Living On A Two-Way Planet In The Age Of Trump

Cross-posted with TomDispatch.com

Last Friday, Donald Trump made his first visit to the Pentagon where he spoke of signing an order to begin "a great rebuilding of the armed services of the United States," something he's been advocating for quite a while. As TomDispatch regular Bill Hartung indicates today in "What Happens When All We Have Left Is the Pentagon?" this will mean a massive surge in federal dollars pouring into the abyss of the institution, which has shown itself quite capable of absorbing such moneys in the past and seems to lack the slightest ability to account for what's done with them. (The Pentagon has never even managed to pass an audit.) We already know that this will mean more troops, more ships, more planes, and as a draft executive order for the new president put it, "a desire to invest in a host of military capabilities, including Special Operations forces and nuclear weapons."

These are two areas in which "build up" is already the operative phrase. At approximately 70,000 personnel, the elite Special Operations forces are now an enormous, secretive military -- larger than the armies of some sizable countries -- cocooned inside the regular armed forces. Special ops types are now dispatched annually to about 70% of the nations on the planet. As for those nuclear forces, under President Obama who won a Nobel Peace Prize in part for his abolitionist sentiments, they were already launched on a trillion dollar, three-decade "modernization" program, involving the creation of new delivery systems and "smart nukes" as well. If each of these forces is now to be expanded even more rapidly and expensively, that's a genuine upping of the military ante on the planet.

As former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who, with President Ronald Reagan, came remarkably close to negotiating nuclear weapons out of existence, pointed out recently in Time magazine, "it looks as if the world is preparing for war... Today,... the nuclear threat once again seems real. Relations between the great powers have been going from bad to worse for several years now. The advocates for arms build-up and the military-industrial complex are rubbing their hands."

Indeed, at the dawn of the Trump era, it's worth remembering that, despite the obvious power of the United States, this is no longer a one-way planet. Take the new "nationalism" of the president (and his close adviser Steve Bannon). As the guiding principle of American foreign policy, nationalism will prove a distinctly two-way street, as is already the case in Mexico where Trump's wall, his immigration policies, and his tax threats against Mexican products may only stoke Mexican nationalism, uniting an otherwise riven country in a fierce spirit of anti-Americanism.

And don't expect a staggering American military build-up to be a one-way phenomenon either, especially on the nuclear front. Before he's done, Donald Trump, who has a yearning for the 1950s, could well put the planet on the kind of military footing that hasn't been seen since at least the height of the Cold War. He could well spark a potentially out of control three-way arms race that would include China and Russia, while heightening increasingly pugnacious nationalist feelings across the planet. Worse yet, as Hartung points out today, if your money is going to head massively into the military (while civilian spending is slashed), when problems or crises arrive, as they will on such a planet, it's obvious where you're most likely to turn. At this point, only two weeks into his presidency, the Earth looks like a distinctly more dangerous place. No wonder the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has just moved its Doomsday Clock 30 seconds "closer to catastrophe" at 2½ minutes to midnight.