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These days it is almost impossible for Canadians to ignore the political circus that is being played out south of our border. Were the potential consequences not so dire, the desperate deeds of President Donald Trump and his loyal base would be outright comical.
Given Trump’s ubiquitous presence in the media throughout his presidency, I don’t think that anyone is truly surprised that he now refuses to concede the election.
However I am dismayed to see just how deeply divided the U.S. electorate has become and the depth of loyalty expressed by Trump’s supporters.
Far beyond a rational conservative-versus-liberal political discourse, Trump’s hold over his followers is almost cult-like.
Here in Canada both Pierre Trudeau and subsequently Justin both enjoyed a brief prime ministerial honeymoon of public adulation that was dubbed Trudeaumania.
But it would be difficult to envision any Canadian politician generating the almost maniacal fervor that Trump has been able to create among his base.
Worse yet is the fact that in order to challenge the results of the election the Trump administration has chosen to denounce America’s democratic process. Without proof, Trump has claimed that the Democrats employed widespread voter fraud in order to steal the election.
Millions of Trump’s loyal followers will go to their graves still holding that belief. Unfortunately this will also lead to a great many Americans simply losing faith in their own democracy.
While some will argue that such a chaotic scenario will benefit China, Russia and Iran, it would be one hell of a stretch to try and blame this on outside interference: The Twitter account of Donald J. Trump has spread more disinformation on the American public than any foreign intelligence agency could dream possible.
Undisputedly Trump will still be president for another two months, which means he still has access to those levers of power that could shift global political fault lines for generations to come.
It was reported last week in the New York Times that Trump asked Pentagon officials at an intelligence briefing for options on bombing Iran’s Natanz nuclear reactor.
According to White House insiders it took the combined persuasive force of Vice-President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley and recently appointed acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller to talk Trump out of this course of action for now.
What Trump did instead was order a reduction of U.S. troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan. There are presently 4,500 American soldiers in Afghanistan and roughly 3,000, mostly special forces, still in Iraq. These contingents will both be reduced to just 2,500 each by Jan. 15, 2021.
Essentially these troop levels will enable the U.S. to protect their own bases, the embassy and diplomatic personnel.
Those Canadians who keep a keen eye on our military will recall we still have personnel assigned to the Iraq mission, which has parliamentary authorization until 2022. But it is unclear how these latest Trump troop reductions will impact Canadian operations in that country.
The NATO training mission which Canada commands has been largely suspended due to concerns about security as well as because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Canada’s special forces contingent assigned to the Iraq mission operates in such secrecy that little is known about what those personnel are doing or whether they are meeting actual objectives.
As for Afghanistan, the U.S. withdrawal is more sentimental. It symbolizes the fact that after 19 years and more than $1 U.S. trillion spent, the world’s greatest military superpower is conceding it was defeated by the Taliban.
Canada cut its losses in that failed war back in 2014, but not before expending a national treasure of blood and gold; 158 dead, 2,000 wounded or injured, plus countless thousands suffering from the invisible wounds of PTSD, with a dollar figure cost of $22 billion once you factor in long-term care costs of the veterans.
Trump’s pullout removes any last glimmer of hope that somehow Canada’s sacrifice was not in vain.
Now we wait to see what the Trump administration will do next. Whatever moves they make will be sure to affect all of us.