Dear Reader (and all the future Americans of Greenland),
“Why can’t you say anything nice about Donald Trump?!”
I hear this a lot, though not always in this G-Rated phrasing. I’ll skip past all the different responses I have to these sorts of questions and cut to the chase:
What has two thumbs and wants American to buy Greenland? This guy.
If you could see me right now, you’d see that I’m pointing my thumbs at myself (or as I like to say, “me-ward.”). This makes typing very difficult so I am going to stop now, but you get the point. On the peaceful annexation of Greenland, I’m with Trump.
Everyone is making fun of him for floating the idea. But just because the idea comes from Trump doesn’t mean the idea is stupid or crazy (something the Jennifer Rubins of the world seem incapable of understanding).
Allow me to explain.
First of all, the old axiom that you should buy land because “God ain’t making any more of it” is more relevant for nations than it is for people. An individual investor’s timeline is fairly time-bound: their own lifetime, and perhaps their kids’ lifetime.
Oh sure, occasionally you get a Walt Disney frozen head scenario or a Jeffrey Epstein seed-the-human-race situation. But for the most part, land that doesn’t get more valuable in years or a couple decades may not be a great investment. But for countries, the time horizon is theoretically only bounded by an extinction level event like an asteroid impact, the blotting out of the sun, or being forced to watch the new Cats movie.
But there are other arguments for making Greenland Alaska 2.0. I haven’t done a scientific survey, but I’m confident that many of the people mocking the idea are of the type who see climate change as a great threat. Well, that’s one reason why acquiring Greenland is a no-brainer. Under the UN’s most extreme worst-case scenarios, Greenland will become like the Malibu of the North Atlantic (admittedly after a very muddy period). And given that it is 1.26 times the size of Alaska, it could handle as many climate refugees from the lower 48 (or would that be lower 49?) as needed.
Economically, you’d be crazy not to get in on that action. It’s full of minerals, reindeer, and other parts of a nutritious breakfast. It’s also got oil and gas, precious gems, and probably some really cool fossils.
Strategically, it’s a lay-up. It would greatly enhance our position in the increasingly important Arctic. Greenland is also perfectly situated to monitor threats from Russia, which is why America has a base there now and why we wanted to buy it in the 1940s. I’m not sure it would boost our ability to thwart Russian meddling in our elections—memes of Jesus and Satan arm-wrestling over the election do not cross its airspace or territorial waters—but detecting missile launches and nuclear subs is almost as important.
Seriously, as a policy matter, the only good argument against buying it in a voluntary economic transaction is that the price may be too high.
Denmark says it’s not for sale and so does Greenland. So that may end things right there. Or…. it’s a negotiating position! In which case, when Trump goes to Denmark next month, he should scribble a number on a napkin and slide it over to the Queen and see what she says. If it’s 10 trillion dollars, I think we’d have to pass, unless Modern Monetary Theory rides to the rescue.
But what if we could buy it for a dollar? I honestly don’t see any good arguments against it
Most of the chatter I see about it amounts to wanting to deny Trump a win. One gets the sense that some people think Greenland's being part of America would be bad for the environment. I think that’s silly, but if it’s a concern, Denmark could put conditions on the sale. And besides, there’s no rule that says we couldn’t turn most of it into some kind of national park or nature preserve.
I’m sure Mitch McConnell would want to keep it a territory instead of a state since right now, Greenland’s 57,000 or so residents are seriously left-wing and would certainly send some real Scandinavian socialist types for Bernie to bond with in the senate. But that’s before all of those Texans and Alaskans move there.
One other possible objection—if the price were in the trillions—is that it would massively inflate the trade deficit. “Why are we buying foreign landmasses rather than make them here at home!?” Steve King might ask.
Francis Fukuyama argues in his epic book The Origins of Political Order that the dream of political scientists and economists who study development is "getting to Denmark." Denmark is seen as a healthy social democracy with robust institutions and the ideal endpoint for poor and undemocratic nations. Well, I don’t want America to become Denmark, but there are far worse things it could become, too. But by buying Greenland one thing would be guaranteed: We’d literally be getting closer to Denmark. And Denmark-adjacent wouldn’t be so bad.
