A test for Trump


Syria has allegedly used chemical weapons against civilians once again. When Obama was president, he foolishly said that such use would be a ‘red line’. When chemical weapons were subsequently used, Obama’s bluff was called, and he effectively did nothing. The episode substantially weakened the US in the Middle East, and helped Russia ease its way back in, a proc ss that continued for the remainder of Obama’s term.

Trump hasn’t said anything quite as specific about chemical weapons, but he has talked tough, and he has sought to differentiate himself from Obama. If he does nothing in the face of th s outraged, it will be perceived as weakness. I expect he will order a strike on some Syrian government or military facility to send a message. 

PS – the photo is from the 2013 attack

The Mainstream Media Is Still Missing the Point


Here’s an article that emphatically puts the argument that the political and cultural elite, including the mass media, is still misinterpreting why populism is rising; why people voted for Brexit and Trump, and why populist politics is on the rise in Europe and Australia (though the article doesn’t mention Australia).

The article is relevant to this blog because the policy ideas of populist politicians frequently lack nuance; they have short-term benefits but long-term negative ramifications. That applies to both domestic policy as well as foreign (including Middle East) policy.

The article focuses on America, but the lessons is offers are universal: It writes that for the cultural elite in America, 

the country was clearly better off in 2016 than it was in 2008. Yet in 2016, 63 per cent of their countrymen and women were one pay check away from economic ruin. That the media still does not understand how perilous life in the U.S. has become for most of our people, or that it continues to overlook that reality, is shameful. And in a political sense, it provides a massive space for Trump to continue to occupy with the coalition of the disaffected that he assembled to win the presidency.

Further, that 

Salena Zito observed a month before the election that Trump’s detractors take him literally but not seriously, whereas his supporters take him seriously but not literally. After everything that has happened since then, somehow, this is still the case. On both sides of the Atlantic, wherever that equation continues to rings true, right-wing nationalists will gain ground.

That said, it is always easier to be black and white when one is in opposition. Now that Trump is in power, his campaign rhetoric will likely not match his ability to enact policies that will make life easier for working class Americans. So, the question is, will Americans still support him (or, to put it differently, will Americans still hate everyone but him) in two years’ time, for the mid-term Congressional elections or, more importantly, in three years’ time, when the primary season for the next presidential election begins again? I wrote back in November that, as Republican congressmen realise that Trump is increasingly on the nose, they will do what they can to get rid of Trump; that he will be impeached (or gotten rid of in some other constitutional back-stabbing) and Pence will become president-by-accident. But even when that comes true, the question as to when the mass media will learn why populism is rising might still not have been answered…