When Donald Trump became president everyone thought (and many still do) that he would be so incompetent, so stupid, so utterly dysfunctional that all we had to do was survive the next four years and then return to a semblance of normalcy. Well, guess again. Trump is certainly many of those things I listed above, but he has been quite adept at ramming his agenda through Congress, the judiciary and the federal bureaucracy. His ambitions are vast and he is succeeding in realizing many of them.
His new Supreme Court justice will guarantee the most right-wing Court in the history of the country for the next two to three decades. He has almost single-handedly set back civil, voting and human rights in this country by decades. He is well on his way to destroying foreign trade and commencing multiple trade-wars with his extensive tariff program. In foreign policy, he has sought not just to negotiate a deal of the century, he’s thrown a bomb into conventional U.S. policy on Israel-Palestine.
Ditch the whole two-state rhetoric. It’s dead not only because the Israelis refuse to implement. It’s dead because Trump’s plan is for a one-state solution in which Israel is a Jewish supremacist state. There will be no Palestinian state. If Jordan wishes to absorb a few villages in the West Bank, perhaps that would be acceptable. There will also be no Palestinian refugees since Trump will disappear them from that category with some rhetorical hocus-pocus. With no refugees there will be no Law of Return. Trump is essentially erasing the Palestinian people. That is his solution to the conflict.
It’s quite breathtaking in scope. Not even the most ambitious American president could ever have set forth such a vision. It remains to be seen how successful Trump will be. But in a sense he doesn’t have to be fully successful. If he implements even half of this agenda, the Palestinian cause will be set back decades, if not permanently.
Today, John Bolton laid down his cards (full speech) regarding his vision of U.S. foreign policy. It too is a stunner. For the past hundred years, America, despite a certain tendency toward isolationism, has embraced an internationalist approach to solving world problems. We not only founded the United Nations, we’ve signed most of the international treaties negotiated (with a few recent glaring exceptions), and participated in nation-building and peacekeeping efforts. Our largess has enabled the international bodies to function effectively in pursuing their agendas.
Trump and Bolton have brought all this to a screeching halt. They hate the world (except for the brutal dictators who rule and think like them). They hate anything that isn’t American. Any nation or party that stands in the way is likely to get a bloody lip, if not worse.
Bolton’s speech today lowered the boom on the International Criminal Court. He not only took issue with the Court and its very reason for existence; he did so with merciless and cruel intent:
…It [the speech] represents the Trump administration’s most devastating and unrestrained attack to date on the global rules-based order and its legal flagship, the international criminal court.
Put bluntly, it is an all-out bid by Donald Trump to end the ICC, the world’s foremost criminal tribunal, and with it, the very concept of international justice. Bolton is the man wielding the knife. And there is a strong possibility they will succeed.
Trump’s third choice as national security adviser [Bolton] is a fitting assassin.
He wants nothing less than to eradicate the ICC and everything it represents. Or as he says it so elegantly, he wants to “strangle it in its cradle.” I’m sure the ICC is, as far as he’s concerned, low-hanging fruit. His sites are set much higher. Eventually, he would destroy the entire international order including the UN itself. This is the most radical agenda ever set forth by any American president. And that’s saying a lot.
What’s especially alarming is his direct attack not just on the ICC as an institution. No, this is personal for him. He’s promised to target every staff member and judge of the Court if they go after the U.S. in legal proceedings. What could that mean? Threats? Assassination (character or worse)? Kompromat al la Putin? Whoever would guess that an international jurist might be targeted as an enemy of the United States?
Not just that, Bolton has also promised to take up the cause if the Court targets our allies. Several of them are in the Court’s sites. But the most interesting for my purposes is Israel. Recently, the Court announced pre-trial proceedings against Israel for its invasion of Gaza in 2014, which murdered 2,300 Palestinians. Further, the massacres in Gaza over the past three months have also galvanized world opinion and influenced the Court to consider a case against Israel.
If Israel is tried, Bolton wants the world to know he will attack the ICC and take no prisoners. Even without such a threat, I doubt very much the Court, which has as much tenacity as a paper clip, would try Israel. The current director general earlier twice refused to accept a case against Israel for the Mavi Marmara. Why would her attitude change much now?
The world needs to resist and do so urgently and aggressively. I’m not talking about Chuck Schumer or Hillary Clinton’s Democratic brand of resistance. I’m talking about resistance that throws a spanner in the works. We need an Occupy-Black Lives Matter movement that brings the country to a screeching halt. Finally, here is Ariel Dorfman’s sobering cri de coeur warning us that what happened in his homeland in 1973 can happen here.