Trump Confounds the Pundits
What will come out of this week’s summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un of North Korea remains to be seen, and one must hope for the best, but the bullets are already beginning to fly in the US media with The New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof declaring impulsively somewhat implausibly that Trump gave away the store by canceling military training exercises with South Korea and in legitimizing Jong-un’s rule by meeting with him without getting anything substantive in return.
Lost in the flood of news coming out of Singapore are Trump’s positive comments delivered at the earlier G-7 meeting in Canada, which may have opened the door to a possible meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and a return of Moscow to a reconfigured G-8. One hopes that China will soon also make it into the ultimate insiders’ club, which will have to be renamed G-9.
Washington’s most important relationship is with Moscow, and the possibility of détente should be welcomed by everyone who wishes to avoid a nuclear holocaust. But The Times’ Paul Krugman, among others, cannot overcome his visceral dislike for Russia, citing its “invasion” of Ukraine and its relatively small economy as good reasons to block its membership in a reconstituted G-8. He also suggests that Putin has some kind of “hold over Trump,” a serious charge that he cannot substantiate except by innuendo, also claiming that Trump is some kind of Quisling “who defended Russia while attacking our closest allies.” It is odd that Krugman, a Nobel laureate in Economic Sciences, chooses to ignore the fact that Moscow punches well above its weight both economically and politically while also sitting on what is presumed to be the world’s most resource-rich region in Siberia. Also, Krugman should do a fact check on who started what in Ukraine. He might be surprised to learn that it was the United States and its proxies.
The Krugman and Kristof excursions into fantasy demonstrate clearly how media punditry in the United States is a fascinating plant that grows in darkness. It is rarely fact-based, is never held accountable, and it is nearly always ideologically driven. Talking heads sitting across the right/libertarian divide are as bad as traditional liberals like Krugman and Kristof. Justin Raimondo, for example, praises Donald Trump’s performance in insulting and rebuffing the six other nations at the recently concluded G-7 Summit because those conniving non-Americans are relying on the United States to provide their defense so they can sit around all fat and happy. He calls them “Euro-weenies.”
While I too would like to see the end of NATO given my belief that Russia does not threaten Eastern or Western Europe, there is more than a touch of hypocrisy in those like Raimondo who favor dismantling military alliances as part of their embrace of what they perceive to be an antiwar doctrine while at the same time failing to mention the terrible decisions that the White House has made that have actually increased tension in volatile parts of the world.
Taken in order of magnitude, Trump’s renunciation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was a major disaster, eliminating a successful program that was preventing nuclear proliferation on the part of Iran and replacing it with nothing whatsoever apart from war as a possible way of dealing with the potential problem. And then there is Syria, where there have been contradictory signals, but also two pointless cruise missile attacks. It looks like the US Army is in for the long haul, having recently set up a trap to kill Russian mercenaries while also seeking to destabilize President Bashar al-Assad and continuing the occupation of the Syrian oil fields. And in Afghanistan there are now more troops on the ground than there were on inauguration day.
The United States also has a new military base in Israel which will serve as a tripwire for automatic American involvement if Israel goes to war, has given the green light to the Israeli slaughter of Palestinians, has backed off from détente with Cuba, and has been periodically threatening some kind of intervention in Venezuela. It is engaged in aggressive war games on the Russian borders. It has increased involvement in Somalia and has drones and special ops units operating worldwide. Giving the Europeans a possibly deserved bloody nose over their refusal to spend money defending themselves would hardly seem to balance the equation.
The hypocrisy in national security policy exhibited by the Trump regime is best illustrated by comments from Tony Blinken, Deputy Secretary of State under President Barack Obama, who helped negotiate the JCPOA agreement with Iran, as well as by Scott Ritter, former arms inspector. They have opined that a successful deal with North Korea will likely look very much like the what was negotiated with the Iranians: curtailment or elimination of any weapons development program coupled with rigorous inspections and major incentives to include a non-aggression pact and the lifting of sanctions. In any international agreement no one ever gets everything they want, but they can get enough to make the enterprise worthwhile. It is a lesson that Donald Trump must learn.