20 April 2017
Cracking Eggs With Donald
President Trump’s Easter message.
President Trump, clad in jeans and sweat shirt, appeared on the White House lawns to distribute Easter favours, join in the egg painting, dance with the Easter Bunny, and fling handfuls of mini eggs into the grass, crying “Take that, you suckers”…
No, you are right, he didn’t. He and Mrs Trump, along with youngest son Barron, did appear on the steps of the White House and the Donald even risked the satirical possibilities of walking alongside the Easter Bunny, a strangely odd looking version this year. But the President stuck to his reliable uniform of blue suit, white shirt, and red tie, walked with dignity and mostly unsmilingly to where the traditional festivities were unfurling, and waved at the crowd. Then he gave a short speech; no Obama jokey address this year; Mr Trump said that things were going well to make America a strong nation once more and that many of those playing on the lawn would grow up to be successful in his reinvigorated United States.
Much of the media has of course had fun making the President look stiff and out of touch with his mostly young audience, but maybe Donald has a point. He is not their eccentric uncle but their President, indeed a man old enough to be the grandfather of many of the guests, and a man who at the same time as he is entertaining children in his back yard is making momentous decisions concerning the future peace of the world. Perhaps a more serious approach is appropriate in these times? Certainly that is the message the Trump presidency is giving out at the moment.
It is a message which has been received in what, in the nineteenth century, were known as the chancelleries of Europe. The one in Brussels muttered and grumbled, but in the chancelleries that Mr Trump is addressing – Moscow, Berlin and Ankara – the message was received and suddenly Mr Trump looks more serious and less far out than he did. In Beijing too it was acknowledged that Mr Trump’s reach may be longer and swifter than almost anybody had expected. Whether they believe that in North Korea is another matter. If they do, how Mr Kim Jong-Un will respond to it is on the list of known unknowns.
What is causing perplexity though is that the Trump Presidency, assumed to be all about America alone, and building walls against the world, is busy examining the state of that world and in some cases reacting to it. It is undoubtedly true that some of Mr Trump’s sweeping campaign statements have been quietly put back in the filing cabinet and that the President and his cabinet are having to deal with matters, and in ways, that they probably did not contemplate four months ago. The operative word here may be “cabinet”. Mr T is a businessman as we have pointed out before; he appoints the best man (sometimes woman) to the job and lets them get on with it, unless or until they mess up or turn out to be “unlucky”. And Donald does seem to have a particular faith in the competence of military men – as people who have run businesses often do have, not least because military types tend to be very good at getting things done, on cost and on time.
Here is a good example. He is letting his military men run the military department. Mr Obama was not prone to engaging in warlike actions. He did not like the political risk and he did not, we suspect, like to be a party to taking human life for any cause, even the lives of bad guys, but especially the lives of those persons who are known in military circles as “collateral damage”. We are not suggesting that Mr Trump is bloodthirsty, far from it, but we do suggest that he is more inclined to take calculated risks and accept the damage that may result, if the actions achieve the desired results.
So if his top advisors in uniform say that they have a problem in Afghanistan but have a weapon that will deal with it directly and with minimal damage to what is around it, then The Donald may ask a couple of questions but his fundamental inclination will be to say “That’s your job, get on with it”. If he wants to punish the Assad regime for appalling behaviour but try to prevent any fatal damage to Russian personnel, and the guys with the shoulder tabs say that they can do just that, then he will let them do just that. And if his strategists come to him and say that North Korea is dangerously close to being able to launch a weapon that could hit Los Angeles, (even if, in fact especially if, the North K technology is so rubbish it might hit San Francisco or Tokyo by mistake) then he will ask them to evaluate with his team how to respond to that. Maybe a “friend” of North Korea – say the President of China – will point out to Mr Kim that if he starts a nuclear war he will lose; maybe the North Korean generals will do anything to avoid living in a bunker for a couple of years with their President-for-life; maybe Google can interfere with the weapon control systems so that they can never leave Korean shores. But Donald has only a limited belief that jaw is better than war, so if a reliable solution involves weaponry we may yet hear a bang from the South China Sea. The reason we have not heard one so far may be that there will have to be some careful calculations as to the risk of North Korea hitting South Korea before American technology switches everything off, and as to whether, in the post bang world, the replacement government in North Korea might turn out to be even more odd than the extinguished one.
None of this means that the America First theme has left the White House. IF American interests are at stake then America will defend itself, even pre-emptively. That is very clearly the case with North Korea and also where American troops are still engaged, as in Afghanistan. It is a bit harder to work out what drove the targeted bombing of a nerve gas unit in Syria – but how about a true moral imperative? Mr Trump sounded very genuinely outraged by a politician gassing his own infant citizens, and when that outrage melds with a tidy little warning that American has the technology and the will, is happy to provide a practical demonstration to other rogues of what may happen to them, and gives a friendly warning to the Russians that the president of USA has just as strong nerves as the president of Russia, it is perhaps odd we even need to consider the question.
The message Mr Trump would like the world to hear is that we can all sleep a little more soundly in our beds with the new occupant of the White House watching over us – so long as we are not bad guys. Time will tell whether we might be better off sleeping in our normal bedrooms – or in our cellars.
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