The Stable Genius Is Good at Names

The Stable Genius Is Good at Names

So, Trump wants to add Middle Eastern nations (so far unspecified) to NATO so that the alliance can be more involved in the region. We need another obligation to go to war there like a hole in the head. That’s very peculiar for a Putin marionette who supposedly dislikes NATO, which by the way has grown already during his tenure. One always proposes larger missions for useless organizations. Such is the incoherence we’ve come to expect for the 45th occupant of the White House.

According to Politico, Trump said to reporters while describing in a call with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg:

I think that NATO should be expanded, and we should include the Middle East. Absolutely … because this is an international problem…. And we can come home, or largely come home and use NATO. It’s an international problem. We caught ISIS. We did Europe a big favor.

So, I have actually said that I think the scope of NATO should be increased. And they should be looking for ISIS. We will help. But right now the burden is on us, and that has not been fair.

He went on:

NATO, right, and then you have M-E, Middle East. You call it NATO-ME. What a beautiful name. I’m good at names.

No, uh, if you add the two words, Middle East, at the end of it, because that’s a big problem. That’s a big source of problems. And NATO-ME, doesn’t that work beautifully, Jon? “NATO” plus “ME.”

NATO-ME — as though America hasn’t done enough damage in the region. This is our “stable genius” at work in the White House. Heaven help us.

Don’t Die for Danzig

Don’t Die for Danzig

Since President Donald Trump’s comments in Brussels during the recent NATO summit, the merits of the Atlantic alliance have been up for debate in public discussion—a nice change of pace, considering the normal establishment consensus emanating from Washington D.C. on America’s decades-old system of treaties. President Trump’s follow-up interview with FOX News’ Tucker Carlson brought concerted focus on the nation of Montenegro which was admitted to NATO last year.

Pillars of beltway media opinion, both left and right, have gone into high gear defending the continued utility of NATO and why its post-Cold War expansion has been necessary. A friend, who agrees with that opinion, sent me a National Review article, “Tiny, Faraway Countries and Us,” written by Senior Editor Jay Nordlinger. The article argues in favor of collective security through NATO and uses the 1930s as its primary example.

Nordlinger first seeks to establish that not only is Montenegro worth defending, it already needs defending. This is due to accusations of Russian interference and even a failed coup attempt, a narrative that seems far from coherent.

He then launches into comparisons between Trump’s sentiments and those of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. Chamberlain described the Czech crisis as “a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing.” This was an opinion shared by the British public at the time.

An opinion likewise shared in France. Nordlinger reminds us of the question that was being asked by Frenchmen in 1939: “Why die for Danzig?” Danzig was an over 90% German city that was separated from Germany in the Treaty of Versailles and turned into an autonomous city-state. Separated from the “Fatherland” by the Polish Corridor, it was a longtime goal of German interwar foreign policy to see the city returned to German sovereignty.

Nordlinger answers the nearly eighty-year-old question. “Why die for Danzig? In a year, Frenchmen were dying for Paris.” This far leap rests on the common assumption that German invasion was inevitable and unstoppable, so the best thing to do was to start the fight then and there. This assumption has been continually challenged by those who think Nazi ambitions existed in Eastern Europe only, and that the Reich’s leadership had no interest in a wider war with the West. This argument has been laid out thoroughly in both popular and academic histories. And it’s important to remember: France lost the war in 1940 and was militarily occupied. Going to war with Germany in 1939-40 cannot be said to have been in the French national interest or beneficial to the French people.

