Let’s Play Dominoes: Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, Kim Jong-un and a Date With Nuclear War

Things are not going very well for Donald Trump. But they have the potential to get a lot worse… and not just for Donald Trump, but for America and the rest of the world too. Before we discuss how the dominoes might come crashing down, let’s set up them up with a brief recap of the first two months of Trump’s administration:

  • The health care legislation Trump proposed went down in flames in a Congress that is dying to replace Obamacare… because he tried replacing it with something far worse that utterly failed to meet the promises he had made for such legislation.
  • Trump has exploited the Presidency and proven himself to be a self-enriching snollygoster in a way well beyond anything any American politician has ever done before.
  • After telling us he would release his tax returns, he didn’t. After telling us he would donate his salary, he recently pocketed his second paycheck. After dissing Obama for his annual golf trip, he spent 5 of 7 weekends on vacation playing golf, and spent 1 out of every 3 days of his presidency enriching himself by visiting a Trump property at the taxpayer’s expense.
  • Trump promised to drain the swamp but instead has turned his administration into a kakistocracy filled with alternate-reality philistines lacking a rudimentary grasp of basic science, along with wealthy lobbyists, oil magnates, and wall street executives. Their emphasis seems to be on removing regulations that prevent businesses from poisoning our environment, and on decimating our educational programs (particularly for the neediest), while lining their own pockets and the pockets of their wealthy friends.
  • He has turned America into a global laughingstock, praising our enemies while offending and alienating our greatest allies.
  • He has broken promise upon promise upon promise… just to name two of the bigger ones: The Keystone XL Pipeline is going to be built with Russian steel. His wall, if it is ever built, will be paid for with tens of billions of American taxpayer dollars, rather than by Mexico.
  • He and his team have fabricated false terrorist incidents in Bowling Green, Atlanta, and Sweden to attempt to justify their actions.
  • He seems incapable of speaking for five minutes at a time without lying, including slanderously labeling a former American President a felon in order to try to distract the nation and Congress from investigating his ties to Russia.
  • In the very best case, he has acted as a naive and unwitting co-optee serving Russian interests, and he has been an active collaborator with a white nationalist, and self-proclaimed Leninist, who advocates for a revolution that will turn our country towards Christian fundamentalist fascism.
  • And in the worst case, people who are or were in his close circle have engaged in misprision and/or treason.
  • He has played on America’s fear of terrorism to draft illegal Executive Orders and advocate expensive public works programs that do nothing to address actual security risks while simultaneously flaming racial and religious hatred.
  • Amidst all of this, Trump is doing something he hates more than anything else… He is LOSING.
  • And he has shown a degree of utter incompetence in all of the above that not even his greatest detractors ever believed could have been possible.

And as horrible as this might seem, it is nothing compared to what might be coming our way courtesy of Kim Jong-un and North Korea. But before we talk about North Korea, we need to talk about white nationalist, alternate-reality-ist Steve Bannon, who is Trump’s White House Chief Strategist.

In a 2013 interview with the Daily Beast, Bannon noted: “I’m a Leninist… Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.” While Bannon now states that he does not remember the conversation, he is also a filmmaker, and his documentary films provide greater insight into his theories of the past and his vision for what is coming, as summarized in this video from Quartz Media:

 

As noted in the above video clip, some of the themes from his films include the following ideas, which did not originate with Bannon, but which he clearly embraces:

  • All of human history is on a looping, unchanging, 80 year cycle that is always the same.
  • It starts with “a crisis” — a period of enormous violence (genocide, killing, starvation, disease) that totally upends society.
  • Then out of that crisis a new social order emerges, and there is a time of prosperity and stability.
  • And over a period of decades, that order inevitably unravels, and that leads to another crisis, and the 80 year cycle starts over again.
  • So far America has seen three such periods of national trauma: the American Revolution, the Civil War, and World War II.
  • And the cycle only goes one direction — you can’t get to peace and prosperity without a crisis first.
  • And we are not only due for the next crisis… we are actually in the beginning of it. He asserts that the 2008 financial crisis marked the beginning of the next crisis.

Bannon’s films promote the idea that war has been declared on Christianity, that America lost its greatness when it lost its faith, and that American greatness will only return after a devastating war. He believes that America and the West should welcome the war against evil. His films make a case not for a war like Iraq or Vietnam, but rather for a war on a scale that resets the whole world in a way like World War II did.

This is the vision, the date with destiny, motivating the man who is Trump’s White House Chief Strategist.

Now we come to North Korea. Let’s set the stage there too:

  • North Korea is a nuclear-armed country in the process of perfecting technology to deliver nuclear weapons at greater and greater distances.
  • North Korea’s nuclear weapon capability is designed to engage in a first strike, not as a defensive capability.
  • While there is much talk by North Korea about directly threatening the US, realistic targets for North Korea’s nuclear arsenal are Seoul, South Korea, and Tokyo, Japan. The chances for North Korea to be able to reach these targets with its nuclear missiles in the near future are reasonably good.
  • North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, appears to be even more mentally unwell than Donald Trump, and has far fewer (i.e., virtually none) checks and balances that can hold him back from doing something horrific.
  • Kim Jong-un could seemingly not care less if the North Korean people are killed in a war. The idea that he might die in a war himself is not likely a concept that he is able to fully mentally grasp.

