HAPPY NEW YEAR TO EVERYONE, INCLUDING THE HATERS AND THE FAKE NEWS MEDIA! 2019 WILL BE A FANTASTIC YEAR FOR THOSE NOT SUFFERING FROM TRUMP DERANGEMENT SYNDROME. JUST CALM DOWN AND ENJOY THE RIDE, GREAT THINGS ARE HAPPENING FOR OUR COUNTRY!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 1, 2019
As I get ready to teach US Foreign Policy, I can say for certain that I will not enjoy this ride.
I haven't thought Mattis was that much of a break, so while Trump is likely to pick someone worse, I don't think there will be a huge difference. The US will escalate most wars that lack decent plans, Trump will refuse to be accountable, and the Pentagon will be relatively opaque. The big difference is that rather than the Joint Staff and the rest of the US military dominating policy-making (Marines uber alles), the civ-mil problem will be much strife between a Trumpier Office of Secretary of Defense and the military. Not better civ-mil, just different.
We often see anniversaries as focal points, so the reality that 2019 will see the 90th anniversary of the Great Depression and the 80th anniversary of the start of World War II is not great. Markets are already nervous enough, and Nazis are already mobilized enough. On the bright side, it is the 75th anniversary of D-Day, so defeating Nazis will also be celebrated. The founding of NATO in 1949 will get attention, but I worry that Trump may use that event to do more damage to the alliance.
The 50th anniversary of landing on the moon should be a positive thing, but the state of advanced tech these days--hacking, cyber attacks, limited progress in addressing climate change--may make us more depressed about the state of humankind. That it will also be the 20th anniversary of the Y2K panic may give us some solace--we managed to avoid disaster that time.
Thirtieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of Communism would be swell if it were not for the West surrendering many of the gains from winning the cold war. Damn, I am depressing on the first day of this New Year. Sorry.
Personally, I hope to spend less of 2019 writing grants than 2018 (to mixed success) and more time spending grant money. The various fates of such efforts will be known by the end of spring, which might mean an awesome but busy summer and fall. Thanks to my daughter successfully establishing herself on the west coast, I expect to be spending more time out there. I still have a bunch of research travel ahead to familiar places (Berlin, Riga, maybe Tokyo) and less travel to new places as the Dave/Phil/Steve project wraps up the research and starts to focus on figuring out what we have learned. I will also be traveling to Washington, DC to continue a much belated project with a former student, Ora Szekely, to figure out if we can provide a new way to understand bureaucratic politics. I will have other side projects and other trips, but nothing like the back to back to back trips of South Korea/Chile/NATO summit.
The upside of 2018 was a conscious effort by many academics on twitter to be kinder in their interactions. We will be needing more kindness in our own communities, in our own circles, as it will be, as the President suggests, a bumpy ride. But we will need to be more than kind--we will need to be assertive, to defend those who are attacked, to fight back against #voterfraudfraud and other attempts to undermine democracy and the rule of law. And we will need much patience and much beer, as the 2020 election is already underway. It was easy to predict that the Dems would take back the House but not the Senate. Who will emerge in 2019 and 2020 to contest Trump? Damned if I know.
Given that I ended 2018 with much Harry Potter via movie marathons and Binge-Mode, let me invoke Dumbledore: when one is faced between the right choice and the easy choice, let's make the right one.
And this might be my 2019 anthem.