Ever wondered what it feels like to be in the eye of a storm? Take a second and look around.
At 3:42am EST on March 7, 2017, the Associated Press published a breaking story that read “China says will take measures against US missile system deployed in S. Korea, says US and Seoul will bear consequences.”
First, before we can begin to consider what exactly “take measures” or “bear consequences” might mean, this is going to require some more context. Let’s back up a little bit.
Over the weekend, good old President Trump (he must have been in office for at least what, two, three years now?) turned up the hyperbole another notch. A furious pre-dawn Saturday morning tweet fired off from his weekend getaway in Palm Beach read “How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”
Allowing the tweet to speak for itself, as it certainly does, the only insight worth recycling in regards to this new Trump story was the one made by Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne that, “Trump has a problem either way. If he was not wiretapped, he invented a spectacularly false charge. And if a court ordered some sort of surveillance of him, on what grounds did it do so?”
The media, already sensing a Trump-tailspin since Attorney General Sessions recused himself from any investigation into the relationship between the Trump campaign and Russia, leaped on the story and constantly re-ran the clip of White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders telling Martha Raddatz that “if this is true” it would be a scandal of epic proportions. Yeah, alright — big if.
Also, there was a new travel/Muslim ban announced on Monday sans Iraq and the abrupt implementation of the old one — but for some reason the whole wiretapping story still seemed more interesting to most people. Looks like Trump no longer controls the agenda of the news cycle.
At this point 43% of Republicans are now in favor of a special prosecutor investigating the Trump-Russia connection.
Suffice it to say, the President really stepped in it this time. Even by his own standards.
Meanwhile, things haven’t been going so smoothly over in South Korea either.
They’ve been embroiled in a Presidential corruption scandal which resulted in their first female President, Park Geun-hye, being impeached by Parliament in December on charges of “abuse of authority, coercion, attempted coercion and attempted fraud” — even Samsung was caught up in the case.
Geun-hye stepped down from her role following the impeachment while her case is tried by a constitutional court. In the mean time Hwang Kyo-ahn, the South Korean prime minister, is serving as interim president. If Geun-hye is removed from office by the court, South Korea will have sixty days to hold new elections.
Throw one bold North Korean missile test in the mix, follow it up with a show of strength by the U.S. deemed unacceptable by both Beijing and Moscow, and you’ve got an ideal recipe for global disaster.
At a time when both Washington and Seoul are at the weakest they’re likely to be in years, if not decades, the authoritarian powers of the world are increasingly pushing the envelope of their regional hegemony.
As advanced democracies struggle with internal conflicts and political scandals, becoming more inwardly focused, an increasingly militarized China and Russia see an opportunity they’d be foolish to pass up. They smell blood in the water.
When the Chinese government says that the U.S. and Seoul “will bear consequences”, they’re not playing around. And they certainly haven’t forgotten everything the President said about them on the campaign trail, or that call he took with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen breaking decades of protocol and the U.S.’s longstanding “one China” policy.
As someone who genuinely despises the practice of fear-mongering, I reserve this statement for when I feel it really does apply: we should be scared. We are on the brink of something very large, and very catastrophic. There’s a reason the doomsday clock is the closest it’s been to midnight since the early 1980s.
As if the circumstances weren’t precarious enough, in the end, the leader with the most power, the one who inevitably holds all of our lives in the palm of his hand — will be Donald J. Trump.