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Hither and Yon

Bush and Obama didn’t have the answers; Now Americans take a look at Trump

Bush and Obama didn’t have the answers; Now Americans take a look at Trump
Special to WorldTribune.com
By Donald Kirk, EastAsiaIntel.com
WASHINGTON ― First he was talking about kicking out all 12 million “illegal immigrants” in the U.S., and now he wants to exclude Muslims from the right to enter the U.S.
You have to wonder from Donald Trump’s remarks whether he’s lost touch with the concept of the American “melting pot” and the Latin motto “e pluribus unum,” i.e., “from many, one.”
There was a time, little remembered, when Chinese were the targets of tremendous prejudices. That was when they began arriving in the late 19th century as laborers, working on the railroads snaking across the American continent. Japanese were punished in World War II for being Japanese and herded off to internment camps. What would happen if Koreans, Indians, Vietnamese and Filipinos, groupings of about two million apiece, scattered across the U.S., mostly in or near big cities, experience similar pressures and penalties?
It’s not hard to imagine, as Trump’s pronouncements on broad segments of un-American undesirables gain widespread popular support, that mainstream Americans, those whose ancestors came to the American continent in mass migrations of previous generations, would also turn against these “minorities” as un-American. Acts of violence, far from decreasing as Trump believes would happen if Muslims were simply banned en masse, would rise in flare-ups, possibly guerrilla warfare. What else could you expect in a society in which just about anyone can buy a gun – not just a pistol but an automatic rifle?
The fact that Trump remains the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination shows how effectively he’s won the adulation of millions who are fed up with headlines and images that seem to show the weakness of American leadership. They crave a strong leader, a shouter, yes, a demagogue. Images of dictators come to mind as Trump holds forth on television, spouting outrageous proposals that run against the grain of American-style democracy and ideals.
You can see why he’s so effective, though, when you look at the lack of success in combating problems at home and abroad. It’s difficult to feel a lot of confidence in President Obama as he modulates firmness toward ISIL with calls for moderation. Ideally, Obama is attempting to exercise wise, thoughtful leadership. In the real world, though, the sense prevails that the U.S. will have to invest far greater resources to defeat the same brand of terrorism that we saw most terribly in 9/11, the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.
It’s ironic, in retrospect, that the Democratic candidate whom Bush defeated in the presidential election of November 2004 is now responsible in large measure for masterminding U.S. policy. That’s Secretary of State John Kerry, who is busy establishing his own legacy. Kerry’s role in rationalizing conflicting forces in the Middle East, figuring out who are the good guys and what they can do about the bad guys, is probably more important than that of any other figure in Obama’s administration. Korean policy-makers have come to know Kerry in visits to Seoul in which he offers reassurances of U.S. support for the U.S.-Korean alliance, but clearly his mind is set on resolving crises elsewhere.
That’s not to say, though, that Kerry knows what he’s doing. Who thinks the U.S.-supported government in Baghdad, bereft of U.S. military support on the ground since Obama precipitously pulled out the Americans in an excess reaction against Bush’s plunge into war in Iraq, can do a thing on its own to combat ISIL? And who believes that American air strikes, plus the intervention of small numbers of U.S. Army Special Forces, will resolve the problems either?
U.S. officials may offer reasons why Obama’s policies, as enunciated by him in an address to the nation from the White House, can reduce both the armed strength and the broad populist appeal of ISIL, but who believes them?
Optimism swept the country when the evil Saddam Hussein was driven from power in Baghdad during Bush’s first term. What did the banner proclaim as he landed on an aircraft carrier in 2003? “Mission accomplished” – but the mission was far from done.
When I was in Baghdad in 2004, U.S. forces were scattered around the country, fighting sporadic battles, while aid-givers plotted great plans for buttressing an oil-rich economy, much of which is now in ISIL hands.
At home, Obama inveighs against guns while Trump claims Americans, fully armed, can strike back at terrorists brimming with beliefs inculcated in Muslim mosques and schools – an invitation for far more bloodshed on American streets.
In a cacophony of conflicting demands, the sense is that no one knows what to do. What sane society would say, sure, all you need is a pro forma background check, and then you’re free to buy the automatic rifle? How about machine guns? Will we find them at American gun stores too?
Americans don’t seem to have the answer to such questions any more than they know what to do in the war against ISIL.
Donald Kirk has been observing conflict in the U.S. and overseas for decades. He’s at kirkdon4343@gmail.com.
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