25 June 2018

Demolition Donald

Trump is hardly responsible for the fracturing of world order, which has been in process to some degree since the end of the Cold War. But Trump is unique among modern presidents in accelerating the unraveling as a matter of policy and absorbing the aftershocks with glee.

It’s not entirely clear why. Is he in severe debt to Russian banks with ties to Putin? (Robert Mueller may soon shed light on that theory.) In any event, he seems more comfortable in the company of brutal autocrats than with democratically elected leaders. He seems to admire, and possibly envy, their absolute control over their domains. His most astonishing, and perhaps telling, comment of recent days was his excuse for Kim’s rampant executions of critics. Kim, he said, is a “tough guy. Hey, when you take over a country, tough country, with tough people, and you take it over from your father, I don’t care who you are, what you are, how much of an advantage you have—if you can do that at 27 years old, that’s 1 in 10,000 could do that.”

When his Fox News interlocutor noted that Kim has “still done some really bad things,” Trump replied, “Yeah, but so have a lot of other people done some really bad things. I could go through a lot of nations where a lot of bad things were done.”

With that attitude, it’s not surprising that Trump puts so little stock in the values that the United States has traditionally shared with its allies and that have undergirded even fairly Realpolitik notions of U.S. interests in world affairs.

Fred Kaplan