Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Code Red

Back in  February, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman issued a code red warning to his readers, writing that Donald Trump was "either compromised by the Russians, or a towering fool." We have yet to discover what the Russians have on Trump. But when the Great Orange Id backed out of the Iran Deal yesterday, he confirmed that he was, indeed, a towering fool. Roger Cohen writes in The Times:

The nuclear accord, reached in 2015, was a watershed. It was not intended to end Iranian-American enmity, virulent since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, but it did dent dangerous confrontation through dialogue.
It was a gamble on drawing Iran, a hopeful and highly educated society, closer to the world and so weakening the Islamic Republic’s hard-liners. It was not about Iranian interference in neighboring Arab states or about its ballistic missile program. It concerned centrifuges and Iran’s clear but never avowed quest for a nuclear bomb.
The agreement put a ring fence around Iran’s nuclear program into the second quarter of this century. It slashed centrifuges by two-thirds; virtually eliminated its uranium stockpile; capped enrichment levels at 3.7 percent, a long way from bomb grade; cut off a plutonium route to a bomb; and redoubled international inspection.
On all this, Iran was in compliance, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Its nuclear ambitions had been checked, a reason several Israeli military and intelligence officials, including former heads of Mossad and Shin Bet, backed the accord, along with former Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

Diplomacy doesn't result in perfect solutions. But, at its best, it arrives at win-win solutions. Trump doesn't know how to do diplomacy. The only rule he lives by is "I win, you lose." That is why his speech yesterday was couched in Orwellian terms:

It was not “a horrible, one-sided deal,” as Trump grotesquely claimed on Tuesday. It was not about delivering “peace,” as he absurdly suggested. It was not a “rotten structure,” as he emptily claimed.
Nothing in Trump’s speech was more scurrilous than this very Orwellian inversion of the truth: “If I allowed this deal to stand, there would soon be a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Everyone would want their weapons ready by the time Iran had theirs.” In fact, Trump has single-handedly fast-forwarded that race by removing the constraints the deal imposed on Iran.

In the background stood John Bolton, who argued for regime change in Iraq. Obviously, Bolton has learned nothing for the Iraq War. Perhaps that's because Bolton spent the Vietnam War the way George W. Bush did -- in the Army Reserves -- knowing that if he was in the reserves he wouldn't get anywhere near Vietnam. Trump, of course,  got multiple deferments -- like Dick Cheney, whose main claim to fame seems to be shooting his friend in the face.

With such limited experience and monumental stupidity, Trump and his advisors have placed the entire world on Code Red.

Image: You Tube


the salamander said...

.. We are talking about people who view the world in their dotage .. through a telescope held backwards.. these are not people who are 'leaders'.. nor are they exemplars.. rather they are pathetic sad losers who find each other.. as parasites seeking a host

BJ Bjornson said...

The whole thing now rests on Europe. Iran has said it will continue to comply with the agreement if the other signatories do likewise, so the real question is what France, Germany and the UK are willing to do to keep the deal in place and what measures Trump and his Republican enablers are willing to take to strike out at any European firms that continue to do business with Iran. Is Europe willing to pay a price to keep Iran's nuclear program in check? I'm sure Russia and China are happy to see the US isolate itself further from its allies, whatever the outcome, and another front on the trade war would probably be welcome as well.

Of course, the other big question is what will it take for anyone to take the US at its word again, knowing the next president might just tear up any agreement reached regardless of your compliance?

The Mound of Sound said...

If we have historians a century from now, they'll probably be writing a great many books with one universal theme, that of opportunities lost and squandered.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, the West had an opportunity to bring the Warsaw Pact nations and the Russian federation into the fold. There was much we might have done to help Russia transition into a modern democracy. The Americans opted for triumphalism instead. We allowed the emergent Russian state to descend into oligarchy and corruption while we marched our armies right to Russia's doorstep. And now we're back in another cold war.

When the Americans and Brits toppled Saddam they could have brought order and peace to Iraq. Peter Galbraith discussed how the country, hobbled together by Sykes and Picot post WWI, could have been apportioned among the Shia of the south, the Sunni of central Iraq, and the Kurds of the north, either as autonomous states or in a confederation. Instead America sought to perpetuate minority Sunni control, the British policy, but had to relent and allow the majority Shiite population to govern as the country succumbed to sectarian violence. It's still not sorted out.

