Key points in our history that came upon us this week – and looming conflict.
Before reviewing armed conflict, a few notes on the news of recent days.
Michael Cohen– In the future we will look back on last week as key. We will note this was when fate began turning on Donald Trump with terminal velocity. An unconscionable number of Republicans have excused him on a host of issues for far too long. As Russian ties come into focus, such support will become untenable. Trump is becoming more isolated and less powerful within his own party. Something of a countdown has begun. And Cohen is becoming an interesting person.
George H.W. Bush– There are good memories and gracious notes about the senior Bush this week. Deserved and appropriate. We should not excuse him bringing Lee Atwater on the national political scene. This led to the Willie Horton campaign and other ugliness. Such efforts are ever more prevalent in the Republican party of today. This type of thing is now standard operating procedure for the party. Still, Bush believed in this country. He thought service and civility were cornerstones of civilized societies. Overall, a life of impressive contributions and general decency. We have certainly had worse presidents. And he kept Saturday Night Live going for several years (he laughed along with them).
Paul Manafort, Matthew Whitaker, and Mitch McConnell– Nothing new here. I just wanted to remind that these names are further proof that life is not fair and that standards should count. That an Administration includes these three in its web tells all we need to know about values and characters. Just a reminder.
On to Russia and China. This blog noted last Summer that armed conflict between the US and Russia and China was likely. Probably small scale, but likely. The time is upon us. I also noted earlier that these are national powers in the most traditional sense of that term. They constantly seek opportunities for influence and control. Muscle flexing is a useful tool to them on several counts. In recent days, both countries flexed. Do not have any doubt; these events were aimed at us, sure. More importantly, they for our allies and others who are watching to see which way the wind blows.
Both powers are looking for opportunities to challenge the US in a hardball manner. The recent Russian strike against Ukraine is part of an old grudge. But it was that message to everyone else that counts. The message is simple: do not count on the US to back you when the chips are down. You would do well to defer to Russia. Failing to do so carries large risk. Message delivered and received everywhere. The message is accurate with this administration. The cost will be paid for years.
China also challenged us, on one of our freedom of the sea outings in the South China Sea this week. It will be surprising if there is not a shooting event or collision in the next hundred days or so. The Chinese are confident that Trump will blink when the time comes. They are increasingly confident of their own military capabilities in the region. The ongoing trade talks may have some effect, but I expect not much, and not for long. Trump’s lack of strategy invites China towards regional hegemony. His personal traits accelerate the risk. They are increasingly taking him up on the offer, militarily and otherwise.
Listen to these Podcasts! Another side note, but an important one: We recently had a long automobile trip, providing an opportunity to catch up on podcasts. We listened to the first 6 of Rachel Maddow’s 7-part series, The Bagman. This is the back story and connective tissue of Vice President Agnew’s resignation. It happened mere days before Watergate’s Saturday Night Massacre.
Why bother with this history, now? For two reasons.
One, this is an exceptionally well-done series. Each episode is only about a half-hour long, but beautifully researched and presented. I think it is Maddow’s best work to date, in any medium.
Two, the similarities between how Agnew approached the challenges, the media, his followers, et al and how Trump is doing the same is stunning. I had not made the connection. It is important history that is happening again.
This is fascinating, timely, and worth listing to, friends.
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