It is the start of the New Year, 2018, that is deep in the throes of old problems that continue to mount towards a messy climax. The problems of yesteryear, whether international like Brexit, the politics of EU, the Middle East and Iran, or North Korea and its circle of affected nations such as China, Japan and South Korea, or more localized, like the problems of a dysfunctional United States, have not only been carried into the New Year, but have taken on greater significance as the natural progression of such malingering issues tend to do, when left unresolved by self-centered or otherwise flawed leaders. And almost on cue, a book appeared at this disconcerting time which perfectly captured the moment by announcing the gross dysfunction of America’s White House under its infantile and generally ignorant President, Donald Trump, reigning down “Fire and Fury”, not on North Korea as he had promised in a speech to the U.N., but on the broader issues of sanity, World Order, and civility itself.
On a daily basis the World is scrambling to adjust to the destabilizing influence of an ostensibly mad American President that has made the, till now, totally unacceptable behavior in any other President, the norm. Staunch long term allies like the U.K., and its Prime Minister Theresa May, find themselves on the defensive in an effort to support the current America and its terrifyingly incoherent President (the majority of the English public does not want to see Trump even visit the U.K.).
And while, publicly, the rest of the Allies stand with the U.S., there isn’t one that does not feel the need to re-evaluate everything that emanates from the mouth of, or the twitter feed of the 45th President of the U.S., Donald J. Trump, or his comically neutered Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson; and that growing deficit of credibility, of the United States, leaves the post-election-of-Trump-World, re-examining its positions and options, for every important global or local issue.
Some of the current crisis have been initiated by Trump as he strives to correct what he and his core supporters believe to be true, a World Order taking advantage of a naive and ill led America by its previous Presidents, in both trade and defense arenas. The entire premise of a naive America being taken advantage of is ludicrous when viewed from the post WWII perspective of American domination both in trade and military offense, but Trump did not get elected by being and saying reasonable things, but by being outrageously wrong in those areas where America needed to feel sorry for itself even though there were no real grounds for it.
Over the past decades, as country after country reeled under the onslaught of American hubris, fire power and the destructive (and ultimately losing) need to export freedom, justice, democracy and equality, and the global consumers became one with ubiquitous American corporate brands that overpowered the global business-scape, even if some of them were manufactured in China, Americans convinced themselves that somehow they were the ones being hard done by, and Trump, through brazen willingness to fan those false flames, came to forcefully reinforce those dangerous lies.
To correct the perceived imbalances, Trump has first attacked the Trade Agreement (NAFTA), between the U.S. and its two largest and most important trading partners, Canada and Mexico. And to augment the potential disruption to its trade, Trump is also targeting China.
All these countries are forced to readjust their thinking in terms of the old models of give and take and some semblance of a win-win to a more nationalistic ‘win – lose’ model that aligns closer with Trump’s self-serving ‘America First’ declarations.
In having to adjust to a more hostile America, major countries like Canada, Mexico and China, are forced to envision a slightly diminished role of America in their current trade relations, as they scramble to open other international markets, other than America, to compensate for a potential drop in trade, and to re-position themselves to lower their future exposure to a truant trading partner. In spite of ample proof of the decade’s long mutual benefit of an Agreement like NAFTA, the Canadian government is actively preparing for a time of a cancelled NAFTA. These potentially antagonistic adjustments were unnecessary to these mutually beneficial relationships as a more benign co-dependent re-adjustment, in a more trusting environment, would have been preferable and less damaging. But these are not the times for benign behavior as Trump’s paranoia and insecurities dictate tone and temper of all international issues, none of which are cast in any form of a benign light.
In terms of security and defense, there too Trump’s impulses are setting a belligerent and ultimately a losing tone. North Korea was best suited to address Trump on his own terms, and has done so. North Korea’s Kim Jong-un has answered Trump’s bellicosity and insults in equal kind. And instead of hesitating or slowing down his Country’s quest to develop a deliverable nuclear payload to America, on the tip of a homemade Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), Kim Jong-un accelerated the development of ICBM missiles with successful launches, alarming the World with the frequency and fruitfulness of the tests.
And as new pressure and sanctions were tightened on North Korea, it did what it has done so successfully over the past decades; it released the pressure valve a bit by opening diplomatic channels to South Korea, but this time by cutting out America. Additionally, in doing so, North Korea gave up nothing of any importance to it, so-much-so, that Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin felt impelled to compliment Kim Jong-un on his political maturity and dexterity in handling the U.S., and Trump, and in coming out on-top in that clash-of-wills contest. Putin’s back slapping of Kim must hurt Trump who for some mysterious reasons seems to inordinately crave Putin’s personal favor.
China and its President Xi Jinping has alternately been fawned over and thickly buttered by Trump. At other times China and Xi have been petulantly blamed for not curbing the openly defiant North Korea, and have found themselves in the uncomfortable position of being blamed for a lot of America’s troubles, both economic and geo-political.
Additionally, President Xi has been handed the role of being the de-facto World Leader, with a voluntarily retreating America, in all the important global issues such as World Trade, Global Aid, and the all important Global Climate Change. Because of the rather stoic nature of President Xi, one does not know if he is laughing or crying about all his sudden new found opportunities on the World stage, courtesy of President Trump.
Europe is of course beside itself with an unwieldy Union to manage, along with a painful tooth extraction in the form of Brexit, and an errant America that cannot seem to make up its mind whether it is a friend or a foe. But, with a revitalized France under its new leader Emmanuel Macron, and a dogged Germany under the well tested Angela Merkel, Europe is prepared to muddle along, hoping against hope that any new crisis that arrives, arrives in an orderly manner, making them simply manageable.
The wild card of course is America’s Trump, a uniquely American product, full of sound and fury, signifying ongoing dysfunction. Trump’s daily dose of abject irrationality and self centered musings pass for policy in the current United States, scaring even the most hardened veterans of multiple past Administrations, even those of the crazy Bush II era, which is a terrifying thought in itself. The Trump Presidency is bound to go down in the annals of American and global history as the most bizarre period when the normal madness of the World was superseded by a true mad man who was willing to burn the greatest house down, just to save himself. The potential madness of 2018 started with a book ‘Fire and Fury’, and it promises to get increasingly insane as Trump rampages through the year, testing to failure every single nerve of a mad, mad World.
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