Trump Cuts The Gordian Knot Of Foreign Entanglements

Authored by Patrick Armstrong via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

President Trump is a new phenomenon on the American political scene.

Not a professional politician begging for funds but a rich man who spent his own money and raised money on his own name: he arrived in office unencumbered with obligations. Free from a history in politics, he owes nothing to anyone. Add in his personality, grandiosity and late-night tweets and the punditocracy is in a state of angry incomprehension. Even more offensive to their notions of propriety is that this "dangerously incompetent", unqualifiedmentally ill man beat the "most qualified presidential candidate in history". No wonder so many of them believe that only cunning Putin could have made it happen – even if they don't know how. But the punditocracy is as befuddled about him today as it was last year and the year before. (Scott Adams, who got it right, reminds us just how clueless they were.) The very fact that Trump won despite the opposition of practically every established constituency in the United States shows that there is more to him than readers of the NYT and WaPo or watchers of CNN and MSNBC (can) understand.

What follows is an attempt to divine Trump's foreign policy. It proceeds from the assumption that he does know what he's doing (as he did when he decided to run in the first place) and that he does have a destination in mind. It proceeds with the understanding that his foreign policy intentions have been greatly retarded by the (completely false) allegations of Russia connections and Russian interference. There was no Russian state interference in the election (the likelihood is that Moscow would have preferred known Clinton) and, as I have written here, the story doesn't even make sense. I expect when the Department of Justice Inspector General completes his report that the Russiagate farrago will be revealed as a conspiracy inside the US security organs. We do not have a date yet, but mid-January is suggested. Readers who want to follow the story are recommended to these websites: DystopiausaCTH and Zerohedge.

We start with four remarks Trump often made while campaigning. Everyone would be better off had President Bush taken a day at the beach rather than invade Iraq. The "six trillion dollars" spent in the Middle East would have been better spent on infrastructure in the USA. NATO is obsolete and the USA pays a disproportionate share. It would better to get along with Russia than not.

To the neocon and humanitarian intervention crowd, who have been driving US foreign policy for most of the century, these four points, when properly understood (as, at some level, they do understand them), are a fatal challenge. Trump is saying that

1) the post 911 military interventions did nothing for the country's security;

2) foreign interventions impoverish the country;

3) the alliance system is neither useful nor a good deal for the country;

4) Russia is not the once and future enemy.

A Chinese leader might call these the Three Noes (no regime change wars, no overseas adventures, no entangling alliances) and the One Yes (cooperation with Russia and other powers).

Which brings us to his slogan of Make America Great Again. We notice his campaign themes of job loss, opiates, lawlessness, infrastructure, illegal immigration, the stranglehold of regulations, the "swamp", the indifference of the mighty, the death of the "American Dream". None of these can be made better by overseas interventions, carrier battle groups or foreign bases. But they can be made worse by them. There is every reason to expect that by MAGA he means internal prosperity and not external might. Trump has little interest in the obsessions of the neocon and humanitarian intervention crowd. "We need a leader that can bring back our jobs, can bring back our manufacturing, can bring back our military – can take care of our vets... The fact is, the American Dream is dead." No foreign adventures there. So, in summary, Trump's foreign policy of Three Noes and One Yes is a necessary part of making America "great" again.

If I am correct in this and this is indeed his aim, how can he do it?

There is a powerful opposition in the United States to the Three Noes and One Yes. And it's not just from the neocon/humanitarian interventionists: most Americans have been conditioned to believe that the USA must be the world's policeman, arbiter, referee, example. Perhaps it's rooted in the City on a Hill exceptionalism of the early dissenter settlers, perhaps it's a legacy of the reality of 1945, perhaps it's just the effect of unremitting propaganda, but most Americans believe that the USA has an obligation to lead. Gallup informs us that, in this century, well over half of the population has agreed that the USA should play the leading or a major role in the world. The percentage in the punditocracy believing the USA must lead would be even higher.

