Discover more from The Hartmann Report
How Trump’s MAGA GOP Increases the Risk of WWIII
Republican-aligned rightwing billionaires are gleeful at the prospect of further government dysfunction gutting social programs while Putin, Xi & the leaders of Hamas are reveling in the chaos...
“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought,
but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” —Albert Einstein
Eleven Democrats on the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party sent letters to the Director of National Intelligence and the CIA Director asking for a briefing on how the Chinese government is manipulating Republicans amidst the Speaker debate to keep America enfeebled in anticipation of a possible invasion of Taiwan.
The letter explicitly asked for information about how:
“[O]ur foreign adversaries are leveraging current political dysfunction in the U.S. House of Representatives to discredit democracy globally in their efforts to promote an alternative authoritarian model of governance internationally, enhance their ability to form economic and national security alliances, and harm our standing with strategic partners.”
As an old hippie peacenik it pains me to say it but America, Europe, and the democracies of Asia are preparing for an all-out world war.
One of the factors giving it a push is the way the GOP has kneecapped America in the Trump/Putin era, amplified by the successes Russia and China are having — with the help of two social media billionaires and a cable TV billionaire — in eroding American and overall western unity around our once-shared belief in the viability and importance of democracy.
The period from the end of WWII to today is often referred to by historians as “the long peace.” The consensus view of the reason why is that America, having won World War II against the Japanese and the Germans and then “defeated” the USSR in the Cold War, had both the military and moral standing to enforce a Pax Americana.
While our military power is still unmatched, we are pretty much totally unprepared domestically to deal with a war that involves China declaring itself our explicit enemy. More on that in a moment, but first an overview.
World War I was the result of a series of interrelated, escalating regional crises (starting with the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand) that eventually caused one nation after another to invoke mutual defense treaties, ultimately even bringing America into the conflict.
Until the war was well underway, nobody believed it would be anything other than a limited, regional conflict. And then it wasn’t — and all hell broke loose, killing 17 million human beings and wounding, displacing, or disappearing another 28 million.
World War II, on the other hand, came about because an anti-democratic bully axis of fascist strongman states (Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan) decided the world’s honeymoon with democracies was long over and, being “weaker” than tough-guy autocracies, we wouldn’t have the stomach to take on the bullies.
The first few years of the conflict reinforced their opinion until the US and the Soviet Union jumped into the act, ending the war after an estimated 50-80 million deaths.
World War III, if it happens in the near future, would almost certainly be a combination of the two. Here are a few scenarios:
WWIII begins in the Middle East
Today’s conflict in the Middle East could easily bring Iran into direct, hot warfare with Israel, and that could bring both those nations’ allied powers (Russia and the US) directly into the battle.
There’s a broad consensus in the region that one of Hamas’ main goals in their savage attack on Israel was to blow up the nascent peace deal between the Zionist state and Saudi Arabia. Had that worked out as the parties involved hoped, the Sunni Arab states in the region would have achieved a rapprochement, leaving Hamas as the only Sunni player in the region on the outside looking in.
By blowing up the deal, Hamas apparently hoped to hang onto their support from the region’s autocratic rulers: doing so required so enraging Israel that they would make the same mistake George W. Bush did by overreacting and thus hardening world public opinion against them.
That horrible — or malicious — mistake to lie us into war with Iraq devastated America’s reputation around the world, cost us thousands of American lives, and drained trillions from our national coffers. All things Hamas hopes will happen to the Jewish state.
And, as Hamas hopes, that could well bring Iran and their Shiite client Hezbollah (based in Lebanon, on Israel’s northern border) into direct military confrontation with Israel.
Both the US and China are moving major battleship and aircraft carrier strike forces into the region, and Russia is already in the neighborhood. This has the potential for World War I “escalating crises” written all over it and because of Republicans in Congress the President’s request for assistance to Israel can’t even be met.
WWIII begins in Asia
The potential situation in Asia is closer to Hitler’s invasion of Poland — or his annexation of Austria and the Sudetenland — starting in 1938 through 1939. Hitler claimed that Austria and Czechoslovakia were part of historic “Greater Germany,” much like Putin today claims that Ukraine is not a real country but, instead, a breakaway republic of the former Russian empire.
And like Xi claims Taiwan is a renegade Chinese state that must be reunited with its motherland.
China’s President Xi is all but holding press conferences with a bullhorn to announce his hostile intentions toward Taiwan (particularly after the way he cracked down on democracy in Hong Kong). In one recent speech, he declared himself prepared for war with the west no fewer than four times; his defense budget has gone up 100 percent in the past decade and another 7 percent in just the past year.
Only one month ago, the Chinese government rolled out an 8-part documentary on how the Chinese military is now prepared for a war with Taiwan and America.
His navy and air force regularly harass American, South Korean, Japanese, and Taiwanese ships and planes in what are considered part intimidation and part practice for an invasion.
But don’t expect Xi to directly invade Taiwan without first taking out every US military asset — from those positioned on nearby island nations like Guam to ships in the region — in a “shock and awe” campaign that will precede an actual attack on Taiwan.
China has weapons that can remotely take out US military and communications satellites, cripple our power grids nationwide, and disrupt our internet and telephone communications. The world’s nuclear-armed nations sport over 12,500 atomic bombs: over 500 of them are in China, with that number expected to double in the next few years.
Once China takes out our bases and ships in the Pacific, and possibly shuts down our communications and power systems, America and our allies in the region will face a dreadful and deadly decision that China is betting we’ll whiff.
China’s economy is in trouble right now and that’s fueling domestic discontent (like Germany in 1932): history shows those two things create pressure on strongman governments like Xi’s to “do something!” to “restore national greatness.”
