Weekly cables

Week 15 - 2017

Besides its international consequences, the U.S. attack on Syria also represented another episode in the tug of war between Trump and the so-called deep State. And both sides believe they’ve won this last round. Trump is sure he got the U.S. federal agencies off guard with his abrupt about face on Syria, apparently moving in a matter of hours from stating that Assad should remain in power to striking one air base of the regime. Needing a twist to rally public opinion around himself and set the course as commander-in-chief, Trump opted for a fast strike also as to puzzle U.S. security and defense apparatus which at first didn’t know how to craft a military response. Lacking a clear understanding of what the president wanted, many inside the Pentagon and Department of State felt baffled for several long hours. On the other hand, officials inside U.S. federal agencies highlight how Trump went from being a perceived anti-imperial isolationist to being an interventionist in just a couple of months. No to mention his stance toward Russia, which has gotten from cooperative and conciliatory to confrontational and hostile.

Japan might have called the American bluff on North Korea. As the U.S. Navy strike group Carl Vinson moves toward the western Pacific Ocean as a show of force aimed at Kim Jong-un’s regime, a senior Japanese military source explained that: "If the U.S. military was to attack, there could be a request to Japan for rear-guard logistics support but there has been no talk of such preparations." Japan might also prefer the U.S. not to strike North Korea right away, as Pyongyang’s perceived nuclear threat might allow Tokyo to get nuclear on its own. Mostly as a deterrent against China.

With all eyes on the incoming negotiations between Brussels (aka Berlin) and London, so far the real question behind Brexit has gone almost unnoticed. It took just the exit from a faltering economic bloc – the U.K. never really accepted any political integration advocated by Brussels – to lay bare Great Britain’s deep geopolitical fissures. Unlike what used to happen over the centuries, last year England failed to impose its will onto the Kingdom’s provinces, as Scotland and Northern Ireland reacted with fury at English voters opting to leave the European Union. And now Edinburgh and Belfast are using Brexit to either extol more autonomy from London or independence altogether. As if the European Union were still an appealing project. As if the Scots or the Northern Irish felt any more European than the English. Apart from the language, lacking a universalistic mission and with the monarch as the head of the Church, after many centuries London hasn’t yet been able to spread its culture to the rest of the kingdom as to make Great Britain a nation. No country breaks down from leaving a free trade block, unless its unity was never there in the first place.