H.R. McMaster, one corner of the triad that formed the junta designed to keep Trump from starting a war is out following the other corner, Rex Tillerson who was thrown overboard last week.*
This leaves General Kelley who, at least on paper, is now outgunned by the lunatic fringe of Trump, Pompeo (soon to be Sec of State) and Josh Bolton.
Pompeo is incompetent and borderline crazy but looks like a strict stable Freudian compared to the unchained Id of Bolton who stands politically somewhere to the right of a Mongol warlord from the 12th century.
These are not people who are fond of complexity, and believe ambiguity is what you find at a buffet.
On the surface it would appear as if Trump is gearing up for considerable trouble in foreign policy with North Korea and Iran at the top of the list. To demonstrate just how stupid Trump is (as if one needed more proof) he is doing this while preparing for talks with North Korea while at the same time he’s started a tariff pissing contest with China who will of course be perfectly willing to help deal with the North Koreans…in exchange for Trump abandoning the tariff fight.
Drop the tariff fight and he alienates his morbidly stupid base. Pick a fight with North Korea while telling Xi to bend over, means China helps North Korea either directly or indirectly by being passive aggressive vis the US while it engages with the North Koreans.
But because Trump is insane and stupid and he’s surrounding himself with people who have the intellectual sophistication of your average moral hermaphrodite, none of that will matter (to Trump). Chaos, incompetence, making it up on the run, lying to everyone, then telling them you lied, all while breaking any number of laws are SOP for Trump.
This can only end when the stage is littered with corpses. The question is will it be a pile of dead pols or civilians.
Kelley can be counted on to reactivate the leak flow that dominated the first stages of the Trump regime (and it’s no coincidence that the leaks stopped once he asserted his control and no coincidence that a major leak exploded in Trump’s face vis his congratulations to Vlad and that soon after that it was McMaster who was shown the door) and the leaks can be counted on to create major speed bumps for Pompeo, Bolton and Trump.
Look for the spook shop at Langley and elsewhere to also pile on and be on the lookout for “exclusives” in the WashPo and the NYTimes. Beyond that there is the tripwire of the generals who have already said they will not follow crazy orders from a crazy man but, that is a double-edged sword. A functioning republic should not have to hope that the military has the balls and the ethics to subvert the constitution and save it at the same time. On the other hand we are now two generations removed from Vietnam and that’s two generations of senior officers who in theory have internalized the idea that fudging the truth to maintain a criminally negligent foreign policy is unacceptable.
But then again, in a functioning republic that should not be the first line of defense.
Which brings us to the utterly useless House and Senate.
While the senior republicans can in theory be counted on to resist Trump if only in the sense that he threatens their power, one can breathe easy. But, given that as a group they range from having spines made from jelly to having intellects shaped by push-pull polling and are committed to a moral certainty based on how much gets contributed to their re-election campaigns, then one should feel as calm as a Christian Scientist with a high fever and a mysterious rash.
Of course the x factor in that are the midterms. No one will ever go broke underestimating the democrat’s ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and while it seems even they can’t fuck this up…stupidity may yet prevail.
If the dems regain the House then Trump is done though he will not like Nixon go quietly and wave dutifully from the steps of Marine One. Nixon was insane but even at the end when the pills, the booze and Kissinger were against him, he remained a creature of the system. Of course that’s not to discount the notion that he could have also been contemplating calling out the army and having people locked up and disappeared.
Which brings us back to Trump who started off with even less sense than Nixon and has like someone suffering from the delirium tremens just gradually become even worse.
This is either ends with Trump sent off to “retirement” or to prison via coup – disguised as a legislative decision (either a cage or the cage of a psych-ward) or it ends with the system having a self-induced nervous breakdown and the declaration of some sort of “state of emergency” and the House and the Senate throwing the constitution into the Potomac weighted down with chains and the ghosts of any number of martyrs.
It’s not out of the question.
This is what it looks like before the night of the long knives or any number of other moments where the lunatics make common cause with the thugs who have never been fond of the rules and instinctively loath things like elections, or dissent.
It is worth noting that recently there was a kerfuffle on CNN between the generally unpleasant Alan Dershowitz and his former student and current legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin in which Toobin side-stepped Dershowitz’ absurd criticism of Robert Mueller and asked instead what the hell has happened to Dershowitz that he has transformed himself into a goon and a mouth-piece squawking on behalf of Trump?
The answer we suspect lies a long way from Pennsylvania avenue and is to be found in the confluence of events in the Middle East (in the sense that we are speculating that Dershowitz is speaking not on behalf of Trump but on behalf of a foreign government).
Which goes something like this:
Benyamin Netanyahu is facing a charge of corruption and under Israeli law once charged he must step down, unlike here where a president stays in office until found guilty or found politically radioactive.
There has been a coup in Saudi Arabia and the new tyrant in chief is making moves at reform while also trying to convince Israel to fight a proxy war on its behalf against Iran.
That Israel has strategic issues with Iran moves them closer to Saudi Arabia but a direct war with Iran has the potential to be catastrophic.
Unless you’re a gangster and a bottomless pit of messianic self-righteous bullshit and you’re facing a corruption charge that could destroy your political life. And to be clear we mean Netanyahu though it could also apply to Trump. – the difference being that Trump doesn’t care.
At the same time, Trump wants to piss on Iran, and tear up the nuclear weapons treaty because leaving it in place threatens his fragile ego and does so in the shape of a shadow that looks just like his predecessor. And because Trump is insane and stupid and a bigot, that pushes his buttons and makes him want to pitch a fit. Thus, Pompeo and Bolton who on paper have some establishment credibility but only to other lunatics or professional thugs.
The problem there of course is that Putin is in bed with Iran vis his support for Assad the poet warlord of the rump state of Syria.
