Tag Archives: russia

Donald Trump: Man of Letters

[This is a podcast companion article for episode 38 – ‘Notes on Making America Great Again‘.]

Listen to #38 – Making America Great Again

Many of Donald Trump’s tweets have not aged well. And some tweets have certainly aged worse than others.

It seems apparent that neither Trump nor his supporters are affected by the shame or embarrassment of what have proven to be ridiculous statements. Meanwhile, the rest of the world experiences astonishment at the rich irony to be found from such broken proclamations. Indeed, even the pariah of the international community, North Korea, has been critical of Trump’s Twitter outbursts, noting that Trump posts “ego-driven thoughts” and “rubbish” (Independent, 23 August 2017).

Here is my countdown, from 10 down to one, of the most, in hindsight, embarrassing tweets that the current United States President has bestowed upon the world. This is not a list of the most egregious attacks on individuals nor the most troubling anti-democratic statements, but a look back at utterances which, for a morally conscious human, would be the most cringe-worthy to reflect on in terms of their later inaccuracy or hypocrisy.

Before we begin the countdown, there is a bonus tweet which I could not quite justify including in the top ten, though it may perhaps find its way there in the future. This potential promotion depends on the outcome of the ongoing investigation regarding alleged collusion between Trump and the Russian government.

The bonus tweet:

Hold on tight, here is the top ten:

Do you agree or disagree on the top ten? Please do tweet me and let me know. In any case, we can be sure there are numerous more tweets which will look utterly horrendous in the dark days yet to come.

[Further commentary: All Aidan Project Podcasts and Articles on Donald Trump]

 

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#44 – The New Cold War

Russia has signalled its intent to demand a reduction in the number of US diplomats in the country, following US Congress approving fresh sanctions against Moscow over interference in the 2016 US election. What is driving this new Cold War? Dan Kovalik is a human rights, labour rights lawyer and peace activist. Dan’s new book is called ‘The Plot to Scapegoat Russia: How the CIA and the Deep State Have Conspired to Vilify Russia’. Dan argues that the real threat to US democracy does not emanate from the Kremlin, but from within Washington’s own security services and vested interests. Dan opines that even if Russia did interfere in the US election, for the US to cry foul is entirely hypocritical, in view of numerous attempts to topple leaders and install preferential candidates in other nation states, including in, of course, Russia. Aidan and Dan discuss the Clintons, Vladimir Putin, the mainstream media, how Democrats should respond to Donald Trump if they seek to gain a foothold as an effective opposition, US exceptionalism, and much more. The show also covers a selection of current events, including the Pyongyang issue: Dan gives his take on why North Korea has – at some level – a legitimate grievance with the United States. Dan’s book at Amazon UK: http://tinyurl.com/ya8rcnuh. Dan’s Twitter address: www.twitter.com/danielmkovalik.

For more ways to listen, to subscribe to the podcast or to sign-up for e-mail updates when new content is available, please click here.

#29 – Project Extra: Under Siege

In this bonus edition of the Aidan Project Podcast, enjoy previously unreleased audio from Aidan’s conversation with Jared Miracle from the episode, ‘The Great Cat Massacre’. In this ‘Project Extra’ episode, Jared explains the curious case of one Steven Seagal, the famed actor, producer, screenwriter, director, martial artist and musician. Seagal is not quite the famous action movie star he once was, but he has nevertheless found his way into the news on a regular basis since his ‘Under Siege’ heyday, albeit for frankly surreal reasons. This includes a report from August 2016, when Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko welcomed Seagal to Minsk with a carrot and two watermelons. And, wouldn’t you know it, Seagal has made no secret of his support for Donald Trump, ironically a man whose entire administration seems very much ‘Under Siege’.  Jared Miracle holds a doctorate in anthropology from Texas A&M University, where his research focused on transnationalism and folklore between East Asia and the West, especially where violence and the fighting arts are concerned. You can follow Jared on Facebook (facebook.com/jaredmiraclewriter) and Twitter (@DocKungFu).

For more ways to listen, to subscribe to the podcast or to sign-up for e-mail updates when new content is available, please click here.

A Dangerous Alliance: Putin and Trump

Randa Selim, Director of the Initiative for Track II Dialogues at the DC-based Middle East Institute, told Al Jazeera last year, “Talking with Assad will neither defeat ISIL nor achieve a political solution. Instead, the US, Europe, and their regional allies should talk to his Russian and Iranian sponsors, while increasing military pressure on the ground to deny them and Assad a military victory in Syria.”

Only time will tell if a new direction can be sought in Syria. It is clear that the answer to the problem of Syria cannot be found within the country itself, or even within the region, but only within the White House and the Kremlin. Could Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin be already forming what, in another time, would be an unlikely alliance? I say “already”, because if Trump’s calls to Taiwan and Pakistan are any indication, he has probably been Skyping his pal, Vlad, for months. They may well be friends on Snapchat.

