Sunday, January 12, 2020

Rogue Nation

                                                                                              written 5 January 2020
                                                                                        published 12 January 2020

            The dictionary defines "rogue" as "a dishonest or unprincipled man".  A "rogue nation" is a state that does not respect other states in its international actions.
            Last week, President Trump ordered the assassination of Soleimani, a very popular Iranian military leader.  This attack was done within the sovereign nation of Iraq, without their permission or notification.  Typical of Trump's decisions, he gave no notice to Congressional leaders.  Despite possible consequences, he made no plans for protecting the 45,000 American troops and untold American contractors in the region, or the citizens of our supposed allies.  
            Without a doubt, Soleimani was an enemy of the US, and responsible for the death of many Americans over the years, but the wisdom of this execution is suspect.  President Bush had an opportunity to kill Soleimani in 2007, but the decision at that time was it was more damaging to national security to make him a martyr, than to let him live.  This kind of complex assessment, involving consideration of impact on the future, the entire region, and geopolitics, seems beyond President Trump.  He acts impulsively, without forethought, and then blames everyone else for the consequences.  
            Trump may have ordered the assassination because Soleimani antagonized Trump on social media, or Trump needs a distraction from the ongoing morass of impeachment and criminal investigations.  Trump proclaims he made the call to "stop a war", despite all indications the situation is now more precarious.  The Republican hawks are puffed with pride about how tough their man is.  This is the same insanity we saw the last time Republicans ran things and we invaded Iraq in 2003, costing money and lives to this day, with nothing to show for it. A war with Iran will be an even bigger deal, with the possible disruption of the global oil economy.  We have already moved thousands more troops into the region, and called for civilians to leave.  The stock market reacted down, and the price of oil reacted up, and that is before any actual response for Iran.
            This reckless rogue behavior is typical.  During the last three years, Trump has unilaterally destabilized the middle east by; withdrawing from the Iran nuclear agreement and imposing crippling economic sanctions; pardoning U.S. soldiers and military contractors convicted of war crimes in the area; supplying arms to Saudi Arabia so that the kingdom can bombard Yemen; changing the Israeli-Palestinian situation in Israel's favor.  He abruptly betrayed of our Kurdish allies in Syria, which cost American prestige and respect in the region, to the benefit of Russia.  He ridicules foreign democratic leaders and fawns over dictators.  He has casually disclosed sensitive intelligence information and assets, compromising coordination with allies and weakening NATO.  He has started trade disputes with both allies and adversaries, depressing the global economy.  He unilaterally withdrew from the Paris Climate agreement, despite mounting evidence that the crisis is real and increasing, demanding unified global response.
            An October, 2019 article in the Huffpost, titled "What If The World Treated The U.S. Like A Rogue State?" considers the problem, and what leverage could be brought to bear.  "Under Trump, America is in the business of actively creating or deepening threats to the world.  For a while, it looked as if Trump might attack North Korea, and recent events may lead to war with Iran.  Along the way, his administration has trashed so many diplomatic rules and norms that the entire edifice of postwar stability is at risk." Where America was once a trusted leader of the free world, we are now an object of concern and ridicule.
            America has a huge economic advantage because the dollar is the primary reserve currency, with most global trade passing through our banking system, even if the goods do not.  This postwar advantage couldn't be challenged until recently.  The Euro and the Chinese Yuan are beginning to be used in international transactions, particularly in oil trade, as the rest of the world looks for an alternative the dollar thuggery.  It would be costly to sanction America, and disengage from the dollar, but as Trump flaunts his rogue nature, the incentive grows.  
            Even if Trump resigned tomorrow, the damage is done.  It is hard to build a reputation for integrity, but easy to lose it.