Saturday, January 11, 2020

Is Trump Making Us Stupid?

David Brooks has just granted even more power to President Trump. He has suggested Trump has rendered the anti-Trump left and the anti-Trump right stupid.

It’s an intriguing thought, one that elicits the obvious counterargument. Dave is giving Trump too much credit. For all we know these people were stupid to begin with. Trump has exposed their true colors, the depths of their ignorance.

Perhaps it’s the great secret of the Trump presidency. People who had coasted through life by pretending to be intelligent, reasonable and sensible are all-of-a-sudden exposed as pretentious self-important idiots. For that they will never forgive him.

And they will certainly not forgive him for showing courage where they could only show cowardice. Other administrations could have taken out Suleimani. The Clinton administration balked at the chance to take out Osama bin Laden. The Bush administration balked at the chance to take out Mullah Omar. The Obama administration was simply chickenshit.

Anyway, Brooks opens with this pithy statement:

Donald Trump is impulse-driven, ignorant, narcissistic and intellectually dishonest. So you’d think that those of us in the anti-Trump camp would go out of our way to show we’re not like him — that we are judicious, informed, mature and reasonable.

This from a writer who once declared himself a narcissistic blowhard. Surely, someone who wanted to pretend to be judicious and reasonable would not open his column with a string of insults and invective.

Of course, Brooks does present some interesting thoughts in his column, thus separating himself from the rabble that is running around offering up insults and invective about Trump.

He might have mentioned that Trump’s greatest sin is making Obama and Bush and other foreign policy geniuses look like fools. You see, as noted in a previous post, Trump called Iran’s bluff. Other more experienced foreign policy hands were cowering in the corner over the vast and righteous power of the ayatollahs. Trump just exposed Iran as a paper tiger...and the Obamaphile left, along with the Bushophile right will not forgive him.

Anyway, Brooks distinguishes himself from his fellow travelers by offering the following analysis. He begins by exposing the way that Iran uses intimidation to shore up the image of its great power:

Iran is not powerful because it has a strong economy or military. It is powerful because it sponsors militias across the Middle East, destabilizing regimes and spreading genocide and sectarian cleansing. Over the past few years those militias, orchestrated by Qassim Suleimani, have felt free to operate more in the open with greater destructive effect.

We’re not going to go in and destroy the militias. So how can we keep them in check so they don’t destabilize the region? That’s the hard problem — one that stymied past administrations.

In the Middle East, and wherever there are protracted conflicts, nations have a way to address this problem. They use violence as a form of communication. A nation trying to maintain order will assassinate a terrorism leader or destroy a terrorism facility. The attack says: “Hey, we know we’re in a long-term conflict, but let’s not let it get out of hand. That’s not in either of our interests.”

Let’s see: who was running American foreign policy during the past few years, when Suleimani felt free to operate freely and in the open? Yes, indeed, that would be the weak, timid and feckless Obama administration.

So, the right way to address such a threat is to assassinate a terrorist leader. It sends a message of vulnerability, to counter the image of invincibility. It shows the people of the reason that they should not feel quite so afraid.

Obviously, the idiot anti-Trump brigades did not address this question. They freaked out over the inexorable march to war. Or so they thought. And they “pontificated” on whether or not we should invade Iran. Since, as Brooks notes, the question was not on the table, they were engaging in mindless virtue signalling and anti-warriorism:

But in the anti-Trump echo chamber, that’s not how most people were thinking. Led by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, they avoided the hard, complex problem of how to set boundaries around militias. Instead, they pontificated on the easy question not actually on the table: Should we have a massive invasion of Iran?

A great cry went up from the echo chamber. We’re on the brink of war! Trump is leading us to more endless wars in the Middle East! We’re on the precipice of total chaos! This was not the calibrated language of risk and reward. It was fear-stoking apocalyptic language. By being so overwrought and exaggerated, the echo chamber drowned out any practical conversation about how to stabilize the Middle East so we could have another righteous chorus of “Donald Trump is a monster!”

So, the anti-Trumpers ignored the policy implications of Trump’s action, and also ignored the feebleness of the Iranian response. In truth, it’s a function of Trump's effective deterrence. That is, while Congressional Democrats were trying to tie Trump's hands and while the morons in the Squad were accusing him of war crimes for threatening their friends in Iran, Trump put out a mix of deterrence and invitations to negotiate. As the Wall Street Journal noted yesterday, Trump's foreign policy team now seems to be functioning effectively.

And it’s a function of risk assessment. It has now been widely reported that CIA director Gina Haspel believed that the risk was worth taking, that it was more dangerous to continue to allow Suleimani his evil ways than to take him out and risk Iranian reprisals. 

It’s a debate worth having. It’s a debate that other administrations have had. Yet, other administrations were more risk averse. They chickened out.

One might say that the debate was asymmetrical. The Democrats seemed to corner the market in stupid, while Republicans were rightly outraged at the fact that Democrats were more angry with Trump than they were with Suleimani.

Most of this week’s argument about the Middle East wasn’t really about the Middle East. It was all narcissistically about ourselves! Democrats defend terrorists! Republicans are warmongers! Actual Iranians are just bit players in our imperialistic soap opera, the passive recipients of our greatness or perfidy.

