Every time Donald Trump blurts or tweets a shocker – “maybe it’s the calm before the storm,” for instance – questions flood the media.
Is he serious? What did he mean? Yes, of course, but beyond these, larger questions hover half-asked, cutting into the soul of who we are. This is painful, but not necessarily a bad thing. For me, one question that keeps emerging is: What is the relationship between Trump and the military-political system he stepped into?
That is to say, is he furthering its covert agenda (creating the conditions for more war) or, contrarily, exposing it for what it is?
Back in February, for instance, Trump the pugnacious 14-year-old told a Reuters reporter: “I am the first one that would like to see . . . nobody have nukes, but we’re never going to fall behind any country even if it’s a friendly country, we’re never going to fall behind on nuclear power. It would be wonderful, a dream would be that no country would have nukes, but if countries are going to have nukes, we’re going to be at the top of the pack.”
America, America! It’s at the top of the pack, man. Trump puts what’s really going on into the language of the playground, delighting his base (a third of the country) and convulsing pretty much everyone else. Of course, what’s really going on is more than just bully blather. With Trump at the helm, the United States of America, the planet’s premier superpower, is putting the planet, in the words of Republican Sen. Bob Corker, “on the path to World War Three.”
We were on that path anyway, just with more dignity and decorum. And more ambivalence. As the U.S. prepared for war it also negotiated peace: in particular, the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, which Trump wants to decertify. Most security experts have hailed the agreement as a remarkable achievement, halting Iran’s nuclear weapons development, curtailing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, easing tensions with the U.S. and helping establish an international framework for creating peace.
The foreign policy establishment remains wary of Iran and considers the agreement flawed, but nonetheless crucial. Which Iran, former CIA analyst Paul Pillar asked recently, is most likely to act with destabilizing aggressiveness?
“Is it an Iran,” he wrote, “that is being reintegrated into the community of nations, that sees material benefit from negotiating restrictions on itself and then scrupulously observing those restrictions, and sees the opportunity for gaining more respectability and influence as long as it plays by the international community’s rules? Or is it an Iran that is kept isolated and punished, sees any significant agreement that it does negotiate get destroyed or reneged upon by other parties, that is the target of unending confrontation and hostility, and that is treated forever as a pariah? The answer should be obvious.”
Creating peace is a complex process – and this, unfortunately, is not always obvious. The…