« Profiles in Discouragement » (« Crayonné au théâtre américain », US Version, Project Syndicate, Nov 21, 2017)

Trump3One day, the United States will turn the page on Donald Trump. But, as Americans prepare to observe their Thanksgiving holiday, they should reflect that their country’s culture and global standing will never recover fully from the wounds that his presidency is inflicting on them.

NEW YORK – Some specialists in the life sciences say that no one is ever fully cured of any injury or disease, because our cells forever retain traces, memories, of even the slightest attacks on the body’s integrity. So it will be with the United States.

One day, the US will turn the page on Donald Trump. But America will never recover completely from the unstanchable wound that his presidency’s baseness, bull-headed stupidity, and puzzling passivity in the face of China’s global ambitions has inflicted on its culture and international standing. Is Trump a symptom? Or is he a terminal disease?1

Demoralization and defeatism have not spared the Democrats, as I found recently in New York and on a recent visit to Chicago to address a seminar at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics. At the home of the Iranian-American Nazee Moinian, whose Manhattan apartment recalls the patrician abodes of the members of the Algonquin Round Table, the assembled elites are in agreement. Trump, by not backing the Kurds in their bid for independence from Iraq, committed not just a moral error, but also an irreparable political mistake. He betrayed his Kurdish ally. He strengthened his Iranian adversary.

The German legal and political theorist Carl Schmitt might say that Trump had confused his friend and his enemy, dealing with the former as he should have dealt with the latter. Inexplicably, Trump sacrificed (once again) a crucial US national interest, this time by abandoning the sole force in the Middle East region (outside of Israel) on which America could safely and seriously rely.

How does one respond to such a forfeiture? With what resources? Was there really no way to counter the club of bad neighbors who refuse to countenance any discussion of Kurdish sovereignty?

Some Democrats swallow their national pride and say that France’s young president, Emmanuel Macron, newly crowned by Time magazine as king of Europe, is in a better position to step in and stay the hand of Iraq and Iran. Older Democrats express not the slightest reservation about the use of US power during the Cold War. But here they are, paralyzed, disarmed, when the time comes to raise their voice – merely their voice! – against the sinister but motley gang of four (Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria) blocking Kurdish independence.

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