Oh f@ck. That’s not a statement from an big money pundit. That’s the only possible reaction to the news that came at the end of Donald Trump’s Saturday night rally in Nevada. After hours of declaring that Democrats mean mobs and leading the lock ‘er up chants, Trump declared that the United States is going to build a new generation of nuclear weapons. Thousands, and thousands. And thousands of new nuclear weapons. If that seems impossible when the US is constrained (thank God) by decades of nuclear treaties that cap the number of weapons in service, The Guardian provides the simple, and simply horrific, answer.
Donald Trump has confirmed the US will leave an arms control treaty with Russia dating from the cold war that has kept nuclear missiles out of Europe for three decades.
“We’ll have to develop those weapons,” the president told reporters in Nevada after a rally. “We’re going to terminate the agreement and we’re going to pull out.”
Donald Trump is going to pull the United States out of the treaty limiting Intermediate-range nuclear weapons. That treaty, signed by that wimp Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, required the destruction of nearly 2,700 missiles. And it ended what was then the most dangerous part of the nuclear arms race—a race to develop small, “portable” weapons that were more difficult to track and easier to deploy by rail or road. Missiles that were to be scattered over the United State, and Russia, and pretty much everywhere else. Missiles that made the possibility of a nuclear weapon being deployed on a modern battlefield infinitely greater.
Those smaller weapons, with warheads only tens or hundreds of more power than the bombs that obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki, were solidly in the much-less-unthinkable category for military planners. No one wanted to be the first to hit a major city with an H-bomb, but lobbing a few “battlefield nukes” to soften up those enemy armor columns (literally) looked way too attractive to way too many people. People like John Bolton. Killing the INF is the pure, distilled essence of wet dream for John Bolton. Because he really, truly, not exaggerating, likes the idea of using these things. Not “using them for leverage.” Using them.
Don’t worry. I’m getting to the pundits. But until then … worry. Because this is the most staggeringly dangerous move anyone has made since well before the Berlin Wall fell.
Trump has clearly listened to Bolton’s mustache on this issue. If the United States pulls out of the INF, it will lead immediately to a new arms race that will, for the first time in decades, put thousands of new nuclear weapons on US and Russian bases around the world. When the Russians plant medium range weapons in Syria, will America respond by handing them to … Mohammed bin Salman? Openly site weapons in Israel? This is a formula to generate not another Cuban missile crisis, but dozens of them. And this is just the start, pun sadly recognized, because Bolton also wants Trump to pull out of the SALT treaty.
“This is the most severe crisis in nuclear arms control since the 1980s,” said Malcolm Chalmers, the deputy director general of the Royal United Services Institute. “If the INF treaty collapses, and with the New Start treaty on strategic arms due to expire in 2021, the world could be left without any limits on the nuclear arsenals of nuclear states for the first time since 1972.”
And it doesn’t have to happen. The only reason it’s happening isn’t strategic necessity and isn’t a breakdown of diplomacy. It’s just that Donald Trump and John Bolton are slobbering over the idea.
Trump and Bolton are bringing on a world where the next generation are pinned between climate change summer and nuclear winter with the prospect of a rapid, horrible death always at hand. They’re bringing back duck and cover drills to fit around the active shooter drills.
For those of you who were wondering how Trump would distract the world from the Khashoggi murder and cover-up, the answer is: Increase threat of Global Thermonuclear War.
Anne Applebaum: In Poland, the Catholic church has allied with the nationalist right
For most of the 20th century and much of the 21st, the church had an exceptional status in Poland, precisely because it was seen as apolitical, a neutral force for good, the representative of the entire nation. …
In the Poland of 2018, the church is no longer seen as neutral. Instead, it is a major source of division in one of the most polarized societies in Europe. Church leaders have made a public and ostentatious choice to support the far-right ruling party, even as it broke the constitution, packed courts and politicized other previously neutral institutions, such as public television and the civil service. The clergy openly agitate for the party in sermons and public commentary; some receive enormous state subsidies in exchange.
Places change; Ireland, once deeply Catholic, is no longer.
While some might welcome the loss of power by the church, the alliance with the hard right nationalists mean that time time, the church in Poland offers no refuge for those who oppose the government.
Leonard Pitts: Republicans fear black, brown, young … everyone but old white voters.
A word for young people, people of color and, in particular, young people of color:
The Republicans are scared of you.
Maybe you find that hard to believe. Maybe you wonder how the party can be scared of you — or of anybody — given that it controls all three branches of the federal government and most of the nation’s state houses. You’re worried about paying your student loans, putting food on the table, getting home without becoming some cop’s mistake, and the GOP is scared of you?
In a word: Yes.
