Many people have thought about it, a few have come out and said it, but the reality is that Donald Trump has a better than even chance of getting us all killed.
Like climate change, good taste and science, Trump does not believe in diplomacy. Even before he was sworn in as president, Trump got under China’s skin over that country’s claim to several islands in the South China Sea. The subject came up again yesterday at a White House briefing where Sean Spicer said, “We’re going to make sure we defend international territories from being taken over by one country.” The implication is that the U.S. is prepared to take some type of military action or embargo to keep China off of the disputed islands. For there part, China says any activity like that could lead to war.
Trump is four days into office and we already have talk of war, not with Panama or Grenada, but with the most populist country on the planet, which also has nukes. Previous Republican presidents Reagan, Bush senior and W all had their wars and, while not “official” Republican policy, there have long been off-the-record sentiments expressed by party elites that it’s a good thing for one’s polls and continued loyalty within the party to be a wartime president. As we saw with George Bush, his approval ratings went through the roof immediately after 9/11 and continued to be high enough to start two wars nobody outside his administration really wanted.
What is so ominous today is that Trump makes Bush look like a global statesman. Where Bush was naïve and impulsive (I go by my gut), Trump is a thin-skinned bully who believes anyone who disagrees with him needs to be taught a lesson. It’s bad enough when you’re on the playground pushing around the skinny kid with a pocket protector, but something else entirely when you start antagonizing countries as powerful as China.
Yet I don’t believe Trump makes any distinction between the two. No one is going to tell him what to do, which includes other countries, his advisors and the American people. Has Trump ever uttered the words “peace,” “cooperation” or “working together” in the context of international affairs? I haven’t heard them. Like other chicken hawks, Trump opted out of showing any true courage by staying as far away from Vietnam as he could, but loves to talk tough from behind the podium.
The problem we as Americans face is that the consequences of belligerence in foreign affairs isn’t simply a punch in the jaw, but the potential deaths of millions of human beings.