Interventionists are becoming aware that they do not have a soulmate in the White House and they're wagging their rhetorical fingers. "The fact is, though, that there is no alternative great power willing and able to step in". "If nations in the South China Sea lose confidence in the United States to serve as the principal regional security guarantor, they could embark on costly and potentially destabilizing arms buildups to compensate or, alternatively, become more accommodating to the demands of a powerful China" warns the intervention-friendly Council on Foreign RelationsThe US has an obligation to lead in North Korea. It must lead for "Middle East progress". A former NATO GenSek proclaims the US must lead. "US should be the great force for peace and justice globally". "The absence of American leadership has certainly not caused all the instability, but it has encouraged and exacerbated it." The ur-neocon tells us that America must leadChaos is the alternative. Must resume (resume??!!) its imperial role (which apparently means even more military expenditure lest its military lead be lost). Innumerable more examples calling on the US to lead something/somewhere everything/everywhere can easily be found: it would be much more difficult to find one pundit advising the US to keep out of a problem somewhere than find twenty urging it to lead.

If I have understood him right, what would Trump see if he read this stuff? Lead, lead, lead... everything everywhere. The South China Sea, the Middle East and North Korea specifically but everywhere else too. More infrastructure repairs foregone so as to ensure what?... That ships carrying goods to and from China safely transit the South China Sea? "Friendly" governments installed in "Kyrzbekistan"? Soldiers killed in countries not even lawmakers knew they were in? 40,000 troops out there somewhere? Trying to double the Soviet record for being stuck in Afghanistan? How many bridges, factories or lives is that worth? Trump sees more entanglements but he sees no benefit. He's a businessman: he can see the expense but where's the profit?

How to get out of these entanglements? It's too late to hope to persuade the legions bleating that "America must lead" and, even if they could be persuaded, there isn't enough time to do so: they salivate when the bell rings. President Trump can avoid new entanglements but he has inherited so many and they are, all of them, growing denser and thicker by the minute. Consider the famous story of the Gordian Knot: rather than trying to untie the fabulously complicated knot, Alexander drew his sword and cut it. How can Trump cut The Gordian Knot of American imperial entanglements?

By getting others to untie it.

He walks out of the Paris Agreement ("a watershed moment when it comes to debating America’s role in the world"). And the TPP ("opened the door toward greater Chinese influence, and won’t benefit the U.S. economy in the slightest"). His blustering on Iran caused the German Foreign Minister to express doubts about American leadership. He brusquely tells NATO allies to pay their own way ("America’s NATO allies may be on their own after November if Russia attacks them"). By announcing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel he unites practically everybody against Washington and then uses that excuse to cut money to the UN. His trash talk on North Korea has actually started the first debate about the utility of military force we've seen for fifteen years. He pulls out of Syria (quietly and too slowly but watch what he doesn't talk about). One last try in Afghanistan and then out. Re-negotiate all the trade deals to US benefit or walk away. Be disrespectful of all sorts of conventions and do your best to alienate allies so they start to cut the ties themselves (his tweet on the UK was especially effective). Attack the media which is part of the machinery of entanglement. Confiscate assets. It's a species of tough love – rudely and brusquely delivered. He (presumably) glories in opinion polls that show respect for the USA as a world leader slipping. He doesn't care whether they like him or not – America first and leave the others to it.

The Three Noes and One Yes policy will be achieved by others: others who realise that the USA is no longer going to lead and they will have to lead themselves. Or not. Perhaps, as the neocons love to say, US leadership was necessary in the immediate postwar situation, perhaps NATO served a stabilising purpose then but there has been nothing stabilising about US leadership in this century. Endless wars and destruction and chaos and loss. Thus abroad and – the part that Trump cares about – so at home. It's not incompetence, as the people who fail Adams' test tell themselves; it's a strategy.

(All real theories must be falsifiable; let's see in a year's time whether the US is more entangled or less entangled. It should be pretty apparent by then and, by the end of Trump's first term, obvious to all.)



stacking12321 bobcatz Fri, 01/05/2018 - 23:12 Permalink

Foreign interventions haven’t been for military security!