How scared? Scared enough to blatantly purge hundreds of thousands of people from voter rolls. Scared enough to close polling stations or move them miles away from population centers. Scared enough to not only pass ID laws but constantly increase the requirements.
And really, really scared that it all won’t be enough to keep them in power.
See, the party knows that if everybody votes, it can’t win. That’s simple math. The Republican electorate skews sharply older and white. Polling from The Roper Center at Cornell University says whites went for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton in 2016 by 57 to 37 percent, while people of color strongly supported her, African Americans giving her 89 percent of their vote. Trump also lost big among young voters, but won big among their elders.
Dana Milbank: What’s killing Republicans in 2018, is the thing they ran on since 2010
Embattled incumbent Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-Maine) stands accused of voting against health care for more than 100,000 Mainers. “To clarify,” a reporter for the local ABC affiliate asked Poliquin recently, “did you vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act?”
“No,” Poliquin said. “I voted for a replacement plan.” He went on to claim he was “one of three Republicans in the country” against repealing Obamacare without a replacement.
Alas for Poliquin, the image on screen switched to the House floor, with a voice-over: “Poliquin did vote for the ACA repeal bill.”
Indeed, Poliquin helped the American Health Care Act, the repeal bill even President Trump later described as “mean,” clear the House by four votes. It would have weakened protections for those with preexisting conditions.
Poliquin is far from alone. Across America, Republicans are finding that their support for “repeal then … oh hell, just repeal” is poison. Somewhere around about one month into Trumpland, they overplayed their hand on healthcare. Then they just kept playing.
With the Affordable Care Act hitting record support in a recent Fox News poll , and preexisting-conditions protections remaining overwhelmingly popular, congressional Republicans have recently sought inoculation by introducing various proposals they say would protect people with preexisting conditions. And they are vigorously scrubbing their records, according to archived versions of their websites reviewed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Richard Wolffe: Trump is sticking with bin Salman, and destroying the rule of law
From the moment he laid his stubby hands on that glowing orb in Riyadh, Donald Trump signaled to the world what kind of leader he aspired to be. Bathed in a spectral light, standing alongside the Saudi King Salman and the Egyptian dictator, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, the man formerly known as the leader of the free world smiled with self-satisfaction that he had arrived at his chosen destination.
Despite the object’s likeness to the orb of Saruman, this was no secret society of evil wizards. Instead, it was a brazenly open society of corrupt old men with a clear disregard for the rule of law, if not a cruel desire to brutalize their opponents.
The fact that they were standing in the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology was either an exercise in paper-thin deception or some kind of sick joke. It’s hard to express your disgust at Isis beheadings, as Trump has done, but feel nothing about the Saudi beheadings of 48 people in just four months this year.
The Saudis cut off over a hundred heads in 2017. I don’t have a count for the hands, feet, and … other parts they cut off. But that’s also part of their legal code. So is crucifixion. You’d think that might give someone a clue.
Then again, we’re talking about Donald Trump’s feelings and his limitless capacity to lie. Of course it’s possible to condemn the “bloodthirsty killers” of Isis at the UN, and praise the “unbelievable job” of the death squads of President Duterte in the Philippines. He’s Donald Trump, a bear of very little brain who convinced himself that someone in China thinks he has a “very, very large brain”.
Mohamad Bazzi: Donald Trump made it possible to kill Jamal Khashoggi
On 11 October, nine days after the dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi disappeared after visiting Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul, Donald Trump made a remarkable statement about his foreign policy priorities. At an impromptu press conference, the president was asked whether he would cancel arms sales to the kingdom if its leaders were implicated in Khashoggi’s likely murder. He responded that punishing Saudi leaders would cost the US money and jobs: “We don’t like it even a little bit. But whether or not we should stop $110bn from being spent in this country … That would not be acceptable to me.”
It was a clarifying moment for US foreign policy under Trump. For decades, successive US administrations pursued a similar path in the Middle East: security, military and diplomatic cooperation with repressive regimes like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, at the expense of promoting human rights and democracy. But several former presidents, including George W Bush and Barack Obama, obscured that reality with lofty rhetoric about respecting human rights. Trump dropped that pretense, and made clear that his primary interest would be America’s short-term economic and security concerns.
It’s even more striking because the thing Trump is covering up isn’t a disregard for human rights. It’s the fact that there is no big arms deal. Trump is more concerned about protecting the illusion that he made a deal than about the lives of actual people.
Bonnie Rochman: The rich are different, and getting even more different
The genetic caste system that [Stephen Hawking] predicts is just a function of next-gen economic disparities — an evolved, scientific iteration of what already happens when people with money have the means to improve themselves and their namesakes. Self-improvement is an entire industry right now, after all, with shelves of books urging people to amp up their people skills (hire a life coach) or their abs (call the personal trainer). For those who can afford it, why not amp up their offspring?