Inspired by Polish official Radek Sikorski, Nordlinger lays out his idea of deterrence. If multiple countries ally together for mutual defense, they can make a strong enough front to prevent aggression from outside powers and lower the risk of war. “After two world wars, the wise heads who founded NATO decided that collective security was the best defense — the best way of preventing further war.” These are mindboggling examples to use to defend “collective security.” In 1914 Europe was divided between two military alliances, the Central Powers and the Entente. The great empires assured each other of support in war, and all this did was lay a tripwire that eventually exploded. Far from preventing conflict, the system of alliances ensured that an incident between two countries in the Balkans spread war across multiple continents. Likewise, in Spring 1939 Prime Minister Chamberlain gave the British war guarantee to Poland. This did not prevent the September 1st invasion by Germany. It only obligated France and Britain to declare war on Germany, leading to the former’s occupation and the latter to rely on the English Channel for protection from the same fate. Collective security did not stop Hitler’s invasion, but put the Western powers in a war they clearly were not prepared to fight. The world wars, far from showing the necessity of collective security, show how it can go wrong.

Fast-forwarding to the present, we are reminded that East European countries like Poland and Estonia have sent soldiers who have “fought and died in Afghanistan.” Sending marginal padding to one of America’s colonial wars (in Estonia’s case, 163 soldiers as of 2011) benefits neither the American people or Poles & Estonians.

Nordlinger admits that Estonia would have no chance of victory in a metaphorical war with Russia. Which pushes the most important question to the forefront: when should the American people fight for a country that is not their own? Only the most hardline of pacifists would say the United States should not defend its own borders and territorial integrity if invaded. In the same vein, only the most hairbrained promoters of American hegemony would say that the United States needs to vouch for the collective security of every country and fight to defend the current world’s borders in perpetuity. There is a middle ground.

American leaders knew throughout the Cold War that Eastern Europe did not fall within the U.S. national interest. In 1956 when Soviet tanks invaded Hungary, in 1968 when they crushed the Prague Spring, and in the 1980s when they suppressed Solidarity in Poland, America stood by and did not intervene. That is because Eisenhower, Johnson, Reagan and those in between realized that while it was important to the people of Bozeman, Montana and St. Augustine, Florida to stop the Soviet Army from ever crossing the Elbe River, American lives were not worth sacrificing beyond that point. That was all when the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact posed a reasonable threat to Western Europe. Since communism’s fall in 1991, American taxpayers ought to question why they’re still writing checks for foreign militaries.

Quoting one of his earlier articles, Nordlinger says “If NATO crumbles, that will have big effects elsewhere. U.S. guarantees will be seen as worthless. Japan and South Korea will be resigned to China. And so on.” A full U.S. exit from NATO doesn’t have to mean the alliance “crumbles”—it merely means Europeans will have to defend Europeans. And the idea that all U.S. guarantees must exist forever, otherwise they have no value, is ridiculous. The United States has guaranteed the defense of Western Europe for seventy years, including three decades where the original threat hasn’t existed. That’s more than enough to prove American commitment. And if Japan and South Korea, the third and eleventh largest economies in the world respectively, must carry more of their own weight, is that apocalyptic?

Nordlinger ends with a point I agree with—NATO should not be an assumed positive but should be argued. He says this is necessary “as memories of past crises fade.” In fact, it’s necessary as past crises are misremembered.

The Stable Genius Is Good at Names

Libya "Before And After" Photos Go Viral

A Libyan man who took photos of himself posing at various spots across Beghazi in 2000 has revisited the same locations 18 years later to photograph life under the new “NATO liberated” Libya.
The “before and after” pics showing the utter devastation of post-Gaddafi Libya have gone viral, garnering 50,000 retweets after they were posted to an account that features historical images of Libya under Gaddafi’s rule between 1969 and 2011.
It appears people do still care about Libya even if the political elites in Paris, London, and Washington who destroyed the country have moved on. Though we should recall that British foreign secretary Boris Johnson was caught on tape in a private meeting last year saying Libya was ripe for UK investment, but only after Libyans “clear the dead bodies away.”
Read the rest at zerohedge.com.

