On the Verge of War

I initially thought that perhaps the Trump experiment wasn’t doomed to fail. Many said it would be a bad idea to let him be in charge, especially as the previous couple of presidents had created some rather unfortunate presedence (acting without Congress). I agreed with them that it was a very dark potential there, but maybe not less than it would have been with Hillary Clinton. Nevertheless, I felt that if he was sincere about being what the establishment has not been, he could become the president most people needeed.

If he hadn’t proven the critics right before he certainly did last week, because his latest blunder wasn’t just embarrassing or amusing. It was dangerous. President Trump told Fox Business on April 12:

We are sending an armada, very powerful. We have submarines, very powerful, far more powerful than the aircraft carrier. We have the best military people on Earth. And I will say this: He is doing the wrong thing.

He was talking about North Korea, and in an interview a few days earlier he had stated that the USA would deal with North Korea with or without China’s help. This was supported by Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, who warned that military action was on the table, and Vice President Pence said that the era of strategic patience was over. It was starting to look like war was very much a possibility. It probably wasn’t the most likely scenario, but if the leadership in North-Korea believed it was, they could have felt provoked to attack first. After all, they do seem to have a diplomatic language that is anything but diplomatic.

Maybe we’ll never know just how close we came to a devastating war in Asia, but this is the danger with cold war and so-called balance of terror. There is always a risk of someone making a hasty decision. There have been some close calls in the past. The early 1960’s must have been a scary time with the Cuban missile crisis as the climax. While that took place the pilot of a U-2 spy plane also violated Soviet airspace, but John F. Kennedy and Nikita Krushchev solved the crisis. The next big one happened in 1979 when a computer glitch at North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) had the Americans believing that the Soviet Union had launched a missile attack. Something similar happened on the other end in 1983 when a Soviet satellite misinterpreted a glint of sunlight as a missile launch.

The Able Archer was an annual American exercise in Europe, but 1983 was different. There were several new elements that year and to the Russians it didn’t look like a drill. Read more about on Wikipedia. The last incident I know about was the Norwegian rocket incident in 1995. There is a research station on the island of Andøya where Norwegian and American scientists study the aurora borealis. In this case they launched a rocket that would carry equipment to study the phenomenon over Svalbard. To the Russians it looked like a Trident missile being launched from a submarine. I vaguely remember this from the news, and if I am not mistaken President Boris Yeltsin later told reporters that he was carrying “the nuclear briefcase”. It’s really not good when we allow old men with a failing health to make these kinds of decisions alone.

Misunderstandings sometimes happens, which is why no one should welcome a new cold war, but I have one question after Trump’s bizarre game: Why? We know that neither Iraq or Libya was a threat. We know enough to be suspicious of the claims regarding Syria, China, Russia and possibly North Korea. So what is the urgency? Are there some questions we are not supposed to ask?

The biggest one could be the economy. Some say that the economy never recovered and in a way they are correct. According to Emmanuel Sanchez from University of California, Berkeley, the top 1 percent captured 93 percent of the income gains the first year of the recovery (2010). Read his Striking it Richer: The Evolution of Top Incomes in the United States. The problem is that rich people don’t put much money back, while people with low to moderate income are more likely to spend money locally. Trump prides himself in being a business man that can negotiate any deal, and get a better deal than anyone else. I am not sure that his latest actions have strengthened his position.

War has been good for business in the past. That’s the theory at least. WW II probably didn’t hurt America as it was other countries and other people that were destroyed, but that theory may not be very convincing today. After all, considering how many resources NATO have spent in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen we shouldn’t have had a recession in the first place. Some people clearly made a lot of money, but it didn’t help most people. So how healthy is the economy really? Is it possible for the economy to recover without a middle class?

War is also seen as positive because it distracts the rest of the population. It doesn’t matter much to many people that they are being cheated because as long as the military kicks butt, they feel good. To some people that’s the only reason they need to go to war. That’s the dark side of patriotism, but maybe it should move us to simply ask why? Why are we doing this to other countries if it’s not helping them?

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