Personal Rule

Between 1629 and 1640 King Charles I Stuart of England, Scotland & Ireland ruled England through Personal Rule. He prorogued Parliament the year before and simply refused to call for another Parliament. Over the decade Charles did everything he could to finance his expenses through every means short of taxation, as only Parliament could levy a tax. He revived a medieval law that required men of means to be knighted or be fined. Charles was not interested in knighting these men but instead fined them. The Plantagenet levy of Ship Money was revived and applied to the entire kingdom during peacetime. Monopolies were granted to raise lump sums of cash for the King despite a statute prohibiting the King to do so. Having taken out so many loans that no one, foreign or domestic, was willing to lend more to the King unless he called a Parliament to guarantee repayment, Charles was forced to simply seize money stored in the Royal Mint calling it a forced loan and promising 8% interest. The East India Company refused to lend to the King and his Lord Treasurer requisitioned the Company’s supply of pepper and spices, sold them at cut rate prices and promised to refund them later. These financial shenanigans, religious strife in Ireland and Scotland and an invasion by rebellious Scots forced Charles to call a Parliament. That Parliament would fight two civil wars against Charles and in the end order his execution by beheading on the 30 January 1649. The Eleven Years’ Tyranny as it was called by Whiggish historians, ended in disaster for England and most especially the English King. In the English speaking world (The United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) there is no positive tradition of personal rule. We are ruled by consensus and committee. There may be a King, President or Governor-General but in the end they cannot rule alone and their desires and needs must be subordinate and secondary to the commonweal and needs of the people they rule.

On 8 May 2018 President of the United States Donald Trump announced he was “withdrawing” (an incorrect term as it is not a treaty and his actions are a breach of the agreement) from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA or the Iran Deal, a 159 page document with five appendices which prevented the Islamic Republic of Iran from developing atomic weapons in exchange for relief from sanctions imposed upon it by the United States, the United Nations and the European Union. Trump says the deal is bad and by violating it will make the United States safer, somehow; he refuses to explain how. This decision has been a long time coming. The Republican Party, Trump himself and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu are the most prominent opponents of this deal which achieved the stated goal of all parties: the non-proliferation of atomic weapons in the Mideast. All denounce the deal as bad for America yet when pressed for specifics or alternatives they are suddenly struck dumb. The reason the Republicans and Trump in particular oppose JCPOA is because it was made by the Obama Administration. Trump has an avowed and visceral hatred of Obama rooted in racism. Netanyahu opposes the deal because he hates Iran and I think his envisioned endgame is an American invasion of Iran to kneecap that regional rival for at least twenty years. Such a scenario would achieve all of Netanyahu’s goals: Israel would be safe from Iranian aggression as it would turn from projecting power into Syria and Lebanon to resist the American invasion. Iran would be occupied by American troops for at least a decade in a repeat of the bloodiest days in Iraq. And the resulting conflict will devastate Iran to such an extent that it would be unable to directly threaten Israel for decades.

Trump’s decision has nothing to do with what is good for the United States or the American people. It is simply an act of personal rule. He can do it because JCPOA is not a treaty and does not require Congress to weigh in, though the current Congress would not put up much resistance to abrogating the agreement. Trump is unable to think ahead and unable to recognize cause and effect. He may entertain the idea that if he can sit down with the Iranians he can get a better deal for the US but that is the delusion of a senile old coot. The Iranians have no incentive to give up more than they already have. Had President Obama had an aneurysm in December 2013 and either died or be forced to retire from office and a President Biden had been the one in the White House when the deal was signed the US it would most likely be still in effect. The fact that a black man, something Trump is known to have a deep-seated hatred of, was at the helm when this agreement was made is the issue. One of the raisons d’être of the Trump Presidency is to undo everything Obama did. The ramifications of this action will go beyond just the relations between the US and Iran; all of which will be lost on Trump as he will not understand why they are happening. Our NATO allies and the UN face a stark choice: to go with the whims of Trump and abandon JCPOA, guaranteeing an atomic Iran; or to isolate the United States and side with the Iranians to keep the peace. Any hopes that North Korea may agree to denuclearize are dead and buried. The North Koreans will reasonably ask what guarantees the Trump Administration can give them that any deal struck will be kept in two to six years when the Trump Presidency can/will end? What will prevent the next President from tearing up the deal like Trump has with the Iran one? Trump’s word is not even ink on paper, it’s worth less: it is a tweet.

Trump’s decision is not born out of any high minded ideals, coherent policy or even a desire to keep Americans safe or strengthen the US position abroad. It is a petty act of personal animus. He did it because Obama’s name was on the deal and because he could. It required no consultation with Congressional leaders, foreign allies or even his own staff. Much like Charles I, Trump behaves as if he is the only person that matters in the nation and is deeply unpopular with most of his countrymen. He has no idea what he is doing apart from scratching off another one of Obama’s acts. If we are incredibly lucky, the Europeans will cobble together something that keeps the deal alive and Iran without a nuclear bomb. If we are somewhat unlucky the United States will be humiliated when Trump backs down from a crisis in the Persian Gulf and Iran, which is only a middle power in the region and is badly overextended with its adventurism abroad, will gain immense prestige as it stands up to the most powerful nation in human history. The most disastrous scenario will be war with Iran and another interminable occupation of a hostile Mideast nation with a steady stream of American dead, wounded, maimed and scarred young men and women coming home. We will all regret this decision, Trump will not because he does not understand what he has done.

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