The Stable Genius Is Good at Names

Media Ignore Government Influence on Facebook’s Plan to Fight Government Influence

Facebook announced Thursday it was partnering with DC think tank the Atlantic Council to “monitor for misinformation and foreign interference.” The details of the plan are vague, but Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab wrote in a non-bylined Medium post (5/17/18) that the goal was to design tools “to bring us closer together” instead of “driving us further apart.” Whatever that means, exactly.
Behind its generic-sounding name and “nonpartisan” label, the Atlantic Council is associated with very particular interests. It’s funded by the US Department of State and the US Navy, Army and Air Force, along with NATO, various foreign powers and major Western corporations, including weapons contractors and oil companies. The Atlantic Council is dead center in what former President Obama’s deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes called “the blob”—Washington’s bipartisan foreign-policy consensus. While there is some diversity of opinion within the Atlantic Council, it is within a very limited pro-Western ideological framework—a framework that debates how much and where US military and soft power influence should be wielded, not if it should in the first place.
When a venture that’s supposedly meant to curb “foreign influence” is bankrolled by a number of foreign countries—including the United Arab Emirates, Britain, Norway, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea—one would think that would be worth noting. Nor should US government money be exempt from the “foreign” qualifier with its suggestion of malicious influence; to most of Facebook’s 2.2 billion users, after all, the United States is a foreign country. (It should be noted the US government reserves the right to run unattributed propaganda on Facebook, and there’s much evidence they have. Needless to say, the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab hasn’t done any work in this space.)
Read the rest at FAIR.org.

The Stable Genius Is Good at Names

3/6/18 Ray McGovern returns to discuss Vladimir Putin’s unveiling of Russia’s latest nuclear weapons

Ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern returns to the show to follow up on Russia-United States relations in the aftermath of Vladimir Putin’s recent speech in which he unveiled new nuclear weapons. McGovern details the history of Russian-American relations, dating back to the days of the USSR from World War II to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the lead up to the Vladimir Putin years of the present. McGovern draws parallels between the Cuban Missile Crisis and the current escalation of tensions and explains how close the United States and Russia came to a full nuclear disarmament during the Reagan years. Scott and McGovern then discuss how American intervention in Ukraine over the past five years has provided flint for the fire today. Finally, McGovern tells Scott the message he pleaded with George HW Bush to pass on to his son in the lead up to the Iraq War.

Ray McGovern is the co-creator of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity and the former chief of the CIA’s Soviet analysts division. Read all of his work at his website: raymcgovern.com.

Discussed on the show:

This episode of the Scott Horton Show is sponsored by: Zen CashThe War State, by Mike Swanson; WallStreetWindow.comRoberts and Roberts Brokerage Inc.LibertyStickers.comTheBumperSticker.com; and ExpandDesigns.com/Scott.

Check out Scott’s Patreon page.

The Stable Genius Is Good at Names

3/6/18 Ray McGovern returns to discuss Vladimir Putin's unveiling of Russia's latest nuclear weapons

Ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern returns to the show to follow up on Russia-United States relations in the aftermath of Vladimir Putin’s recent speech in which he unveiled new nuclear weapons. McGovern details the history of Russian-American relations, dating back to the days of the USSR from World War II to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the lead up to the Vladimir Putin years of the present. McGovern draws parallels between the Cuban Missile Crisis and the current escalation of tensions and explains how close the United States and Russia came to a full nuclear disarmament during the Reagan years. Scott and McGovern then discuss how American intervention in Ukraine over the past five years has provided flint for the fire today. Finally, McGovern tells Scott the message he pleaded with George HW Bush to pass on to his son in the lead up to the Iraq War.
Ray McGovern is the co-creator of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity and the former chief of the CIA’s Soviet analysts division. Read all of his work at his website: raymcgovern.com.
Discussed on the show:

This episode of the Scott Horton Show is sponsored by: Zen CashThe War State, by Mike Swanson; WallStreetWindow.comRoberts and Roberts Brokerage Inc.LibertyStickers.comTheBumperSticker.com; and ExpandDesigns.com/Scott.
Check out Scott’s Patreon page.

