In “Pax Americana Is Over” Mr. Cohen says the United States will be agnostic on human rights, freedom and democracy. Ms. Collins, in “Trump and Putin, in the Barn,” says the nuns were right about Russia after all. Here’s Mr. Cohen:
The thing about “The Apprentice” is you could turn it off. Now we get to watch Donald Trump all the time. There’s nowhere to hide. I was in Papua New Guinea recently. His name kept coming up.
The appointments cascade at reality-show speed. Rick Perry to head the Energy Department whose name he couldn’t remember when he wanted to dismantle it! Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency he’s spent the last several years suing! A fierce critic of worker protections to be secretary of labor! An oil executive, Rex Tillerson, whose company owns drilling rights on 63.7 million acres in Russia to handle dealings with Vladimir Putin when Moscow just infiltrated the American election process!
Next up: Kim Jong-un as press secretary, Cruella de Vil to head the Humane Society, and Mata Hari to lead the Cybersecurity National Action Plan.
All this is further evidence of Trump’s genius. He is master of the Art of Disorientation. He’s turned Americans into cartoon characters whose heads are always spinning. How the president-elect must laugh at all the fact-based journalism (ghastly tautological phrase) dedicated to disproving things he never believed and can’t remember anyway.
The disoriented are more inclined to seek saviors. Trump knows that. He’s been right up to now. Before anyone else, he was onto the way that direct democracy through social media has buried representative democracy.
One minute it’s “millions” of illegal votes for Hillary Clinton; then dangling little Mitt Romney; then being too smart for intelligence briefings. Let’s face it, folks. We have no idea what is about to happen in the White House or at White House North in Midtown Manhattan. We are in whatever territory lies beyond unknown unknowns.
But some things may be emerging from the fog. Trump is not interested in the rules-based international order the United States has spent the last seven decades building and defending. His foreign policy will be transactional. If it profits America, fine. If not, forget about it. Trump’s United States will be agnostic on human rights, freedom and democracy. America, suspending moral judgment, will behave a lot more like China on the world stage.
Except that’s a little unfair to China. The Chinese do understand the benefits of free trade (and they certainly understand that when Trump rips up the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a strategic plan to offset Chinese power couched in an economic arrangement, Beijing grows stronger). Because they often can’t breathe, the Chinese also understand, in a way Trump does not, the importance of fighting climate change.
As an exercise, I’ve been trying to imagine Trump saying something — anything — about the heinous destruction of Aleppo by the forces of Putin and Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. I’ve been trying to imagine what Trump might say about the brutal crimes against Syrian civilians in the beleaguered eastern sector of that once glorious city. I came up blank.
He did say it was “sad.” He said he’d ask Persian Gulf nations to put up money for “safe zones.” Good luck with that as the war nears its sixth year.
I guess that’s one advantage of the amorality in which Trump traffics: You may as well refrain from any moral stand because nobody will believe you anyway. (To be fair, Syria is a huge stain on the Obama presidency.) It would be obscene for Trump to speak of principles. That is a problem.
America is an idea. Strip freedom, human rights, democracy and the rule of law from what the United States represents to the world and America itself is gutted. Of course, realpolitik driven by interests is integral to American foreign policy, but a valueless approach of the kind Trump proposes leaves the world rudderless.
Pax Americana is over. It had a good run. A Putin-Trump alliance at the service of the butcher Assad — combined with the undoing of the military alliances, trade pacts, political integration and legal framework of the postwar order — constitutes its death knell.
Maybe everything will work out fine with a nuclear South Korea, a nuclear Japan, Baltic States exposed to the whims of Putin, the United States Embassy moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a flimsy NATO abjured by America, and swaggering Texan oil men running things while Trump takes time off in New York.
I doubt it. The embassy move alone could ignite widespread violence. David Friedman, the man Trump has nominated as ambassador to Israel, seems certain to stoke the fires.
Trump’s plans are full of contradictions he hasn’t begun to address. He’s against the Iran nuclear deal although of course he’s never read it. But Putin is for it. T
rump wants to eliminate the Islamic State. So does Russia, whose ally in Syria is Iran. Trump wants an America-first, business-driven policy. Boeing just signed a big deal with Iran. So maybe Trump ends up doing the only sane thing: preserving a nuclear deal that’s in everyone’s interest.
