Let’s Play “Manufacturing Trump’s Brain”

Trump supporters are out in force, as usual, tripping over themselves trying to invent a rationale — several, in fact — for the latest utterly irrational and conscienceless behavior of their favorite establishment-puppet/rogue-progressive president. In the process, they reveal just how fraught with moral traps is this game of “Manufacturing Trump’s Brain” in which they are perpetually engaged.

For more than three years, diehard Trump cultists and GOP tribalists alike have fallen back on a series of inane excuses to make sense, after the fact, of their dear leader’s continual stream of incompetent moves, erratic choices, and appalling statements. Sometimes, these defenses amount to nothing more than parroting Trump’s own empty catchphrases; hence, opponents of anything Trump does are accused by the idolaters of not wanting to “make America great again,” or of having fallen prey to “fake news.” Meanwhile, those leaning more toward the Republican tribalism fringe of the cult typically favor the more establishmentarian “But Hillary!” or “But Gorsuch!” or “binary choice” canards. 

But for those special occasions, such as Trump’s actions and statements vis-à-vis Turkey, Syria, and the Kurds over the past week, when their hero goes so far off the beam — and in self-contradictory directions — that none of those common, off-the-rack rebuttals seem quite strong enough, the true believers have to dig deep into their bag of self-delusional tricks and come up with some bolder, steamier horse manure.

I am referring to the popular parlor game among Trump apologists of creating semi-logical or quasi-rational explanations for Trump’s worst decisions, his most cowardly capitulations, and his ugliest mean girl insults, and then attributing those semi-logical or quasi-rational explanations to Trump himself, in open defiance of everything Trump has actually said by way of self-explanation, in order to rationalize their continued belief that this oafish and unprincipled intellectual midget is a great president, in spite of absolutely anything he does — a necessary condition, since much of what he does on any given day contradicts what these same apologists were defending last week, last month, or last year. It is this game, a Trumpaphonic variation on Twister, that I have decided to patent under the name “Manufacturing Trump’s Brain.” 

Thus we have the pathetic spectacle of Trump supporters arguing, five days ago, that Trump’s spontaneous sell-out of the Kurds of northern Syria during a phone call with their would-be murderer Recep Tayyip Erdogan — a decision clearly made simply in order to appease a thug who made a demand of him — was a reasonable attempt to extricate the U.S. military from an unnecessary Middle East entanglement; and then, five days later, when Trump bailed on his own godforsaken stupidity in light of universal condemnation and unsettling reports of the very Turkish atrocities he had just personally condoned, these same supporters turned around and argued, antithetically, that Trump hadn’t really abandoned the Kurds, but had rather ingeniously manipulated Erdogan into “negotiating.”

Thus you have the very same people defending Trump’s betrayal of an ally by saying, on the one hand, that in fact there were only a few dozen American troops involved, which was hardly a full-scale pullout; and simultaneously arguing, out of the other side of their rear ends, that Trump is right to “bring home the troops” rather than fighting “these endless wars.” 

Thus, ugliest of all, you have these apologists, rather than condemning Trump’s hideous immorality in mocking and belittling the U.S.-allied Kurds at the very moment they are being slaughtered by a tyrant in an unjust assault Trump personally unleashed with his huge mouth and tiny brain, actually taking up his cause and trying to justify the mockery and belittlement of those men whose heads are rolling on the ground in northern Syria right now as a direct result of Trump’s turpitude

Let us take a moment to answer the worst and most common of these “Manufacturing Trump’s Brain” absurdities more directly, shall we?

The Kurds aren’t such great allies. After all, some Kurdish groups are Marxists.

And are the Kurds with whom the U.S. military has been primarily working for years in the region the same ones who are Marxists? Or are we just simple-minded collectivists of convenience now?

And since when was it U.S. policy — let alone Trump policy –never to form strategic alliances with entities some of whose members might not be sympathetic to the principles of a free republic?

And on what kind of Trump logic is it reasonable to hand the fate of a minority faction that your country has pledged to support over to the whimsical brutality of genocidal tyrants, without so much as a day’s forewarning or an opportunity to prepare for their self-defense, merely because some members of that minority group are Marxists? In other words, given that the Marxism of some Kurds has been known for years, what changed last week to suddenly warrant authorizing the possible annihilation of all Kurds in Syria?

