So that's that. Donald Trump is now formally the President-elect of the United States. The Electoral College met and voted on Monday. And with the hyped campaign to turn electors away from Trump having virtually no impact, while turning fewer electors away from Trump than those turned away from Hillary Clinton, Il Duce Donald's impending presidency is even more official.
Despite the fact that the endlessly aggressive know-nothing candidate lost the national popular vote by nearly 3 million votes, a significant 2.1 percentage points, the widest margin of popular vote defeat for any of the five American presidents to win the White House on the archaic strength of the Electoral College alone, it is Trump who shocked almost all the experts by prevailing.
He did it -- as I warned in a column the week before the election, and as Bernie Sanders campaigners warned the arrogantly unresponsive Clinton high command repeatedly -- by breaking through the so-called "Blue Wall" that Democrats had supposedly erected in several key states of America's traditional industrial Heartland. He turned just enough Barack Obama voters against Clinton. His unsurprising wedges? Bill Clinton's trade policies and his post-presidential, and Hillary's prospective presidential, buck-raking to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. Which didn't set well with folks now barely making do in a supposed economic recovery.
Though of course the Clintons, who didn't cancel their election night fireworks show till just before the election, are desperately trying to spin it all away as being due to the FBI, fake news, the Russians, i.e., anything but taking responsibility for their own mistakes. But enough about that, for now, as it is the perhaps, er, unprepared Trump who must confront a kaleidoscopic new world chaos which has been so dramatically illustrated by a number of stunning events in just the past few days. None of which the media is putting together, naturally.
The stunning assassination of Russia's ambassador to Turkey, as he opened an art exhibit in capital city Ankara, by a Turkish policeman who proceeded to rant about an Islamist agenda before himself being shot to death points up the inherent vulnerability of our new world disorder.
** Aleppo Falls and the Syrian Civil War Grinds Down. As previously suggested, Aleppo has fallen to Syrian regime forces aided by Iran and Russia much faster than the Isis stronghold of Mosul, now besieged by US-backed Iraqi government forces. With it at long last becoming evident in at least some Western media that Syrian rebels -- who burned civilian evacuee buses this week -- were manipulating the humanitarian crisis for military gain, Russia, Iran and Turkey (which backs the Syrian rebels) have agreed to settle the Syrian Civil War in meetings early in the new year.
Does Trump want the US, which under Obama intervened fitfully and ineffectively, and under Hillary would have intervened much more heavily (and probably disastrously), to remain on the sidelines, thus adding to Russian prestige? Or he is just glad to be rid of a headache?
Mr. Itchy Twitter Finger doesn't have much, anything, to say on this.
** The Telling Assassination of Russia's Ambassador to Turkey. It was a stunning moment, with friendship renewed between Russia and Turkey after months of tension over the shoot-down of a Russian fighter-bomber attacking Syrian rebels. As he opened an art exhibit in the capital city Ankara, the Russian ambassador was suddenly gunned down by a Turkish police officer screaming an Islamist slogan, raging against Russian intervention in Syria. But that isn't stopping Russia and Turkey from moving to end the Syrian Civil War, already downgraded to an insurgency by the fall of Aleppo.
I suspect that makes Trump happy. But what must be disquieting is how vulnerable officials can be, how volatile the security situation is even when things are supposedly under control in friendly environs.
Does Trump really have any better answers to this than the Obama administration had? There's certainly no evidence of that. Bluster will not eliminate the random element in complex situations.
** The Now Stalled Mosul Offensive Against Isis May Drag On For More Months. Well, after jumping off with high hopes a few months ago, US-backed Iraqi forces, with American special forces there on the ground, may now, according to Iraqi sources, take until next spring or even next summer to knock out the stubborn, outnumbered Isis forces in Mosul, Iraq's second largest city.
Once again, so much for Obama's ludicrous assessment of Isis as "the jayvee team" of whatever it was he preferred to call jihadism.
The failure of the Obama National Security Council to move swiftly and decisively against Isis while it was still setting up its supposed "caliphate," which I wrote about for months as the Obama administration indulged in pointless diplo-stall -- oh, wait, we have to force a cosmetic change in the Baghdad government -- will haunt Obama's frequently quite admirable presidency forever. It's not as big a mistake as the invasion of Iraq, which Obama of course opposed. But it is up there, all right.
Trump, meanwhile, claims to have a secret plan to defeat Isis. But he hasn't twittered much about Mosul. Perhaps he's being polite to Obama. Or perhaps he has no idea what to do.
While Trump's controversial (and in some ways problematic) new National Security Advisor Mike Flynn was right very early on about Isis while director of Defense Intelligence -- something invariably left out of critical mainstream media profiles of the guy, and something for which he deserves a great deal of credit -- there is no evidence that Team Trump is clear on what to do now. Bluster on Twitter is not the same as effective action. And, more to the point, it is always harder to close the barn door after the horse, well, you know the tortured metaphor.
