Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Collapsing The Moral Space

As seen at twice in the video below  Secretary of Mike Pompeo appeared Sunday on CNN's State of the Union and reiterated one among the floating reasons the Trump Administration has given for the assassination of Iraqi government official/terrorist Soleimani. At 8:08, Jake Tapper asks him "When you say the attacks were imminent, how imminent were they? Are we talking about days; are we talking about weeks?" Pompeo maintans "If you're an American in this region, days and weeks, this is not something that's relevant. We have to prepare, we have to be ready, we took a bad guy off the battlefield."

At 6:30, there had been

Tapper: Do you know for a fact that the mission Soleimani was working on, you say attacks, you say that he was planning, have they been called off, these attacks?

Pompeo: We're prepared for anything the Islamic Republic of Iran may do, Jake. There are clearly actors that go beyond Soleimani.  That's why we're still doing the work we're doing.  That's why we're still preparing....

That will be enough, Mike. The answer, from what we can discern from your answers, is "no." Mike Pompeo is no Donald Trump, not even a poor man's Donald Trump. Unskilled in projecting righteous indignation and proper body image, Pompeo can't even fake lying or answering a question.  Recalling the focus in the media and elsewhere on impeachment of the President, Elizabeth Warren noted "There was a reason that he chose this moment, not a month ago, not a month from now, not a less aggressive, less dangerous response.” Prolific, never-Trump journalist David Frum has the best argument:
So the strike ordered in Iraq against Iran by commander-in-chief Trump probably was timed to divert attention from the impeachment battle in Washington. However, the President's goal- in this provocative act, in the Middle East more generally, and in international affairs even more broadly- goes beyond mere distraction. It's probably more sophisticated and Jonathan Chait recognizes

His real North Star is in fact an idea he has explicated many times, but — perhaps because it is so horrifying — even his critics seem hesitant to accept as a true motivation. Trump’s plan is to collapse the moral space between America and its enemies.

The president laid out his logic most recently on Sunday night, when he reiterated his threat to destroy Iranian cultural sites if that country retaliates in the wake of the targeted killing of Qasem Soleimani. “They’re allowed to kill our people,” Trump told the press pool. “They’re allowed to torture and maim our people. They’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people. And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural site? It doesn’t work that way.”

This is Trump’s deepest belief about foreign policy: The things that separate the United States from terrorists and dictatorships are not a source of strength, but of weakness. Our enemies are stronger and tougher, willing to do the hard things that must be done in order to win. To defeat them, we must become like them.

Trump has long dismissed respect for human rights, international law, and innocent life as a form of political correctness. During the campaign, he promised to kill the families of terrorists, steal oil from countries the U.S. invades, and restore torture. “Don’t tell me it doesn’t work — torture works,” Trump said in 2016. “Okay, folks? Torture — you know, half these guys [say]: ‘Torture doesn’t work.’ Believe me, it works. Okay?”

In February, 2017 then-Fox News host Bill O'Reilly told President Trump "He's a killer, though. Putin's a killer." Trump responded "There are a lot of killers. We've got a lot of killers. What, you think our country's so innocent?"

Beside the obvious fallacy of moral equivalence, Trump's reply was disturbing on a level we didn't fully understand then.  For most people, charging that a person- or a nation- is not innocent is not a compliment.

But for Donald J. Trump, it may in fact be a positive.  Chait realizes that the President values strength and toughness (as he defines them) above all else and that he wants to make the USA more like its enemies.

That helps explain why Trump does not believe in "win-win" scenarios and is fiercely determined that his enemies- in foreign affairs, domestic politics, and elsewhere- lose.  It helps explain also why Donald Trump does not lack a moral compass. He most assuredly has one- but one valuing nefariousness and depravity.

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