What in the name of all that’s holy is Donald Trump up to this time? Good God in Heaven, what’s the story with this deranged tweet – in all caps yet! – threatening Iran with “consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before.” “Be cautious!” he added – advice he might take himself.
Caution is something our President knows nothing about: he dives right in, and makes plenty of waves. There’s no doubt that this is dangerous: on the other hand, it can be liberating, as in the case of the President’s sudden turnabout on North Korea. Indeed, if we review the history of how the Singapore summit came about, the sequence of events matches what’s going on with Iran: first comes the bombast, then comes the approach, and we wind up negotiating a peaceful settlement.
Or do we?
Trump’s hostility to Iran is well known: he campaigned against the Iran deal, and his administration is openly calling for regime change: Pompeo recently met with some in the Iranian-American community, propagandizing for some sort of effort to overthrow the mullahs in Tehran. This had been a longstanding US covert operation, and I have no doubt it’s been going on all along: Bush II and Obama authorized covert US assistance to various outfits in an effort to harass the Iranians, from the al-Qaeda-like Jundullah to various separatists (Kurds and Baluchis), and now the Trump administration is going to revive a program that has done nothing but kill dozens of innocent people over the years, most of them Iranian civilians.
Less well known is the fact that the President has repeatedly tried to open negotiations with the Iranians: all such overtures have been rudely rebuffed. Trump asked for a meeting with Iranian President Rouhani at last year’s UN General Assembly meeting: in return, the Iranians made a point of publicizing the fact that they have rejected any meeting with Trump a total of eight times. While this doesn’t excuse Trump’s crazed rhetoric, it does explain the all caps.
Some opponents of US intervention tend to whitewash the stupidities and excesses of those targeted by Uncle Sam. We saw this during the Kosovo war, with some leftists organizing a “Committee to Defend Slobodan Milosevic,” which spent its energy defending the internal repression engaged in by the Serbian regime, and hailing old Slobo as the best thing since Josef Stalin.
A less blatant version of this kind of thing sometimes happens in the case of Iran – a viciously repressive theocracy that lords it over a vital and increasingly youthful (and rebellious) population. The “Green” rebellion of some years ago was greeted, on the extreme left, with disdain, and stupidly denounced as a tool of “US imperialism.” While there’s no doubt the US tried to influence the Green movement, I don’t know of any evidence proving they succeeded – and if they had succeeded, the movement would have been rendered impotent. Hard-liners would have quickly denounced it as Washington’s fifth column.
Another example of this double standard in operation is the fact that Trump is rightly held responsible for withdrawing from an imperfect yet quite viable deal with Iran, while the Iranian leadership is given a pass when they reject further negotiations. Tehran’s intractability is giving the War Party in this country an opportunity we will all come to bitterly regret.
As Tucker Carlson pointed out on Tuesday, there are plenty of warmongers in Washington who just can’t wait for the shooting to start in the Middle East again, and they have targeted Iran as their next victim. Carlson is right that such a war would destroy Trump’s presidency precisely because his base would oppose it. And yet, as Col. Douglas MacGregor pointed out on the show, despite the fact that the President’s advisors are pushing war with Iran, Trump routinely ignores them and does exactly as he pleases: that’s why we had the Singapore summit and the Helsinki meeting with Putin. And that’s why Putin is coming to the White House for yet another meeting.
My view is that Trump has no intention of going to war with Iran: the bombast is for show. Yet his intentions may be irrelevant.
For whose benefit is he tweeting over-the-top threats against Iran? So far he’s managed to keep the Israel lobby from launching an all out attack on his purportedly “isolationist” policies, but only because he’s gone out of his way to appease Bibi Netanyahu. However, while the Israelis may delight in Trump, their American amen corner is another story entirely: many of the most prominent pro-Israel pundits are among the leaders of “The Resistance,” and the congressional contingent of Israel Firsters is relentless in their support for US intervention in Syria – a project the Lobby has been working on for years.