The Stable Genius Is Good at Names

2/28/18 Ray McGovern on U.S.-Russia relations and the Deep State

Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern returns to the show to discuss the merits of Russian interference in American democracy, explaining what he thinks prompted the Russia scandal and why he’s convinced the supposed hack was in fact a leak. McGovern does what he can to analyze the U.S.-Russia tensions from the perspective of Vladimir Putin. McGovern then explains what he means when he says “Deep State” and why he thinks the Carter Page memo is revelatory. Why does this all matter? According to McGovern, the U.S.-Russia relations are as frayed and combustible as they have been at any point since the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Ray McGovern is the co-creator of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity and the former chief of the CIA’s Soviet analysts division. Read all of his work at his website: raymcgovern.com.

Discussed on the show:

This episode of the Scott Horton Show is sponsored by: Zen CashThe War State, by Mike Swanson; WallStreetWindow.comRoberts and Roberts Brokerage Inc.LibertyStickers.comTheBumperSticker.com; and ExpandDesigns.com/Scott.

Check out Scott’s Patreon page.

The Stable Genius Is Good at Names

1/12/18 James Carden on the popularity of non-interventionism and the new Cold War

James Carden returns to the show to discuss his latest article “A New Poll Shows the Public Is Overwhelmingly Opposed to Endless US Military Interventions.” Carden breaks down the different findings of the poll, including that a vast majority of people think military intervention should be used only as a last resort, that a preponderance of people think that military aid to foreign countries is counterproductive, and that there’s particular antipathy directed at support for Saudi Arabia. Scott and Carden then discuss how the failed strategies of the Hillary Clinton campaign have been adopted by the “Resistance” movement during Trump’s presidency. Carden says that the question people need to ask is: Is the world better off if the U.S. and Russia can find a way to cooperate or if they are enemies? He then reviews the history of NATO expansion toward Russia and the lies and broken promises that have accompanied it. Lastly Scott asks—what level of crisis do we have with Russia right now?

James Carden is the executive editor for the American Committee for East-West Accord and former adviser on Russia policy at the US State Department. He is a contributing writer at The Nation.

Discussed on the show:

Today’s show is sponsored by: NoDev, NoOps, NotIT, by Hussein Badakhchani; The War State, by Mike Swanson; WallStreetWindow.comRoberts and Roberts Brokerage Inc.; LibertyStickers.comTheBumperSticker.com3tediting.comExpandDesigns.com/Scott; and Darrin’s Coffee.

Check out Scott’s Patreon page.

TGIF: Let’s All Calm Down about Russia

TGIF: Let’s All Calm Down about Russia

I can understand why the ruling elite, broadly conceived to include the intel bureaucracy and military-industrial complex, has an interest in positing Russia as our enemy. The reasons are obvious enough. What I can’t understand is why common Americans would fall for it. They have everything to lose and nothing to gain from swallowing this line.

After all, the stakes are extremely high. The United States and Russia have thousands of nuclear warheads pointed at each other, and their forces are in close proximity in Syria. Yet major bipartisan elements of the U.S. government, including the intelligence bureaucracy, persist in aggravating tensions. The public is led to believe that the reason for the problems is the Russian attempt to interfere in the presidential election on behalf of Donald Trump. But that remains an allegation for which no evidence has been produced. It also doesn’t pass the smell test. For example, it is said that the diabolically clever Russians left their digital fingerprints all over the crime scene. It has also been “reported” that Russian President Vladimir Putin expected Hillary Clinton to win the election, but he interfered anyway so he could damage her presidency as payback for her having impugned the legitimacy of his own election. Think about that for a few minutes.

The absurdity of the election story has not stopped American politicians from recklessly charging the Russians with an “act of war.” Do these people realize what they are saying? (Considering the U.S. government’s record of interfering with other countries’ political systems, the politicians’ self-righteousness is downright laughable.)

Not coincidentally, Trump made cooperation with Russia a campaign theme. Such cooperation, of course, would be costly for civilian and military bureaucrats and government contractors. Yet even if Trump has corrupt business motives for favoring detente, it is still a good idea for the American people and the world.

