The World

Apr 10, 2018

On the paradox of American power, and Trump’s next move

Syria and the state of the US' economy represent two key challenges for Trump in the short term. If only the president had any power to address such things ...

Guy Rundle — Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle


The Trump cheer squad in Australia has gone very quiet ... that’s a phrase I’ll be setting up a shortcut for. A few weeks ago, the Republicans were hammered in a special House election in Pennsylvania’s 18th, a district Trump won by 20 points. Now the Congressional Budget Office has announced that the US budget deficit will hit one trillion dollars annually before the end of Trump’s term. No huge disaster per se, but it is terrible PR for a party that ran on notions of US economic collapse from public debt.

Trump’s second challenge is in foreign affairs. The chemical attack on Douma in Syria has come with a strong whiff of Groundhog Day -- along with the gas. The attack is atrocious, but so too are conventional attacks. Focusing on gas attacks is an excuse to flash US power. With Dubya-era hawk John Bolton returned as national security adviser, the last vestiges of non-intervention and isolationism have left the building.

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24 thoughts on “On the paradox of American power, and Trump’s next move

  1. James O'Neill

    Things have reached a sorry pass when even worldly wise commentators such as Guy repeat the long discredited BS about the Syrian government using gas attacks/chemical warfare on its own citizens. For God’s sake, don’t you keep abreast of the real world. Read the analyses by highly regarded US expert Ted Postol. He used to be widely quoted in the msm until he called BS on the alleged gas attacks in Syria.
    It is precisely this dangerously naive and ill-informed commentary that is going to have Australia involved in a serious shooting war between the US and Russia. Listening to that airhead Julie Bishop on ABC makes one despair.
    Foreign affairs commentary is the great glaring hole in Crikey’s repertoire. If you are going to venture into that area at all, please let it be from someone who has not swallowed whole the latest propaganda from London and Washington.

    1. Bill Hilliger

      James a great post as usual, you nailed it.

    2. Bobby

      Lol. Meanwhile James and his ilk on the delusional left are busy sucking down Putin’s propaganda.

  2. unimpressed

    And just to add another point of interest, it has been reported, though the validity of those reports have not been confirmed, that the entire Russian military have been placed on high alert. We may be going to war to keep the Palestinians under control, to gift the water resources of Southern Lebanon to the Israelis and to stop the rise of Iran. Ultimately of course to protect the American Empire from its inevitable dissolution.

    1. graybul

      Your last sentence U’pressed is the sole reality of all future ‘kindling’ world events. As each event moves across world stage; the climactic conclusion gains greater and greater certainty. “Poor fella all . . . . humanity”!

  3. Charles Richardson

    I’ll give you even money against anyone using a tactical nuke in the next 30 years. How much do you want to have on?

    1. Nudiefish

      I dunno Charles. I’ll go a tenner that it will happen one day in the not so distant future.

      The idea that tac nukes are unthinkable is just old thinking. As US projected power is increasingly seen as untenable the more likely the US might consider the one thing it has to try and keep the wolves from the door. The first one will be lit “as a warning” in some god forsaken place, and after that the cat is out of the bag. We might very well accidentally fall into a nuclear war as oft been predicted?

      1. Charles Richardson

        I don’t for a moment deny that it might happen, but I think it’s pretty unlikely. I wouldn’t offer 5-1, but I’m happy offering evens.

  4. Dog's Breakfast

    I really do have to have that meeting with the financial advisers at the superannuation firm to get all my money out, perhaps into gold or cash or whatever they flee to when the shite really hits the fan.

    1. kyle Hargraves

      Not necessarily a tactical nuke but for something similarly effective, I’ll hijack your customers, Charles, by offering a date : 1 Jan/27; less than nine years. Of course personalities are important. Khrushchev and Kennedy warded off a major stouch in 1962. Had it been Stalin and Regan or Brezhnev and Bush (Snr. or Jnr.) the event may have been “on”. By comparision Regan and Brezhnev understood one another. Ditto for Trump and Putin.

    2. kyle Hargraves

      Sorry the post above ought to be attached to Charlie.

      Where, pray, DB, are do you intend to “flee” to? Will your new host country have an uncared financial sector or just rows of inoperative ATMs (as with your home country)?

      A full-on nuclear scrap will prove to be a great (human) equaliser – which causes the event to be improbable. There is something to be said for capitalist vested interest.

  5. Nudiefish

    US foreign power is increasingly being seen as a dud. China is contemplating building a military base in the Coral Sea and who’s going to stop them? Certainly not the the US? All America has left is blowhard threats and warships briefly transiting contested islands which are all easily ignored.