And that sets up all the dominoes and brings us up to the present.

“Never underestimate the power of human stupidity.”
–Robert A. Heinlein

Earlier this month the Trump administration indicated a significant shift in policy towards North Korea, noting that the Obama administration’s policy of trying to wait out the North Korean regime while pressing it with economic sanctions and covert actions is over. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated “Let me be very clear: The policy of strategic patience has ended.

And as was bluntly noted by The Daily Banter:

“[W]eeny waggling dickplomacy is all Trump knows. Everything he does is about domination and bullying and it’s worked for him for decades against people who couldn’t fight back on an even playing field.”

“The most dangerous aspect of this is that Trump has already ruled out any kind of negotiation that doesn’t involve total surrender on the part of N. Korea. It’s even more dangerous considering Trump will see backing down from this stance as a sign of weakness, leaving him no way to deescalate the situation if it starts to spin out of control, a very real possibility with fellow autocratic psycho Kim Jong-un in charge.”

I wish I could say that finding a peaceful solution to the North Korean problem is simple… it isn’t, it is extraordinarily complex. An American first strike against such a tiny country is tempting, but doing so without bringing China into a war with the US and without North Korea inflicting major nuclear damage on our allies isn’t likely either. The articles I’ve included below as additional reading provide much more detail in helping to understand the complex issues involved with North Korea, along with greater insight into Steve Bannon’s core philosophies and his eagerness towards decimating global conflict.

The key points moving forward are:

  • Any possible answer to this situation that does not start a nuclear war requires great subtlety and diplomacy, a trait utterly lacking by either Trump or Kim Jong-un.
  • Both sides likely see a first strike to offer them greatest advantage. Both leaders are bullies used to getting what they want by striking first, which only escalates the potential for conflict.
  • As the American people realize that Trump is unable to competently implement his campaign promises, or alternatively an agenda helping America move forward in a positive direction, his support is deteriorating, and he is becoming a laughingstock.
  • Soon the time will likely come that most Republicans in Congress will realize their best chances for re-election come from distancing themselves as much as possible from Trump.
  • Trump’s continued efforts to obstruct and distract from investigations into his and his team’s connections to Russia, along with his utter failure to divest himself of business conflicts, and his failure to provide transparency in disclosing his financial data in a manner similar to what has typically been done by past Presidents,  strongly suggests that he has something significant to hide. An innocent party would welcome an investigation and fully cooperate with complete transparency.
  • The lesson that Trump will likely take away from his slanderous wiretapping accusations against Obama is not that it was wrongful or that it didn’t work in providing a distraction from the Russia allegations… rather, it is that his next step needs to be finding a much bigger distraction.

A nuclear war would do all of that just fine. As tens of millions of people die in North and South Korea and Japan, and nuclear fallout along with ensuing warfare, starvation and disease spreads around the world, it would also give Trump and Bannon the kind of crisis they are looking for: one that would allow them to suspend all kinds of civil liberties in America; move America away from democracy and firmly towards illiberalism and Christian fundamentalist fascism; and to start creating a new world order in general.

Yes, I know this sounds crazy. It is crazy. But every new day of this administration has been an exercise in crazier and crazier. This kind of a date with destiny via extreme global crisis is precisely what Bannon has indicated that he strives to achieve. Over the past two months the actions of Trump/Bannon have been convincing that they really intend to do exactly what they have stated that they intend to do.

Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match… On the OKCupid dating web site, hopeful daters are asked a series of questions that can be used to assess their compatibility with other potential dating matches. One of the most bizarre questions goes like this: “In a certain light, wouldn’t nuclear war be exciting?” And believe it or not, there are actually people who answer “Yes, it would” to this question. It would seem that two of them are in the White House, and another one is in North Korea. And circumstances are aligning for them to knock over the dominoes that will make it happen in cataclysmic  fashion.

Sounds like a match made in Hell.

“These violent delights have violent ends. And in their triumph die, like fire and powder, which, as they kiss, consume.”
–William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Scene 6

So what can you do about it? 

Domino Principle #1 “Deceptive Perceptions” tells us that “you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” Avoid denial… this situation is real, and this outcome is possible. Don’t pretend it isn’t. It is important to learn the facts as they evolve, and understand their repercussions. Ask questions and be curious. Resist the endless barrage of “alternate facts” and blatant lies being used by the administration to gaslight and confuse the American public.

Domino Principle #9 “Disaster Preparation” tells us to hope for the best, and prepare for the worst. Think through the chain reactions… how will your personal world be affected if nuclear war in Northeast Asia becomes a reality, and if basic liberties are suspended by our government in a world crisis? 