Back To Trump
When this story broke yesterday, I will admit to being really excited about it. Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Green Bay Packers) and I discussed the idea on a podcast a while back. We’re both really fond of what he calls “half-baked” ideas—really fun, interesting, almost-but-not-crazy-ideas that reside outside the Overton window of being taken seriously. I will admit I’m more into quarter- or eighth-baked ideas, like restoring papal armies and volcano-lancing. But that’s a subject for another time.
But soon, after watching the reaction to the story, I grew a little despondent. That’s because Trump has the ability to make good ideas unpopular because he is so disliked by so many voters and “influencers.” He can also make bad ideas popular among his fans as well.
A few examples: Liberals are more supportive of free trade than they’ve been in decades because Trump is so hostile to it. Conservatives are more supportive of protectionism because Trump is Tariff Man. Evangelicals are suddenly much more tolerant of things like adultery and profanity because they need to reconcile their support of Trump with Trump’s character—or lack of it.
Last year, when Trump came out and admitted that “nationalist” was a better label for him than conservative, I rejoiced, because I still cling—sometimes bitterly—to the pre-Trump definition of conservatism. I also gave my nationalist and nationalist-sympathetic friends a hard time, because now their cause would become synonymous with Trumpism.
The new nationalists are constantly scrambling to find a clear and operable definition of nationalism that distinguishes it from all—or at least most—of the negative connotations associated with the term. That’s why my friends Rich Lowry and Ramesh Ponnuru used the term “benign nationalism” in their magnum opus on the subject. The word “benign” does an incredible amount of heavy lifting there.
A quick aside. My friend Jay Nordlinger used to sidestep the lexicological and terminological feuds over the definitions of conservatism, neoconservatism, paleoconservatism, this conservatism, and that conservatism by calling himself a “Reaganite.” I think it would save a lot of people a great deal of time and energy if Trump supporters stopped trying to gussy up their political commitments with ideological rationales and intellectual structures if they just called themselves Trumpists. That would free up both the new nationalists and old conservatives to make their arguments more cleanly and clearly.
Anyway, the point I’m getting at is that if there was ever a chance for America to peacefully procure Greenland, Trump’s embrace of the idea has surely killed it. Europe might as well be an MSNBC green room when it comes to their attitudes on Trump. The idea of selling Greenland to Trump is going over with the Danes about as well as the idea of selling Mecca to Bibi Netanyahu would go down with the Saudis.
But here’s the thing: I’m still for it. I just recognize the cause is hopeless, at least in my lifetime now. And so: This is just another parable of the age we’re in. Trumpism and anti-Trumpism may seem like opposites, but when you have two sides of a coin, the value of the coin is the same. From where I sit, if you change your long-held views on a wide range of issues—from immigration and trade, to adultery and boorishness—to fit a mere politician, you never really understood or believed in those ideas in the first place.
Perhaps the primary defense of Trump from his fans is that he fights back in ways other Republicans wouldn’t. Sometimes that’s a legitimate benefit, but only when the fighting is effective. Dan McLaughlin has been making this point (again) on Twitter, and he’s right. The left will call any Republican president racist or bigoted or a tool of the fatcats. But as Dan puts it: “It’s easier to defend the innocent than the guilty.” Politics is another thing that isn’t always time-bound. Conservatives are supposed to be about the long game. That means we look to the past as a wellspring of traditions worth preserving and passing down to the future. Some of Trump’s victories are indeed conservative victories in the long game, particularly in the realm of judicial appointments. But many of his wins are really losses for conservatives in the long run. A whole generation now sees conservatism as Trumpism or as a philosophy utterly compatible with it. That will make our arguments much harder as time goes by and the voters who think they are preserving their nostalgic version of America are actually hastening its departure. The damage done to the Quixotic cause of Greenland annexation is not a big loss. The damage done to the image and substance of conservatism—and nationalism—will last much longer.
Various & Sundry
Canine Update: I’m writing this from Jackson Hole, which kind of a dog nirvana, so I’m somewhat overcome with guilt that my canine companions are not here. Reports from home are that they are doing well. Jack sent me a video of them happily greeting him when he came home, and I have to say I felt a slight twinge of betrayal, made all the more painful because I knew I deserved it.
Reader Request: Send me your half-baked ideas! Rep. Gallagher and I want to do a whole episode of the Remnant on half-baked ideas. If you have some, send them to me with a *short* case for them and I’ll read some of the good ones on “air.” Please be sure to specify whether you want to be anonymous or not.
And now, the weird stuff.