Dana Milbank: The U.S. must take Greenland by force

Washington • In the Trump era, no moment of tranquility can be taken for granted.

I went to the beach for what I thought would be a quiet August break. I returned to find President Trump plotting to annex Greenland.

On Sunday, Trump confirmed that he would be interested in buying the territory from Denmark and that “we’ll talk to them” about it. “Essentially, it’s a large real estate deal,” Trump explained, reasoning that Denmark might be willing to part with the huge land mass because “they carry it at a great loss.”

The great Danes reacted indignantly. “Greenland is not for sale,” Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen proclaimed on a defensive visit to the island Sunday, calling the idea “an absurd discussion” and saying “I strongly hope that this is not meant seriously.”

Fighting words! There is only one proper response to such intransigence: The United States must take Greenland by force.

Greenland has no regular military, so we should be able to occupy every Nuuk and cranny of the place without much struggle. It's possible, of course, that this attack on Danish territory would prompt a response by NATO under the alliance's mutual-defense pact, but Trump has already defanged that alliance.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, foresaw such a moment, saying in 2016 during the GOP presidential nominating battle that "we're liable to wake up one morning and Donald, if he were president, would have nuked Denmark."

Trump has demonstrated little familiarity with the kingdom — his White House once spelled it “Denmakr” — which is why I speculated that he might bumble into a misplaced (and misspelled) assault on that country (“You may be shoked by my military attak on the Kingdom of Denmakr ...”). After that prediction, an anxious man in Copenhagen emailed me with a plea that I cease giving Trump such ideas.

But a U.S. attack on Greenland would meet the definition of a just war. It would be an act of self-defense against a violent people: Erik the Red, who founded the first European settlement in Greenland, was exiled from Iceland for his murderous ways.

Besides, Greenland attacked us first. It was 1,019 years ago, give or take — and they still celebrate it: In the town of Qassiarsuk, according to the website VisitGreenland.com, stands a bronze statue of Leif Eriksson — one of Erik the Red’s sons — on the site from which the Viking departed to invade North American shores.

Greenland hit us again, in 1912: It is well established that the iceberg that sank the Titanic originated in Greenland. Furthermore, the island resumed its incursions in recent years, flooding our shores with rising water from its melting ice sheet.

Some might wonder what Trump sees in an ice-covered island that has zero percent arable land, lacks major roads and has more vowels than people. Its national anthem is "Nunarput utoqqarsuanngoravit," translated as, "Our Country, Who's Become So Old."

The answer, as usual, is to be found in Trump's TV-viewing habit. I suspect that, during his recent Executive Time, he watched the James Bond film "Quantum of Solace," in which the villains conquer a country by monopolizing the fresh-water supply. Greenland's ice, with enough water to fill the Great Lakes 115 times, is the world's second-largest supply of fresh water.

If Trump's Greenland move was indeed inspired by his screen time, it would be consistent with his pattern. His claim that women are being smuggled across the southern border with "duct tape on their faces" had no basis in reality but figured prominently in the Benicio del Toro film, "Sicario: Day of the Soldado." Trump's use of an emergency declaration to build a border wall without congressional approval had a precedent in Netflix's "House of Cards," in which Frank Underwood declared an emergency to enact his pet project over congressional wishes. And many of Trump's policy pronouncements originate in Fox News segments.

But this latest example of life imitating Trump's TV screen isn't necessarily to be discouraged. The world's largest island, Greenland is three times the size of Texas and almost 50% larger than Alaska. Such a vast territory would surely gain statehood before long, and representation in the House and Senate. And there's little mystery about which way Greenland's representatives in Congress would tilt: Its two biggest political parties are both varieties of socialists.

Trump likes to warn that Democrats want a "socialist takeover." But by annexing Greenland, he'd be the one bringing genuine socialists to these shores.

Even Erik the Red couldn't achieve that.

Dana Milbank | The Washington Post

Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.