Don Corleone carried his message through the United States. He conferred with compatriots in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Cleveland, Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami, and Boston. He was the underworld apostle of peace and, by 1939, more successful than any Pope, he had achieved a working agreement amongst the most powerful underworld organizations in the country. Like the Constitution of the United States this agreement respected fully the internal authority of each member in his state or city. The agreement covered only spheres of influence and an agreement to enforce peace in the underworld.
The Godfather, Mario Puzo
President Trump is moving towards the biggest change in US foreign policy since World War II.
Close study of The Godfather yields far better insight into the mind and methods of Donald Trump than the invariably wrong blather of the media and most of the commentariat. A cottage industry of pundits hyperventilates daily about his tweets and public pronouncements, 90 percent of which is fluff and misdirection. It’s a much smaller group who focus on what Trump actually does.
Three realities confronted Trump when he assumed office. The US empire is unsustainable, so too is the trajectory of its spending and debt, and the government is fundamentally corrupt. It would be foolish to bet Trump doesn’t understand these issues and the linkages between them.
Trump faced an insurrection from official Washington. The insurrection, borne of desperation and the miscalculation that Clinton would win, was laughable and its execution grossly incompetent. Trump saw through it and turned it to his advantage.
Someday Robert Mueller will bring his pathetic investigation to a close. It’s been a gift that keeps on giving for Trump. It’s shone a light on government criminality and the shadowy Deep State, which 74 percent of Americans now believe runs the country. Establishment hostility towards Trump is rooted in fear of exposure of that criminality, not policy differences. Once elected, Trump had access to troves of secrets, and controlled the investigatory and prosecutorial resources of the US government. That’s what kept the powers that be and their minions awake at night and launched the insurrection.
Their investigatory witch hunt has boomeranged disastrously. Trump’s counterstrike has been too slow for his partisans, but investigations and the legal process are necessarily slow. Moving hastily might lead to mistakes that would allow some or all on the long list of powerful and well-heeled potential defendants to slip through the prosecutorial grasp.
Slow as it may be, Trump’s counterstrike has put official Washington on the defensive, giving him sufficient latitude to address the US’s unsustainable, debt-financed empire. Trump’s Syrian maneuvers gave the first indication that Trump was rejecting the imperial imperative. His offer to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides further evidence of where’s he going.
A classic Trump tactic is a first move in the opposite direction of his ultimate move. He bombed Syria before he issued an order to stop arming “moderate rebels,” who were a pipeline to ISIS. That’s a sea change in American policy. The US has been arming Islamic rebels (always moderate, of course) for various Middle Eastern objectives since Jimmy Carter sent weapons to Afghanistan’s mujahideen.
Trump also negotiated a little-noticed ceasefire with Vladimir Putin in part of Syria, and changed the US goal from deposing Assad to defeating ISIS. Trump’s moves recognized that much of Syria was under control of the Russia-Assad-Iran-Hezbollah axis, and nothing the US could do short of total war was going to change that (see “Powerball, Part Two,” SLL).
In North Korea, Trump’s and Kim Jong Un’s heated rhetoric, and Trump’s dispatch of US carrier groups to waters off the Korean peninsula, had legions of commentators fretting about imminent war and nuclear exchanges. It was again the feint-one-direction, move-the-other tactic.
Trump pressured China and Russia, who in turn pressured Kim Jong Un. Kim probably was told that his rule of North Korea was at stake. There have been a series of diplomatic initiatives between South and North Korea. Kim has signaled flexibility on North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, and now Trump has announced he’s willing to meet Kim.
Trump’s new world order comes straight from The Godfather. There are three global powers: the US, Russia, and China. None of these powers can militarily defeat either of the other two, and even an alliance among two of them would have trouble defeating the third.
Like Don Corleone, Trump is dividing up the larger territory into smaller, great-power controlled sub-territories. He is tacitly recognizing Russia and China’s dominance in their own spheres of influence, and holding them to account in their territories. The implicit agreement among the three is apparently that each power will, in their, “sphere of influence…enforce peace.”
There will never be a Trump “New World Order” speech. It would provoke fierce opposition within the powerful Military-Industrial-Intelligence Complex. Undoubtedly, enlightened elements within the complex recognize that the US, with its $21 trillion and climbing debt, can no longer play unipolar global cop, lucrative as that role has been for the complex. However, it serves no purpose to announce what is in effect a retreat to this more sustainable position.
People in government and politics who don’t have a price are as rare as atheists in foxholes. As he bribed Saudi Arabia and Israel to sit still for his policy change in Syria (see “Powerball, Part Two,” SLL), he’s buying off the MIIC with huge spending increases. The MIIC will take the money and come around, even as its mouthpieces continue to spout their tedious “exceptional and indispensable nation” and “greatest military on the planet” rhetoric.
The true ruler of the world, Emperor Debt, is tightening his grip, forcing luminaries like Trump to alter their countries’ trajectories. He will decimate the best-laid plans, including those of China (whose total debt is unknown, but huge) and Russia, particularly their costly New Silk Road collaboration.
Say what you want about the Emperor, he has a sense of humor. Amused by his subjects’ delusions, he plays with them like a cat plays with its prey. When financial asset prices drop, buy into the next debt-fueled upswing. Prosperity won’t end as long as credit standards fall and more credit is extended. Borrow two dollars for a dollar’s worth of growth. Credit is income. Creditors’ claims are wealth.
Sooner or later, both the Emperor and the cat tire of their games. Pouncing, they make waste of the best laid schemes of men and mice. The Emperor has stopped armies, brought down governments, sparked revolutions, opened countries to invasion, and left poverty, devastation, and misery in his wake. Only fools doubt that he is not once again readying a destructive masterstroke that will level welfare and warfare states alike. Given the paper and promises that litter the globe, encumbering every asset and income stream, this one will be his most terrifying.
The Ruler of the World, SLL, 3/5/18
Trump can finesse his enemies and the decline of the American empire. He can’t finesse, outrun, bargain with, hide from, or defeat the Emperor. Neither can Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin, or all those other nominal “rulers” who fancy themselves in control of events.
From “The Ruler of the World”: “The more you borrow from the future, the less future you’ll have.” That will serve as the dreary anthem of the actual New World Order.