Michael KreponFree Falling, cont.

Prophecy of the week:

“The show of their countenance doth witness against them;
And they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not.
Woe unto their soul!
For they have wrought evil unto themselves.” — Isaiah

Lo, the standing of the United States continues to fall. Allies and friends make the United States stronger. Donald Trump treats them as dispensable. As Washington retreats, allies squabble. Witness what’s happening between Japan and South Korea. Presidents can go astray championing or devaluing freedom and democracy abroad, but it’s another distinguishing feature of Washington’s reach. Donald Trump has a unique profile in this regard: he devalues freedom and democracy at home as well as abroad.

Trump’s bully pulpit is twitter. Friends and adversaries have come to the conclusion that he blusters but is deeply reluctant to use force, as is now dramatically evident after Saudi oil production has been temporarily halved. Trump’s only consistency is opportunism. Every foreign leader except Putin is tired of his act but can’t get him off the stage. For Moscow, Trump is the gift that keeps on giving.

The United States of America is in free fall. Trump can scold but he can’t mend. He still hasn’t learned what he doesn’t know. The Congress believes in punishment but not redemption. U.S. diplomacy is hobbled. It has devolved into the imposition of sanctions.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo presides over a ghost ship, like his predecessor. Pompeo seems likable enough, but he has shown no ability to negotiate positive outcomes and his crew is decimated. You will have difficulty filling out a line up card with the number of highly capable people still working on arms control at Foggy Bottom. Pompeo’s most evident skill is remaining pals with the President. His track record so far is that of a guy who makes a mess and then moves on to the next opportunity.

John Bolton has flamed out, much to no one’s surprise. Robert O’Brien has been named as the new National Security Adviser. Only Trump could have appointed him, just as only Trump could have appointed Bolton. The mismatch with Bolton was enabled by their mutual dislikes, but couldn’t survive their conflicting instincts. Opportunism and ideology are impossible bedfellows.

Bolton did as expected, treating agreements and treaties to reduce nuclear dangers as shackles to be broken, with nothing better to take their place. He exited before succeeding in getting Trump to pull the plug on the last remaining bilateral treaty constraining nuclear arms, New START.

Putin hasn’t violated it, so the best argument Bolton and the loudest voices on Capitol Hill have come up with is that China needs to be included. All but the gullible will see through this ruse. China has perhaps 400 warheads; the United States and Russia still have around 6,000 each. The argument that we need to ditch a treaty for the Big Two that mandates limits and inspections in order to include Beijing is a smokescreen and a fantasy. Yes, we will need to devise ways to get a handle on growing nuclear arsenals in Asia, but arriving at this destination will be delayed by deep-sixing New START.

Meanwhile, U.S. international standing diminishes with every trip Trump and Pompeo take abroad — or abruptly cancel. For additional details in this continuing series on ACW, see below. Please pay particular attention to the last entry. As a presidential candidate in 2016, Trump publicly requested Putin to help embarrass his opponent. His wish was granted. Now in the run up to the 2020 campaign, he asks Ukraine’s President to help embarrass Joe Biden, having previously withheld military assistance Ukraine needs to push back against Russian occupiers and proxies. Is this a chart topper? Stay tuned.

GIBRALTAR, August 15, Wall Street Journal– Gibraltar released an Iranian tanker that the British overseas territory impounded in July, opening the way for Tehran to free a British-flagged vessel it subsequently seized and help ease tensions in the Persian Gulf.

The decision came after a last-minute U.S. request to seize the tanker itself, a Gibraltar government spokesman said, prompting the court to delay its ruling on the vessel’s detention by several hours. Gibraltar’s government said authorities would separately consider the U.S. request.

WASHINGTON, August 21, Washington Post — President Trump on Tuesday abruptly called off a trip to Denmark, announcing in a tweet that he was postponing the visit because the country’s leader was not interested in selling him Greenland.

The move comes two days after Trump told reporters that owning Greenland, a self-governing country that is part of the kingdom of Denmark, “would be nice” for the United States from a strategic perspective.

Trump’s announcement suggests that, despite his denials, the central purpose of his trip had been discussion of a U.S. purchase of the massive, glaciered island, which holds increasing value as melting sea ice opens new parts of the Arctic to shipping and resource extraction.

BIARRITZ, France, August 26, Washington Post: A global summit between President Trump and other leaders ended here without significant progress on any of the world’s most pressing issues, laying bare the widening gulf between the United States and other nations as they struggle to address issues like trade and climate change.

French President Emmanuel Macron said leaders at the Group of Seven summit agreed to endorse just a one-page document of issues and then to continue working on a variety of other challenges that have proved elusive, including trade imbalances, climate change and Iran, among other things.

“There was a lot of nervousness at the outset,” Macron said. He said that the three days of talks here had a “lot of tension and we had a lot of conflicts,” but he considered it a success that they were even able to produce a one-page document.

