trump would put an end to all this, and I have no doubt that the American people support him wholeheartedly. Shall we take a poll on the popularity of the US bearing the brunt of Europe’s “defense” against an enemy that disappeared in 1989? Shall we have a national referendum on the prospect of going to war over whether Montenegro – a nation the size of the metropolitan New York area – shall have a “pro-Western” government?
If you wonder why our “intelligence community” is waging open warfare against the forty-fifth President of these United States, you have only to look at this interview. He is challenging the “liberal” international order which has paid out liberal amounts of moolah and unearned prestige to a whole class of government contractors, thinktank poobahs, useless spooks, and their ancillary business enterprises for decades.
Without this “international order,” we’re told, the world will be plunged into “uncertainty,” if not complete chaos. This is a lie. The only uncertainty that Trump’s America First foreign policy imposes is uncertainty as to where the war profiteers’ next meal ticket is coming from. And that, dear reader, is a cause not for panic but for celebration.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.