Ashgabat, 6 December 2016 (nCa) — What has been said already must be rephrased for emphasis – Trump ran his entire campaign while remaining outside the box and there is every indication that he will remain out of the box during his time in office. Even if he shifts into the box, he will definitely redesign the box.
He spoke for the ‘forgotten’ people and he has promised that they will never be forgotten again. This is rather syrupy rhetoric but it clicked with the people who felt disenfranchised, marginalized, ignored, humiliated, and yes, forgotten.
It is mostly a matter of perception but perceptions are realities for our personal universe.
The corporate media would be kicking itself if it had double-jointed knees. Fanning the negative and ignoring the positive is considered journalism and that is what created the space for Trump and his brand of politics to rise.
It is a global thing, this disconnect between the establishment and the people. The corporate media, where 6 giants own nearly 90% of media with global reach, is partner in this lunacy. As we saw in Italy just now, and there are signs of repetition of this happening in several other places, the far right is fast encroaching on the lighter areas of this vignette screen – Cloning of Trump.
As per Schopenhauer, the sequence was like this: First they (establishment and corporate media) ignored them, then they laughed at them, then they fought them, and then they were defeated.
The victory of Trump is not an accident any means. He was making dry runs at least since 1996. With each election he was silently refining his strategy and tactics, always groping for what would click with the people. His campaign, seemingly chaotic and blundering, was actually very carefully planned. It was not blind brinkmanship; it was very precise brinkmanship, with a plan B always at hand.
Signals, albeit still vague, are already in the ether about Trump style of management.
Last week he received a phone call from President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan and promptly tweeted about it. This rightly irked China, which lodged a formal complaint because it rubs the wrong way against the established policy of ‘One China,’ a policy officially recognized by the USA since 1979.
It was not a faux pas. Trump knew what he was doing.
The explanation given by Vice President-elect Mike Pence offers some vital clues.
Pence, in his appearance in NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ first described the aftermath of the jolting tweet as ‘tempest in a teapot.’ Then we went on to connect it with the vision of the team Trump.
“I think most Americans and frankly most leaders around the world know this for what it was,” he said. “And it’s all part and parcel. I think you’re going to see in a President Donald Trump a willingness to engage the world but engage the world on America’s terms.”
In ABC’s show ‘This Week,’ Pence said “After January 20, our new president will make decisions about what the policy of the United States will be.” He addex, “But I promise you, America is going to start winning on world stage again and winning economically.”
From his comments during these two TV programmes, the take home message from Pence is: [W]illingness to engage the world but engage the world on America’s terms; and America is going to start winning on world stage again and winning economically.
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From the other side of the globe, Central Asia can already see some challenges and opportunities:
- Trump will experiment with how far he can go in confronting China. He will not damage the economic interests of the USA in doing so but he will not resist the urge to irritate China if he thinks he can get away with it.
- He is likely to use the South China Sea issue as a bargaining chip for certain concessions from China.
- He will attempt to raise Taiwan as counterweight to China unless his advisors can convince him that it would be a folly.
- If the victory of Trump can be described as an earthquake, it has generated a tsunami that is hitting Europe already. Whether the EU can survive as a union and the Euro can continue as a common currency in that space are also matters of great interest for Central Asia.
- If the EU and USA cannot remain joined at the hip anymore, it may reshuffle partnership choices in Central Asia. Whatever space becomes available, will be quickly filled by China and Russia, with joint consent of lesser powers.
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Together with the Taiwan alarm, there is the whole issue of James Mattis, who has been nominated as the secretary of defence.
Even though he has been labeled by some as ‘Mad Dog,’ the moniker ‘Warrior Monk’ better suits the man who has remained bachelor throughout his life, has no children, and his personal library has more than 7000 volumes, most of them on warfare and military history.
The retired Marine General James Mattis served in a number of important positions including Commander of the US Central Command, Commander of the US Joint Forces Command, and Supreme Allied Commander of Transformation. He has seen action both in Iraq and Afghanistan.
If the military might of the United States is a big stick, Mattis would be the heavy-metal tip of that stick.
What kind of man is he?
A clue is in his fascination with ‘Meditations,’ a series of personal writings by Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Emperor from 161 to 180 AD.
Mattis carried a personal copy of Meditations wherever he went in his career.
Divided into 12 books, the Meditations chronicles different periods of the life of Marcus. It was mainly his private diary, perhaps not meant for publication. A central theme to Meditations is the importance of analyzing one’s judgment of self and others and the development of a cosmic perspective. As he said “You have the power to strip away many superfluous troubles located wholly in your judgment, and to possess a large room for yourself embracing in thought the whole cosmos, to consider everlasting time, to think of the rapid change in the parts of each thing, of how short it is from birth until dissolution, and how the void before birth and that after dissolution are equally infinite,”
The stoic ideas of Marcus often involve avoiding indulgence in sensory affections, a skill which will free a man from the pains and pleasures of the material world. He claims that the only way a man can be harmed by others is to allow his reaction to overpower him. An order or logos permeates existence. Rationality and clear-mindedness allow one to live in harmony with the logos. This allows one to rise above faulty perceptions of ‘good’ and ‘bad’.
Quite likely, James Mattis did not carry Meditations with him merely as a reading material. His interaction with colleagues, subordinates and adversaries (such as the people he was fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan) suggests that he tries to put into practice what he perceives to be the essence of Meditations.
He ordered the bombing of a suspected enemy safe house in Fallujah in 2004, which was actually a wedding party. This led to the death of 42 civilian men, women and children. Mattis said that he took just 30 seconds to deliberate before giving the go-ahead for bombing.
But, he is also the man who told the US Marines in May 2007, “Whenever you show anger or disgust toward civilians, it’s a victory for al-Qaeda and other insurgents.” He also told them that reflecting on the understanding of the need for restraint in war was a key to defeating an insurgency. “Every time you wave at an Iraqi civilian, al-Qaeda rolls over in its grave,” he said.
Mattis arranged classes in sensitivity of the Arab culture for his troops and officers. He encouraged his men to grow mustaches to look more like the people they were working with.
Another facet of Mattis, quite relevant to Afghanistan and therefore Central Asia is his pre-deployment speech to troops in February 2005. — “You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them. Actually, it’s a lot of fun to fight. You know, it’s a hell of a hoot. It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right upfront with you, I like brawling.”
Whether he still retains the same view or not will become clear by the spring of 2017.
In the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, he strongly supports the two-state solution.
Mattis considers Iran the principal threat to the stability of the Middle East, more so than Al-Qaeda and ISIS. His words: “I consider ISIS nothing more than an excuse for Iran to continue its mischief. Iran is not an enemy of ISIS. They have a lot to gain from the turmoil in the region that ISIS creates.”
He is wary of Russia and thinks that Putin intends to break the NATO.
Given a free hand, he is likely to put together a solution for Afghanistan involving the cooperation of the intelligence services and political forces in the region. Whatever he has learned from his lifetime reading of the ‘Meditations’ will be required to find a lasting solution for Afghanistan.
To be continued . . .