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Destruction by Egotism

President Donald Trump claims to proceed from a unique wisdom but his real drivers are how to win the next election and enlarge his personal wealth. His concerns are not the good of his country or the well-being of humanity, but what is good for him. Hostile to expertise and good advice, Trump  wreaks mayhem in every  corner of the world.  Every week if not every hour brings a new outrage.. Just consider what he has done in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.

Asia: The United States has pledged to defend South Korea and Japan so that neither needs its own nuclear weapons, but Trump now demands that South Korea increase its payments for US protection by some 400 percent.  Anxious to carry on his “love” affair with Kim Jong Un,  Trump downplays  North Korea’s tests of short- and medium-range missiles. He blithely says the tests do not violate Kim’s commitments made in Singapore, even though they violate United Nations resolutions.  The North’s weapons may not yet reach the US mainland but they certainly menace South Korea and Japan. Meanwhile, Trump does not yet offer North Korea any substantive reward for curbing its nuclear-missile arsenal.

Having pulled the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and instigated a trade war with China, Trump has boosted Chinese influence abroad while antagonizing  Beijing. Still courting his “friend” Xi Jinping, however, Trump says nothing about Uighur genocide or Hong Kong.

Reluctant to antagonize South Asia’s two nuclear-armed powers, Trump stands aside as  Pakistan seethes over Prime Minister Modi’s actions in Kashmir and India’s Supreme Court decision giving Hindus the same land where they destroyed a mosque in 1992.

Europe: Despite the Soviet collapse,  the Kremlin again threatens Europe as well as Russia’s immediate neighbors. Trump says nothing about Russian troops in Moldova or in Georgian territories Moscow seized in 2008. He prefers to ignore  Russian annexation of Crimea and occupation of eastern Ukraine. Desperate for US support, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky  sought an oval office meeting and delivery of military aid already appropriated by Congress.  But Trump conditioned the White House meeting and delivery of the promised aid on Zelensky’s public commitment to investigate Ukraine’s role in America’s 2016 election and possible corruption by political rival Joseph Biden and his son. As Ambassador Gordon Sondland explained,  Trump has been  more interested in Biden than in Ukraine.

United States interests in Atlantic solidarity suffer from Trump’s denunciation of the Paris climate accords and his backing for British exit from the European Union.  On Brexit, as in other cases, Trump’s actions advance Putin’s goals. Trump’s brazen demand that Denmark sell Greenland and his digs at President Emmanuel Macron and Chancellor Angela Merkel add to European doubts about the Atlantic alliance. .

Middle East: Trump ended hopes for Israel-Palestinian peace by moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and by legitimizing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s push into the West Bank.

Trump has betrayed the Kurds in northern Syria by withdrawing US troops and allowing Turkish forces to enter Syria.  He threatened to destroy Turkey’s economy if Turkish troops advanced too far, but soon rewarded President Recep Tayyip Erdogan  with a White House visit. Now the armies of  Bashar al-Assad and Putin occupy more of the region.

Claiming that Saudi Arabia will buy US arms worth billions, Trump is silent regarding the murder of Washington  Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi by agents of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal divides the US from its partners who still honor the joint action  plan. US policy pushes Iran to intensify nuclear-weapon preparations while doing nothing to restrain Iranian missile tests or meddling. Chaos in US occupied Iraq makes that country more vulnerable to Iranian manipulation.

The US presence in Afghanistan has not slowed poppy production or Taliban violence.

Trump cancelled serious peace talks with the Taliban after continued fighting killed one US soldier.

Dictator worship. Ignoring their violations of human rights, Trump praises not just  Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un, Xi Jinping, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Benjamin Netanyahu, but also India’s Narendra Modi, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, and Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte.  Trump covets the autocratic powers they enjoy.

Within the United States, meanwhile, Trump’s policies increase  air and water pollution and shorten life spans. Republicans as well as Democrats should act promptly to ease the burdens of office for Trump and help him join his former helpers Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, George Papadopoulos, Rich Pinedo, Alex van der Zwaan, and Roger Stone—all convicted birds-of-a-feather who may soon include Rudy Giuliani.

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Walter Clemens is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Boston University and Associate, Harvard University Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies. He wrote Complexity Science and World Affairs (SUNY Press, 2013).

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