Friday, February 17, 2017

Not Experiencing the Same Reality

David Brooks can't see how Trump can survive a whole term in office. On the other hand,
I have trouble seeing exactly how this administration ends. Many of the institutions that would normally ease out or remove a failing president no longer exist.

There are no longer moral arbiters in Congress like Howard Baker and Sam Ervin to lead a resignation or impeachment process. There is no longer a single media establishment that shapes how the country sees the president. This is no longer a country in which everybody experiences the same reality.

Everything about Trump that appalls 65 percent of America strengthens him with the other 35 percent, and he can ride that group for a while. Even after these horrible four weeks, Republicans on Capitol Hill are not close to abandoning their man.

The likelihood is this: We’re going to have an administration that has morally and politically collapsed, without actually going away.
I also think this is the most likely scenario. The most dangerous scenario is that this chaos leads us to a terrible war, either because we just drift into it or because Bannon engineers it to save his job, and his crusade for western civilization. But I think a flailing drift into irrelevance remains most likely.


G. Verloren said...

The Pentagon would have a few choice words to say about any declaration of war they don't agree with at least on some level, as would millions of American citizens.

If Trump or his lackies try to push for an unwanted war, they may be surprised to learn just how hard people will push back.

leif said...

uh, not sure if people will step up to say anything lasting. there's been barely a public whimper about wars in the ME for quite some time. well-contructed lies presented to an already fear-stoked public have serious mileage. all it takes are some chemical weapons, tales of atrocities, some pictures that at least look worse for innocents on the receiving end instead of presumed combatants standing in gowns with car batteries wired to their toes... don't worry. it'll happen.

G. Verloren said...


What are you talking about?

The Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq had massive public support initially. People were still reeling from the WTC attack, and there was jingoistic fervor sweeping the country driving them to seek bloody vengeance, even against totally unrelated targets such as Saddam and his regime. (Remember - there ultimately were no WMDs, and no ties to Al Qaeda.) Congress was almost unanimously in favor of both the wars, and the bulk of the military high command was too, swept up in the fantasy of a righteous war ending in an easy victory against inferior foes through the power of shock and awe. They were overconfident and complacent, fully expecting repeats of The Gulf War.

The current situation is almost completely the opposite. The Pentagon absolutely doesn't want to get into a war right now, because we currently have a massive shortage of combat-ready troops, and our previous two wars were abject failures that wasted lives and burned through money and resources for no real gain. And the bulk of the public certainly doesn't want another expensive overseas war, particularly without any indication of a direct threat against us.

Even if we were ready and willing to go to war, who would even be the target of a potential conflict? We have no "easy" fights to win (and we lost the previous two "easy" fights we picked), and we have no real interests to defend or enemies worth attacking.

We're already part of a coalition that's slowly destroying ISIS, so that's a no go. China would be a pointless enemy, since neither side is likely to be able to force the other to capitulate (it'd be insanity to try to occupy either the continental US or the heartland of China) and we'd ultimately lose a war of attrition simply from an economic standpoint. Israel seems intent on forcing the Palestine issue in the next decade or so, but that's going to play out slowly on an international scale, particularly with Trump senselesly reversing national policy and effectively siding with Netanyahu. Russia is another China situation - nearly impossible to effectively invade, but with the added bonus of Putin being just crazy enough to consider ending the world in nuclear fire. But of course, Trump loves Putin so war with Russia isn't likely unless Putin attacks a NATO member.

What is even left? Get involved in Somalia? No way, no support for an official war - could maybe pull strings clandestinely, at best, but not much point. Attack Iran? Geopolitical suicide, and for what? Absolutely nothing to gain. North Korea? That's probably the one conflict we'd have a shot at pulling something productive out of in a conventional war, but they'd happily nuke South Korea out of spite, and senselessly provoking such a nuclear attack would completely destroy our international standing.

We'd need another "Reichstag Fire" event like the WTC attack to galvanize public opinion in favor of a war - and even then, the military has effectively zero interest in waging any war whatsoever right now. Congress can declare, but the armed forces can refuse to fight.

leif said...

hmm. what i'm talking about is we don't need a WTC for T to declare war (though that sort of thing makes it darn convenient to turn fickle sentiment, doesn't it).

i know technically congress declares war, and one could say a president wages war... a blurry and fairly useless distinction in the past few decades. (no one really thinks of viet nam as a 'conflict', yet it wasn't congressionally declared.) all this said: i wrote 'war' in a general sense of a country sending troops or arms or 'trainers' to somewhere to beat back the infidel, take some land or resources, or prove a point to someone else.

and that's largely what i picture happening: T will maintain conflicts that are already at a simmer, and may start some adventures to basically remind the world that the US is capable of it. no important opposition will materialize against low-intensity conflicts (at least at first). and of course any discussion of it will be branded as 'fake news'.

and to some of your (many as usual) on-point thoughts:
• correct on CN and RU. ridiculous and pointless, ten ways from sunday.
• SO: no resources we're dying to have, so correct, no invasion there; we don't need to please ethiopia that much.
• AF and IQ: absolutely those conflicts were well-favored, and because there's lots of money to be extracted from war, these are still going on.

and to some i'm not convinced of yet:
• 'easy' targets are great for a sitting president, but recent presidents have shown us that protracted, low-temp conflicts get them some traction.
• the pentagon's opinion...does that count for much? if congress declares, or the president 'wages', the pentagon doesn't just say "no, sorry, not going there".
• the military's loss of appetite or disinterest in waging war? what's the background for this? i thought that the military has no ability to choose its wars. it's there to go fight when told to, yeah?
• IR, nork: obviously the right thing to do is let them stew and rattle their sabers, and largely ignore them. i just can't see T ignoring it if they push his buttons; no one gets to taunt a powerful narcissist and come away with nary a scratch.

even if a public majority doesn't want more wars, where's the public, noisy, picketing, striking opposition to our current entanglements? it doesn't exist on any influential scale.