Trump’s 'deal' with Kim Jong-un sets a new milestone for how far the US president will go to paint the world in his own colours. It’s all about branding. And blackmail.
Trump himself doesn’t even understand what happened and he infamously won’t employ people around him who would even attempt to explain it to him. But the stunt with Kim Jong-un in Singapore will be remembered in history as a day when the US president got into bed with arguably the world’s most colourful dictator and created a precedent which perhaps our children will study in classes at university in years to come: the end of liberal world order as we know it.
And for what?
Even Trump’s most stoic supporters in the press are struggling to find the silver lining in the deal which works for Trump, or America, as both leaders leave the summit with Korea still very much a nuclear power with a scoundrel remaining its leader. The rest of the world was left scratching its head, given that America broke all the rules and didn’t even consult them. And therein lies the crux of Trumpism itself.
As was demonstrated at the G7 Summit, Trump’s real enemies are not the Kims or Assads or even Khameinis of the world. Trump’s real enemies red in tooth and claw are those in the post World War II liberal pact which signed up the US up at the helm of the new world order – but don’t agree with Trump that America is paying far too much cash into it, in the first place.
The deal with Kim was unadulterated madness, and the highest order of rank blackmail that Trump could conjure. It was a message to EU leaders and Canada which said “look, I can cosy up to the worst rogue states in the world and at the same time destroy the arrangement we have to protect one another against them, if you don’t put more in the pot. We can go it alone.”
But Trump doesn’t really understand the new world order. He doesn’t really even understand the English language. But he feels as though America pays too much into a western pact and that the other partners are taking the US for a ride.
He doesn’t get that when America since the early nineties halved its defence spending within Europe, that many EU governments reduced their defence spending even more. Money for guns and ammo was transferred to internal security, almost as though the September 11 attacks which were to follow, were almost planned for by western intel agencies.
Trump, like many Americans, doesn’t get how Europe, unlike the US, has been a victim of the emergence of terrorist groups in the Middle East and is losing the war at home.
America had 9/11 yes, but it doesn’t have hundreds of Daesh fighters in its own backyard.
It’s not ‘America First’
But some in his cabal can articulate it. The administration’s alternative vision for his laughable notion of where America needs to place itself and what it’s doing now is "a bare-knuckled assertion of unilateral power that some call America First", or a “We’re America, B***h” doctrine.
In fact it isn’t. It’s ‘Trump First’, or as the NYT puts it: “This aggressive disregard for the interests of like-minded countries, indifference to democracy and human rights and cultivation of dictators is the new world Mr. Trump is creating”.
And Kim is the first one. Perhaps one of many. But there is another message for any rogue regimes around the world who have nuclear weapons—or even those who aspire to have them—which is that the only way to get the respect of Trump and secure the sweetest deal is: go to Trump.
The Kim deal has shown us the best way for Assad in Syria or for Khameini in Iran to get the best deal for their own people and a gilt-edged US-backing is to let Trump ‘win’ a peace conference with you.
And now Trump has proven it. The Kim deal is a win-win for the North Korean leader as he is now closer to Trump and is seen in the region as a real contender. It could take years, even decades as the talks are dragged out, before Kim even gets close to denuclearising. But that’s not the point. The point is what can be gleaned by both sides by the new relationship? In the Japan-China- South Korea regional US-led pact, Trump now has a tough guy ally, who’s wearing a cheap suit and carrying a Makarov.
Nobody gets ‘Brand Trump’ more than Israel
In the Middle East, Trump has given the reigns to Israel, a move which will without any question destabilise the region, give him centre stage of media attention, sustaining arm sales to wealthy Gulf states while pointing the finger at the usual suspects who refuse to be compliant to America’s befuddled and, at times, idiotic demands.
Trump’s naked ambition to stamp his brand on everything is the only objective he has, when he doesn’t even understand what exactly it is that he is branding. Trump doesn’t even care about the deals he strikes. He’s only interested in being the boss and everyone else playing the role of the apprentice.
Israel’s Neyanyahu understands this, hence the fingers-down-the-throat sycophancy of the Israeli leader when he recently visited Washington. He knows what works with Trump.
The Middle East is falling to pieces wherever you look. In just one year, Palestine lost its capital and a Middle East peace process, which is about to be unveiled, has left little doubt that it is an accord which is not meant to be taken seriously by the Palestinians.
Everyone knows that the Israelis want a new war in Gaza and Trump’s green light is part of it. Even in the Gulf, in just one year, we have seen Qatar alienated by an egregiously stupid move by Saudi Arabia, which has backfired so much, that now Qatar is looking like a champion, while the GCC falls to pieces in the meantime. And faster than you can say ‘the Saudis now want nukes’, news that Jordan will restore relations with Qatar must be the final nail in the coffin of the GCC, which has become a two horse event, with just the UAE and the Saudis now holding onto one another like the last two survivors of the ‘Raft of the Medusa’.
No endgame in sight, except destroying peace
Creating chaos and more tension in the Middle East is of course also a way of needling the EU. It’s one more bulldozer with ‘Made in the USA’ written on its side which spells trouble for anyone who dares to stop it.
They have no idea where Iran is on a map of the Middle East but want to destroy it, or at least bring down its regime. They think they understand Europe, trade or even China. But the news this week that Trump has gone ahead with tariffs on the Chinese (when he did the same to the EU the week before) merely demonstrates his sensational ignorance of international trade.
Putin dumping US treasury bonds last week might have been a wakeup call to Trump who should be having sleepless nights wondering what the outcome would be if the Chinese did the same with theirs.
It’s easy to forget that Trump is a failed businessman who only survives in the market through graft and intimidation, an ethos which his son-in-law has quickly adopted as the Trump clan increasingly looks to the Middle East to pump money into its failed real estate ventures in New York City.
We are all having to come to terms with Trump’s awesome stupidity and how he has to make the world a simpler place and brand everything ‘Trump’ for him to understand it, before, he believes he can control it. But we shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking this is about America, or blue collar jobs.
It’s really just about Donald.
Like mobsters in New York who collect protection rackets from restaurants, he expects to eat for free in the same joints. His mentality towards his western allies is that of a gangster. Being the biggest, he believes, should grant him the status of the mobster who pays for nothing.
We all need to wake up to the fact that there is a man in the White House who only understands bullying, threats and intimidation.
This president is now trying to bully and intimidate the western world exactly like a New Jersey gangster would if he were in the Oval Office. But the Kim fandango might not last. Both men are notoriously poor at sticking to deals, both are self-obsessed and loathe the free press, both live in a fantasy world of lying all day long to the cameras. And China is about to give him a free lesson in international trade which the Europeans might learn from.
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