True enough, Brooks adds, the image of Trump the warmonger is a cartoon. Trump has used far less military force than have most of his predecessors:

The world is more complicated than this cartoon. Love or hate him, Trump has used military force less than any other president since Jimmy Carter. 

Brooks closes by accusing everyone who does not agree with him of being an isolationist. In truth, the Trump administration has been directly engaged in trade diplomacy, the better to represent American interests. Our so-called European allies, the weak sisters of Western Europe, continue to want to give aid and comfort to Iran. And they still cling bitterly to the dead Paris Climate Accord. They are happy to fight the good fight against the climate. But they are afraid to rile up their Muslim citizens. And we ought to remark that Trump’s Middle East policy involves isolating Iran and forging an alliance with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Israel. It is not isolationist:

So, Brooks’ portentous closing remark is simply inaccurate:

We fight viciously about Trump, but underneath, a populist left-right curtain is descending around America, separating us from the Mideast, China, even Europe. The real high-risk move is the one both parties are making together: that if we ignore the world it will ignore us. (It won’t.)

Maybe once the Inflammatory One is finally gone from the scene we can have an intelligent conversation about that.

The point is, the problem is not with Trump. It’s with the intellectual elites who are now being exposed for being what we always thought they were: stupid.


whitney said...

"... we know these people were stupid to begin with. Trump has exposed their true colors, the depths of their ignorance."

Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner!

trigger warning said...

In conversation with my wife this morning, I noted that Donald Trump has a near-superpower for peeling back the fraudulent veneers of his political enemies.

For example, he has Progressives wishing for a recession, lionizing terrorists, fretting over too few deaths in an interrupted mass shooting, and freaking out when their clever ideas are more widely adopted (e.g., "sanctuary" cities/counties/etc.). It's bizarre.

But the cherry on top is the WSJ article I read this morning. The Iranians now confess to destroying an airliner with a SAM. Not only did Trump kill the World's Most Literate Mass Murderer (according to a NYT "journalist"), he exposed the Iranian military as a carload of clowns who "mistakenly" shoot down commercial airliners from mobile SAM sites conveniently located near a major airport. And the Iranian attempt to hide the evidence was reminiscent of a Keystone Kops routine. This peels back the ridiculously false axiomatic veneer for the EU-nik Soft Power Narrative that animated President Lightworker O'Rama's tribute of shrink-wrapped pallets of cash delivered air express in the dead of night to a gaggle of certifiable loons in Tehran.

This is worthy of what our devolved culture now calls a "graphic novel".

Christopher B said...

It's good to remember that Bill Clinton and GWB faced a different strategic calculation when we were importing large quantities of crude oil. Trump is taking advantage of that strategic shift in a way that Obama didn't just ignore but actively tried to eliminate.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Excellent post, Stuart.

Obama liked to say a lot of nice and clever things, but he and his Administration actually governed like Chicago thugs.

Trump can be rude, snide and caustic — which for some makes him quite gauche. At the same time, he and his Administration are governing exactly as he said they would. He is a man of his word, and that’s why it’s important that our POTUS is a businessman. You cannot run around lying to people and build a large, sprawling, successful business the way Trump did. And business success also places timely rewards on efficiency in a way that government does not.

This is why Trump has a loyal following amongst his base — they don’t care about the window dressing. And that’s why the career politicians and bureaucrats hate him so much — he is disrupting their lives. Because DC bureaucrats have built high walls around them. And politicians make their living by lying to each other and the citizenry in order to protect their cushy livelihoods. Politics is not some “public service” profession — it’s a game, played with other peoples’ money.

I have not watched a minute of television news since Election Night 2016. The reason is that I know what the NYC/DC people are going to say about him. Add the emotional wailing and daily catastrophizing, and yes — they begin to look and sound like idiots. Brooks and his ilk have been exposed for their smugness and impracticality. They have a lot fewer viewers/readers/listeners today, and they did it to themselves. Try as they might, they have no one else to blame us themselves. They have no credibility, and that is going to drive them crazy this year when they will not be able to persuade. The self-proclaimed emperors and empresses of media have no clothes. Too bad, so sad.

And yes, Iran has now been exposed as a paper tiger. And none too soon — we’ve been waiting 40 years for this kind of bold action.

That’s why I like President Trump.

UbuMaccabee said...

Nothing hurts a weak intellectual like Brooks more than having to concede that the barbarian might have an edge on guys like him in the world, that the barbarian has a better read on power and incentives and can tell the difference between a hustler and a statesman. Brooks thinks that power responds to essays, and writing letters to the NYT. It doesn't.

No matter, they say, we'll get back at him when we record history, then we'll take care of him. The value of the intelligensia has never been lower.

Sam L. said...

Brooksie: Gave up on that boy four years ago. The Dems, fifty years ago. The Never-Trumpers, see Brooksie above. Trump has the most magnificent bunch of haters around, (NOT loyal Republicans) and OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH how he burns their butts!!!

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

And I consider Willard Romney among the worst.

Sam L. said...

The Donald doesn't make people stupid, but he says things and their inner stupidity just BURSTS out of them.