Friday, April 29, 2016

The Danger of Trump's World View

(Update: Oh hey, Crooks and Liars readers linking in from Mike's Blog Round Up! Welcome back. Please check out the latest blog offerings if you can, and by the by I think I got a message from the family of the Port O San guy from Woodstock I blogged about back in 2009 so OMG OMG OMG I am a little distracted at the moment...

Follow-up to the Update: Thank you as well, Infidel753 for the link here!)

Recheck on the Follow-up to the Update: Hello everyone linking from Skippy the Bush Kangaroo! Welcome to my blog, try the veal it's the best in the city...

You seven - I should be saying eight now - regular blog followers know I am a fan of James David Barber's work on Presidential Character. On how it can determine the basic performance of an incoming or sitting or historical President: on if said President was/is/will be Active or Passive in office, and Positive or Negative about the power of the office towards achieving goals.

What he based that Character on were a set of factors, one of the key factors being "World View": how the person running for the Presidency perceives the world based on previous experiences, learning moments, and developing philosophy.

Barber's own definition from his book Presidential Character goes like this:

A President's world view consists of his primary, politically relevant beliefs, particularly his conceptions of social causality, human nature, and the central moral conflicts of the time... these assumptions or conceptions help him make sense of his world, give some semblance of order to the chaos of existence. Perhaps most important, a man's world view affects what he pays attention to... (p.5)

That World View gives us an idea both on how the potential President views his political allies and enemies, and on how he/she will act on the global stage of the world itself.

Well, we've got a really hard case of Presidential Character with Republican front-runner Donald Trump at the moment. My original estimation of Trump being Active-Negative - and in the worst way imaginable - remains intact: he's been the self-centered, boasting, bullying, ill-informed blowhard that one would find at the most extreme edges of being Uncompromising and Self-Serving (two key A-N traits).

One of the things Trump has been avoiding has been explaining or codifying his World-View to the public at large - at most he's made clear signals about degrading Hispanics, Asians, women, and anybody who doesn't genuflect to the Trump (tm) brand - by usually hand-waving off questions regarding foreign policy. Now that he's essentially the lone runner for the delegate majority count, Trump has to establish more specific policy goals to define the upcoming convention's platform, so he and his handlers decided on making a "bold" foreign policy speech.

To say it didn't go over very well is a bit of an understatement.

If we can refer to Adam Silverman's article in Balloon Juice:

...I will leave the fiskings and point by point takedowns of the contradictions, flaws in logic, petty vindictiveness, and inconsistencies to others. I want, instead, to focus in on the core of the address, which could, perhaps, be referred to the Trump Doctrine. The Trump Doctrine, at its core, can be boiled down to America (we) will be treated fairly. As I wrote yesterday in my initial impressions, this is essentially National Security Narcissism...
...More than that, however, is that the Trump Doctrine is really the animating force or theme of the entire Trump campaign. The other candidates had better treat Donald Trump fairly, the Republican National Committee better treat Donald Trump fairly, the Republican establishment better treat Donald Trump fairly, the media better treat Donald Trump fairly, the state level parties that handle the primaries and all the delegates chosen better treat Donald Trump fairly. And Donald Trump will make them treat him fairly! And the only candidate, nay the only person in America who can ensure that you are treated fairly is Donald Trump. And if he isn’t treated fairly or the US isn’t treated fairly, then he will get even...!
The average American, in some cases even the above average American, really does not know how policy is formulated or strategy is developed for domestic issues, let alone for foreign or defense issues. Donald Trump’s speech yesterday cut through all of that reality – that how the official business of America at the Federal, state, and municipal levels is done is often arcane and messy – and reached right for his supporter’s guts. Donald Trump has consistently been telling Americans... that they are being taken advantage of and that only Donald Trump can stop this. All he’s now done is formally extend it into the realm of foreign and defense policy and connect the pieces together...
The only people that should be happy with Mr. Trump’s foreign policy remarks are Vladimir Putin, the leadership of the People’s Republic of China, and the Islamic extremists running the Islamic State and Al Qaeda. Mr. Trump’s doctrine of America will be treated fairly screams a revanchist approach to foreign and defense policy. Should the US not be treated fairly, the US will then retaliate. Maybe that’s taking our things and going home. Maybe that’s getting even. Maybe its something else, but because Donald Trump’s emphasis is on unpredictability there is no way to really know...

