BERLIN - For months now, advocates of the United States have been claiming that there isn’t much reason to worry about U.S. Presiddent Donald Trump being in the Oval Office. America’s much-vaunted checks and balances, they say, will rein him in properly.
There is just one little problem with this argument: It does not really apply to U.S. foreign policy. The president of the United States is the sole commander-in-chief of a nuclear military. As such, whoever holds this post has near omnipotent powers.
This is especially problematic if the current president is a man who has an unjustified limitless belief in himself and therefore doesn’t really care about anybody’s counsel. It does not help that Trump has less of a sense of the basics of foreign policy than of the intricacies of arranging global beauty contests.
In that context, the fact that Trump now takes personal credit for the Saudi measure to break off relations with Qatar is not just ignorant. It is dangerous.
Not only does the U.S. president not have any idea about the game he is playacting in. That much became clear once he began trashing Qatar in Twitter statements. He was apparently unaware that the country hosts a major U.S. air base that is currently used in U.S. operations around the region.
But it gets potentially worse: What if such a man deludes himself about helping the Saudis and Emiratis to fight terrorism — and does not even realize that, while he ardently believes that, what he is really put up to by the Saudis is whipping up a little regional war?
Who could stop him? Basically nobody. All we can do is to collectively cross our fingers and hope for the best. Or pray.
A man who appears to believe anything that the last person to speak to him claims can very easily be deluded by Saudi assurances that this is just about a little terrorism funding related clean-up action directed against tiny Qatar.
That “Qatar” somehow has the whiff of Sarajevo back in 1914 about it is not something that could even enter Trump’s mind. And yet, anybody who knows anything about the highly combustible powder keg of the Middle East is very concerned right now.
The U.S. ‘imperial’ presidency
Trump is fully aware that, inside the U.S., the “imperial” presidency still reigns supreme.
This is so because, while members of the U.S. Congress always want to appear “muscular” in their responses to foreign crises, they prefer not to shoulder any responsibility for real-world actions.
They thus leave most of the decision-making in this arena to whoever the president is.
Trump enabling war
To give credit where credit is due, Trump — in contrast to former U.S. President George W. Bush — is not actually starting another war in the Middle East and he isn’t going to use U.S. troops. He is just enabling it.
Trump does so by taking the simple step of adopting a “laissez faire” attitude to the Saudis. Acting like a rhetorical warmonger, he is providing them with ample blessing for their internecine warfare.
Whitewashing the Saudis
There is no mention whatsoever from Trump that the Saudis are world champions at sponsoring terrorism globally. And he seems blissfully ignorant about the fact that the Saudis are really bad at doing war, as their ill-fated campaign into neighboring Yemen amply demonstrates.
Despite an immense advantage in materiel, and despite lots of bombs — and even covert and overt American support — the Saudis are having a terrible time to get the upper hand years later, even against a rag-tag, starving army of insurgents.
Trump isn’t one to worry. If the Saudis waste a lot of ammunition and bombs, who cares? He will gladly sell them more from the amply stacked U.S. war shelves.
Moneyed and proud as they are, lack of success has never kept the Saudis from trying harder — i.e., committing yet more mistakes.
The Saudis have wanted payback for a long time
Peeved as they understandably were about Bush’s Iraq War, which went ahead without their support, the Saudis have been seething ever since and wanted to get properly recompensed by the U.S. government. “Et voila,” as an opening move, Qatar is offered up for slaughter.
In one of the biggest blunders of modern history, Bush effectively ceded much of Iraq to the Iranian regime, even though the latter is the self-described sworn enemy of the U.S. (and even though U.S. Republicans, in turn, see it the very same way).
As if to make up for Bush’s blunder, leave it to Trump, the clown who is currently performing the role of president of the U.S., to let the Saudis get their payback.
Stephan Richter, based in Berlin, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of The Globalist, a daily online magazine on the global economy, politics and culture, which he founded and launched in January 2000. He also is the president of The Globalist Research Center..