By Jack Wright
Is Trump in charge of his own administration? Whose voice is loudest on matters concerning foreign policy? Are the adults in charge? Who can we trust?
These are just a select few of the many questions successive generations will ask and look to answer when this presidency concludes. Perhaps it is premature for contemporaries to examine this conundrum; given the shocks to the system underneath, read to boil over throughout the next three or (as I hypothesise) seven years, it is tempting to pass the buck. Yet, there is an element of bad sportsmanship in this mentality. And, as conservatives encapsulate all that is abnormal in Trumpism, the intelligent Left must step forth from the rut in which it currently resides. As a result, what follows is, I hope, only a minimally-small contribution to one of several drafts and re-writes of American history.
The most important feature of this presidential administration to be stressed is the extent to which it is steeped in the paint of its executive. Trump has fashioned his team in his own self-image. He is the master of his destiny, which manifestly diverges from national interests. External opinion seems to be null and void in the US today. Trump will never choose to budge an inch at the behest of the outside world; he will do so only when others come into line with the nature of his own narrow personal desires.
The ongoing confrontation with North Korea, and the manner in which the US responds to this crisis, proves to be a case in point. Accelerating its rate of nuclear weapons development, the psychopathic Kim dynasty regularly tests deadly bombs with destructive tendencies far exceeding those displayed in Japan during the Second World War. In flagrant defiance of the Anglo-American liberal international order, Pyongyang launches ICBMs with the intent of capably striking the contiguous American mainland.
North Korea presents a singular threat to US national security. Washington has responded, primarily, by desperately avoiding efforts to adopt the bullish image of its quixotic president.
The American secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, revealed that the US and North Korea have retained “direct lines of communication,” seeking to placate international concerns by emphasising “We are not in a dark situation.” These statements, for one, contradicted openly State Department assessments delivered by the spokeswoman Heather Nauert: “Despite assurances that the [US] is not interested in promoting the collapse of the current regime … North Korean officials have shown no indication that they are interested in or are ready for talks regarding denuclearisation…”
It is Trump, however, who continually negates the diplomatic efforts of his administration officials, terrifying US allies in Seoul and Tokyo through exacerbation. Infamously describing Kim as “Rocket Man … on a suicide mission for himself,” threatening “fire and fury” if Pyongyang launched an ICBM to strike Guam, he has since disparaged manoeuvres gearing for traditional (multilateral) diplomacy: “I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” before following up on this tweet: “…Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!”
Behaviours designed to blatantly sabotage the reputation of appointed cabinet officials, working for the administration of the most powerful nation on Earth, are outrageous. But they are not unsurprising. In fact, they conform perfectly with Trump as we have always known him: As a failed business tycoon and a pseudo-intellectual; an immature reality-television star; a demagogic presidential candidate who exploited the fears of ordinary Americans; and, as an unintelligible self-preservationist consistently trumping his egotistical needs over those of the electorate. If we seek to understand what the president thinks, and how policy is formed in his administration, ignore the officials: Trump tells us ad nauseam via Twitter.
Why are we surprised, then, to discover that Trump has undermined all policy routes which might resolve the Korean crisis without triggering catastrophic human suffering?
Trump fashioned the administration in his own self-image was originally published in Global Affairs Briefing on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.