Mindless arrogance is not a substitute for diplomacy
Look and see which way the wind blows before you commit yourself.
Aesop, Aesop’s Fables
I’m thinking now that this story isn’t true and I can’t honestly remember where I read it, it was so long ago, but it goes like this:
Sometime around the time of Waterloo (I’m guessing — it really has been about 40 years since I first heard it), there was a unit of French nobility who decided to plunge into war to defend their glorious France. Apparently they refused to train, saying that elan and noblesse would be more than enough to make them a force to be reckoned with.
They were slaughtered wholesale.
I am not surprised that this story came to mind as I heard about Trump’s blundering, heedless calls and contacts with foreign governments. His call with the Pakistanis was the one that brought my head up, not unlike an ungulate grazing peacefully on sweet, green grass, only to suddenly scent danger. The Pakistani Ministry of Information has a transcript on its page (read the transcript here):
Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif called President-elect USA Donald Trump and felicitated him on his victory. President Trump said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif you have a very good reputation. You are a terrific guy. You are doing amazing work which is visible in every way. I am looking forward to see you soon. As I am talking to you Prime Minister, I feel I am talking to a person I have known for long. Your country is amazing with tremendous opportunities. Pakistanis are one of the most intelligent people. I am ready and willing to play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems. It will be an honor and I will personally do it. Feel free to call me any time even before 20th January that is before I assume my office.
On being invited to visit Pakistan by the Prime Minister, Mr. Trump said that he would love to come to a fantastic country, fantastic place of fantastic people. Please convey to the Pakistani people that they are amazing and all Pakistanis I have known are exceptional people, said Mr. Donald Trump.
He proceeded to speak with the President of Taiwan. CNN quotes Trump’s transition team as saying (read the full CNN article here):
President-elect Trump spoke with President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan, who offered her congratulations,” Trump’s transition team said in the statement. “During the discussion, they noted the close economic, political, and security ties exists between Taiwan and the United States. President-elect Trump also congratulated President Tsai on becoming President of Taiwan earlier this year.
On the surface, these contacts are harmless. Complimentary, cordial. Mind you, the direct quote on the Pakistani page does reflect his usual inchoate rambling, evidencing all the mental organization of a toddler — and it should be noted that toddler brains have a long way to go before they’re fully functional.
The problem is that diplomacy is like a minuet danced with razor blades — it’s precise, it’s gracious and one wrong move and you’re sliced wide open. Pakistan has been at odds — and even war — with India since 1947 when British India was partitioned (read the Wikipedia article on India and Pakistan here). We somehow have a delicate, tenuous relationship with both countries, just as we do with Taiwan and China who have regarded each other with simmering hostility since 1949 (read the Wikipedia article on Taiwan and China here). Each of these countries is easily offended and thus easily riled, meaning efforts must be made to keep from showing any sort of favoritism.
The peace of the planet is actually at stake.
That’s why we have professional diplomats — people who either have the experience, the sheer talent for navigation — or both — that will allow the United States to maintain good relations with opposing countries. It’s dangerous. It’s tricky. It is not for the faint of heart and most definitely, not for mindless, orange, tiny-handed louts who galumph through virtual mine fields, spewing on Twitter and figuring that elan and noblesse will be enough.
No. It isn’t. Nor is mindless arrogance. Winging it is a supremely bad idea and spewing vaguely complimentary collections of words is as well.
He pisses off the wrong people, they won’t care by how much he lost the popular vote. They won’t be furious with Trumpelthinskin. They’ll be furious with us, the American people. Because humans don’t blame individual politicians in cases like these. They blame the entire country down to the last small child. It has no relationship to logic. It’s what we did when we insisted the French send soldiers in to battle beside us in Bush Jr.’s illegal war and they refused. We renamed French fries to Freedom fries and excoriated the entire nation for having the gall to think they could make their own sovereign decisions. For shame, France, for shame. We helped you rebuild after WWII and you owe us for life. Do pardon us for forgetting that, without your help in the American Revolution, we would have lost and we would all be pledging allegiance right now to the British queen.
When Bush Jr. was first given the presidency and then elected for a second term, we liberals winced and then wailed in horror as we watched him and his corrupt cronies lay waste to our economy and destabilize the Middle East. Little did we know that we would actually yearn for the return of such conservatives because even they knew to think to before they spewed and to walk through the mine fields of diplomacy with a certain amount of delicacy.
Trump simply does not care. He’s a juggernaut — a loose cannon — drunk on his own arrogance, in love with himself, incapable of truly learning from anyone because, to him, people are either mere reflections of himself or they have no more importance to him than toilet paper. In fact, toilet paper probably means more.
Trump isn’t merely a disaster for our country domestically. He’s a catastrophe on feet for us internationally. If someone doesn’t put a muzzle on him soon, the damage he causes us and the rest of the world may well be irreparable.