Theyve been for financial security (petro dollar empire)

america has enjoyed exorbitant privilege, and it’s about to come to an end.

like someone who’s maxed out his credit cards, the sooner he ends deial and admits to the truth, the better.

In reply to by bobcatz

Déjà view new game Sat, 01/06/2018 - 07:46 Permalink

Meet America’s Top 20 “Zionaires”: Billionaires Who Support Israel

10. Donald Trump
No. 121 of Forbes 400
Net Worth: $4.5 billion

Trump, who made his money through real estate, has been a visible supporter of Israel. He has served as a grand marshal at New York’s annual Salute to Israel Parade, and has been honored by the Algemeiner news organization. Trump supported Benjamin Netanyahu during the 2013 Israeli elections, putting out an ad in which he said, “You truly have a great prime minister in Benjamin Netanyahu . . .Vote for Benjamin — terrific guy, terrific leader, great for Israel.”…

In reply to by new game

dumluk dogfish Sat, 01/06/2018 - 11:30 Permalink

I agree!  I got about 4 paragraphs into it before I hit the gag factor......What do you think were doin in Iran right now? This is not Trumps doin or at least with his tacit approval...?  Cmon..........All that good stuff that he said during the campaign which most of DO agree with, has not proven to be his agenda now that hes in....Unless of course he is just SOOO cunning that he has us all thinking one way when he's actuallly trying to follow thru with those campaign promises/plans.........And most importantly keep all the evil neo-cons guessing and thinking that hes playing their game......I dunno........but seems like a very good time to be well south of the border................

In reply to by dogfish

Antifaschistische stacking12321 Fri, 01/05/2018 - 23:53 Permalink

well, if your income, assets, and investments are denominated in US dollars, you better hope the "denial" and privilege continues as long as possible.

Maybe if the petro dollar collapses there will be people who "get what they deserve"...and I'm not all sure who those people are.  As for me, when I'm paying $11 a gallon for gasoline and a $1,000 per/month utility bill, I'm not going to be praising the fall of the petro dollar, and I'd be willing to be the other ZH petro-dollar bashers won't be liking that too much either.

PS...I'm in Houston, and would actually benefit from $11 gasoline.

In reply to by stacking12321

bloofer Antifaschistische Sat, 01/06/2018 - 03:25 Permalink

You make an excellent point. Everyone who advocates ending the military-enforced petrodollar needs to face this squarely: It's gonna hurt. BAD.

In its effects WRT short-term pain, it's not unlike the effects we would see if we put an end to any of several other of the mammoth rackets being run in the US. Suppose, for example, we ended all government involvement in the health-care industry, rolling back all subsidies, monopoly protections, and regulations to about what they were in 1850? Suppose we did the same re public education? Suppose we did the same re agriculture? And the welfare state? The economic dislocations would be...well...I don't think I know a word bad enough.

Since the whole county's economic organization consists entirely of nearly endless rackets, and a majority of the population gets its income from these rackets, ending them would mean a sudden full stop to most of the income streams of most of the people in the US. 

Nevertheless, the petrodollar, like all these other rackets, costs more than it comes to, and the costs are being racked up in the form of debt. Doing away with them would lead to short-term pain leading to long-term gain: a sound economy based on actual production. We could live in a country producing and enjoying real wealth, offering real education, eating real food, where you could hire a real doctor--who would probably come to your house. You and your kids could probably have real jobs or own real businesses, producing and trading in stuff of real value.

While I don't expect anything of the kind to actually happen, I'm all for it. But it needs to be done in a way that would avoid mass starvation and several other forms of excess mortality.




In reply to by Antifaschistische

JimmyJones bloofer Sat, 01/06/2018 - 06:56 Permalink

There is no reason for 11 dollar gas or 1000 dollar electric bills, we have all the resources we need to produce energy cheaply. We just need to uncuff our hands and the dismantling of the EPA's regulations is a start at that. The next step is to role back the regulations regarding Thorium that prevents the US from Rare eath mineral refinement and electronic component manufacturing. We are getting there.

