July 24, 2018

IntelBrief: Deconstructing the Post-War State

 This combination of two pictures shows U.S. President Donald Trump, left, on July 22, 2018, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Feb. 6, 2018. In his latest salvo, Trump tweeted late on Sunday, July 22 that hostile threats from Iran could bring dire consequences. (AP Photo).
  • On July 22, U.S. President Trump threatened Iranian President Rouhani with ‘CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED’.
  • The open threat of nuclear war is another example of President Trump’s dismissal of established norms and precedents of American presidents.
  • The president disparages NATO and the EU, as well as the U.S. justice system and civil service, while praising despotic leaders and nativist policies.
  • The impacts of this sustained deconstruction of the post-WWII international order will be profound and possibly irreversible.



Donald Trump’s public rhetoric is unprecedented for a U.S. president. He routinely uses social media to personally mock world leaders, and in the case of North Korea and now Iran, openly threaten nuclear war. Trump’s July 22, 2018 all-caps response via Twitter to Iranian President Rouhani to stop threatening the U.S.—an apparent reference to a statement made by Rouhani that ‘America should know that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars’—is, by now, viewed by many as commonplace.

Reality is now matching Trump’s rhetoric in a feedback loop of events and statements leading to the dismantling of the post-WWII world order built and led by the U.S. On July 22, negotiators of the G-20 countries ended talks with their U.S. counterparts without making any headway in averting a trade war instigated by the U.S. at a time, oddly, when the American economy is strong. An economic attack on America’s closest allies began with statements by President Trump that most other nations, and specifically the 28-member European Union, are ungrateful allies taking advantage of decades of U.S. military protection. Trump also suggested they were economic ‘foes’taking advantage of U.S. trade policies and ‘deals.’ The U.S. is now in an escalating trade war with the EU and China,while also threatening to do away with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with neighbors Canada and Mexico. This comes on the heels of one of the Trump administration’s earliest moves at dismantling the world order: its desertion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which was designed by the U.S. to help counter China’s massive trade imbalance in the Pacific region.

The Trump administration is doing more than reverting to protectionist trade policies, however. President Trump has also upended decades-long U.S. leadership in NATO, openly questioning its value to the U.S. and hinting that the U.S. might not fulfill its treaty obligation under Article 5 to come to the military defense of a NATO member if attacked. He has consistently misstated the facts about NATO’s funding and operations, referring to unpaid ‘dues’ owed to the U.S. by ‘freeloading’countries such as Germany. Despite the triumphant claims by President Trump after his publicly contentious meetings at the NATO summit in Brussels, when he said ‘Tremendous progress has been made. Everyone’s agreed to substantially up their commitment. They’re going to up it at levels that they’ve never thought of before,’ the reality is that the only result of the meeting were unprecedented tensions between the U.S. and other NATO members.

Domestically, the U.S. president continues to denigrate the government he leads. He routinely questions not just the competency but the honesty and loyalty of civil servants, especially judges and employees of the FBI, CIA and DOJ. On July 22, the same day he threatened nuclear war with Iran, Trump tweeted that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was a scam and that the Department of ‘Justice’ (with Justice in mocking quotation marks) and FBI misled the courts. The result of a U.S. president’s relentless public denigration of the country’s independent judiciary and justice system will be far more destructive to U.S. society than currently realized.


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