But what could be good for Syria, in as much as ending the conflict, may not necessarily be good for the rest of the world. Could the US legitimise Putin to pursue other interests, such as in the Ukraine? CNN reported in August 2016 that Trump had claimed Putin would not make a military move into Ukraine, even though Putin had already done just that, having seized the Crimean Peninsula in 2014. Trump either does not know or does not care about such things, which, to understate it somewhat, is rather troubling. It is hard to imagine a misinformed John Fitzgerald Kennedy mistakenly saying that Nikita Khrushchev has no nuclear missiles in Cuba in the Autumn of 1962, before being corrected by the interviewer. Of course, Trump is merely President-elect at this stage, but if he is already eager and willing to pick-up the telephone and call whomever he pleases, regardless of established US policy, it is hard to be sure whether the White House would curtail him, where he will be surrounded by advisors, or empower him further to do as he pleases.

So, how close are Trump and Putin? Much of the speculation is simply based on Trump’s notorious Twitter activity, from where he has sent warm messages regarding the former KGB member. What is clear, however, is that both sides seek a working relationship, but I fear this is a mixture of star-struck, idiosyncratic excitement from Trump, and raw opportunism in the case of Putin. It is not going to be a relationship of intellectual equals. Trump is more KFC than KGB. And Putin is still living in the Cold War; it has been widely speculated that Russia is quietly rejoicing at Trump’s election victory because, in classic Cold War mentality, it makes the US look foolish. It is further speculated that Russia did all it could to assist in Trump’s win, spreading fictitious news and facilitating the leaking of content injurious to Hillary Clinton’s election campaign. If the Kremlin really was as active in the election as has been alleged, what we may be about to witness is an era of manipulation of the US President by a far smarter man, with even less moral scruples. The purely cognitive comparison is not saying much, but the latter, ethical, point is most disconcerting for us all. Putin’s moral convictions make Trump look like a choir boy.

The free world must hope that Trump’s administration is wise to the machinations of the Moscow machine, and that they are able to successfully impart the type of advice that Trump can both understand and implement. For if this is not the case, we could be seeing a new “Special Relationship” forming, but not the traditional Anglo-American one, but a new, antithetical US-Russian incarnation, albeit with the US playing the role of the junior partner. Whilst the US undoubtedly has the upper hand over the Russians in both military and financial terms, when it comes to a battle of wits, it is a non-starter. Only one side has the ability to manipulate the other into achieving foreign policy initiatives. Putin is an implacable student of Machiavelli, Trump is a brazen man-child of McDonald’s. The world awaits a joined-up strategy for Syria, but if Trump does not have his admittedly minor wits about him, or indeed, simply does not care, an agreement over Syria may soon be followed by a shirtless Putin riding jauntily through the streets of Kiev on a white charger.

Aidan

P.S.

In a recent podcast covering Brexit, I discussed Winston Churchill’s vision for a post-Cold War Europe, and also looked at Christopher Hitchens’ views on the European Union. I feel that both great men would be most concerned at the developments in Washington in 2016. Please click here to visit the Podcast section.

The Collapse: Why Societies Fail

The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.

Donald Trump
November 6 2012

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The US-born civilization scholar, Jared Diamond, says there is not a single, easy answer to the question of why seemingly stable societies collapse. Diamond, educated at Cambridge and Harvard, with an impressive background in evolutionary biology and geography, points more broadly to five common factors that, if left unchecked, precipitate a societal collapse.

Diamond’s not to do list

1. A society ruins its own resources through human impact
2. Unfavourable climate (man-made or otherwise)
3. A lack of support from allies
4. Poor relations with hostile forces (war/trade blocks)
5. Political, economic, social and cultural factors

Diamond argues that whilst it seems incredible that previously successful societies did not take steps to fend off their collapse as problems mounted, it is less remarkable when considered in a modern context. For example, there is no unanimous world view on how to tackle the intertwined points one (resources) and two (climate). Emerging countries are economically motivated to assiduously compete with the West by burning through natural resources, espousing the argument that what was fair game for the West is now fair game for them.

Countries such as China can plausibly argue that it was treated harshly by imposed Western treaty edicts whilst the US and Britain were all-powerful and China was far from becoming the industrial juggernaut of the 21st century. Developing nations do not appreciate being told they should focus greater attention to environmental concerns during their development. Certainly, such concerns did not apply to the nations leading today’s environmental debate back in the time of their industrial ascension. Particularly in the case of China, this issue is complex and divisive – an inconvenient truth, if you will – confounded as it is not only with environmental factors, but also with a delicate political and cultural legacy. Naturally, or indeed, unnaturally, industrialisation, as the much-contested evidence suggests, leads inexorably into that most modern of challenges: climate change.

