No clear winner, but one clear loser

It's good policy not to cheer the construction of a gallows until you know who's going to hang on it. A gallows is definitely going up:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller to serve as special counsel to oversee the previously confirmed FBI investigation of Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election and related matters.

CBS reports:

[That] includes any links between Trump campaign associates and Russia, as well as "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation."

But it's not quite clear who will eventually stand in the trapdoor:

Q. Could a special counsel investigate things beyond simply the Russia connection?

A. Mueller has a broad mandate to determine the course of an investigation, but not an unlimited one. If he decides that something outside the scope of the letter appointing him needs investigating, he would have to ask for permission to expand his probe.

There's already a struggle over who gets to be "it." David Goldman (Spengler) notes that political circles are rife with rumor:

A ranking Republican statesman this week told an off-the-record gathering that a “coup” attempt was in progress against President Donald Trump, with collusion between the largely Democratic media and Trump’s numerous enemies in the Republican Party. The object of the coup, the Republican leader added, was not impeachment, but the recruitment of a critical mass of Republican senators and congressmen to the claim that Trump was "unfit" for office and to force his resignation.

Washington is now in the situation elections were specifically designed to prevent.

With legitimacy of Trump's presidency being openly contested by the "Resistance," there's an implicit pretender to the throne: the status quo ante, the way things used to be. As long as Trump was still a candidate, he enjoyed freedom of action. Now, sitting in the White House, he is completely vulnerable to insider attacks from individuals with authorized system access. Spengler believes this green-on-blue strategy has successfully pushed Trump onto the defensive:

Trump won by calling attention to the errors of his opponents and by dominating the news cycle. He played continuous offense. At the White House, by contrast, Trump has appeared cautious in stating his foreign policy goals, and defensive in responding to attacks on his performance and propriety. The policy issues that stood out clear during the campaign and helped Trump outflank the Republican Establishment have become fuzzy, especially after the firing of Gen. Flynn.

With the policy issues out of focus, Trump has lost control of the news cycle, and risks letting the news cycle control him. His opponents won’t succeed in dislodging him. But they have succeeded in distracting Trump from his policy agenda.

Since one of the classic defenses against insider attacks has been to revert to the Trusted Tribe, Trump can respond by narrowing his political base:

One of the primary foundations of our tribal instinct relates to trust, and it is externalized quite simply: if you are a member of my tribe, you can be trusted, and if you are not a member of my tribe, you should be viewed with suspicion.

Alternatively, he can field informers as U.S. forces in Afghanistan have done:

The US military became so concerned with the green-on-blue attacks in 2012 that it ordered units to designate “guardian angels” in each unit whose job is to provide security for troops working with Afghans. In mid-August, field commanders were told they can increase the number of “guardian angels” depending on the tactical situation, Reuters reported.

The surge in green-on-blue attacks prompted the US military to expand its counterintelligence capability in Afghanistan at the battalion level and above, according to Reuters. In addition, ISAF commander John Allen recently directed all US and NATO troops to carry a loaded weapon at all times, Fox News reported. Other measures taken include the adoption of an eight-step vetting process for recruits and revised NATO training requirements.

But these measures only compensate for the lack of trust. They do not restore it. Who will eventually dangle from the gibbet now under construction is hard to predict, but it's safe to say the victim will resist with a fight that will devastate the political landscape. The Trump election revealed a nation nearly evenly divided. This near equality means neither side can realistically expect an outright victory. Nothing is now certain except uncertainty, for as Clausewitz observed:

[W]ar is always the shock of two hostile bodies in collision, not the action of a living power upon an inanimate mass.

Strife used to stop at the water's edge. What destabilized America is the chimera of a permanent majority, the temptation of something other than a stalemate which has seduced a political system that has grown weary of compromise and desirous of partisan dominance. But we should recall how high the risk is from another distant scene at another water's edge:

Then he broke the barriers of war and through the swollen river swiftly took his standards. And Caesar crossed the flood and reached the opposite bank. From Hesperia's forbidden fields he took his stand and said:

'Here I abandon peace and desecrated law.

Fortune, it is you I follow.

 

(Note: the metaphor of the crossing the Rubicon is not a veiled reference to anyone.  It would have been equally possible to use the Ides of March without alluding to anyone in particular.  Both illustrate the idea that it is always harder to unscramble an egg.  It would be ironic if a generation of politicians who never built much of anything destroyed nearly everything for the privilege of ruling over the wreckage.)

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The Mattis Way of War: An Examination of Operational Art in Task Force 58 and 1st Marine Division, Author Major Michael L. Valenti examines General James N. Mattis's staffing philosophies, the influence of history on his operational planning and execution, and his general command and leadership philosophies using Task Force 58 as a formative base. A brief look at his time commanding the 1st Marine Division in Operation Iraqi Freedom (Oif) examines whether his philosophies and concepts evolved or remained consistent.

A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution (pre-order: to be released on June 13, 2017), by Jennifer Doudna and Samuel H. Sternberg. CRISPR is the cheapest, simplest, most effective way of manipulating DNA ever known. In this book, Doudna shares the thrilling story of her discovery, but also passionately argues that enormous responsibility comes with the ability to rewrite the code of life, an argument that echoes her call for a worldwide moratorium on the use of CRISPR in the spring of 2015. With CRISPR, she shows, we have effectively taken control of evolution. What will we do with this unfathomable power?

Swift Boats at War in Vietnam, edited by Guy Gugliotta, John Yeoman, and Neva Sullaway. The stories in this book cover the Swift Boats’ early years, which saw search-and-inspect operations in Vietnam’s coastal waters, and their later years, when the Swift Boats' mission shifted to the Mekong Delta’s labyrinth of 3,000 miles of rivers, streams, and canals. An intimate, exciting oral history of Swift Boats at war in Vietnam.

China's Asian Dream: Empire Building along the New Silk Road, by Tom Miller. Combining a geopolitical overview with on-the-ground reportage from a dozen countries, this book offers a fresh perspective on the rise of China and what it means for the future of Asia. From the Mekong River Basin to the Central Asian steppe, China is flexing its economic muscle for strategic ends. By setting up new regional financial institutions, it is challenging the post-World War II order established under the watchful eye of Washington, and by funding and building roads, railways, ports and power lines across Eurasia and through the South China Sea and Indian Ocean, China aims to draw its neighbors ever tighter into its embrace.

For a list of books most frequently purchased by readers, visit my homepage.


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The War of the Words, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres

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The Three Conjectures, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age

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Storm Over the South China Sea, how China is restarting history in the Pacific

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