The dogs of war are barking; they are straining at the leash in a period of unreason in which wisdom has been supplanted by madness.
Thus the time for equivocation is over and the time for unvarnished truth has come. And the unvarnished truth where the current incumbent in the Oval Office, Donald J Trump, is concerned is that the world is dealing with an unhinged maniac more suited to sitting at the head of a New York mafia crime family than leading a nuclear-armed state.
His recent tweet, threatening Russia with a missile attack over the crisis in Syria, is inarguably the most disturbing and frightening public communication issued by an American president at any time in that country’s history. Indeed it is so deranged it calls to mind Hitler’s infamous speech in Berlin in 1940, during which the fascist dictator threatened Britain with invasion: “And when people in England today nosily inquire: ‘Well, why isn’t he coming?’ Calm yourselves: he is coming!”
It’s at times like these that learning the lessons of history is non-negotiable, else be condemned to repeat history’s mistakes. In this respect ancient Chinese philosopher, Sun-Tzu, in his timeless classic ‘The Art of War’, provides a chilling injunction: “War is a grave affair of state; it is a place of life or death; a road to survival or extinction; a matter to be pondered carefully.”
In the midst of the current crisis many have drawn comparison with the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, the last time relations between East and West were perched on the precipice of direct military conflict.
There is one key difference between then and now, however, the significance of which cannot be overstated. It revolves around the occupant of the Oval Office, an invaluable metric of US ascent or decline in a given epoch, as the case may be.
Thus a man of the substance, stature and nous of Abraham Lincoln, who smashed the Confederacy and ended slavery, stands tall when placed alongside his successor, Andrew Johnson, who ended federal protection of newly freed black slaves in the South to usher in racial oppression through the back door. Thus the towering figure of Franklin D Roosevelt, author of the New Deal and champion of the Grand Alliance between the US, UK, and Soviet Union against fascism in WWII, looms large over the sniveling opportunism of Harry S Truman, who ordered the nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and who kick-started the Cold War.
Bringing matters up to date, who could possibly deny that John F Kennedy (JFK), occupant of the Oval Office during the Cuban missile crisis, was of an entirely different calibre than the current incumbent, Donald J Trump? And who could possibly argue that that the wisdom, intelligence and phlegmatism applicable to JFK are words of a foreign language where the 45th president is concerned?
On JFK’s supreme role in averting catastrophe between the US and then Soviet Union in 1962, US journalist David Talbot writes: “virtually the entire national security circle around the president urged him to take aggressive actions that would have triggered a nuclear conflagration. JFK’s lonely stand — which was supported only by his brother and McNamara within his inner council — was a virtuoso act of leadership.”
A few months after war was only narrowly averted — averted as a result of JFK and then Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s willingness to defy hardliners within their respective political and military leaderships — Kennedy delivered a speech to students and faculty at the American University in Washington. In words that resonate even more powerfully when juxtaposed with those of the current president, Kennedy said:
“What kind of peace do I mean? What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children–not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women–not merely peace in our time but peace for all time.”
He went on:
“I speak of peace because of the new face of war. Total war makes no sense in an age when great powers can maintain large and relatively invulnerable nuclear forces and refuse to surrender without resort to those forces. It makes no sense in an age when a single nuclear weapon contains almost ten times the explosive force delivered by all of the allied air forces in the Second World War. It makes no sense in an age when the deadly poisons produced by a nuclear exchange would be carried by wind and water and soil and seed to the far corners of the globe and to generations yet unborn.”
“Too many of us think it is impossible. Too many think it unreal. But that is a dangerous, defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that war is inevitable–that mankind is doomed–that we are gripped by forces we cannot control. We need not accept that view. Our problems are manmade — therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable — and we believe they can do it again.”
That the world is currently in the midst of the most dangerous and grave crisis it has faced since the Second World War is now self-evident. That the United States of America is currently being led by the least qualified of any US president there has ever been when it comes to navigating this crisis, this is likewise self-evident. As such, if Trump’s deranged tweet threatening war against Russia does not wake up European Union governments as to whom and what they are aligned with, there is little hope.
In 2018 the United States is not being led by a democratically elected president. In 2018 it is being led by a latter day Nero, a man who appears intent on pushing the world into the abyss.