So, are we witnessing what is being called a “soft coup” against the Trump administration? The thought is not so outlandish. Nor would it be the first time the intelligence bureaucracy has tried to interfere with East-West detente.

At the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union, a spokesman for Mikhail Gorbachev told some reporters from the West, “We have done the cruelest thing to you that we could possibly have done. We have deprived you of an enemy.” That insight explains a lot of what has happened ever since the Warsaw Pact dissolved in 1989 and the Soviet Union closed shop in 1991. It explains why, despite the historic collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, American presidents expanded NATO to Russia’s border, interfered with its political-economic system, and meddled in neighboring countries politically and militarily. America has 60,000 troops in Europe and has placed military personnel and equipment on Russia’s border, while German and other NATO troops join in war simulations. (Such actions were decried by George Kennan, the Russia scholar and diplomat, and Jack F. Matlock Jr., who was ambassador to the Soviet Union under Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.)

I found that quote from Gennadi Gerasimov in an extraordinary 2016 article by conservative English journalist Peter Hitchens, “The Cold War Is Over.” It’s an article that ought to be read by all Americans, especially those who give any credence to what their (mis)leaders, (mis)representatives, and public (self-)servants — not to mention the news media — tell them daily. (I had the pleasure in the 1990s of dining with Hitchens at the Washington, D.C. home of his late brother, Christopher.)

Peter Hitchens was posted to Moscow for two years beginning in 1990, so he witnessed the remarkable transition toward normalcy. He is no fan of Vladimir Putin, and no advocate of a police state. He writes:

I view him [Putin] as a sinister tyrant. The rule of law is more or less absent under his rule. He operates a cunning and cynical policy toward the press. Criticism of the government is perfectly possible in small-circulation magazines and obscure radio stations, but quashed whenever it threatens the state and its controlled media. Several of the most serious allegations against Putin — alleged murders of journalists and politicians — have not been proven. Yet crimes like the death in prison (from horrible neglect) of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer and auditor who charged Russian officials with corruption, can be traced directly to Putin’s government, and are appalling enough by themselves.

Hitchens’s distaste for the police state, including armed cops, is displayed in his blog post “The First Casualty of Terrorism is Thought,” which he wrote in the wake of the recent terrorist attacks in London. To wit: “Here we go again, responding to events with emotion rather than reason. UKIP [UK Independent Party] chieftains talk of internment. Columnists suggest the closing of mosques. Yet at the same time we praise ourselves for not panicking. Well, one or the other, but not both.” And: “It is still my view that unarmed officers, patrolling alone, always did and would now do more in the long run to protect us from crime and disorder of all kinds happening in the first place, than phalanxes of armed and armoured officers, loaded with weapons.”

So Hitchens’s advice about how to regard Russia can be taken seriously without suspecting an affinity for Putin or a Trump-style police state. He is simply someone who knows the difference between Russia and the Soviet Union and sees no point in a new Cold War.

About the West’s attitude toward Putin, Hitchens says what needs to be said over and over:

Western diplomats, politicians, and media are highly selective about tyranny. Boris Yeltsin’s state was not much superior to Vladimir Putin’s. Yeltsin used tanks to shell his own parliament. He waged a barbaric war in Chechnya. He blatantly rigged his own re-election with the aid of foreign cash. He practically sold the entire country. Russians, accustomed to corruption as a way of life, gasped at its extent under Yeltsin’s rule. Yet he was counted a friend of the West, and went largely uncriticized. Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who locks up many more journalists than does Mr. Putin, who kills his own people when they demonstrate against him, and who has described democracy as a tram which you ride as far as you can get on it before getting off, has for many years enjoyed the warm endorsement of the West. His country’s illegal occupation of northern Cyprus, which has many parallels to Russia’s occupation of Crimea, goes unpunished. Turkey remains a member of NATO, wooed by the E.U.

