Donald Trump has done it again – ripped up a treaty signed not only by the United States but by a dozen other countries. To Trump, there is no court of pubic opinion. He does what he wants to do because he can.
Was he right to kibosh the Iran nuclear deal? In truth, I’ve no idea. We can debate, and are debating, the issue. We will be debating it until the proverbial cows come home, or if you prefer, the chickens come home to roost. I’m inclined to the view that some form of treaty, however imperfect, is better than no treaty at all, but I understand why there is a countervailing view.
The trouble I have with Trump’s treaty-busting has less to do with the rights or wrongs of each individual case than that he makes these decisions in an intellectual and moral vacuum. His motivations are not born of statesmanship but of such peripheral values as election promises, preserving his core support in the American rust-belt, and undoing for the sheer hell of it anything his predecessor approved, or which Hillary Clinton would have, had she been elected.
In short order, he has attacked and threatened to abandon the North America Free Trade Association, pulled out of the Paris climate agreement, imposed tariffs on Chinese goods, approved the relocation of Israel’s capital to Jerusalem – and now probably pushed Iran further into isolation. Trump thinks he can do better deals, because his ego tells him he is a deal-maker par excellence. What we haven’t seen is what those better deals look like, and that is because Trump himself hasn’t a clue what they might look like.
What next? Who knows? Who can possibly know, when the only underlying principle involved is whatever is good for his friends in the world of American business. And what is good for American business is, as we know from the old Hooverian saw, good for America. He cares not what Europe, or Russia, or China, or the Man in the Moon think of him or his policies. They are all potential enemies of his notion of an American revival under the rubric America First.
How they must be chortling in the bars and cafes in whatever is left of downtown Youngstown, Ohio. The trouble is that the world is a complex and dangerous place and does not necessarily need whatever it is that Trump thinks Youngstown, Ohio needs.
Trump, for all his rampaging through the diplomatic protocols, is not on shaky ground with the American electorate. He is doing what he promised the downtrodden in the American heartlands he would do, and no doubt they love him for it. The rest of the voters hardly matter. They voted against him and will always vote against him. They voted against him in the presidential election and he still managed to put together a majority in the Electoral College.
At the rate he’s going, with his Make America Great Again programme in full swing – and always barring sensational revelations from Special Prosecutor Mueller, or Stormy Daniels – I can’t help thinking that his re-election in 2020 is not merely likely but virtually guaranteed – regardless of any superficial gains the Democrats might make in the November mid-term elections.
Who have the Democrats got to put up against him, anyway? If there is a candidate in sight I’m unaware of the name. The Party rails against Trump, as it is bound to do, but it has hardly a more coherent vision for the country, or a grasp of foreign policy, than he does. I’m writing this from 3000 miles away, so I may have overlooked a few emerging candidates, but whenever I ask my American friends who they think might challenge Trump politically they come up with nobody and nothing. That a dark horse has yet to emerge is not to say that one can’t emerge, but he or she has some distance to run.
What the Democrats fear most, as I do, is that Trump will make the wrong decisions for the worst of reasons but still come up with the right results. Calling Kim Jong-un “little rocket man” may have been stupid and unhelpful, not to mention rude, but here we are with the real prospect of some kind of rapprochement with North Korea – although I for one will believe it when I see it.
Trump revels, as no president has before him, in bird-flipping unpredictability. He enjoys the shocked reactions of the so-called liberal elite to his hard-core alt-right radicalism. He chuckles at the discomfiture of the world’s leaders, but who can say he is a pariah as a result? He knows they can’t ignore him. Nor will they ignore him. President Macron of France, who philosophically opposes just about everything Trump believes in, fawned over him on his state visit to Washington as Chamberlain kow-towed to Hitler at Munich.
The world was a dangerous place before Trump took office. It looks like a more dangerous place with Trump in office. But so far the man is riding the crest of a wave that shows no sign of crashing against a rocky shore – but eventually it will, as all waves do.
Meanwhile, we can only wait for it to happen – and hope for the best. The Democrat Party has adopted that as a policy.