As the World Devolves Into Chaos, Trump Tweets
As of August 11th, 2017, the world is closer to catastrophe than any time since the end of the cold war, in part due to the generally weak, chaotic, and confused leadership of US President Donald J Trump.
Trump’s one major “accomplishment” has been the near destruction of ISIS. ISIL forces have been beaten back in Mosul, are rapidly losing ground in Raqqa, and are losing foreign recruitment very fast. However, it is an error to give Trump the credit for doing this. For almost a full year, a combination of the Assad regime, Iranian-backed Shiite militias in Iraq, and Kurdish forces (backed by the US) have gradually destroyed ISIS. The American effort to defeat ISIS started in the Obama years, and the Trump administration has played little part in the fight.
Meanwhile, other areas of the world are rapidly decaying.
The DPRK continues to be one of the most dangerous countries on Earth, and the last week is no exception. Guam has begun to release information to residents on how to survive a North Korean nuclear strike. With North Korea now being able to fit a nuclear warhead onto the top of a missile, the situation is now incredibly dangerous. Yet, the words of the President have not been reassuring. Yet again, the leader of the free world is issuing bombastic threats to North Korea, not by a confident videotape in the oval office or a televised speech, but via a social media platform that limits one to 140 characters.
The US is way past the point where a military first strike on North Korea is in the realm of plausibility. Even something as small as hitting a North Korean missile on the launch pad could end up killing millions, especially with a ruler such as Kim Jong Un. North Korea is armed with tens of thousands of artillery pieces, many of which are in range of the northern part of Seoul, South Korea’s capital which is home to around 10 million people. North Korea also has hundreds of conventional missiles, thousands of tanks, and probably a variety of chemical and biological agents. A conventional war on the Korean peninsula would be a disaster in every sense of the word. A nuclear war would also be horrendous, for obvious reasons. North Korea could nuke Seoul, and if it’s technology has advanced enough, Tokyo (the world’s largest city) could potentially be nuked. Guam has 162,000 people-many of whom would perish in the event of a North Korean strike.
India and China
While much of the western world remains transfixed on North Korea, the two titans of Asia appear to be on a collision course.
Beijing has threatened war with India, and has deployed numerous ships and submarines into the Indian Ocean. The dispute lies in a remote plateau claimed by Bhutan, but occupied by China. Indian forces recently blocked a Chinese attempt to build a road through the plateau.
A full-scale war is unlikely. The most likely scenario is a repeat of the 1962 Sino-Indian war, in which roughly 2000 troops were killed. A border skirmish such as this would not be good, but it would be better than a full-on war. Both countries are gigantic, and roughly evenly matched. If India and China fight a full-scale war with each other, it would wreak havoc throughout Asia and destroy the global economy.
While Trump’s pressure on North Korea has put China on the diplomatic back foot, Trump has done nearly nothing to de-escalate the crisis between India and China. American leadership in the region is essentially nonexistent. This cannot end well, but with a president at war with “fake news” rather than concerning himself with a potential massive war in Asia, American diplomatic intervention appears unlikely.
The problem in Iraq isn’t the war -- the problem is what to do with Iraq after ISIL is defeated.
At the moment, there is no plan for Iraq following the defeat of ISIL. Furthermore, none of the sectarian tensions that led to the rise of ISIL will go away. In fact, with an aggressive Iran looking to forge and maintain more puppet states in the region, it is entirely possible that the power vacuum leads to Iraq becoming another battleground between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Iran already dominates Iraq. Iranian goods are ever present in Iraqi marketplaces, and Iranian influence is rapidly spreading through Iraq. Iran has huge strategic reasons for having a puppet in Iraq-they don’t want a repeat of the brutal Iran-Iraq war, and they want a corridor connecting Iran with its Syrian allies.
With the absence of American leadership, Iraq will once again become the site of a power-struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran, with Iran most likely winning, as it has in Yemen and Syria. The US can’t afford to abandon the region entirely, but rather needs to guide the region to stability and peace.
With the Trump administration in a state of chaos, all of these problems must be addressed at some point. The leader of the free world cannot focus on Twitter when the world is falling apart in front of him.