Who knows? Markets think they do. They love Trump. That’s because Trump believes big guys should take everything and little guys should take nothing.
But wasn’t it the little guys who voted for Trump? That’s funny, really it is. Or as he would put it, “Sad.”
Now here’s Ms. Collins:
I was raised in an era when we spent a lot of time worrying about Russia. That was because of Communism, which was such an obsession in my Catholic school that the countries on the map were colored red (Communist controlled), pink (leaning Communist) or green (safe – for now). Only the United States and Ireland were green.
For those of us who spent our childhoods getting drilled on how to be prepared to die for our faith in the event of a Communist takeover, it was a relief when the Soviet Union broke up and nobody felt obliged to worry about Moscow any more.
But now things are getting scary. Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, bombed the hell out of Aleppo, tried to interfere with our election. He’s just the kind of person Sister Mary Ingrid warned us about. But Donald Trump adores him. You can’t get into the Trump cabinet unless you think Putin is a great guy.
The bromance seems to have started in 2013, when Trump was preparing to go to Moscow for the Miss Universe Pageant. He wondered — via a tweet, naturally — whether Putin would be going there, too: “If so, will he become my new best friend?”
Sometime later, at a conservative conference, Trump described how “great” the Russians had treated him: “Putin even sent me a present, a beautiful present with a beautiful note.” What do you think it was? A gun? Putin had given the president of Egypt an AK-47. But the owner of a beauty pageant would probably get some nesting dolls, or a nice selection of teas.
No suggestion of an actual meeting. Then when speaking at the National Press Club in May of 2014, Trump said that when he was in Moscow he “spoke indirectly and directly with President Putin, who could not have been nicer, and we had a tremendous success.” What do you think “indirectly and directly” means? Sign language?
The bond was blossoming, at least in Trump’s mind. When the presidential campaign got underway, he began to brag that he and Putin had spent quality time together when they were on the same news program. “I think the biggest thing we have is that we were on ‘60 Minutes’ together and we had fantastic ratings,” Trump said. “So that was good, right? So we were stablemates.”
Innocent listeners probably presumed they met in the green room before the show. However, Trump was interviewed for the show in New York. Putin was filmed in Moscow, talking with Charlie Rose about foreign affairs. They were in different parts of the world.
Also, what about “stablemates”? Are you envisioning Trump and Putin in their stalls, kicking around some hay and whinnying affectionately? That came up again in a primary debate, when Trump claimed that he got to know Putin “very well because we were both on ‘60 Minutes,’ we were stablemates, and we did very well that night.”
The ratings, by the way, were not “fantastic.” But we’re sort of used to that by now. We know that if our president-elect plays golf, losing 10 balls and failing to finish the game, he will tell reporters that he did fantastic, and that the caddies said he played better than Tiger Woods. But the idea that he would create a friendship saga with a world leader he’d never met is … weird. Particularly since the world leader is a thug who wants to become a male, shirtless version of Catherine the Great.
Putin, when he heard about the political valentines being sent in his direction, called Trump “very colorful, talented.” But he did not drop any hints about quality time in the barn together.
Then something … evolved. At a rally in February, Trump told the crowd that he had “no relationship” with Putin “other than he called me a genius.” We will not waste any time on the fact that Putin did not call Trump a genius.
The real turnaround came during the week of the Democratic convention, when WikiLeaks revealed the hacked Democratic National Committee emails. At a news conference, Trump said he hoped Russia would hack the Democrats more. This was perhaps a joke. Hahahaha.
But at the very same news conference — the last one Trump has ever had, by the way — he told reporters he had “never met Putin. I don’t know who Putin is. He said one nice thing about me. He said I’m a genius.”
Their first verifiable conversation occurred when Putin called Trump to congratulate him on winning the election. We now know that Russia had been running a hacking effort that seemed intended, at least in part, to help Trump get elected. Wow, do you think it was a plot all along, people? Some kind of Manchurian Candidate thing?
Would be hard to have a plot with a guy you never met. Except for that time in the stable …