Saturday, December 24, 2016

Outmatch them at every pass

It's just amazing, really, how willing people are to try to make an interpretation of the daily Trumpism, as if it were an oracle from the lips of the Pythoness high on laurel fumes or the Cumaean Sibyl, how they keep guessing how you could translate his gnomic utterance into their own technical language, looking for a clue as to what he might have in mind to do as president:

John R. Harvey, who from 1995 to 2013 held senior positions overseeing nuclear weapons programs in the energy and defense departments, said Mr. Trump’s Twitter post on Thursday had several possible meanings, ranging from the routine to actions that could exceed current treaty limits.
For example, Mr. Harvey said, Mr. Trump could have simply been voicing support for continuing the “nuclear modernization” program. But Mr. Trump might also have been suggesting that he wants to substantially increase the number of bombers, missiles and submarines.
I can't imagine how anybody could expect him to know that the "modernization" program exists, given that jut a few short months ago he made it clear that he'd never heard of the "triad" of bomber, ICBMs, and submarines, and he hasn't provided any evidence yet that he's learned anything about that either. It's certain that he has no idea that the US is committed by the 2010 New START treaty with the Russian Federation to reduce its store of nuclear weapons.

People need to start understanding that what Trump says, pace Selena Zito, is to be taken neither literally nor seriously; you should assume that whatever he says is meant not to convey a denotative meaning but a picture of how he'd like to be regarded; he's trying to give you his impression of what a Real Leader looks and sounds like, and as with Sid Caesar's bogus German, the meaning, if there is any, is just for laughs.

I mean, naturally the consequences of what he says have to be taken seriously,  for instance when it turns on its head decades' worth of policy on Taiwan or Israel (where he's not only promised to move the US embassy to a city half under illegal occupation by the IDF and named a fanatically anti-Palestinian US ambassador who doesn't hesitate to call takfir on liberal American Jews who disagree with him—Ambassador-designate David Friedman has literally said that the members of the liberal Jewish organization J Street "are not Jewish"—but also tried to strongarm Obama's UN ambassador Samantha Power into taking his instructions over those of the man who is actually president) or nuclear proliferation in order to sound tough. It seems like a good thing that his people are ready to leap in there and try to control the damage, although when they use the Kellyanne double-talk it could be considered less than perfectly helpful...
“In his quest to keep us safe and secure, he’s putting the world on notice,” senior adviser Kellyanne Conway said on MSNBC.
“What he’s saying is we need to expand our nuclear capability, really our nuclear readiness or our capability to be ready for those who also have nuclear weapons. … I think that we’re getting a little too far ahead of ourselves that he’s changing policy and making policy in a way that he did not intend,” Conway also said.  
What is our current capacity for being ready? Do we want to be readier than we are or do we just want to be more able to be ready in the event that readiness starts looking like a bigger deal just now? How far ahead of ourselves should we be getting? Just to the point where he's not changing and making policy before the inauguration, or all the way to where he's doing it according to plan?

Brilliantly obfuscating the fact, you see, that somebody really is getting a good deal ahead of himself, and it's not you or me or Kellyanne. And that he really does intend to make policy, and alter it when he's in the mood, by tweet, the crisp but emotionally satisfying postmodern version of the imperial ukaz.

Which is a lot more interesting than anything Trump has to say, you see. Trump is just expressing his terror over the way the world has lost its senses (around 1955, I think, which is when the Strategic Air Command first went operational with being prepared to destroy the Soviet Union in a first strike at any time of day or night 365 days a year), in a way he hopes will sound very macho and brave, and wishing we could be more powerful rather than less, in contravention of the aim ever since the Reagan administration first proposed moving from strategic arms limitation to strategic arms reduction in 1982.

But there's no way you can convert that into policy. All the courtiers can do is to rack their brains for ideas that might make him feel better. And then of course next day he agrees with Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin's offer to "real steps to restore the framework of bilateral cooperation in different areas as well as bring our level of collaboration on the international scene to a qualitatively new level"—"his thoughts are so correct," enthused Donald, to the delight of ZeroHedge and RT.  But the Trump told Morning Joe:
Let it be an arms race because we will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.
He's pure emotion, and his emotions succeed each other pretty swiftly. Policy in the Trump administration, to the extent he himself has any influence on it, is going to be arbitrary.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

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