An undeniably efficient, though frankly less than scientific, way of dealing with the problem is to take the view that it is not a problem at all. With climate change dismissed by the next United States President as propagandist “nonsense”, the future looks bleak unless there is a change of opinion at the top of the incoming administration. It could of course be true that Trump’s populist statements regarding climate change were classic examples of his trademark rabble-rousing. Surely, he does not believe what he said…

Another controversial Donald Trump policy is his stated approach to foreign diplomatic and economic relations, which falls head-first into another of Diamond’s pitfalls. With Trump at the helm, we may see the ushering in of an era of a lack of support from allies, point three on the checklist. Trump’s penchant for isolationism may not be realistic, but if 2016 has taught us anything, it is that anything is possible. It does seem readily apparent that the US is unlikely to work especially well with its southern neighbour, Mexico, unless concessions are made which pull back from the incredible rhetoric of bricks, mortar and cultural stereotypes. According to Thomas Wright, writing in the Financial Times on March 22 2016, an isolationist US under Trump is set to “pose the greatest shock to peace and stability since the 1930s”.

Hostility, which is a tragic, almost numbing, presence in every image we see from Syria, is Diamond’s fourth factor. Statistically, however, we are living through the safest time in human history, though this will be of little comfort to the beleaguered citizens of Aleppo. Whether the Americans, with Trump and Putin taking practical policy action stemming from their supposed mutual admiration, take the fight to ISIS in partnership with Russia remains to be seen. If so, using Diamond’s framework, it could be argued that a proactive détente between the former Cold War rivals (perhaps qualifying as a reversal of point three) would cancel out, or at least mitigate, the factor of increased hostile enemies. We could see the US and Russia gain a new ally – each other – with the cost of a stronger, more determined enemy. This concept is an interesting, uncertain challenge to Diamond’s thesis. However, we can realistically surmise that such a partnership would have implications not only in the Middle East, but across the West, especially in the fertile Islamic extremist ground of central Europe.

Examined in a modern context, Diamond’s fifth factor, political, economic, social and cultural issues, raises seemingly unlimited probing questions. Indeed, with Brexit, mass migration from the Middle East, a new, almost Third Party US President, and Russia’s unpredictable posturing, it is simply too early to fully appreciate the precise challenges that societies will face in the near and longer term.

What we can see, in as far as we can see anything on the subject of unknowns and variables, is that the principles of Diamond’s thesis for a societal collapse are all in play. Arguably this is true only to various degrees in different parts of the world, and it is not necessarily the case that all of Diamond’s factors all sitting ominously on the doorstep of any one society. Regardless, Diamond’s framework uncompromisingly dictates that society as a whole has been summoned to take robust action.

Diamond argues that many societal disasters were a direct consequence of the folly of powerful elites who sacrificed the long-term viability of their domains for short-term, personal gains. This includes corruption and the pursuit of personal glory, factors which are far better understood in the public sphere today than in years past. Of course, the social media age of unlimited information does not seem to disqualify a candidate from running for high office, or even from winning the highest political office imaginable. Electioneering is no longer as simple as saying your opposite number is corrupt. The system has morphed into a bizarre, heightened state of climbing the immoral high ground. A candidate today, whilst they may admit to not being as pure and virtuous as the “Incorruptible” Maximilien Robespierre, will point out, without the slightest hint of shame, that in comparison to their opposing candidate, they are at least less corrupt (or less crooked).

Diamond explains that a society is especially vulnerable to events spiralling out of control when it is unable to adapt, especially from outdated reservoirs of its initial strength. Diamond uses the example of Australia, arguing that its success as a fledgling nation, succeeding against the odds, was derived from its steadfast British identity, but being unable to evolve from this identity has caused it to struggle to keep pace with the developments within Asia. It could be that America finds new strength and vigour in its next leader, but that the nation’s bold, idiosyncratic approach to forging a new path leads it eventually into an unforgiving ravine.

Diamond says that societies must solve all of his five stated problems to avoid disaster. Four out of five will not suffice. The entire framework must be resolved. The good news is that Diamond speaks positively for the chances of such a resolution, despite the challenges. Diamond says that these problems are solvable; that whilst the issues we must face were our making, they can also be “our solving“. But Diamond also warns of another commonality of formerly flourishing societies, one which we would do well to remember. A society, when it has overreached beyond its ability to defeat the five factors of decline, will collapse quickly and ignominiously, with no deference to past achievements. Over. Finished. That’s your lot.

The clock is ticking.

Aidan

Further reading

J. Diamond, Collapse, (New York: Penguin, 2005)