Thursday, July 12, 2018
Alliance Politics: Emotion over Reason
Then there's Donald Trump's foreign policy.
Over the last few days, Trump sowed chaos at the NATO summit in an unprecedented fashion. At the height of his extremity, he called on NATO members to boost their spending on their militaries to 4% of their GDP.
Nobody in their right mind would call for such a thing. Even the US doesn't spend that much, and the US outspends the next dozen or so countries on the planet combined.
Trump later appeared to drop that particular target, calling instead for the 2% target to be met immediately - after earlier signing a joint statement that called for meeting that target by 2024. Later, he mentioned 4% yet again, then dropped it again.
None of this makes any sense, if you assume that the President is a minimally rational human being for whom words and numbers have meaning.
But Trump is none of these things. He is not rational, in the sense that he does not select strategies that are aimed at achieving goals. He has said himself that he doesn't prepare, he "goes with his gut" - the very antithesis of rationality. He is driven by feeling, by instinct. This is many things, but it is not rational in the standard definition of that term.
News networks have been tying themselves in knots trying to make sense of these varying and contradictory statements. Some have taken the time to look up facts that clearly demonstrate that a 4% target is an absurdist fantasy.
All of this is a waste of time. When Trump says 4%, he doesn't mean what you or I would mean. He doesn't mean anything. He doesn't understand the numbers, doesn't know what the right number would be, and doesn't care.
When Trump says that everyone else should spend 4%, what he means is, everyone else should do what he says. He means simply to project power, to demonstrate that he is right and everyone else is wrong. That, in his own words, only he can save us.
So let us not waste our time arguing with facts that are obviously and absurdly wrong, or policies that are obviously beyond the bounds of reason. None of this is about policy. It's about a man on the world's biggest stage trying desperately to convince everyone (or maybe just himself) that he has all the answers, and that everyone else is wrong.
God help the rest of us.