And for that matter, it is awfully rich for Americans, of all people, to argue for the justice of summarily abandoning a people with whom one has formed a mutually beneficial alliance, on the grounds that “some of them are Marxists,” when one of America’s two major parties, accounting for fifty percent of the popular vote in the most recent presidential election, espouses Marxism, while the second major party is basically nothing but cover for the first. Oh dear, are a few hundred Kurds Marxist revolutionaries? What about the entire leadership of the Democratic Party, the majority of the American academic elite, and millions of American voters? I dare a single one of these Trump apologists to criticize a U.S. ally or trade partner ever again. Progressive authoritarian, heal thyself.

These are Bush-Obama wars. Isn’t it time for the U.S. to come home and let the people of the region sort out their own problems?

One premise of this particular “endless war,” a premise Trump himself has proudly trumpeted as one of his great accomplishments as commander-in-chief, was that this would be the most effective way to destroy ISIS. Didn’t Trump promise during the campaign to “bomb the s*** outta them”? And hasn’t he been boasting for a year about how he has singlehandedly eradicated ISIS, virtually ending the threat of terrorism forever with his wonderful military prowess? 

So whence comes the sudden disengagement policy? And more concretely, what about the ISIS prisoners who were being held by America’s Kurdish allies? Are they no longer important, now that Trump has scored the brownie points he wanted to score for “destroying ISIS”? Would you put your trust in someone to guard prisoners hellbent on killing your family, in exchange for a promise to cover that guard’s back, and then, at the behest of the very thug from whom you had agreed to protect the man guarding the prisoners, simply abandon that guard to his mortal enemy without taking account of what would happen to those prisoners, your family’s would-be killers? 

The complete disregard for the fate of those hundreds of ISIS prisoners being held by the Kurds is proof positive that Trump made this decision without an iota of forethought, strategy, or even minimal intelligence. No one who thought for two seconds before acting would have done this without first ensuring that those prisoners would be securely guarded and accounted for in advance. Trump, by contrast, simply did what Erdogan told him to do, on the bone spur of the moment, because he is a cowardly sycophant to every global punk who frightens him, and because he was and is too flamingly stupid to think through any of the likely consequences of such an acquiescence to genocide.

The U.S. should not be in Syria in the first place. 

But the U.S. has been operating in Syria for years, and Trump himself prolonged and even heightened the involvement with his 2017 bombing campaign in response to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons — a response that one might truly argue was a case of the U.S. entangling itself in a situation with no genuine American national interests at stake.

Elected leaders often inherit problems and commitments not of their own choosing. But those are national commitments nonetheless, and one cannot simply renege on promises, sell out allies, or overturn largescale national engagements on the grounds that a newly elected leader doesn’t happen to agree with the terms of those commitments. This predicament merely highlights the danger of granting presidents too much authority, and in general of allowing the federal government to initiate too many projects and grand designs beyond the strictly limited range of duties enumerated in, oh, say, a Constitution-type document. Once the government has initiated such projects, extricating the nation from them often entails many dangerous implications that militate against precipitous or cavalier withdrawal — such as directly enabling a genocide or handing control of new territory over to a rival power, in this case the Russians.

Sometimes an alliance, even a long-term one, outlives its usefulness and you just have to move on.

That may be true. So let’s think about that. Imagine you are married, but after many years, you begin to feel that the relationship has outlived its beneficial effects, and you are starting to think maybe it’s time to let go of this increasingly unsatisfying alliance and move on with your life independently. In this predicament, you basically have three options: 

  1.  Stick with the failing marriage and try to make things work out, for the sake of the children or out of a sense of duty and responsibility, given that you did in fact make a commitment to your spouse, who has done nothing in the interim to violate the essential terms of the marriage.
  2.  Try to persuade your spouse that the marriage has failed and that it is time to begin divorce proceedings and move on with your respective lives.
  3.  Engage a hitman to murder your spouse, thereby sparing yourself the trouble of either sticking with a sometimes frustrating relationship or going through a prolonged, messy divorce.

Donald Trump effectively chose Option 3 in America’s alliance with the Kurds of northern Syria. He told the Turks, whom he knew wanted to invade Syria for the express purpose of murdering Kurds, that he was going to be out for the evening and that he would leave a key to the back door under the mat. There is nothing to say in defense of this choice, unless you are simply a complete immoralist or a madman. 

But Trump’s supporters will continue to defend him anyway. Draw your own conclusions, then, about the kind of temperament required of one wishing to join the game of “Manufacturing Trump’s Brain.”

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