Trump isn’t stupid: he knows a war would annihilate him politically, but his notorious lack of caution works against him here. It isn’t hard to imagine a war with Iran that happens by “accident,” i.e. in which a staged provocation lures the US into a wider conflict. Staged – by whom? Use your imagination …
Despite the hysterics from the usual suspects claiming that Trump would blow up the world a few hours after taking office, the reality is that, instead of launching missiles at our alleged enemies, he’s launched the most wide-ranging and ambitious peace offensive in history. In addition to overseeing and encouraging the rapprochement of the two Koreas, and pursuing peace with Russia in Helsinki, Trump is also trying to get “a better deal” with the none-too-eager Iranians – and, less well-known is the fact that he’s even trying to get us out of Afghanistan by ordering serious negotiations with the Taliban.
If all these peace initiatives succeed, Trump will have reversed the interventionist policies of the Bush II administration, which were continued by Obama, and inaugurated a new era in American foreign policy. This is the meaning of “America First.”
Now do you get why the Deep State hates him and his trying to overthrow him?
I have to say I’m amazed: not even I expected anything like this. Never in my most optimistic moods did I ever imagine that Donald J. Trump would pursue the policies described above. And now he’s topped it all off with a ringing endorsement of … free trade! His latest tweet reads:
“The European Union is coming to Washington tomorrow to negotiate a deal on Trade. I have an idea for them. Both the U.S. and the E.U. drop all Tariffs, Barriers and Subsidies! That would finally be called Free Market and Fair Trade! Hope they do it, we are ready – but they won’t!”
Of course they won’t. As the late great Murray N. Rothbard put it:
“If authentic free trade ever looms on the policy horizon, there’ll be one sure way to tell. The government/media/big-business complex will oppose it tooth and nail. We’ll see a string of op-eds “warning" about the imminent return of the 19th century. Media pundits and academics will raise all the old canards against the free market, that it’s exploitative and anarchic without government “coordination.” The establishment would react to instituting true free trade about as enthusiastically as it would to repealing the income tax.”
Rothbard’s prediction has now come true: the EU – the veritable embodiment of the “government/media/big business complex” – is surely not going to take up the President’s proposal.
On a different level, the anti-Trump libertarians have responded to Trump’s bold proposal by very cleverly claiming that it’s the right policy for the wrong reasons. The very smart Veronique de Rugy writes:
“[E]ven these seemingly free-trade stances stem from fundamentally protectionist beliefs: First, that if there were no tariffs, US exports would rise dramatically and surpass imports, shrinking the dreaded trade deficit. And second, that exports are great and imports are bad. In other words, America wins with low imports and high exports.
“He is wrong on all counts. If the US trade deficit were to ever disappear, America’s economic health would take a turn for the worse. As long as the United States is growing and remains an attractive place to invest, we will continue to run a trade deficit with the rest of the world.”
This is very interesting, as well as being supremely irrelevant. What does it matter what Trump believes about the so-called trade deficit if he endorses the right policy – dropping all trade barriers? Must he convert to Austrian economics and mount a statue of Ludwig von Mises in a prominent spot in the White House before he gets any credit for admitting that free trade is the best policy? And why is he not supported when he points out that the European Union is a protectionist bloc? I would think “free market” economists would be quick to rally around someone who takes on this pale social democratic imitation of the old Soviet Union. Yet, oddly, there’s total radio silence on this score from KochWorld. Why is that?
We are on the cusp of a new era: the old cold war structures that determined the course of US foreign policy, and pushed it in a hegemonist direction, are collapsing all around us – and the President of the United States is giving them a good push.
That’s a good thing, despite the horrified exclamations of the “experts” and others who have a vested interest in maintaining the outlived status quo. Trump the Great Disruptor, the Loki in the Asgard of modernity, is shaking things up mightily.
Yes, there’s a deadly danger in that, as well as awesome possibilities. Yet isn’t that’s what life’s all about?
A Note to My Readers: Many of you have written since I went public with my cancer diagnosis, asking how I’m doing, so here’s a brief report: The cancer has stopped progressing, and the tumors – small in any case – have shrunk. I’ve gained over 40 pounds back after losing 50. The doctor is taking me off chemotherapy: as of this week, I’ll be getting Keytruda “monotherapy,” i.e. just the Keytruda, without the rough stuff. I can walk around, mow the lawn (a necessity!), and do most of the things I was doing before I got sick. Will I go the way of Jimmy Carter? I don’t know, but many thanks to all of you for your cards and letters and phone calls. I buoys me up when I get low.
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.