Donald Trump’s 100 days of u-turns, bombs and cake


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And undoubtedly his most dramatic lurch has been away from isolationism and towards outright military adventurism.

Throughout the 2016 campaign, Trump criticised “crooked Hillary” and Barack Obama for allowing the situation in Syria to deteriorate, but he also declared that he would not get involved.

The “America First” philosophy he articulated in his inaugural address combined economic nationalism with international isolationism, and more recently, he reminded an audience of union members that he is “not the president of the world”.

But as the makeup of his National Security Council changed, Trump broke out of his isolationist box.

He now appears to favour regime change in Syria, and possibly even a direct confrontation with North Korea.

Between my visits to China and the US, Trump retaliated to the deadly April 4 chemical attack on the Syrian rebel-held city of Khan Sheikhoun by authorising a direct missile strike on Syrian government airfields – this apparently while enjoying a “beautiful chocolate cake” with President Xi.

Trump remembers details of cake he was eating while launching missiles, but not which country he was attacking.

The attack sharpened the main lines of contention in global politics between Russia and China, who continue to back Bashar al-Assad, and the G7 nations, who oppose him, but who have yet to come up with a coherent suggestion for removing him from power.

Trump also said he’d ordered a US Navy carrier strike group on routine exercises to head from Australia to the waters off North Korea, while Pyongyang held a national day of celebration at which it showed off significant military hardware, some of it not seen before.

In the days between the announced rerouting of the aircraft carrier group (the truth of which is now unclear) and North Korea’s celebrations, the US dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used on a network of tunnels in Afghanistan used by the so-called Islamic State (IS).

The blast itself is estimated to have killed more than 90 IS militants, while at the same time sending a clear signal to IS, North Korea and others that Trump is ready to use devastating force.

China’s Xi has since tried to calm tensions between the US and North Korea, but to little effect; the sabre-rattling continues, and a sixth North Korean nuclear test may not be far away.

Throughout these last 100 days, I have been searching for some sort of signal in all the noise – some core commitment to a programme of change, with a clear set of organising principles and an underlying philosophy.

I have struggled to argue that there must be something at the heart of all of this that makes coherent sense and that will genuinely benefit even Trump’s core supporters.

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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