As for Saudi Arabia and China, countries much fawned upon by the Western nations, the failure to criticize these for their internal despotism is so enormous that the mind simply refuses to take it in. But I need not go on. The current attitude toward the Putin state is selective and cynical, not based upon any real principle.

Selective, indeed. Hitchens could have gone just a bit further back in history and found many more examples of American and British enabling of bloody tyrants. But, some will say, those other tyrants were not expansionists like Putin and therefore a threat to the West. Let’s see what Hitchens has to say about that.

The experience of living in that sad and handsome place brought me to love Russia and its stoical people, to learn some of what they had suffered [under Soviet rule] and see what they had regained. And so, as all around me rage against the supposed aggression and wickedness of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, I cannot join in. Despite the fact that Moscow has abandoned control of immense areas of Europe and Asia, self-appointed experts insist that Russia is an expansionist power. Oddly, this “expansion” only seems to be occurring in zones that Moscow once controlled, into which the E.U. and NATO, supported by the U.S., have sought to extend their influence.

The comparison of today’s Russia to yesterday’s U.S.S.R. is baseless. I know this, and rage inwardly at my inability to convey my understanding to others….

He then drives the point home.

Nobody who has seen these things [I have seen] could possibly compare the old Soviet Union with the new Russia. The trouble is, almost nobody has seen them. Nor, it seems, has anyone noticed the withdrawal of Moscow’s power from 700,000 square miles of territory which it once held down with boots and tanks and secret policemen. Somehow or other this unprecedented peaceful withdrawal of a power undefeated in war is being portrayed as “expansionism.” Nobody who understands history, geography, or, come to that, arithmetic can possibly accept this portrayal. There is much to criticize in Russia’s foreign policy, especially if one is a Ukrainian nationalist, but the repossession of Crimea does not signal a revival of the Warsaw Pact. It is instead a limited and minor action in the context of this conquered and reconquered stretch of soil, the ugly but unexceptional act of a regional power.

Hitchens winds down by reminding us that “Russia is invaded all the time — by the Tatars, the Poles, the Lithuanians, the Swedes, the French, us British, the Germans, the Japanese, the Germans again: They keep coming. Nor are these invasions remote history.” He then asks Americans to imagine how they would feel if just a small fraction of what the West has been doing to Russia were happening on America’s borders: “I cannot see the U.S. sitting about doing nothing, especially if it had repeatedly warned in major diplomatic forums against this expansion of Russian power on its frontiers, and been repeatedly ignored over fifteen years or so.”

He closes with a plea for understanding and a concern for peace: “Out of utopian misery has come the prospect of rebirth. It is as yet incipient. But I see great possibilities in it, in the many once-blighted churches now open and loved and full again, in the reappearance of symbols of pre-Bolshevik Russia, in the growth of a generation not stunted and pitted by poisoned air and food, nor twisted by Communist ethics….. Why then, when so much of what we hoped for in the long Soviet period has come to pass, do we so actively seek their enmity?”

The Stable Genius Is Good at Names

The Antiwar Comic: Tripwire

I love it when a comic comes together.  This is my new favorite Antiwar Comic.  Not to pat myself on the back too hard, but this one really came together, I think.  I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that Justin Raimondo inspired the title.  It’s a term he often uses in his columns at Antiwar.com.

The Antiwar Comic:  Tripwire

More comics at the Webcomic Factory.

TGIF: An Idiot Abroad

TGIF: An Idiot Abroad

I’ve got a few leftover thoughts about Donald Trump’s trip to Europe. (Here’s what I said about the Middle East portion.) As usual, I oppose both Trump and his mainstream critics. It’s possible for both sides to be wrong in a dispute.

First, trade. Trump famously said to Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Union, “The Germans are bad, very bad. Look at the millions of cars that they’re selling in the USA. Horrible. We’re gonna stop that.”

