It traces back at least to the Wilsonian project, during and after World War I, to create a U.S.-led organization of the world’s leading democracies, which would work together to preserve the peace, and to promote the spread of democracy. It has never been perfect. It has waxed and waned, succeeded and failed, reached a high point during the Obama years.
Donald Trump is the biggest threat, at least since the rise of Hitler, to the continuation of that project.
I’m not comparing Trump to Hitler, except in this small category of my own devising, as threats to that wonderful vision of a world in which democracy is always spreading, in which the United States generally favors and supports that spread (except when it didn’t, and there were several such cases, about which I’ve written before, in which the United States led or participated in the overthrow of democracies, in Iran, Chile and Guatemala for example, for its own selfish reasons).
So I’m not naïve about the “project,” or about U.S. altruism nor even about its commitment to the spread of democracy. And I don’t mind that Trump has decided to make such a big deal about demanding that our NATO allies increase their military spending to the agreed-upon percentage of GDP. They agreed to it. Most of them can afford it. And, by not doing so, they feed the Trumpian narrative that they are playing the United States for suckers. Trump, who has been playing others for suckers his whole life, knows how to play the sucker card.
All of which is an overlong introduction to my reaction to Trump’s despicable treatment of a long-time loyal ally, Denmark, because Denmark is not interested in selling Greenland to Trumpist America, and Trump was obnoxious or stupid enough to announce to the world that he wanted to buy it without asking whether it was for sale.
That, for starters, is neither the way to treat an ally, nor even the way to try to buy something. I don’t get why he did it that way, unless he is just stupid or has no control over what comes out of his mouth. But, okay, he said — apparently without letting Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen know that he had any such agenda and as she was preparing to welcome him for a visit as the leader of a key ally of her country — that he wanted America to buy Greenland. And, when she was asked about it, Frederiksen dismissed the idea as “absurd.”
No one from a piss-ant little country like Denmark gets to call anything Trump said “absurd” and get away with it.
Trump, as you have no doubt heard, was so offended that he canceled the state visit. Trump, who calls everyone who doesn’t worship at his altar much worse things than “absurd,” decided to insult a small but loyal and not unimportant ally by canceling a visit during which he would have been welcomed and probably fêted, coddled and pampered. He called her comment “nasty,” which seems to be his favorite way of insulting women. And Trump, who specializes in always expressing himself in the nicest way possible, clarified via the age-old diplomatic method of tweeting it out to the world, that her word choice (“absurd”) was “a very not nice way of saying something.”
For her part, Frederiksen clarified, not by tweet, that “Thankfully, the time where you buy and sell other countries and populations is over.” Perhaps that also qualifies as “nasty,” but to me it’s closer to “nice,” in at least acknowledging that there people who live in Greenland who might like to think they are not for sale.
Greenland is, by a huge margin, the world’s largest island, though mostly unpopulated. Its native population are Inuit, who emigrated from North America eons ago. Greenland is much closer to Canada than to Denmark, but has long been under at least titular Danish rule with a high degree of self-governing autonomy, managing its own affairs except in the areas of defense and foreign policy. Greenlanders have their own parliament but also have two representatives in the Danish parliament, and treat the Danish queen as their symbolic head of state. Perhaps Trump should have tried to buy them from the queen.
The main point, in case my snideness above didn’t make my attitude clear enough, is that Trump found yet another way to demonstrate that he can dish it out — if by “dish it out” one means he can call people names — but he is incredibly thin-skinned himself, believes he is entitled to anything and everything he wants including buying a populated island without regard for whether the seller has any interest in selling or the residents have any interest in being bought, takes everything personally, can’t imagine that the leader of a little country like Denmark would have any larger purpose than complying with his weird desire to acquire some already inhabited real estate, takes any resistance from a member of the female gender as particularly offensive, and, perhaps most important, doesn’t understand that being the temporary leader of a superpower not only doesn’t mean that he can order around all the allies he inherited from previous history, but actually should have a major interest in not acting like his allies are his serfs.
Someone could have talked him about that in POTUS 101, but he skipped class that day.
P.S. I just stumbled on an ad for a t-shirt that the National Republican Congressional Committee is selling, which features a map showing the United States and Greenland. Greenland is colored in American flag colors (as is the U.S.) and the online ad’s message reads:
“Support President Trump and his efforts to help America grow!”
For a contribution to the NRCC of $25 or more, you get a copy of the shirt. The shirt’s map makes it look like Greenland is a short swim off the coast of Maine. The actual Maine to Greenland distance is a little over 2,000 miles. (Canada and Iceland, both actually very close to the coast of Greenland, are off the T-shirt map. But neither of those actual neighbors are trying to acquire it.)