Friday, December 21, 2018


Washington is a pretty blasé place but Trump's latest salto mortales have shaken even the more cynical observers. Unilaterally, out of the blue, he decided to withdraw American forces from Syria. He also ordered to halve the size of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis resigned in protest, not without having made sure that his resignation letter was printed in 50 copies for all to see. This letter is already becoming his Emile Zola-like J'accuse against this president's unbound policies.

The president has the right to change course. The dispute is about something more important, about consultation, professionalism and warning of allies. Besides, in the Syrian case there is the dereliction of the Kurds who are left at the mercy of Turkey's genocidal intentions. The rumor goes that Trump consulted Erdogan. Allies were ignored, as usual. Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Russia cannot believe their ears...Putin was the first to congratulate the Manchurian president on his decision!

The Republicans remain tone-deaf. Individually some express disbelief, but when pushed into their usual lemmings formation, they salute. Trump and the GOP look as if both parties suffer from a reciprocal Stockholm Syndrome. Anyway the real force comes from Trump's 30% base of hard-core individuals, pro-life but at the same time gun fanatics, who are to America what the yellow vests are to France. The difference being that while they are in the streets there, they dictate policies here. Their influence is growing and obliges Trump to overreact, be it with the Fed, the Pentagon or State. The United States finds itself, for two years, in a permanent class, gender, racial, geographical, sociological civil war. Trump acts in all this like a chaos addict.

The Foreign Affairs issue of Jan./Feb. 2019 raises the issue of who will run the world. The challenge is discussed in ways that are too unilateral. It makes no sense to launch a product without prior market research. Previously, even during the George W. Bush Iraq historical, fatal mistake, people in the world still believed that redemption was possible. Obama gave the Pax Americana another (uneven) chance. Trump buried it . It does not make any difference if X rather than Y pretends running the world if there are no takers. The United States is losing its soft-power. China has more imitators now than the US and Putin's Moscow is becoming trendy. The movers and shakers in the world start to snub the Trump way. Europeans are gone, Asians return to their own model, Africans are pragmatic. The core allies like Australia, Canada or the UK will think twice before embarking again with this unprincipled president.

Trump is probably an isolationist both in his public and private persona, impervious to charm, manners, counsel, but addicted to praise and glitter. He has no others working for him but mirrors of his sublimated insecurities. If not re-elected, the damage done might still be repaired but this will be an uphill battle given that he sold out to his base. If he were to continue after 2020 the downfall risks to be steep. He will in any case continue to sabotage a global order for which he does not have any affinity and to disinvest in the virtues of compassion and creativity that made America the envy of the world. Now we may enter an uncertainty which might well affect all sectors, the economy and the rule of law in the first place.

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