In yesterday’s blog, I discussed the disturbing possibility that Trump may take the nuclear option off the table. His closest adviser, Steve Bannon, is an ideologue and war-monger. And Trump has himself promised to “eradicate” radical Islam. So today, you might consider the following article by David Cay Johnston in The Daily Beast, “Donald Trump Eyes Nukes to Eradicate Terror.” To cut to the chase, Johnston’s conclusion is: “So, don’t be surprised if an American tactical nuclear weapon gets used against ISIS. I expect that [Trump] will at least try to get the military to do so—and I hope the generals say no.” I agree with Johnston that there is an unfortunately significant chance that Trump will want to use nukes. As noted by Johnston, Trump has publicly said as much.
So what happens then? Consider that, while Trump has surrounded himself with generals, such as James “Mad Dog” Mattis, the new Secretary of Defense, Trump has done little to endear himself to the military. His attempted smear of Senator John McCain, a military veteran of the first order, not to mention his insinuations concerning the CIA, are not lost on the serious patriot. And you and I are not the only one’s who can see that Trump is unhinged. After all, he is acting out right in the public eye. And given Trump’s love of the theatrical, one might suppose that he appointed Mattis largely because of the nickname “Mad Dog”, with little or no regard to Mattis’ competence or ideology.
In fact, Mattis is, among generals, an especially smart man, known for his broad knowledge. Wikipedia notes: “During his service years, Mattis was considered to be an intellectual among the upper ranks, with a personal library that once contained thousands of books.” The article further notes: “He is nicknamed “The Warrior Monk” because of his bachelor life and lifelong devotion to the study of war. He is known for the intellectual rigor he instills in his Marines, risk-management, and requiring his Marines to be well read in the culture and history of regions in the world where they are deployed. Before deploying to Iraq, Mattis had his Marines undergo cultural sensitivity training.” Mattis is known for favoring a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, and his reputation as an intellectual in no way detracts from his complementary reputation as a hard man who tolerates no fools.
So, to follow this thread, suppose Mattis and the Joint Chiefs are faced with Donald Trump and Steve Bannon ordering a preemptive nuclear strike. They would seem to have only two practical options. Either they comply with the order and face the consequences of the world’s reentry to nuclear warfare – with all the dangers inherent therein: further nuclear exchanges and retaliatory strikes from countries allied with those stricken, or the generals stage a military coup, requiring the incarceration of Trump and Bannon and overriding Congressional authority. My bet is on the coup. Of course, such a coup either succeeds, in which case we now have a country under military authority, or it fails to a counter-coup, with all the purging and repression inherent therein. All right – this is speculation, trying to follow the logical thread. I’m over my head understanding how it might play out. I’m on sounder ground when I say that Trump and Bannon have led us into terrifying territory. That the media feels bound to take Trump for a rational being and that the Republican Congress is going along with Trump, rather than resisting, doesn’t help.
I don’t know what would work to defuse this time bomb. Wouldn’t it be better if Congress took the ball in hand, investigated Trump’s Russian ties, and impeached him for his conflicts of interest in violation of the Constitution?