IT’S WAR! IN CAPITAL LETTERS! At least, on Twitter it is — just as recovering social media addicts dared to hope that things might be settling for the summer. Donald Trump last night threatened Iran with ‘CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED.’ This was in response to President Hassan Rouhani’s warning of a ‘mother of all wars.’
Whatever happened to Teddy Roosevelt’s ‘speak softly and carry a big stick’ approach to US diplomacy? With Trump, it seems to be ‘TWEET VIOLENTLY ABOUT THE SIZE OF YOUR STICK.’
Of course, it’s ‘fire and fury’ all over again. Trump is adopting the same approach to the Iran problem as he has done to the North Korean one; Nixonian mad-man theory with added social media craziness. Throw some Twitter threats at the leader of a rogue state, pressure them to play nice, then play nice back having scared everyone.
It worked to some extent with Kim Jong-un — or appeared to. But with Kim, Trump had China applying its own pressures on its client state to co-operate. Who has that kind of ‘leverage’ — to use a Trumpy term — over Tehran?
The answer is Russia, which has increasing power and influence over Syria and the Iranian regime. Did the President talk through his new Iran approach with Putin last week? It seems highly probable that that was part of the Syria deal that went down in Helsinki.
But the great concern is that the madman approach — or hotheaded poker with nukes — can’t work every time. It needs to be unpredictable to be effective. The terrifying thought is that somebody somewhere might call Trump’s bluff. His CAPITAL THREATENING might still electrify the media, although not quite as much as it did, but it’s undermining the greatest deterrent to war the world has ever known.