You can’t put the genie back in the bottle.
It’s an old phrase, meaning that some effects aren’t reversible. It’s used interchangeably with “You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube.” There’s a bit of a darker undercurrent to it, though.
Back in the old stories from the Middle East, genies weren’t necessarily the benevolent spirits portrayed by a wisecracking Robin Williams in a Disney cartoon. They were forces of nature, as likely to bring utter devastation as they were to grant a heart’s desire. Freeing one from its prison was a dicey proposition, an act to be performed only after careful consideration and acceptance of the potential consequences.
After all, once it was freed, there was no going back.
The failure to accept this fact is one of the self-destructive conceits of the Trump administration and its adherents. It has been on display twice this week.
On Sunday, John Bolton revised the official position on Trump’s troop withdrawal from Syria. We are no longer immediately withdrawing all our troops because we’ve defeated ISIS, as indicated by the President’s December 19th tweets. Instead we are going to work with our regional allies to ensure the complete destruction of ISIS.
In one way, this is a good thing. Contrary to Trump’s initial statement, ISIS was not fully defeated, and to leave before the job was done would have greatly emboldened the homicidal zealots.
Of concern, however, was not merely the fight against terrorists. There were other ramifications. In this case, it demonstrated the mercurial nature of American alliances as nations in the coalition forces fighting in Syria were surprised with the news that the most powerful military ally had arbitrarily decided to leave.
It did something more, though. The decision abandoned the Kurds and exposed them for an immediate attack by Turkish forces. The intent to take such an action was made clear by Turkey, and they pledged only to hold off until the American presence was ended. They even threatened France to leave as well, lest they suffer dire consequences.
The Kurdish forces, faced with the threat of annihilation, shifted their alliances. They came to an agreement to work with Assad’s national forces and their Russian support in exchange for keeping Turkey at bay.
Now that we have pledged to remain, Trump’s promoters are pretending that everything in Syria is back to the way it was prior to Trump’s tweets on the 19th. It is not. The civil war to oust Assad has been lost, as the largest army fighting against him has switched to supporting him. Russia, which spent years backing Assad after repeated demands for his ouster from the international community – including the United States – has had its reputation as a military and political ally greatly enhanced and at the same time has developed a strong partner in a strategic location.
That’s not the only genie, however.
This week saw an attempted political hit on Ocasio-Cortez in the form of a collegiate dance video. Portraying her as out of touch and elitist, the hope was that it would undermine her credibility; instead it did the opposite, making her far more likeable to the many who are unfamiliar with the destructive nature of her policies.
With the expected scorn blowing instead toward the Republicans who were unable to appreciate a little light-hearted dance, the initial poster took down his Twitter account. By that time, however, Democrat-friendly media sources had taken the story and run with it, gathering up quotes and tweets and video from various pro-Trump venues and using them to craft a narrative that all Republicans were hopeless pearl-clutchers eager to recreate the restrictive town from Footloose.
The Republicans who had been attempting to push the elitist narrative recognized the degree of their failure and removed their tweets and articles supporting the original QAnon follower and his “shock video”.
They seem to believe they can simply put out stories claiming that the attacks never happened and that it’s merely a lie perpetrated by the fans of Ocasio-Cortez. Again, however, that genie is already out.
First, with any prominent person, screen captures are available of their posts. The Republicans can claim that Gateway Pundit, Adam Baldwin and other prominent media sources or Trump fans didn’t jump in on the attacks, but their tweets are available. Saying something didn’t happen when there is immediate proof that it did only undermines credibility.
Second, and more important, the prominence of Ocasio-Cortez is elevated. In a way this is good for the Republicans, as they are attempting to use her as a target for their fundraising. It is an incredibly dangerous gambit, however; the Democrats pushed Trump extensively during the 2016 campaign, under the assumption that he would be far easier for Hillary to beat than any of the other candidates. While all indications are that this is true – polling indicated that most votes were placed against candidates, and Trump was by far the least liked of all Republican contenders – in the end, Hillary couldn’t even beat Trump.
Setting Ocasio-Cortez up for national prominence under the assumption that her policy positions would render her unelectable ignores the results of the last three elections. It risks an Ocasio-Cortez Presidency when she becomes eligible, due to name recognition and “likeability”.
It’s not as if she’d be difficult to neutralize. She regularly makes false statements and has a poor understanding of the mechanics of politics. Simply amplifying her gaffes and ignoring when she makes statements which would resonate among the socialists would render her the next Palin or Quayle. The Republicans aren’t doing that, however.
And that brings up the third point: that Russia is winning again. Russia has been fomenting discord in free societies and promoting both socialist and nationalist groups, with the expectation that a nation attacking itself is easy prey for outside forces.
Personal attacks that can be easily framed as racist, sexist, and/or ageist are playing into Russia’s hands.
Now, tonight, President Trump may be preparing to let another genie out of its bottle, this one the largest and most destructive yet: seizure of Administrative power under the auspices of Emergency Powers. It would heighten discord and factionalization among citizens, which would again play into the hands of our sworn national enemies.
It would grant him a way out of the corner into which he’s painted himself, but it would come at a dire cost to the nation. I hope he is not foolish enough to play to the contingent of his base which lacks both forethought and consideration.
“Consequences, shmonsequences, as long as I’m rich” didn’t work out too well for Daffy, either.