And, while open armed conflict between China and the US will hurt China’s economy over the short term (and, over the long term, may help China the way WWII helped America’s postwar economy), it will be immediately devastating to American business and the average American household.
Just think back to the last time you were in a major retail store, be it WalMart, Target, or Home Depot. Now imagine every item on the shelves that was made in China — or, like most of our pharmaceuticals and consumer electronics, made from ingredients or components built in China — is gone, the result of a wartime embargo of all shipping between our two nations.
Within a matter of days to weeks, retail shelves across America will be empty with a suddenness and ferocity that far exceeds our experience during the pandemic. Spare parts necessary for the repair of cars, trucks, electronics, and even home wiring will vanish. Military contractors will lose the ability to make many of the things they’re producing for our armed forces; automobile assembly lines will close down; factories and retailers across the nation will lay off millions.
America could be thrown into a depression that would make the Republican Great Depression of the 1930s look like a walk in the park: bank panics, bankrupt unemployment coffers, wiped out union funds, travel disruptions, food and fertilizer shortages, disruptions of worldwide oil shipments.
If this WWIII scenario is kicked off by China invading Taiwan and then the US and the other democracies in the region engage, that would provide Putin with the perfect opportunity to launch a devastating blow against Ukraine with tactical nuclear weapons. Iran might take a similar chance to lob a nuke at Israel, even if it’s just a dirty bomb.
WWIII begins in Ukraine/Eastern Europe
Putin has made it clear that he believes if he just waits things out, Donald Trump and his allies in the Republican Party will rescue him from the biggest thorn in his side: NATO. In an article for Rolling Stone yesterday, Asawin Seubsaeng and Adam Rawnsley note that Trump is already proclaiming that America’s involvement in NATO will end with the beginning of his second term:
“Donald Trump wanted to pull the United States out of NATO during his first term, but was repeatedly talked out of it by senior administration officials. For a possible second term in the White House, the 2024 Republican presidential frontrunner is already discussing how he could actually get it done…”
Putin’s efforts on social media and with allies in the GOP like Rand Paul and Tommy Tuberville have made considerable headway in the past year; when Republicans in the House voted last month to keep the government open, for example, they cut out all aid to Ukraine from the funding authorization.
And Paul and Tuberville have prevented President Biden from filling jobs at the top of the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and multiple ambassadorial positions around the world. They’re setting America up for a disaster.
Virtually every day, Putin is lobbing deadly missiles and bombs into civilian centers in Ukraine, running an unimaginable campaign of terror. Yet the GOP yawns and American media has moved on.
All of this Republican dysfunction is likely to cause Putin to miscalculate and believe he can still destroy the democracy next door, and then go after Poland and Lithuania, as his generals have already claimed is part of the plan.
While a major assault or even the use of tactical nukes in Ukraine may not provoke an all-out war between Russia and NATO, pushing that war into Poland or Lithuania (or Finland or the other Baltic states) certainly would.
The reportedly Russian ship, reportedly accompanied by a Chinese ship, that just a few weeks ago cut the undersea internet cable and natural gas pipeline to Finland — and an undersea cable between Sweden and Estonia — seems like the kind of act that could be a provocation or was simply a way of “softening up” those countries in the region before a larger, more imminent invasion takes place.
Republican disarray increases the risk of war
On Ukraine, the GOP is split now between two factions, one loyal to Trump (and, thus, Putin) and the other still giving lip service to defending democracies.
With regard to China, with or without a war against Taiwan, Republicans are more united than Democrats at welcoming a war. A 2021 study done by the Pew Research Group found that Republicans were more likely to embrace war with China than Russia because Russians are perceived by Americans as “white Christians” whereas Chinese are non-white non-Christians.
As Peter Beinart, a frequent guest on my radio/TV program, wrote last month for The New York Times:
“In March, a Gallup poll found that while Democrats were 23 points more likely to consider Russia a greater enemy than China, Republicans were a whopping 64 points more likely to say the reverse. There is evidence that this discrepancy stems in part from the fact that while President Vladimir Putin of Russia casts himself as a defender of conservative Christian values, President Xi Jinping leads a nonwhite superpower whose regime has spurned the Christian destiny many Americans once envisioned for it.”
While starting what would essentially be a race war with China would be a terrible idea, apparently the GOP base is down with it. After all, they’ve been softened up by years of Trump talking about the “China Virus” and other racist memes “othering” Chinese people (and leading to a rash of violent assaults against Asian Americans) in ways he would never do with Russians.
And if Hamas can succeed in dragging Hezbollah and Iran into their Gaza conflict, that could in turn draw the US into conflict with Russia and China in the Mediterranean. Republicans are already torn between their “hate George Soros and the Jews” and their “bring on the Messiah and the End Days” factions, sending into the region not-particularly-helpful messages encouraging escalation.
If ever there was a time when American leadership in the world — with a calm and steady hand on the tiller — was essential, this is it. So far, the Biden administration has done a remarkable job of handling all three of these hot spots with aplomb.
But the Speaker debate threatens to derail even Biden’s best intentions, particularly if it leads to an anti-Ukraine, China Hawk, or Last Days Christian Republican in that seat.
Republican-aligned rightwing billionaires are gleeful at the prospect of further government dysfunction gutting social programs (and thus lowering their taxes), while Putin, Xi, and the leaders of Hamas are reveling in the chaos their social media disruptors have brought about.
If ever there was a time America needed the few remaining rational actors in the GOP to step forward to push the crazies and traitors out of the way, this is it.