US President Donald Trump caused another of his by now awfully repetitive international faux pas by demanding, out of the blue, that Denmark should sell Greenland to the US, and then getting mad after the very predictable answer from Danish officials that the island was not for sale, and throwing a tantrum – canceling a state visit to that country because its prime minister “was nasty to him,” when she simply repeated her nation’s position on the attempted purchase.
Besides the useless debate on Trump’s mental stability, missing in action for a long time, and his lack of the most basic diplomatic tact, which goes well beyond a few embarrassing anecdotes, the fact is he is regurgitating the worst insights of the Manifest Destiny doctrine launched by James Monroe, the fifth president of the US, who stated that no foreign nation had any valid claim to territories in the Americas, and that the US would use its military and naval power, which at the time were laughable, to enforce such a dictum. The rest of the continent saw it for what it was: a power grab by the US to be the sole hegemon in the Americas.
It is true that during World War II, when Denmark was occupied by Nazi Germany, the US made sure that Greenland didn’t fall into German hands by installing enough military presence to deter a potential invasion. It is also true that at the end of the war president Harry Truman offered to buy the territory from Denmark, a proposal that was politely declined, but a permanent military presence at the Thule Air Force Base in northwest Greenland was welcomed. Since then no other US leader had regurgitated such a hare-brained notion.
In any case, Trump got the wrong target in his quest to expand US territory by selecting Greenland, an ice-covered and virtually barren island in the Arctic, between North America and Europe, that has been a Danish possession since 1814. The reason it was such folly is that Denmark, which has been managing Greenland as an autonomous entity for the last two centuries, plus everyone in Greenland and Denmark seem to be happy with the status quo. Also, Denmark is an admirable, rich, democratic nation with a well-run government that has been a reliable ally of the US.
For a more likely proposal to expand US territory, instead of looking east, it should look south, where it acquired close to half of its territory by pilfering real estate for Texas, New Mexico and Arizona all the way to California, Nevada, Colorado, Utah and parts of Wyoming in the 19th century. At the time of the unprovoked invasion of Mexico in 1847-48, where to draw the new frontier was hotly debated, and president James Polk and many of his gung-ho allies wanted to include Baja California as part of the annexation of Mexican lands. In the end, that did not happen because Nicholas Trist, the US negotiator of the peace treaty with Mexico, was a man of honor and he had already agreed with his Mexican counterparts that Baja would not be included as part of the settlement.
Lopez-Obrador shockingly pliant
But now Mexico is governed by a man who is the brown mirror-image of Trump, and whose narcissism and lack of respect for the truth and the rule of law, have been well established in his brief tenure of only nine months as president. Andrés Manuel López-Obrador is a populist with a strong authoritarian and nationalistic bent, but he has been shockingly pliant and accommodating to every whim of Trump, including a huge number of non-Mexican deportees from the US (the figure will reach 100,000 by the end of this year), accepting de facto the status of a third safe country, which is a laughable concept since violence has skyrocketed to record levels this year due to the government’s incompetence.
Besides accepting the reflux of refugee candidates, López-Obrador agreed to turn all of Mexico into Trump’s border wall by assigning half of its armed forces to detain people hoping to migrate to the US from Mexican territory, when he threatened to impose a 25% tariff in all imports from Mexico, something most experts considered was a typical Trumpian bluff that would not happen.
With the accumulated evidence of López giving to Trump everything he wants, despite his mistreatment and insults to Mexicans and their country, and now that he seems interested in acquiring additional real estate for the US, the obvious move would be to offer to purchase Baja California, which at 143,389 square kilometers is 5% larger than the Italian peninsula, with the threat of more tariffs or of closing down the border, as he has intimated in the past.
I suspect that many inhabitants of Baja would welcome becoming the 51st state of the US under the expectation that the value of their properties would increase sharply, which is likely to occur, only because they ignore how Mexican property owners and native Americans were mistreated in the huge annexation mentioned above, a horror story that is bound to be repeated in the event of this takeover ever occurring.
So, an aggressively insane US president and an uninformed demagogue who scares like the bully in the north as leader of Mexico, but who otherwise are so much alike, are the perfect match for the unthinkable: the sale of Baja California.