Which means that if Trump listens to King Kong Bolton and Pompeo and does join Saudi Arabia and Israel (and keep in mind when we say “Israel” one should not assume a uniform view as the Israeli establishment is ripe with competition, blood feuds and cold-blooded differences of strategic vision) in a jihad against Iran he’s triangulating against Syria and Putin which would trigger Putin to pressure Trump by squeezing his balls with whatever dirt he has on him.
Which means Trump won’t go after Iran but will go after North Korea because it’s “easier” even though it’s more dangerous, and because Trump does not act rationally.
Lashing out is his usual default setting and firing people and hiring unchained barbarians allows him to divert attention, pick a fight, look tough, and wreck the flimsy remains of the system so he can set himself up as some sort of above-the-law dictator.
And no, that’s not far-fetched at all and if anything is probably a moderate vision of what’s potentially on tap.
Welcome to the razor’s edge.
For a look at the purge see the following:
The cashiering of McMaster follows on the heels of the resignation of Trump’s top lawyer and his replacement with a fire and brimstone attorney, Joe diGenova. Thus Trump is surrounding himself with people who don’t give a damn about Trump except in as much as his lunacy dovetails with theirs and his blood feuds provide cover for their blood feuds. Pompeo sees himself as some sort of Marc Anthony, Bolton sees himself as the kid who didn’t get laid while at Yale and is pissed about it, and diGenova wants to purge the “Deep state.” It is, to state the obvious, a combustible mixture.
And lastly a word about the “Deep State”: The intellectual left (comprising mostly people who contribute to The London Review of Books and the like) are insistent that there is a Deep State but that is a Cold War Relic engaged in some sort of Manchurian Candidate fit where they are trying to implicate the otherwise innocent Russians in any number of dastardly plots. They insist that it is not credible for the spooks to be right about the Russians because in the period from say 1950 to yesterday they lied about any number of things and engaged in any number of Dr. Strangelove-esque plots that neither John Le Carre or Graham Greene would have spent ten seconds dreaming of let alone including in a thriller. Of course they are right, the spooks do have a track-record that reeks of the X-Files but it also reeks of self-preservation, and the full spectrum of action from the honorable to the utterly feckless. As we’ve written previously the sclerotic left as represented in certain circles hasn’t had a new idea since Trotsky told Lenin he had his head up his ass and we all know how well that turned out.
The utterly paranoid Trump-a-nistas also believe in a Deep State but believe that it is aiming to crush their fearless leader and prevent him from “draining the swamp.”
The establishment media is disdainful of both because suggesting there’s a Deep State triggers the establishment’s political Tourette’s Syndrome and they are compelled to spit hypocritical bromides at people for whom they have contempt – Trump because, he’s Trump and the pointy-heads at the LRoB because generally they’re smarter than the talking-heads on cable or in your local newspaper or the Washington Post or The NY Times.
The problem all of these people face, the circle they can’t square, is that more than one thing can be true at the same time, even things that are mutually exclusive.
Of course there is a Deep State and there are cadres in the bureaucracy and the bowels of the intelligence agencies that have their own agenda.
After all, as we’ve mentioned elsewhere, in his autobiography, Bill Clinton related that when confronted by the president of China over the fatal bombing of their embassy by the US Air Force during the campaign in the former Yugoslavia, when the Chinese president said: I don’t think you personally ordered your air force to attack our embassy, I believe someone at the CIA deliberately gave your air force the wrong coordinates, Clinton is on the record as responding: I could not tell him he was wrong.
So, for example, Joe diGenova is not wrong when he says these people are out to get Trump.
And those people are not wrong when they say Trump needs to be got because he’s a threat to the fragile safety of the planet.
However, a war of all against all, or a circular firing squad is not going to solve anything in the long run though in the short run it will create a lot of vacancies in government.
Of course both nature and bureaucracies abhor a vacuum.
*We have made a boneheaded error.
We forgot to factor in James Mattis the Secretary of Defense and former general. He’s been so quiet and so busy doing his job we didn’t factor him into the equation and focused instead on Rex Tillerson.
We regret the error.
The junta’s three were Kelly, Mattis and H.R. McMaster. Kelly and Mattis of course remain and fears, however warranted, over the combustibility of Bolton and Pompeo, must be filtered through the fact that two of the three generals are still minding the shop.
The junta is weakened but still formidable. In fact it is unlikely that Trump will be able to make the case for a war with North Korea no matter how hard he pushes or how much of a hard-on Bolton has for the idea.
Mattis, in addition to his own ability to resist, is a package deal combining of course the Joint Chiefs and the rest of the senior generals. (Of the three in the lunatic alternate dimension, only Pompeo is a military vet and as such he’s the only one of Trump and Bolton to whom the other military figures will listen and even then it’s unlikely they will listen very long. The fact is no one in the military wants to send men and women to die in a Korean meat-grinder and run the risk of an atom bomb or ten going off while they stand the watch)*.
This also includes the vast bureaucracy of the D.I.A – Defense Intelligence Agency, which is the military version of the C.I.A. and is like the goons from Langley just as capable of blocking Trump Inc. from starting a war.
This of course is not a guarantee and it does not change the fact that we are in such sorry shape that we must hope the generalissimos and the spooks eat their wheaties and avoid the Chapel Perilous.
I went to see my doctor to see what my condition was in – or words to that effect – come to mind and clearly the patient (the nation) is on life-support and in desperate need of an organ transplant.
However, the list for new souls is thin, and there’s no guarantee the transplant will work even if the doctors get a healthy soul in time.
*We are reminded of the story about a conversation between two American generals after the firebombing of Dresden. Omar Bradley said to Curtis LeMay: If we lose the war, we’ll be tried as war criminals. To which LeMay said: Well then, we better make sure we don’t lose the war.