Silverman's point is that Trump is projecting his own World View - his narcissistic belief in his own superiority over everyone else - and applying it to foreign relations that cannot and should not kow-tow to such ego-stroking.

The key question about the Trump Doctrine - America should be treated fairly - should be this: What the hell is fair? Who gets to determine what actions are fair or not? Given the person involved, the likeliest answer of Who determines is going to be Trump himself. If it comes down to it, what Trump is advocating is an American foreign policy where all of our dealings ought to go entirely to HIS favor and not even the American citizenry (who will only benefit by proxy in Trump's estimation), which violates a lot of precepts about deal-making and international agreements.

What Trump is pushing is a World View where everyone else HAS to Respect the hell out of US, while our nation won't have any reason to show any Respect to them.

This is troubling on multiple levels.

Our existing alliances would come under scrutiny, and the political situations in Europe and Asia would collapse over the first sign of slight in Trump's view. Which could be over anything that would tick off his ego.

Said allies would rather cut ties up front over coping with any conflicts with Trump's administration down the road. As Silverman pointed out, that would weaken NATO's stance against Putin's Russia, and it would certainly be a death-knell to any NATO attempt to support Ukraine against Putin's border war with them. The Middle East, another flashpoint where NATO and Russia are occasionally at odds, can turn into a greater cauldron of hell than it already is.

As others pointed out, Trump's dealings in Asia would agitate an increasingly dangerous China, and if Trump were to pull out of our alliances with Japan, Taiwan, even the Philippines it would grant China greater control of the water trade routes of the Southeast Pacific at best (at worst, good God, is full out invasions of Taiwan, Japan, and anywhere they like).

It's a variant of the strand of Isolationism that is common to the United States' political discourse. As much as an "America First" mindset - which has some pretty sick associations - as it is a kind of arrogant Nativist stance that places the nation above all mundane concerns to everyone else's destruction (there's a kind of "Let 'Em Crash" smugness to it).

What Trump is selling here is the argument that the United States is unfairly treated by other foreign powers including our allies, and that our national pride is at stake if we do not elect him to make those foreign powers respect us. What he's not seeing - because his willful ignorance of anything that doesn't serve his immediate needs - is that our foreign policies should not be based on PRIDE but on political and economic stability at a global level. We can't gain that stability if we destabilize our own alliances and create more chaos.

How far Trump can go on this message and World View, all depends on how many American voters buy into the same World View. The best we can hope for right now is that those numbers are way below 40 percent of the electorate currently backing his run.

This is not good politics. This is not good foreign policy. This is not good for America. And we're two steps away from being stuck with him.

All that joking about what a Trump Presidency would look like? It's not funny if he gets elected. Not one damn bit funny if that happens.


Anonymous said...

Great analysis. The dumbness of that foreign policy speech was breathtaking. The inconsistencies, the smug stupidity. What a disgrace.

Paul Wartenberg said...

What's troubling is that Trump's level of understanding about foreign policy can resonate with voters who are not fully informed about how complex those policies can be. The simplicity of Trump's approach is a way to win such voters, who I fear outnumber those voters who take diplomacy seriously and with a greater awareness.

The best thing we can hope for is that Trump is so alienating on other issues that the voter support for him remains well under 40 percent of the general electorate. The best thing we can DO is get the damn vote out for Democratic candidates across the board. Gotta keep saying that and gotta keep pushing that.

Paul Wartenberg said...

And thank you for the compliment, Clarissa, but let's be fair Adam Silverman over at Balloon Juice did a more thorough review of it, I'm just recapping what he said.

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