Domino Principle #10 “Don’t Panic” tells us to keep our heads level while others are losing theirs. 

Domino Principle #2 “Determined Proactivism” tells us to continually strive to be a cause of the future rather than a result of the past. Help create awareness of the seriousness of this issue. Talk about it with those whom you are close to, and share this article, and other relevant facts, on Facebook and Twitter.

Reach out to your elected representatives, especially if you are represented by Republicans in the US Congress and/or Senate. Remind them, on a frequent basis, that the current administration does not represent the values of the Republican (or Democratic) party, and that you will not vote to re-elect representatives who support the activities of a President who acts contrary to the interests of America and its citizens, and who seeks to destroy the basic rights upon which our democracy was founded. Use social media to spread this message to your friends as well. Don’t be silent!

There is a chance America will make it through the next four years without an unnecessary major war or nuclear conflict. An informed and vocal electorate that resists the actions of the kakistocracy provides the best possible chance of making that happen. Resolve to be a part of the solution!

Author’s supplemental notes, added April 6, 2017: 

Both North Korea and Syria present serious situations, for which both Bush and Obama never found reasonable solutions. Both are situations for which an American military response could, in some circumstances, be appropriate and necessary. The problem is that the rationale for any such use of force by current POTUS is tainted because of: 1) His apparent need (and history) to fabricate circumstances to try to divert attention from the Russia investigation; 2) His overall dishonesty and failure to be truthful with the American people on an hourly basis; 3) His bullying behavior and repeated failure to address serious issues with any degree of intellectual depth or subtlety; 4) His poll numbers are in a tailspin, and he clearly sees that issue as motivation to launch a strike; and 5) because, with only a couple of exceptions, he surrounds himself with incompetent and inexperienced people as advisors, some of whom have publicly stated that they actually seek such a global war as a means to destroy our democracy.

I didn’t publish very many political posts during either the Bush or Obama administrations. Now I publish many. This is why:

I remember reading an article as a child… nearly half a century ago, where the author postulated that if another populist rose to seek power by moving us from democracy towards fascism, 70%+ of the populace would not speak out and object, and a non-trivial segment of the population would support him (or her). At the time, I was incredulous to believe that people would remain silent and that such a thing could happen again, with the world having seen what happened during World War II in Europe.

Today I know that what that author postulated was true.

I still recall learning the poem written by German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller about the cowardice of German intellectuals following the Nazis’ rise to power and subsequent purging of their chosen targets, group after group:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.


Additional Reading:

The Daily Beast, August 21, 2016:  Steve Bannon, Trump’s Top Guy, Told Me He Was ‘A Leninist’ Who Wants To ‘Destroy the State’

Psychology Today, February 28, 2017: The Elephant In the Room

FP, March 9, 2017: North Korea Is Practicing for Nuclear War: North Korea isn’t testing its missiles. It’s preparing for a nuclear first strike

FP, February 10, 2017: North Korea Is Trump’s Kobayashi Maru: Here Are 4 Approaches to the No-Win Nuke Test

The Atlantic, November 7, 2016: Donald Trump and the Threat of Nuclear War

The Los Angeles Times, March 17, 2017: Tillerson warns of possible military strike on North Korea

The Daily Banter, March 17, 2017: Bluffing or Bullying, Trump Threatens North Korea With War: This is what diplomacy by insane people looks like

The New York Times, March 18, 2017: The Risks of Pre-emptive Strikes Against North Korea

The Washington Post, March 19, 2017: What to worry about when you worry about North Korea

The Guardian, February 2, 2017: Steve Bannon: ‘We’re going to war in the South China Sea … no doubt’

NPR, March 22, 2017: Inside The Wealthy Family That Has Been Funding Steve Bannon’s Plan For Years

The Chicago Tribune, March 20, 2017: Commentary: Donald Trump, Kim Jong-un and the threat of nuclear war

Quartz Media, February 3, 2017: What Steve Bannon really wants

The Nation, February 8, 2017: Steve Bannon Wants To Start World War III

New Republic, February 2, 2017: Steve Bannon Is Turning Trump Into an Ethno-Nationalist Ideologue: The top adviser is providing a coherent political philosophy for the president’s scattered ideas

WTOP, March 29, 2017: Exclusive: Trump team to ‘turn up the volume’ on North Korea

 

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Cliff Kurtzman

Described as "pragmatically reckless with a high tolerance for ambiguity," Dr. Cliff Kurtzman is the founder of The Domino Principle. He is also an award winning entrepreneur, speaker, trend forecaster, and M.I.T.-trained rocket-scientist. Over the past 25 years, Cliff has launched several highly successful ventures by seeing technology trends in the world before they became widely realized, figuring out how they would impact our lives and then creating businesses that leveraged those trends ahead of many others. His bio is at http://www.kurtzman.biz.
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