The Road to Success: Bombs, Missiles, Maybe Even Boots on the Groundtags: Syria, Assad, North Korea, Trump, Polner, Wag the Dog
Murray Polner is HNN's Senior Book Review Editor and the "There's No There There" blogger.
Anyone remember Michael Moore's 1995 film "Canadian Bacon," where a President with plunging approval ratings began a secret vilification campaign against Canada to resuscitate his candidacy and get the people to rally 'round the flag.
Or Barry Levinson's brilliant 1998 satire "Wag the Dog," where a President eager to deflect attention from a sex scandal hires a spin specialist to provoke a war against Albania?
Since lies and fake news are so fashionable today, we need to keep in mind that so many of our government's leaders and sycophants have always lied when it intervened in the Caribbean, the Philippines, Africa, Korea, Grenada, Iran, Central America, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and et al.
I don't know if Donald trump and the peculiar collection of men and women he has gathered around him know much about the Diversionary Theory. But it's the theme of both films and possibly an escape route for our widely disliked President now struggling mightily with an approval rating hovering around 35%. For some of our past White House occupants, Polk, McKinley, LBJ, Nixon, Reagan and Bush 1, their solution was to kick off a nice little war or two and then hope the crowds would start celebrating. The bombing of Syria and potential future victims will also allow the people who tell us what and how to think – our well-paid editorial boards, pundits and subsidized think tankers – to shift gears and begin championing a "New Trump," the tough guy who has really made America Great again by smacking around some punk like Assad.
So why wouldn't our reactionary and inexperienced President, who somehow managed to escape military service and has yet to figure out a genuine and rational domestic program, not start thinking of himself as the toughest guy on the world scene?
But even a diversionary war has its limits. We know – or at least I hope we know – that we can't fight Russia with its thousands of nukes or even heavily armed Iran and its 70 million people, about whom General Anthony Zinni was said to warn, "If you liked Iraq you'll love Iran."
But then there's North Korea, about whom lots of home front heroes in Washington believe should be our next "slam dunk." Trump's very green ExxonMobil Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, has said the U.S. should think about about a pre-emptive war against that peculiar, secluded country. So while the U.S. theoretically flattens Pyongyang and the Marines race toward the Yalu, Kim Jong-un's missiles and nukes eliminate Seoul and much of South Korea, U.S. bases and troops in Japan and Okinawa, and even a few Japanese cities.
Now North Korea could never win an all-out war with the U.S. but neither could the U.S., which since WWII, hasn't been militarily successful in Asia or the Middle East or even if it decides to send in the troops to intervene in the extremely complex civil war that is modern Syria. Max Fisher's NY Times "Interpreter," added this convincing warning: "A full war, entered deliberately or accidentally, would risk terrible costs.... North Korea would almost certainly succeed in launching some nuclear and chemical weapons, potentially killing millions."
So who's next? Anyone?
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