Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Literary Corner: To Greenland's Icy Mountains

The Way It Should Work
by Donald J. Trump

It was the G8 for a long time,
and now it’s the G7.
I could certainly see it being the G8 again.
If someone would make that motion,
I would be disposed
to think about it favorably.
As you know, for most of the time
it was the G8 and it included Russia.
I guess President Obama—because Putin
outsmarted him—President Obama thought
it wasn’t good so he wanted Russia out,
but I think it’s much more appropriate
to have Russia in. A lot of the things
we talk about have to do with Russia.
President Obama didn’t want Russia in
because he got outsmarted.
Well, that’s not really the way it should work.
That "if someone would make that motion", another evocation of how little he feels himself being the president, being in power—the idea that these things are accomplished at meetings to which he's not invited (it doesn't occur to him he could "make that motion" himself), conducted more formally than the things he sits in on. But also raises a mystery: in our world, the Russian Federation was expelled by the G8 after the internationally illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine, the most flagrant violation of territorial sovereignty since the Axis powers lost World War II, but in Trump's world it was—he "guesses"—because President Putin "outsmarted" President Obama. What?

I'll get back to the poem, but I'm really obsessed with his rage at Denmark for making fun of his plan to buy Greenland's 836,300 square miles:

Apparently he's been talking about it for a few months:
At a dinner with associates last spring, Mr. Trump said someone had told him at a roundtable that Denmark was having financial trouble over its assistance to Greenland, and suggested that he should consider buying the island, according to one of the people. “What do you guys think about that?” he asked the room, the person said. “Do you think it would work?”
And puzzled White House staffers have been trying to figure out what he meant
The presidential request has bewildered aides, some of whom continue to believe it isn’t serious, but Trump has mentioned it for weeks. The two people with knowledge of the presidential demand spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to reveal such White House planning.
As with many of Trump’s internal musings, aides are waiting for more direction before they decide how seriously they should look into it.
What they haven't done, apparently, is try to understand why the emperor thinks this is an idea, or to explain to him that it can't be done, because he's been doubling down on it since Wall Street Journal revealed the proposal last week, and his gentlemen of the bedchamber have been backing him up, starting with
“This idea isn't as crazy as the headline makes it seem,” Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) said in a tweet. “This a smart geopolitical move. The United States has a compelling strategic interest in Greenland, and this should absolutely be on the table.”
and poor Kudlow, on the Sunday Fox:
host Dana Perino asked: “If you get asked to go do a site survey about purchasing Greenland, can I go with you?”
“Well,” said Kudlow, laughing, “maybe I’ll run the central bank.”...
“Denmark owns Greenland,” Kudlow said. “Denmark is an ally.” But he also said “Greenland is a strategic place up there” and added something not discussed by Trump: “They’ve got a lot of valuable minerals.”
“I don’t want to predict it now,” Kudlow said. “I’m just saying the president, who knows a thing or two about buying real estate, wants to take a look at a potential Greenland purchase.”
I think that's mainly the main thing the emperor has in mind, that buying property is in his line of expertise, and acquiring Greenland would be a big deal. It would look magnificent, like making peace in the Middle East or providing everybody with health care, but also something where he'd look as if he was in control. Why not?
“Well a lot of things can be done,” Trump said on Sunday. “Essentially it’s a large real estate deal. A lot of things can be done.”
He then claimed without offering evidence that ownership of Greenland was “hurting Denmark very badly because they’re losing almost $700m a year carrying it. So they carry it at a great loss and strategically for the United States it would be very nice and we’re a big ally of Denmark, we protect Denmark and we help Denmark and we will.”
(The Danish state pays a subsidy of about $500 million a year to Greenland.)

And later, before taking off for France and the G7 meeting,
“We protect Denmark like we do large portions of the world. So the concept came up and I said, certainly. Strategically it’s interesting. It’s essentially a large real estate deal.”
Suggesting it's connected in his mind to the wish that the Danes should "pay the US" more protection money in their relationship to NATO.

Eager helpers also dug up historical precedent, as Kudlow said:
“Look, it’s an interesting story. It’s developing. We’re looking at it. We don’t know. Years ago, Harry Truman wanted to buy Greenland.”
Which is true, as Antonia Noori Farzan put it together for the Washington Post: in 1946, for $100 million in gold, as a spot precisely halfway between US and Soviet population centers, making it an ideal place for stationing a strategic air component which could mount a nuclear response to a Soviet nuclear attack. Denmark haughtily rejected the idea then, too, obviously, and the two countries worked out an alternative arrangement:
In 1951, the two countries entered into a defense treaty that allowed the Pentagon to build Thule Air Base, its northernmost military installation and one of the largest ever constructed, in what had once been one of the most remote outposts on the planet. (To make room, the Danish government displaced Thule’s indigenous Inughuit community, whose members were “dropped off unceremoniously with blankets, tents and the very best of wishes in ‘New Thule,’ some sixty-five miles north,” historian Daniel Immerwhar writes in “How To Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States.”)
This story reminds us why, incidentally, the idea of Denmark selling Greenland is so much more offensive today than it was in 1946, when you could just dump an entire tribe away from its traditional home in the service of high geopolitical aims without considering their feelings at all; it was not only the age of the Cold War but also of imperialism, when vast French, British, Belgian, and Portuguese colonial holdings in Asia and Africa were still intact, or reconquered in the case of Algeria, Indochina, and Indonesia.

Today, Greenland is in fact an autonomous country administered from Copenhagen, as Wales or Scotland are administered from London:
Greenlanders have expressed horror. One, Else Mathiesen, told local media: “You can’t just buy an island or a people. This sounds like something from the era of slavery and colonial power.”
Danish prime minister Mette Frederiksen told the newspaper Sermitsiaq: “Greenland is not for sale. Greenland is not Danish. Greenland belongs to Greenland. I strongly hope that this is not meant seriously.”
I really want to emphasize this because people are not giving it enough attention. Greenland isn't just 836,000 square miles of glaciers and mineral deposits, but the 60,000 descendants of the people who have lived there since time immemorial. It was OK to think that way in 1946, because white people didn't know any better, but it's not OK now.

Which brings us back to the G7: it looks as if Trump thinks of Russia's acquisition of Crimea and perhaps the conquered bits of the Donbass region, and perhaps also of Netanyahu's impending annexation of the West Bank, as "essentially a real estate deal", and of the indigenous people (246,000 Crimean Tatars, 5 million Palestinians) as just nothing, which is why Kushner is expected to "make a deal" for it without consulting the Palestinians at all. Putin getting hold of Crimea was a clever move, Obama probably wanted it for himself but was "outsmarted". Tough titty, Obama! Suck it up! I don't know whether Trump fully understands it was taken by military force instead of paid for, or whether it would make a difference if he did. It was a deal either way,

For Greenland, Trump was probably quite willing to let it go, but what he expected was that everybody would continue pretending it was serious, and not start talking about him in public as if he was an idiot. So now he has to teach those disrespectful Danes a lesson.

From Ives's otherwise chaotic and crazed symphony no. 4, a fugue on the hymn tune From Greenland's Icy Mountains.

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