In reply to by bloofer

William Dorritt bloofer Sat, 01/06/2018 - 08:52 Permalink

Ending the Rackets is not mutually exclusive with keeping the Petro Dollar and the Dollar as King.


The Euros, China and who else are having wet dreams about being the next currency of exchange, the reality is that most would prefer to stay with the dollar, but the US economy has to be more than War and Money Printing.


Break up the Cartels, bring back the manufacturing by supporting small business, start ups and mid size manufacturers. The ones who went off shore, let their owners slug it out in China for their IP royalties from stolen IP........

In reply to by bloofer

Government nee… William Dorritt Sat, 01/06/2018 - 09:31 Permalink

A global supply chain strengthens the hand of the crowd and justifies more MIC spending.  It all starts with the myths and externalities surrounding the theory of competitive advantage in a world whose tax/public welfare/regulatory environments are VASTLY different.  There is a need to reshore manufacturing and industry.  If Americans are working and feeling productive, there will be less opiate abuse.   

In reply to by William Dorritt

mkkby William Dorritt Sat, 01/06/2018 - 17:08 Permalink

Finally a normie comments.  The daily doom/gloom rubbish about the petro dollar, gold or hyperinflation always gets the ZH tards lathered up.  Every prediction of imminent failure has been wrong, yet they still cling like ticks on a dog.  I'll try to add to the sanity.

The petro dollar was important in 1945 when the world needed a new reserve currency, because none existed.  Now most trade is dollar based and the oil trade no longer matters.  It was just the starter motor -- the engine is running now.  There will be a change, most likely in 30-50 years.  For that change to take place THERE MUST BE AN ALTERNATIVE.

The euro, yen and pound are in WAY WORSE shape than the dollar.  The swiss franc and others are too small.  Even china may have a debt bubble larger than anyone knows.  Remember the vacant cities?  You don't do that unless you are kicking a galaxy-sized can.

Plus, the most important point -- China WANTS A WEAK CURRENCY.  All the yuan trade sabre rattling is global politics and getting around sanctions.

I don't expect more than 1% of ZH readers to have the mental capacity to get this.  Go back to your bunker now.

In reply to by William Dorritt

stacking12321 Antifaschistische Sat, 01/06/2018 - 03:32 Permalink

If you income is dependent on robbing convenience stores, you should stop.

yes, your lifestyle will suffer by stopping, but it wasn’t an honest way of life anyhow.

maybe your thinking is too denominated in dollars, I suggest americans diversify into things like honesty, self-sufficiency, living within one’s means, hard work, being debt free.

its not an easy transition, but it must be done, the sooner the better.

and it’s best done intentionally, rather than the result of calamity.

In reply to by Antifaschistische

two hoots stacking12321 Sat, 01/06/2018 - 08:29 Permalink

A reason that middle earth people can imagine a "we are the world" environment is because many set in the comfortable position created by those at the bottom working their asses off for a pittance and those at the top with power that know the world is a dangerous place full of narcissistic, egomaniac, power hungry, lunatics.  

Sad that “MIC” profits from this (yes, it is corrupted) but can’t imagine a world without its resources to protect us, think NK, Iran?  There may be better answers to this reality but none I am aware of.

In reply to by stacking12321

mkkby MK13 Sat, 01/06/2018 - 17:19 Permalink

The petro dollar no longer matters.  It got the party started in 1945, but it's not needed any more.

You want proof?  Easy -- the euro has taken over much more trade than oil flows.  So has the yen.  Much larger -- yet the dollar is still top dog and no hyperinflation.  This is just gold bug doom/gloom talk to get clicks and maybe sell some PMs to rubes.

Let the chinks and russia do their little yuan trades.  In 50 years it might catch up to yen trade.  Maybe.  Japan actually invents important tech.  China just copies (not very well) and provides their slave laborers.

