Issue 5: Sept 2-Sept 8, 2017

THE WEEK IN TRUMP

DACA Decision: Trump rescinded protections that had been granted to young undocumented immigrants by Obama in 2012. But he seemed to distance himself from his policy by having Attorney General Sessions announce it—and by postponing its implementation for six months, during which Congress could render it moot by passing legislation that would protect DREAMers. At the urging of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Trump tweeted “For all of those (DACA) that are concerned about your status during the 6 month period, you have nothing to worry about – No action!”

Debt Ceiling Deal: Speaking of Nancy Pelosi—Trump shocked Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell by striking a deal with Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on funding for hurricane relief and suspending the debt ceiling until December. This led to positive cable news coverage that Trump seemed to like.

North Korean Nukes: North Korea tested its sixth nuclear weapon, and this one may have been a hydrogen bomb. In a departure from tradition, no Trump national security aides played good cop by adopting a strikingly less incendiary tone than his. Trump’s famously belligerent words (“fire and fury”) from last month were reinforced by Defense Secretary Mattis (who warned of a “massive military response” to any North Korean threat to the US or its allies and said that aggression by North Korea could lead to its “total annihilation”) and U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley (Kim Jong Un was “begging for war”).

Irma’s Epistemological Challenge: The approach of yet another epic storm raised again the issue of climate change, which President Trump has been dismissive of. It also raised again a rhetorical problem for people concerned about climate change: though experts say climate change increases the likelihood of powerful storms, no single storm can ever be confidently attributed to it.

 

 

Editorial: North Korea and Iran

A guiding concern of the Mindful Resistance project is that Trump’s antics and provocations will sometimes distract us from focusing on and dealing effectively with the gravest dangers he poses. A good example of this dynamic came this week in the realm of nuclear weapons.

Most of the headlines Trump has generated in this realm have been about his belligerent rhetoric toward North Korea. (The US is “locked and loaded,” and so on.) Less publicity has been given to a more concrete threat Trump poses to peace and to arms control.

This week Trump’s UN ambassador, Nikki Haley, delivered a speech about Iran at the American Enterprise Institute, a bastion of neoconservative hawkishness. Iran, thanks to an agreement forged during the Obama administration, now permits highly intrusive monitoring of its nuclear energy program, monitoring designed to ensure that Iran isn’t developing nuclear weapons. Congress requires that every 90 days the president certify continued Iranian compliance with the deal—and a finding of noncompliance could pave the way for a resumption of US sanctions that were removed as part of the agreement. Haley said that Trump may choose not to certify Iran’s continued compliance with the deal even if it is in fact complying with every aspect of the deal. This may sound crazy, but, well, it’s what she said. This would be an open invitation to Congress to reimpose sanctions on Iran, and lots of people in Congress could please lots of lobbyists, donors, and right-wing pundits by doing that.

All of this would in turn heighten tensions in the Middle East, reduce the chances of reintegrating Iran into the international community, increase the chances of war between Iran and the US, and conceivably (though almost certainly not immediately) lead Iran to start building a nuclear weapon.

And, as if that weren’t enough, Trump’s refusing to certify Iranian compliance would actually make the North Korean situation worse, reducing the chances that sanctions on North Korea will ever induce any sort of accomodation with the international community. After all, Iran made an accomodation, and held up its end of the deal, and the US (assuming Haley’s speech is indeed a harbinger of what’s to come) didn’t hold up its end of the deal. So, if you’re the leader of North Korea, why would follow in Iran’s footsteps?

Unfortunately, Trump isn’t the first president to give Norh Korea grounds for such doubts. Look at Libya and Iraq—where regimes gave up nuclear weapons programs under international pressure, only to be rewarded by a US policy of regime change. Indeed, some have suggested that North Korea’s awareness of these precedents strengthened its determination to get nuclear arms—which are, after all, a robust deterrent to invasion.

Trump’s bluster toward North Korea is, to be sure, alarming in its own right, and warrants some of the many condemnations and sarcastic dismissals it’s gotten in the media and on social media. But we need to devote much more energy to Trump’s Iran policy, which he seems to have outsourced to the powerful neocon wing of the conservative foreign policy establishment—and, indeed, to the more extreme parts of that neocon wing. You wouldn’t know it from the headlines, but, as of now, Iran seems more likely than North Korea to be the enemy in America’s next ill-advised war.

 

BACKGROUND

A well-informed New York Times editorial on Nickey Haley’s Iran speech.

Journalist Tina Rosenberg argues that the best way to fight back against neo-Nazis is through mockery.

 

DEEP BACKGROUND

A study of social media published in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that “the presence of moral-emotional language in political messages substantially increases their diffusion within (and less so between) ideological group boundaries.”

In a Bloggingheads.tv conversation, Robert Wright talks to Scott McConnell, who cofounded the American Conservative Magazine with Pat Buchanan, about why he voted for Trump and whether “Buchananite” conservatives like him are growing disenchanted with Trump.

—by Aryeh Cohen-Wade and Robert Wright with contributions from Colleen Smith and Nikita Petrov