Of all the science fiction dystopias I’ve seen on page or screen, the only one that has always seemed certain is the one described in Gattaca. That world—where parents buy a little more height, a little better looks, a little more brains, a little better health for their offspring seems not just possible, but unstoppable. If people could do this … of course they would do this. They already go to extraordinary efforts and expense to give their children the slightest edge. And they do so even when that edge can’t be gained legally—See Trump, Fred and all the schemes he set up to give his little darlings every benefit of a tax free billion.
Hawking wrote that we’re embarking upon “a new phase of what might be called self-designed evolution, in which we will be able to change and improve our DNA.” We’re already seeing the start of that. DNA editors such as CRISPR are being harnessed to correct defective genes. In 2017, the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine gave their blessing to edit the genes of human eggs, sperm or embryos when doing so is the only way to avert devastating disease. In August, scientists in China announced they had successfully used CRISPR to repair a mutation that causes Marfan syndrome.
My uncle died from the effects of Marfan syndrome while still a young man. Of course I want it cured. It’s a bomb baked into the DNA of my family, and I want it defused. But it won’t stop there.
Joe Scarborough: Trump’s first deal in the desert is turning into his personal disaster
The country that President Trump once believed would offer his White House the surest path to Middle East peace has instead created his administration’s greatest foreign policy crisis yet. Despite campaign boasts to the contrary, Trump is learning that brokering diplomatic deals in that troubled region is no easier than taming the bloodlust of a petulant young Saudi Arabian prince.
But the multitude of miscalculations regarding Mohammed bin Salman have not been concocted by Trump alone. The president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, developed a close friendship with MBS, as the crown prince is known, and bragged that he spent the weekend with him last fall just before his crackdown on family members and political rivals inside Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton. Soon after stories of torture and murder spread beyond the walls of the Riyadh Ritz, MBS was given a hero’s welcome in America by Oprah Winfrey, Rupert Murdoch, Bob Iger, Jeffrey P. Bezos (who owns The Post), Tim Cook and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. The prince scored a Buckingham Palace audience with Queen Elizabeth II in England and even sipped coffee with Michael Bloomberg at a New York City Starbucks.
Lets back up a minute. Bin Salman may have sipped a latte with Bloomberg, but I’m guessing that neither Tim Cook nor Oprah shared classified intelligence information that helped bin Salman know which uncles just needed to be extorted and which needed to be beheaded.
That was all Jared.
Were Wall Street, Silicon Valley and Hollywood icons too distracted by Saudi oil money to notice that their new friend was jailing women’s rights activists, torturing political rivals and indiscriminately killing civilians across Yemen? Now that MBS’s penchant for silencing critics is believed to have cost the life of a Virginia resident and Post contributing columnist, Trump is learning too late that there are bloodstains that cannot be washed away by Saudi oil.
David Von Drehle: Mohammed bin Salman could bring on his own end. Or his nation’s.
MBS, as the crown prince is widely known, is the first of his very numerous generation (Saud had at least 22 wives) to wield the power of the crown; his father, King Salman, is 82 and partially disabled by Alzheimer’s disease. A young tyrant in a big hurry, MBS elbowed aside an older cousin last year, confining him to house arrest, and also set about jailing his rivals, torturing his critics, silencing dissenters, and creating a humanitarian crisis of staggering proportions in neighboring Yemen. Khashoggi’s murder, for all its alleged grisly sadism, seems right in character.
True, the House of Saud has never been known for liberalism. Oppressive at home and subversive abroad, it long ago made a devil’s bargain with radical Wahhabism that lies near the root of al-Qaeda, the Islamic State and the Taliban. Even so, dispatching a team of killers — allegedly packing a bone saw — to dispose of a prominent U.S. resident on Turkish soil is an act of alarming brashness.
I asked one knowledgeable business executive whether this tells us MBS is crazy or stupid. “Hmm,” came the answer. “Maybe both.”
With a combination like that, it’s no wonder that Donald Trump feels comfortable with him.
A very minor note: I’ve fiddled with the formatting a bit this morning. Some people had complained that the source of a column was more important than the author in determining which articles they read. For me, it’s the author first and pretty well only. As a compromise I’ve put in both items this morning. I’ve adopted similar formatting for Abbreviated Science Round-up and This Week in Space on Saturdays, but in those cases I have listed the publications first, with the authors below. If you can pull yourself away from digging a bomb shelter in the backyard and browsing for the best deal on 50-year-shelf-life meals, let me know what you think.