WASHINGTON, August 26, Washington Post — On Friday, President Trump called President Xi Jinping of China an “enemy,” said “we don’t need China” and told U.S. companies they were “hereby ordered” to end their operations there. Over the next 72 hours, he cited a 1977 emergency powers lawto back up his threat to end U.S. economic relations with Beijing; announced he did not intend to invoke the law; and, on Monday, declared Mr. Xi to be “a great leader” and “a brilliant man” with whom his administration would probably soon strike a trade deal. It w as, all in all, a stunning display of incoherence — even by Mr. Trump’s standards — that encapsulated his performance at the Group of Seven summit.

Mr. Trump’s conflicting statements on China were far from the only puzzlements of his stay in Biarritz, France. He repeatedly touted what he said was a trade deal with Japan, only to be contradicted by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the Japanese foreign ministry, which said the negotiations were at a preliminary stage. He said there was “tremendous unity” in his talks with the other six leaders, though officials said the U.S. delegation blocked consensus on trade and other issues. Mr. Trump skipped a meeting on climate change, and his pitch to restore Russia to the group was flatly rejected by Germany and Britain, among others.

WASHINGTON, August 28, The Japan Times — U.S. President Donald Trump may not mind North Korea’s repeated tests of short-range missiles, including some believed capable of striking Japan, but his not-so-begrudging acceptance of the North’s actions is sending an unmistakable message to Washington’s Asian allies: America really does come first.
The latest volley of tests came Saturday, making for a total of at least 11 apparent ballistic missile launches overseen by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un this year and eight in the last five weeks. The pace comes close to matching the frantic speed of testing in 2017, when Trump and Kim traded insults and threats.

“I’m not happy about it, but then again he’s not in violation of an agreement,” Trump said Sunday, after the latest launches. He was apparently referring to a deal between the two leaders that ostensibly prohibits the firing of longer-range ballistic missile.

Strikingly, the comment was made while sitting beside the leader of possibly the United States’ closest ally in Asia, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Group of Seven summit in France.

WASHINGTON, September 16, New York Times — President Trump said Monday that Iran appeared to have been responsible for the weekend attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities. But he also said he would “like to avoid” a military conflict with Tehran, emphasized his interest in diplomacy and played down the attack’s jolt to the global oil market.

WASHINGTON, September 22,  CBS News  — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo continued on Sunday to accuse Iran of committing a “state-on-state act of war,” saying the Trump administration has irrefutable evidence that shows an attack last week on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia was organized and directed by the government in Tehran.

“This was Iran true and true, and the United States will respond in a way that reflects that act of war by this Iranian revolutionary regime,” Pompeo said on “Face the Nation” from New York, where he’s attending this week’s United Nations General Assembly. “The U.N.’s primary charter is to protect peace around the world. This was a state on state act of war.”

WASHINGTON, September 22, New York Times –– President Trump acknowledged on Sunday that he discussed former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. with Ukraine’s president as Democrats ramped up calls for an investigation into whether he improperly pressured a foreign leader to investigate a political opponent.

While Mr. Trump defended his July phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine as perfectly appropriate, he confirmed that Mr. Biden came up during the discussion and that he accused the former vice president of corruption tied to his son Hunter’s business activities in that former Soviet republic.

“The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, with largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place and largely the fact that we don’t want our people like Vice President Biden and his son creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine,” Mr. Trump told reporters before leaving for a trip to Texas and Ohio.


  1. E. Rhym (History)

    PLEASE STOP with the hyperbole about New START! No one will “pull the plug” on New START. Withdrawal (which is what “pull the plug” really means) is not — REPEAT NOT — on the table of options.

    In FACT, the issue under consideration now is the SAME issue considered a decade ago when the original START Treaty was nearing the end of its negotiated duration, i.e., whether or not to extend the Treaty for a period of five years.

    And what happened then? START EXPIRED, which is the SAME option being contemplated now for New START. The United States did not withdraw from START a decade ago, and the United States will not “pull the plug” from New START before the Treaty EXPIRES in 2021. So, please just stop with your FALSE characterizations of the state-of-play.

    (But feel free to continue to cry, “The sky is falling!” Michael — for the same result will occur in reality as is recorded in the fairytale, i.e., the sun will continue to shine in blue skies long after the frantic ravings fall silent.

    “How can I be so sure?” you ask. Because war — especially nuclear war — does not occur merely because the U.S. and Russia have weapons — it doesn’t even occur if there is the dreaded “arms race.” Clausewitz was correct when he stated war is policy. And such a policy does not follow merely because adversaries possess weapons. A cogent reading of history clearly demonstrates that fact (if one bothers to study it).

  2. John Hallam (History)

    Maybe the reason Michael is warning that the sky is falling is because the sky really is falling..

    John Hallam

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