Wednesday, September 15, 2021

More Rational Than Assumed

Shortly after Donald Trump was defeated by Joe Biden, The New York Times reported

Since Mr. Trump dismissed Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and other top Pentagon aides last week, Defense Department and other national security officials have privately expressed worries that the president might initiate operations, whether overt or secret, against Iran or other adversaries at the end of his term.

A range of senior advisers dissuaded the president from moving ahead with a military strike.

On Tuesday, The Washington Post revealed

Fearful of Donald Trump’s actions in his final weeks as president, the United States’ top military officer twice called his Chinese counterpart to assure him that the two nations would not suddenly go to war, a senior defense official said Tuesday after the conversations were described in excerpts from a forthcoming book....

According to the defense official, Milley’s message to Li on both occasions was one of reassurance. The official questioned suggestions that Milley told Li he would call him first, and instead said the chairman made the point that the United States was not going to suddenly attack China without any warning — whether it be through diplomatic, administrative or military channels.

Milley also spoke with a number of other chiefs of defense around the world in the days after the Jan. 6 riot, including military leaders from the United Kingdom, Russia and Pakistan. A readout of those calls in January referred to “several” other counterparts that he spoke to with similar messages of reassurance that the U.S. government was strong and in control.

The second call was meant to placate Chinese fears about the events of Jan. 6. But the book reports that Li wasn’t as easily assuaged, even after Milley promised him: “We are 100 percent steady. Everything’s fine. But democracy can be sloppy sometimes.”

Trump responded Tuesday with a sharply worded statement dismissing Milley as a “Dumbass,” and insisting he never considered attacking China.

Although, considering the source, the latter statement is of dubious validity, it might not be far off.  At about the same time General Milley was worried about an attack upon mainland China, according to the Post, President Trump "asked senior advisers in an Oval Office meeting"

whether he had options to take action against Iran’s main nuclear site in the coming weeks. The meeting occurred a day after international inspectors reported a significant increase in the country’s stockpile of nuclear material, four current and former U.S. officials said on Monday.

A range of senior advisers dissuaded the president from moving ahead with a military strike.

So there was real fear that in the lame duck period, the President would launch a military strike upon one country or another.  Milley called Beijing after speaking to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who reportedly had told him "He's crazy. You know he's crazy."

However, Trump did not order an attack upon Iran, mainland China, or any nation while he was intent on remaining in office by preventing certification of the electoral votes. On January 5, he had told Pence “No, no, no! You don't understand, Mike. You can do this. I don't want to be your friend anymore if you don't do this”. On January 6 he rallied his supporters massed in Washington, using the word "peacefully" once and "fight" or "fighting" ten times.  He tweeted at Pence during the insurrection, describing it as a "time for extreme courage," for overturning the results of the election.

This is not how "crazy" behaves.  This is someone who accrued as much power as possible by shattering whatever laws and norms he could, monetized the presidency, and schemed to remain in power so he could escape the (otherwise) long arm of the law.  For the most part, he is a rational man and, far more thoroughly, an evil one.

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