** Monday's Horrific Terrorist Attack in Berlin Looks Like It Is Right Out of the Homegrown Jihadist Handbook. So Trump can say "I told you so." But so what? He's not going on Howard Stern's radio show to blather. What is he actually going to do to stop this sort of thing?
It is true that, had the Syrian Civil War, which was never this generation's equivalent of the Spanish Civil War, notwithstanding the incessant hype, not taken place, there would not have been such a grave refugee crisis. And Germany, with a truly historic show of humanity, would not have had to step up to take in nearly a million refugees, an act which now may threaten even estimable Chancellor Angela Merkel's electoral future. But Isis would still have had plenty of potential recruits to inspire to homegrown jihadism. Not that we know know that any Syrian refugees were involved in this latest terrifying act.
Again, what solutions does Trump really have? He has blustered on in the past about bombing the hell out of Isis, about taking them out on the ground. Well, we are bombing the hell out of them. As for taking them out on the ground ...
Is Trump aware, as are his friends the Israelis, that it is actually Isis doctrine to provoke "the armies of Rome," i.e., America and her allies, into another foolish ground war in the Middle East? Isis leaders really do want another American bull in the china shop. Just as Osama bin Laden hoped to provoke the Bush/Cheney administration into invading the Middle East, which they did in one of the classic non sequitur moves of world history.
Trump, as it happens, upon further review, may well have opposed the US invasion of Iraq. He certainly wasn't enthusiastic about it. But does he know how to avoid similar pitfalls in the future?
** The Saudi Admission of Their Use of Cluster Bombs In Their Anything But Splendid Little War in Yemen, against an Iranian-backed coalition headed by a decades-long American ally, is a big problem for Trump. It's also another big problem for the benighted Obama National Security Council, since the use of cluster bombs against targets with civilians in the vicinity is what most of the world considers a war crime. But Obama is just a month away from the big hand-off. And it's the holidays, so the American media, ever vigilant on Trump tweets, won't report about it.
What does Trump want to do about the Saudis? He's given no clear idea, though he once floated the idea of allowing the Saudis to develop their own nuclear weapons. Bad idea. Saudi Arabia is already one of the very biggest military spenders on the planet, with good old Uncle Sugar providing almost all the armaments. Yes, this has happened under the Obama administration, not the Trump or Bush/Cheney regimes.
Does Trump want to wind down US support -- which has been crucial from a technical standpoint -- for the Saudi air war in Yemen? It's a big decision, one that could, if he takes that direction, seem to slant in favor of his supposed bete noire Iran in the regional Sunni-Shia proxy war that really defines much of the Middle Eastern dynamic once one strips away the humanitarian interventionist rhetoric.
Of course, there is an influential Middle Eastern power which seems to believe it best to stand back, not that either side could accept its support, and let the Islamists of either side of the schism tear away at one another.
** Seizing An Undersea Drone, Or, The China Syndrome, Part 47. What does Trump really intend to do about China? Clearly, he views the freedom of navigation of the South China Sea, which China bizarrely claims sovereignty over in virtual entirety, as a core interest of the United States. And he almost as clearly views the governance of Syria as not being a core interest of the United States. But that isn't far at all from the evident views of Barack Obama, absent Hillary Clinton joggling his elbow in looking at Syria as another, er, great opportunity for American interventionism.
Did Trump really intend to discombobulate PRC leaders when he talked to Taiwan's president, a no-no for nearly 40 years in American diplomacy? Or when he tweeted angrily about China?
Or was he just alternately stating the obvious, if undiplomatic, truth that we support Taiwan on the one hand and frenetically, and all too characteristically, messing with folks he doesn't quite understand on the other?
That's hard to say.
What is not hard to say is that he made a very public mistake in his Twitter -- can't Melania 86 that famous Android phone of his, at least while most of the country is still asleep?? -- reaction to the outrageous seizure of a US underwater drone off the coast of the Philippines. We don't want it back, really? No, we do want it back. And we got it back, with the good offices of the Obama administration.
And presumably we got it back without any concessions, else the red-hots of the PRC who like to sound at least as though they want war with America would be hooting it up.
We always want our property back, especially when it is in international waters far from China. It was even well outside the area ludicrously claimed by China, a claim, not incidentally, that was unanimously rejected earlier this year by the United Nations tribunal on the law of the sea.
If only Trump were intellectually prepared to do more than dominate an ADD media culture, as he has done from the moment he descended on that godawful gold escalator at Trump Tower and made what so many so foolishly believed to be a great joke of an announcement, the uncertainties about his approach to our now not so new world chaos would not be nearly so severe.
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