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variety 20180925 (cynical politicrap edition)

September 25, 2018

Skipped the weekend post, b/c local seasonal activities (fall!)

But the previous week was overstuffed with political and IR events, so quick recap off the top of my head, since I’m unmotivated for anything in-depth.

Syria-Russia-Turkey : Idlib province – Russia, Turkey, Syria, Islamist and other rebel forces make a compromise deal to avoid bloody campaign by Syria to retake control of area. Syria gains access to North-South highway, rebels disarm heavy weapons, Turkey keeps influence (looking at Kurdistan, about whose emerging independence Turkey is extremely paranoid).

Syria-Russia-Israel-Iran : Airstrike on alleged Iranian location in Syria results in Syrian air defenses mistakenly shooting down a Russian warplane that was operating in the area. Russia blames Israel for not following “de-confliction” protocol, responds by expediting delivery of modern air defense systems to Syria, whose delivery was on hold at Israeli request.

US-China : Trump announces major increase in tariffs. China retaliates. Trump threatens to re-raise. Trump administration also announces sanctions on Chinese firms for buying Russian military equipment. Chinese demarche from planned trade negotiations with US.

Remark– Trump’s tariffs, in combination with Chinese counter-tarriffs, will not help US industries or employment, since substitutes will still come from outside the country, just somewhere other than China (and the countries of origin at the sub-assembly level may not change at all). However, this could very well hurt Chinese exports. Has potential to get serious rather fast.

US-EU-Iran : EU rejects Iran sanctions, recognizes Iran’s compliance with the nuclear disarmament deal signed under Pres. Obama.  A new alternative European bank or payments-clearing entity is proposed to arrange payments to Iran for trade, to potentially circumvent present and future US sanctions.

Remark: I’ll believe it when I see it. Having most effectively driven China and Russia together, it’s now absolutely essential from the point of view of US strategy to not drive the EU and China together. I’m going to give the Trump administration the benefit of the doubt and say they have their best interns/neocons working on this.

US, Supreme Court : Nominee and conservative poster-boy Kavanaugh accused of attempted rape, from when he was in high school. Serious allegations which can’t and shouldn’t be be ignored, stalling confirmation process. It could matter in the event that Democrats retake the Senate, but that’s a longshot as of current polling.

Remark: Kavanaugh on the Supreme court, like the entire pool of Federalist Society jurists that he was picked from, would be a disaster for the evolution of law in the US. Unfortunately for everyone, the accusations are entirely he-said-she-said. This sets up both sides to play the victim regardless of the outcome. I’m not a huge fan of trial-by-accusation, or taking political gamesmanship to this level. People rightly detest both parties as a result.

Also, conservatives will just find a replacement, who may be a woman, since there’s been a somewhat similar situation before (Clarence Thomas, nominated by Bush I (corrected)).

US, Trump vs FBI : Accusations against Deputy AG Rosenstein, who has authority over Mueller’s Trump investigations since AG Sessions recused. Rosenstein supposedly sought out cabinet members to initiate 25th Amendment process to remove Trump. Trump urged to fire Rosenstein, then not, then Rosenstein’s draft resignation leaked, then taken back.

Remark – I’m certain this is a PR sideshow, as is any and all talk of a 25th Amendment removal process. To recap, you need the VP, and cabinet, and House, and Senate, to all agree to remove the President under that process. Vastly more difficult than impeachment.

Overall there’s a theme to these developments. The name of the game is to discredit your opponent and and keep them in place, not to actually remove them.

The worst political outcome for Democrats, it seems to me, would be if Trump actually resigned or was removed. The worst thing for Republicans would be if Rosenstein/Mueller went away or were removed.

If I were in a cynical mood I’d go to a sports metaphor here – Trump not as the QB but as a lineman. Same with Mueller. Someone else is passing the ball and someone else is catching it.

At least we’re gonna have decent voter turnout this year.


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