In reply to by MK13

Dilluminati Antifaschistische Sat, 01/06/2018 - 08:24 Permalink

all the hate america first cunts who have been screaming inflation here for the last ten years, since 2008, well where is it?



there is the phenomenon called "debt deflation" and the economy has been operating in that mode since the housing bubble and CDO market collapse, and most people see that as history when in fact we're still dealing with that asset misallocation.

Take a look at the rig count:…

And then again take into account seasonal factors.. you think people are drilling in ND?  Really?

What is really happening is that there is a rotation back to circulating dollar within the US economy.  

I'm sitting back and thinking.. all those denominated debts in Pakistan written in US dollars, all the existing debt service.. you imagine that by waving a magic wand that China cleans that all up?  If China does in fact service that debt for the Pak's I'm all for that!  People screaming that somehow the process is broke when another steps in to pay the bad debts of another isn't true, and if they continue not to service debt, call it wtf it is and that is NPL or failed state!

The economy is doing some strange shit and for a good reason.. even if we get a 25% retraction we locked in essentially the global sound money..  so all this hate America first economics is BS.  Want to see inflation?…


8% Russia and Iran + 10%

The hate America first cunts call down up, up as down.. left as right, and right as left... and if you traded on that advice you missed MAGA.


In reply to by Antifaschistische

11b40 Dilluminati Sat, 01/06/2018 - 10:12 Permalink

I am dealing with price increases on imported consumer goods from China, mostly.  They are coming like a freight train.  Do you eat?  Maybe you are so well off that you don’t notice how much the basic cost of living has increased.  And what do the numbers you cite even mean in an International economy that is heavily manipulated?


In reply to by Dilluminati

mkkby 11b40 Sat, 01/06/2018 - 17:28 Permalink

One up vote + youself.  You said CONSUMER GOODS, then "do you eat".  So you contradicted yourself in only 3 lines of type.

There is inflation, but only where capitalism fails or is manipulated.  College tuition, rents or medical services.  In consumer goods there is no inflation.  In food, no inflation unless you buy stupid shit like snacks.  I still pay $2 for lean pork roast and $1 for broccoli.  Maybe you live in NYC and pay insane prices for everything.

In reply to by 11b40

Escrava Isaura stacking12321 Sat, 01/06/2018 - 04:32 Permalink

Writer: (All real theories must be falsifiable……..)

Great. So, let’s start at the core two issues:

a) Deep State, which is basically the educated class, meaning 20% of the Christians, 80% of the Jews, and 0.0001% Muslims. Their believe ‘indoctrination’ that America must to lead is how they justify their jobs even that most are not even aware of that.  

b) Make America Great Again (MAGA), which is basically the rest 80% of the population. Some urban but most kindly rural ‘social’ structure.

Now let me list two items where you article ‘theory’ gets in trouble, in my view. You wrote:

1) Trying to double the Soviet record for being stuck in Afghanistan? How many bridges, factories or lives is that worth? Trump sees more entanglements but he sees no benefit. He's a businessman: he can see the expense but where's the profit?

Well sir, we ‘the population’ have a major problem here: Profit. State/Government is not supposed to be profitable. Trump cannot run America the way he runs ‘his cut throat’ business.

You see, capitalism ‘profit of someone’s expense’ in a small scale is ugly but it can survive. Nationwide, it will lead that nation to self-destruct. Nation’s policy ‘social order’ has to figure out a way to constantly balance and adjust everyone’s interest. It can’t leave too many people behind and too much inequality. Deep state and capitalism leave too many people behind.  

2) Now on MAGA: Right now the US consumes about 20% of the global energy while having 5% of the population. If Trump pretends to generate more jobs and growth in America, Trump will need another Alaska and Gulf of Mexico combined. And soon. And way below $100 dollars a barrel.

So, please tell me, which nation and America state should go with less energy?

Sir, America dream ‘Deep State, Capitalism, MAGA, free-market, profit of someone expense, and so on’ are not dead. America dream was a myth.

And myths are how Christians, Muslims, Jews, and so on cope and deceive reality, because reality and illusions are not comparable for 80% of the population………………..and, in all instances, 100% of the population.


In reply to by stacking12321