It's not often that Donald Trump's outrageousness literally takes my breath away, but I audibly gasped the other day when I heard a clip of Trump being interviewed for Fox News Sunday. In the sit-down with Chris Wallace, Trump blurted favorably about how his administration cut military aid to Pakistan.
Yeah, I know. On the surface, you might think it's not nearly as shocking as what he said about raking the forests to prevent California's wild fires, or it might not be as shocking as his criticism of Admiral William McRaven. But the Pakistan remark should outrank all of it on the shocking meter.
Trump said, "We give them $1.3 billion a year that we don't give them any more. I ended it. Because they don't do anything for us any more."
The president followed up this remark by tweeting a similar thing Monday morning.
Here's why this is catastrophically dangerous.
Pakistan, which is ranked fourth from last in the world in terms of political stability (Syria, Afghanistan, and Yemen being the most unstable), has a stockpile of more than 130 nuclear warheads, a number that's growing by an estimated 20 warheads per year, more than India, Israel, or North Korea. And those nukes are in perpetual danger of falling into the grip of jihadists.
If proliferation along these lines ever occurs, the western world is, well, fucked. Imagine, for a moment, nuclear weapons in the hands of a would-be Islamic caliphate sandwiched between Iran, China, and Afghanistan, positioned within easy reach of India and other western allies in south Asia. Worse, imagine nuclear material from Pakistan's arsenal shoved into a suitcase bomb and detonated in New York City.
Is this seriously a region where we should be less involved to the point of being deliberately antagonistic? You decide.
The situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan is deeply complicated from myriad strategic, military, and political perspectives partly because the Pakistani government has a more or less frenemy relationship with the Afghan Taliban. It's the worst kind of situation to be handled by a disinformed, disengaged, superficial, incompetent, criminal president like Trump chiefly because it requires complex thinking and a long-view strategy that Trump's simply not capable of grasping.
The tiny ray of sunshine here is that Trump, despite his blabbing, hasn't eliminated the entirety of American military aid to Pakistan. So far, he's only trimmed out $300 million. But it's his justifications for it that reveal his narrow, myopic mindset. He thinks strictly in terms of a direct swap -- a transaction in which we give them money and they give us a product of some sort. This is ludicrous thinking in terms of international affairs where blowback or upsides can often take decades to materialize.
Trump only sees the eternal now. It's beyond his capability to understand that an American presence, at least financially, is better than nothing -- with "nothing" including the reality that a radical Islamic regime or the Taliban itself is breathtakingly close to gaining power over Pakistan's 100 nuclear warheads, with the aim being jihad against the West.
Barack Obama once had the following conversation with George Clooney, as told by Clooney himself:
I talked with the president at one of those fundraisers some months back, and I asked him, "What keeps you up at night?"
And he said, "Everything. Everything that gets to my desk is a critical mass. If it gets to my desk, then no one else could have handled it." So I said, "So what's the one that keeps you up at night?"
He goes, "There are quite a few."
So I go, "What's the one? Period."
And he says, "Pakistan."
Suffice to say, it doesn't keep him awake because of the spicy cuisine. It keeps him awake because terrorists are freakishly close to acquiring nuclear materials. The Af/Pak region is a far greater threat, in fact, than North Korea. Likewise, knowing how Trump feels about Obama, he's frighteningly unconcerned about Pakistan probably because Obama was extremely concerned. Think about that. If true, Trump is tempting nuclear fate simply because he wants to stick it to the Obama legacy, and Obama himself.
If we see a nuclear attack in the near term, the likelihood is significant that Pakistan will be involved. And Trump is turning the dial in the direction of this outcome.