Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The King's Speech

Trumpelthinskin was pumped full of Thorazine and rolled out in front of the TelePrompTer to give a speech that will probably be touted by the same desperate journalists who said his SOTU address was "the pivot."  There are some who are dying for Trump to "pivot" into a normal president.  Certainly, when he gets in front of a prepared text, he can do a poor impression of a normal person.  In listening to his address this morning, he sounded drugged and defeated. Unable to let his freak flag fly, he was reduced to making anodyne statements about good and evil.

He also - gasp! - did not use the magical phrase "Radical Islam" to call forth the demons of the Islamic world that they might be destroyed by the very words "Radical Islam," which Obama never uttered because he hates America.  And puppies.

The problem I had with the speech was that might as well have been written by King Salman of Saudi Arabia. It did not address the complex socio-economic factors and disenfranchisement that drives most of the young recruits into the arms of ISIS.  It therefore absolved regimes like that of Saudi Arabia that use corruption and oil wealth to enrich themselves while their younger subjects search in vain for a meaningful, fulfilling future.

An additional bit of text that sounded like it was written by the Saudis was the usual denunciation of Iran.  This is painfully ironic, in that Iran just had a very successful election that returned President Rouhani to power - a man dedicated to bringing Iran into greater concert with the rest of the world.  We had a similar opportunity under President Khatami in the late '90s and early '00s, but the Axis of Evil Speech undercut all efforts by Khatami to open to the West and led to the rise of Ahmadinejad.

This speech took a bland, cartoonish interpretation of the violence of the Middle East - it's all Iran's fault for supporting Assad, leaving aside Russia's role and absolving Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States for empowering ISIS - and throws the door shut in Rouhani's face, just as he can plausibly claim a mandate to bring Iran back into the community of nations.

An Iran that is powerful and integrated into global norms is a real threat to Saudi Arabia.  More so, arguably, than a nuclear armed Iran.  Iran has elections, however flawed. Iran has some rights for women, however circumscribed.  Iran has the potential to help stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan, however little.

The constant thrall of DC to Saudi antipathy towards Iran is based somewhat on our own fraught history with the Islamic Republic, but it is also bought and paid for by Saudi billions.  And it's a damned shame.

But Trump didn't step on his own dick, so...pivot!

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