The Donald Trump administration and the Brexit severance of ties between the United Kingdom and the European Union have, in a matter of a little over a half year, changed the world from a post-Cold War “new world order” based on American supremacy to a global “disorder” of altered alliances on a multipolar geo-political chessboard. In many respects, the new global disorder has also placed in jeopardy various post-World War II contrivances, including NATO, the Organization of American States (OAS), and the Australia-New Zealand-United States (ANZUS) alliance.
Every international relations textbook and playbook can be thrown away with the advent of the new global disorder. Trump has kicked off his foreign policy by introducing an incoherent foreign policy. On one hand, Trump claims he wants to partner with Russia on the war against “radical Islamic terrorism.” Yet, Trump has also indicated, through his UN ambassador, Nikky Haley, and Defense Secretary James Mattis, that he is committed to NATO and wants Russia to withdraw from Crimea.
It is well known that the annual National Football League’s Super Bowl coordinates its patriotic military-oriented events with the Pentagon. In recent past years, U.S. troops serving in places like Afghanistan and Iraq were featured during and after the game on the host stadium’s Jumbotron screens.
The 2017 Super Bowl in Houston was different. This year the live shot of U.S. troops with the 3rd Brigade Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, was from a military base in Zagan, Poland. The Pentagon’s psychological operations specialists wanted to convey the message that under Trump, the new U.S. front lines were no longer in Afghanistan and Iraq in a war against Muslim radical insurgents but in Poland with Russia as the new “enemy.” The optics simply do not match Trump’s statements about seeking closer ties with Russia.
Trump has indicated he hopes to increase the U.S. “defense” budget to accommodate a 90,000 troop increase in Army ranks; a 350-ship Navy, including new aircraft carriers at $12 billion per vessel; an increase in Marine Corps battalions from 23 to 36; and 100 additional advanced fighter planes for the Air Force. That is equivalent to an increase in the military budget from $500 billion to $1 trillion over a ten-year period.
Essentially, Trump’s national security team desires a military that can fight both Russia and China and that can be able to match every Russian and Chinese warplane, tank, and naval vessel in a battle space.
Trump and his national security team of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, Mattis, and other war hawks are also laying the ground for a military confrontation with Iran. Team Trump has helped ratchet up tensions with Iran by authorizing the sale to Saudi Arabia of $300 million worth of precision-guided missiles and billions of dollars of advanced F-16 fighters to Saudi Arabia’s vassal state of Bahrain. These packages were suspended by the Obama administration because of Saudi war crimes in Yemen and Bahrain’s bloody suppression of its Shi’a majority. Trump is greenlighting continued Saudi genocidal aggression in Yemen’s civil war. The Saudis and Bahrainis are now being positioned by Trump to gain a military advantage over Iran. Trump’s executive order banning Iraqis with valid U.S. visas, refugee documents, and, originally, permanent U.S. resident “green cards,” irritated the Iraqi government, an ally of Iran, to the point that it vowed to limit Iraqi visas for U.S. contractors and journalists. That will only embolden Islamic State and Al Qaeda irregulars fighting U.S. military forces in the country. Anything that threatens the Baghdad government is welcome news to the Saudi regime.
Trump, in a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, emphasized close U.S.-Turkish relations. In July 2016, after an attempted coup against Erdogan, Trump, in an interview with The New York Times, praised Erdogan’s handling of the insurrection. Since the coup attempt, Erdogan has ordered the arrest and imprisonment of hundreds of journalists, military and police officers, professors, civil servants, politicians, and businessmen for allegedly supporting the so-called “Fethullah Terrorist Organization (FETO),” a pejorative term for those affiliated with Turkish exile leader and former Erdogan ally Fethullah Gulen.
Gulen is currently exiled in Pennsylvania and has been under the protection of the Central Intelligence Agency. However, Flynn and others part of the Trump security apparatus favor extraditing Gulen, a political refugee, to Turkey to face trial and certain imprisonment, torture, and possibly, execution.
Trump’s dalliance with Erdogan will also jeopardize the safety of the Kurdish forces in Syria, which have been allied with the United States against the Islamic State, and the Kurdish Regional Government in Erbil in Iraq. Turkey considers the Syrian and Iraqi Kurds to be supporters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and if Trump sides with Erdogan against Kurdistan it will represent another double-cross by Washington of that beleaguered unrecognized nation. U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger abandoned the Kurds in the 1970s when he sacrificed their interests to the Iraqi military regime.
Trump’s chief strategist Stephen Bannon is believed to have gotten involved in an internal “civil war” within the Vatican and which saw a virtual takeover of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (SMOM) in Rome by Pope Francis. Bannon opposes what he considers the Pope’s “socialist ways.” The Vatican may be a micro-state without a grand army, but a fracture in Vatican-Washington relations can only have a negative impact on the EU, NATO, and other traditional alliances.
Trump’s rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal has thrown the Asia-Pacific region into “controlled chaos.” Mattis’s first foreign trip as Secretary of Defense was to reassure South Korea and Japan of America’s military commitment. But the abandonment of the TPP by its largest cheerleader, the United States, has provided impetus to China’s alternative trading bloc, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). America’s longtime ally Australia, a supporter of the TPP, is now anxious to join the RCEP. Trump’s bellicose phone call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over a refugee swap, has Australia incensed with Trump. While they are friendly adversaries with Australia over sports and national pride, New Zealand came to Australia’s defense in its spat with Trump. The bottom line is that the ANZUS alliance is now severely damaged but, in any event, it had long outlived its usefulness.
Other testy phone exchanges between Trump and German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Francois Hollande also shook Euro-Atlantic bonds with Washington. Trump thundered to Hollande that the French and other NATO countries should pay the U.S. back for NATO expenditures. European Council president Donald Tusk called Trump a “threat” to the European Union.
After a meeting at the White House with Jordan’s King Abdullah, Trump shocked the Israeli government when he told Israel that it should stop announcing new settlements in the West Bank. While Trump’s rhetoric suggests that he is the most pro-Israeli president to ever occupy the White House, his mercurial attitude toward Israel has some Middle East observers wondering whether Trump’s promise to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is merely window-dressing for a different U.S. policy in the region.
The venerable, but relatively staid and useless OAS, headquartered in Washington, is not likely to survive Trump’s promise to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border or his saber-rattling toward Cuba, which has returned to the OAS and the Inter-American political system. Latin America and the Caribbean has more worthwhile alternatives to the OAS, including the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), all of which are free of U.S. membership and influence.
It is a new global disorder but in this chaos, a return to a multipolar world and the end of “sole U.S. superpower” status may be a blessing in the long run. In the short run, however, the chaos will confuse every foreign ministry and international organization bureaucracy on every continent.
This article originally appeared in Strategic Culture Foundation on-line journal.
Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and nationally-distributed columnist. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).