The greater Middle East nightmare. We have steadfastly refused to recognize the low-level civil war between the Shiite Muslim bloc, led by Iran, and the Sunni Muslim bloc, led by Saudi Arabia. With the Iran nuclear pact there was an opportunity to intercede with the rivals and reconcile them to a peaceful co-existence as they enjoyed for centuries in the past. We had no time for that. We allowed the region to destabilize which opened the door for China and Russia to develop rival spheres of influence to our own. We now have four nuclear powers in the ME, three of them with veto power at the Security Council. Brilliant.

The greatest squandered opportunity, however, will be the one those future historians will be living with when they put pen to paper - climate change. Even the giant oil companies knew about the danger 30 to 40 years ago and we've done next to nothing. We're now in this "closing decade" of policy and planning to avert the worst climate change impacts by instituting radical carbon reduction measures starting right now and that's simply not happening.

Imagine, we've squandered the opportunity to avoid the Earth's 6th major extinction. That one rings all the bells, doesn't it? Can you see how this could become the grand historical theme for the 21st Century?

Owen Gray said...

They want to return to a world that they think once existed, Sal. But it was a comic book world with comic book villains, who were easily defeated. Wisdom is not their strong suite.

Owen Gray said...

Trump has never had any credibility, B.J. Now that lack of credibility extends to the entire U.S of A.

Owen Gray said...

Squandered opportunities, Mound. Franklin Roosevelt sought to bring waring nations into the international family. Instead, the children of the generation which fought World War II tried to return to the Old West -- where the rule of the gun triumphed over international law. There is little of which we can be proud.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand the apparent power that the President of the United States has. He isn't king ... is he? Doesn't Congress have any control? Surely Congress has some control, eh? Or, are they just really, really stupid! (I'm just focussing on this issue)


Owen Gray said...

They've made a Faustian bargain, UU. Once you've sold your soul, you're powerless.

BJ Bjornson said...

Congress isn’t stupid so much as dysfunctional. They are, in theory, supposed to ratify treaties once they are signed. You can guess how enthusiastic the Republicans who were a majority in Congress when Obama signed on to the Iran deal were to ratify such a treaty, so it remains up to just the President what to do with such agreements. And this has been going on for a while, so effectively the US no longer enters into treaties, just signs agreements between the current President and whoever they are negotiating with.

Owen Gray said...

The same thing applies to going to war, B.J. Congress is supposed to offically sanction a war. But, these days, many military actions are taken on the president's initiative. Congress sits on the sidelines.

John B. said...

There was a lot of back-and-forth regarding “treaty” v “executive agreement” between legislators and the administration during the period leading up to finalization of the Iran deal.


“As explained in greater detail in 11 FAM 721.2, there are two procedures under domestic law through which the United States becomes a party to an international agreement. First, international agreements (regardless of their title, designation, or form) whose entry into force with respect to the United States takes place only after two thirds of the U.S. Senate has given its advice and consent under Article II, section 2, Clause 2 of the Constitution are ‘treaties.’ Second, international agreements brought into force with respect to the United States on a constitutional basis other than with the advice and consent of the Senate are ‘international agreements other than treaties’ and are often referred to as ‘executive agreements.’ There are different types of executive agreements.”

But even should a deal be given the full treatment, it isn’t insulated from abrogation by a succeeding administration. It would depend on what action the Congress is able and willing to take and might involve referral to the courts.


Owen Gray said...

I take it, then, John, that Congress could reverse Trump's decision -- just as it could refuse to recognize a withdrawl from NAFTA -- if Trump chose to take that option. But, from what we've seen, there's only a couple of people in the Republican caucus who would even contemplate taking on Trump.

Anonymous said...

Although withdrawal from the nuclear agreement, albeit imperfect, the latest move by Trump is extremely disturbing. I am however thankful we do not have Cons ruling our country at this time because Stephen Harper supports Trump's action.

BTW, it appears that you cannot criticize Bibi or the Israelis on the CBC website. When will the Liberals get around to replacing the CBC Board of Directors? RG

Owen Gray said...

It's sad that you can't criticize Bibi these days without being labelled Anti-Semitic, RG.