I’m hoping that Trump is a demagogue who really knows better, because I can’t believe that anyone could be so ignorant or unintelligent as to think that selling cars to Americans is evidence of badness. I never dreamed that someone who offered me high-quality products was trying to harm me. (He also says Chinese exporters “rape” us.) It’s not just basic economics he’d have to be ignorant of. He’d also have to be clueless that German automakers have built cars in the United States for quite a while (the VW Passat, BMW X Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class), most of them for export, at least BMW’s case.

But even if they weren’t building them here, who cares? It’s been 241 years since Adam Smith showed that the wealth of nations (i.e., collections of individuals) equals access to products that make life better. “The division of labor” — one of the short list of things that make common people wealthy — “is limited by the extent of the market,” Smith wrote. Global trade extends the market as far as possible — until intergalactic trade becomes feasible. It’s been only slightly less time since David Ricardo spelled out the principle of comparative advantage, which further elaborated on the source of the gains from trade. (Spoiler alert: we prosper because of our differences, so we shouldn’t want the government to “level the playing field.”)

The Wharton School surely covered those matters. Was Trump too busy giving freshmen swirlies to attend class? (Evidence for Trump’s demagogy rather than ignorance is that his hotel rooms are appointed almost entirely with imported products.)

Trump tweeted on his return from overseas, “We have a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany…. Very bad for U.S. This will change.”

But also found in Smith’s The Wealth of Nations is this: “Nothing … can be more absurd than this whole doctrine of the balance of trade.” Trump apparently does not know that the United States has run so-called deficits in good times and so-called surpluses in bad times, such as during the Great Depression.

Come on, someone with a brain as good as Trump says his is must realize that any “deficit” in the merchandise account is a mirror image of a “surplus” in the capital account. By construction, all such accounts taken together must balance.

When foreigners receive dollars for their exports to America, they have three options for how to use the money: buy American exports, invest here, or trade them to someone else who then faces the same options. They can’t spend them at home, just as you can’t spend euros at Kroger. Why does Trump want foreigners to buy American products rather than invest here? Investment improves our lives by creating new and better products. If we don’t like that foreigners by Treasury bonds, i.e., lend money to the government, there’s an easy and obvious solution: the government can stop borrowing.

On top of everything else, Trump either does not understand or does not care that a 35 percent tariff on German cars would be a tax on Americans — and not just buyers of German cars.

One more thing on trade. It’s bad enough that Trump spouts such rubbish. But when his National Economic Council director, Gary Cohn, claims that Belgium’s trade policies are better than Germany’s, we have to wonder what the hell is going on. Under the EU, both countries’ have the same trade policies. Does he not know what Brexit was about?

Now NATO. Trump has learned nothing over the past year. He admits that when, during his campaign, he declared NATO obsolete, he knew nothing about it. He still knows nothing. I’m not saying NATO is a good thing. It’s not. I’m saying rather that Trump’s cluelessness is no help whatever in making the case against NATO and all such alliances. He’s a liability to the anti-NATO argument.

Trump, in keeping with his absurd aggrieved-America shtick, would have us believe that western Europe free-rides off the American taxpayers. The taxpayers are indeed victimized, but the victimizer is Amerca’s ruling elite and its bipartisan imperial foreign policy. NATO was never about protecting western Europe. Rather, it had — and still has — two other purposes: first, to give a multilateral mantle to essentially unilateral U.S. imperial actions; and second, to prevent other countries from forging their own peaceful bilateral relations with, previously, the Soviet Union and now Russia. America’s ruling elite, driven by geopolitical and economic ambition, would not — and does not now — tolerate what it calls “nonalignment.” You are either with us or against us. Otherwise, where would that leave “American leadership”? What would become of the “indispensable nation” and “American exceptionalism”? A bogeyman was/is necessary to justify American world leadership, and Russia fills the bill as the old Soviet Union once did. (Iran and ISIS can’t compare.)

Thus western Europe has been a tool of American machinations, not an ungrateful beneficiary of American self-sacrificial defense. Does anyone seriously believe that the crushing and increasing burden of the national-security apparatus would lighten if European taxpayers were forced to spend more on their militaries?

Fat chance.

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