    The next 25 years are going to be interesting, if we survive them.

    1. Russ Hunter

      $10 would help you to survive

      1. Nudiefish

        No, but a beer in the meantime couldn’t hurt, could it?

  6. kyle Hargraves

    It is all very well to begin at the beginning but, in the case of Syria, just where was the “beginning”? Was it with the French mandate (post WWI) or when Bashar al-Assad old man declared a State of Emergency in 1963. As an aide the country has been in a state of “official’ emergency ever since.

    When Bashar al-Assad assumed control (there was nothing like an election) it is fair to say that the populars conducted themselves as previously (for quite some time) – by way of momentum as it were – even as rules and conduct became relaxed. Now, we have the current situation. The yanks played off each “rebel” group (via misinformation and false
    intelligence) until the various rebel groups began attacking one-another. THEN, as per the intention, the “government” recovered the upper hand.

    Kissinger, circa 2012, pointed out that the ensuing game was not going to be a game for school boys (or words to that effect). In particular he advised Obama to be VERY clear on any PARTICULAR policy if Obama intended to wade-in to the affair. To wade-in will-nilly would be disastrous.

    Well what do we have? Another ménage à trois (al-Assad, Putin and Trump) in the making – abetted with some arms- length argument about ISIS.

    “But still the question remains. What happens after? There is nothing short of full invasion that would “settle” the Syrian matter, and that is out of the question.”

    I, for one, are by no means sure sure! On the one hand Obama mused : “do we really need the region” and Trump’s view is “god-damn it – its ours – ‘they’ are just the tenants”.

    “Anything less leaves the US both looking and actually being weaker than before.”

    Actually no. There is a Chinese adage : “to teach the monkey one needs, on occasion, to kill the chicken”. Such an event would also have an effect on other would-be reformists in the region – which Donald would appreciate.

    “Doing nothing plays to Trump’s strengths.”
    On the contrary : doing “something” (rash) may prove to be an excellent exemplar for the forthcoming chat with Kim.

    1. Sue Miills

      Our only chance ( that I can see) is that the narcissists in charge finally understand where they’ve brought us ALL might just include them too. If all of us, countering their bs & propaganda, poking holes in the logic-flaws & dispelling the power of the story they’re telling, the future they’re writing, can give them the words & vision for a world cooperating to fight climate change & pollution, & the idea that would be Great Leadership, & what the people want … well then we’d have a chance. (& maybe if the clever scientists could go slow on vaccuuming up space junk, those deadly little chips threatening to damage space vehicles & preventing the worst malignant-narcissist- jaded-money-addicts-smart-arses from fleeing … )
      Surely we can show them there’s as much self-gratification & self-congratulation in SavingTheWorld as there is in imposing hell while fcuking off to save oneself?
      If we can’t show them that….I think we’re all fcuked

  7. AR

    This seems like he’s playing to Joe Bageant’s bumper sticker “kick their ass and take the gas”, aka “how come our oil’s under their sand?”.
    Both Cheney & Trump said that Iraq’s oil should be used to reimburse US invasion costs.

  8. rumtytum

    Assad may not be the smartest bloke in the world but he’s surely not dumb enough to order a gas attack that fulfils the wildest dreams of his enemies? Is it not likely that it’s his enemies who’ve fulfilled their wildest dreams by committing this atrocity and relying on the US to thunder down the well-worn cold war donkey track? Every sane and decent person wishes Assad ill, but to ascribe to him an act of suicidal stupidity at this stage of the conflict is only possible for someone who is deaf, blind, and very dumb.

    1. Bobby

      The gas attack was perfectly sensible. Assad’s forces have been fighting for that town and region for years. Within a day of the attack the enemy agreed to leave. There’s something to be said for demonstrating just how brutal you’re willing to be. The West used to know this.

  9. AR

    Many mentions were made in the last week of Monash’s strategy – “We have the tanks, let’s use them.”
    It recalls the Drumpfster’s “We got nukes, why don’t we use them?” in a pre-election security briefing.
    We have grown used to Talcum’s many unsuccessful battles with the English language but his loquacity problems are due to his overweening appreciation of his own, many, abilities such as they may be which then wander palely as a cloud, parsing.
    When the Drumpfster entered the Lists, yet again, of simple, 6-7th grade grammar & word spread <7o, he falls at the first.
    But then stumbles and bumbles on with unrelated verbiage,.

  10. Russ Hunter

    Thanks Guy.
    “Doing nothing plays to Trump’s strengths. If only he were the one in charge …”
    I was paying attention till this bit. I think Trump has shown he can’t be managed / he sacks every manager. What on earth are you talking about?

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