Monday, July 09, 2018

Cui Bono?

What was it Orwell said about the hardest thing to do is seeing what's right in front of you?

Josh Marshall:

The more obvious conclusion is that, for whatever reasons, President Trump is hostile to the very concept of our primary alliances in Europe and Northeast Asia, in which we do pay substantial sums to be the guarantor of security in those regions. He simply hasn’t reconciled that with his braggadocious clamoring for higher military spending which, whether he knows it or not, assume those continuing commitments.

Jonathan Chait:

It is often said that Donald Trump has had the same nationalistic, zero-sum worldview forever. But that isn’t exactly true. Yes, his racism and mendacity have been evident since his youth, but those who have traced the evolution of his hypernationalism all settle on one year in particular: 1987. Trump “came onto the political stage in 1987 with a full-page ad in the New York Times attacking the Japanese for relying on the United States to defend it militarily,” reported Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “The president has believed for 30 years that these alliance commitments are a drain on our finite national treasure,” a White House official told the Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin. Tom Wright, another scholar who has delved into Trump’s history, reached the same conclusion. “1987 is Trump’s breakout year. There are only a couple of examples of him commenting on world politics before then.”

What changed that year? One possible explanation is that Trump published The Art of the Deal, which sped up his transformation from an aggressive, publicity-seeking New York developer to a national symbol of capitalism. But the timing for this account does not line up perfectly — the book came out on November 1, and Trump had begun opining loudly on trade and international politics two months earlier. The other important event from that year is that Trump visited Moscow.

The question is the old one:  cui bono?  Why should Trump despise NATO and wish to destroy it, the very thing NATO leaders fear he might do?  It doesn't benefit Trump, who has no business dealings involving NATO.  It doesn't benefit the U.S., who uses NATO to maintain a stability in the world that is really quite strong for the most part.  Who does it benefit?  Vladimir Putin and Russia, is the only credible answer.  And why would Trump want to do that?  "For whatever reasons"?  Or for reasons that are so plainly in front of the collective nose we strain to see it?

(And just to clarify:  as JMM points out, the U.S doesn't "spend far more on NATO" than any other "Country."  We spend more on our military than any other country, and use that military in bases that girdle the globe for stability and to extend our military power (most significantly right now, to keep North Korea from trying unify the peninsula under its dictatorship, simply by our military being there).  The bases in Germany support efforts as far away as the Middle East.  The value of this to the U.S. may be debatable, but the funding of NATO is not.  Does Trump know this, or even care?  Wrong question.  Why is Trump using his lies to undermine NATO, is a much more important question.)

ADDING:  and not to put too fine a point on it:

NATO has found renewed purpose since Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, sending battalions to the Baltics and Poland to deter potential Russian incursions.

President Donald Trump left the door open to recognizing Russia’s annexation of Crimea, telling reporters that such a move would be up for discussion when he meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin next month.

“We’re going to have to see,” Trump told reporters Friday on Air Force One when asked if the U.S. would accept Russia’s claim on the territory it seized from Ukraine in 2014. 
Cui bono?

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