President Trump speaks aboard the future USS Gerald R. Ford. Image from Defense Department video

By Colleen O’Connor

Seriously. An outbreak of war is looking more ominous.

Not intra-party war that defeated the GOP pledge to “repeal and replace” Obamacare. That just failed spectacularly in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Not the war against the budget deficit (which is exploding). Not against the big banks (all salvaged). Or even against North Korea (for threatening missile launches).

No, not even for the very effective new-age techno war called “cyber warfare.” The U.S. and Israel demonstrated what kind of damage can be done by remotely destroying Iranian nuclear centrifuges via the Stuxnet malware.

Thus, proving the existence of “a new weapon that can do a better job at destruction than bombs.”

Fast forward to the Presidential Election of 2016. According to all U.S. intelligence, the Russians intervened with multiple “soft weapons,” via hacking, bots, strategically weaponized “fake news,” malware, and possible collusion. Again, mostly done by remote, anonymous means.

So, why are the Republicans still focused on the old fashioned “boots on the ground,” planes in the air, and ships on the sea kind of warfare? Especially when one jet fighter program—the F-35—is “three years behind schedule and some $200 billion over its original budget.”

For comparison, the City of San Diego’s budget for fiscal 2018 is only $3.57 billion.

Still, the recently released budget from the GOP controlled House proposes massive increases in the Pentagon’s budget at the expense of Medicare and food stamps.

“It would add almost $30 billion to Trump’s $668-billion request for national defense, which already exceeds an existing “cap” on spending by $54 billion.”

Granted this is just a “blueprint” for the budget — partially designed to avoid the dreaded 60 votes needed to pass the Senate, via reconciliation — but even that is alarming.

Given the historical penchant for politicians to blame “the others,” beat the drums for quick action that will rally the troops around an unpopular leader (Trump’s favorability is sinking) and allow them to change the “spin cycle” in their favor, the current chaos in Washington deserves greater attention and scrutiny.

Especially given the “chaos theory” of government espoused by President Trump’s closest advisor, Steve Bannon. A theory that promotes the belief that only by totally upending the status quo—and causing chaos—can good triumph over evil.

The theory asserts that greatness only emerges from disaster. Such as, World War II (and American greatness) following the Depression. Or Trump-ism (making American “great” again) following the recent global financial meltdown.

So, one might ask, who is governing amidst the chaos? And where is the chaos leading? The conservative Dallas Morning News lists and then condemns the negative side of all this turmoil.

“The result: the least support for any new modern president, an exacerbation of domestic divisions, and unprecedented global disdain and embarrassment, ” the newspaper concludes.

One suspects the future might resemble the old fun house rides where scary pop-up clowns and frightening figures keep alarming the spectators. But, where is this leading?

A war to facilitate the wished-for radical change?

Even the Pope’s closest advisors have become alarmed—warning against “‘apocalyptic geopolitics’ advocated by such figures as Bannon—who is Catholic.’”

A note of caution. Bellicose threats and costly never-ending wars are not always the answer. Nor do they provide a smooth and always positive way forward.

In fact, recent research suggests that Hillary Clinton may have lost the presidency precisely because of the damage war inflicted on families in formerly progressive states—ones that voted for Obama in 2012—then switched to Trump in 2016.

Why? Multiple answers have surfaced, but the latest research bears reading.

The researchers note that “America has been at war continuously for over 15 years, but few Americans seem to notice. This is because the vast majority of citizens have no direct connection to those soldiers fighting, dying, and returning wounded from combat.”

And “if three states key to Trump’s victory — Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin — had suffered even a modestly lower casualty rate, all three could have flipped from red to blue and sent Hillary Clinton to the White House.”

The authors go on to warn: “If Trump wants to win again in 2020, his electoral fate may well rest on the administration’s approach to the human costs of war. Trump should remain highly sensitive to American combat casualties, lest he become yet another politician who overlooks the invisible inequality of military sacrifice.”

So, if the Republicans are planning for another war, they may want to think again. Lest the “chaos” reigns supreme.


Colleen O’Connor is a native San Diegan and a retired college professor.

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