Tag Archives: foreign policy

Major stress

North Korea is rattling its nuclear saber. Trumpcare 2.0 would have cut back essential benefits to placate the far right, but the Republican factions couldn’t reach an agreement. Abetted by the Russians, Assad is waging chemical warfare against his own citizens again. Trump’s travel and Muslim bans are menacing American citizens. A 36-year-old with no foreign policy experience at all is in charge of dealing with most of these issues, as well as negotiating with China and Mexico, resolving the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and more. These are difficult, uncertain times. Many are experiencing heretofore unknown levels of stress.

There is occasional good news. Trump demoted his close buddy, white nationalist Steve Bannon today. He removed Bannon from the principals’ committee of the National Security Council, perhaps an indication that Trump is actually beginning to listen to Gen. McMaster, his national security advisor and one of the few members of his cabinet with relevant experience. He reinstated the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence to the committee. The Times reports that Bannon didn’t go quietly, however, that he threatened to resign. No such luck. He still has the ear of the president and Trump’s son-in-law has the other. Little room for anyone else.

Trump snubbed German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a crucial ally, last week. This week he effused over the authoritarian Egyptian general who has taken control of Egypt, now a minor player in the Islamic world. Can’t wait to see how he handles Xi Jinping, the president of China, a very major player.

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Filed under Foreign Affairs, Trump

Donald Trump’s “presidential” debut


The new “presidential” Donald Trump that we were promised made his debut on Wednesday. It was definitely an improvement— no wild gestures, no sneers, no outrageous remarks. I even found myself in agreement with Trump a few times, as when he asserted that our actions in Iraq contributed to the rise of ISIS. Those moments, however, were outnumbered by half-baked ideas, contradictions and misstatements that originated in either ignorance or willful deception. At least they were expressed in a modulated tone not previously heard. Dressed in a blue suit sans red truckdriver’s cap, Trump sounded and looked like a grownup, rather than a spoiled brat seething with barely controlled rage.

Trump said he wants to shake the rust off American foreign policy. He accused President Obama of gutting the US military. He didn’t mention (is it possible he doesn’t know?) that the American military force is by far the largest in the world; the US spends more on the military than the next 11 countries put together.  Weapons, Trump said early in his speech, are our biggest problem, but he also said he wants to add more weapons such as cyber warfare, artificial intelligence and 3-D printing. He identified nuclear arms as the greatest threat, even while criticizing Obama for reducing the nuclear arsenal, demonstrating his ignorance of the fact that the Obama  administration has begun a $1 trillion revitalization program.

“America First,” Trump announced, “will be the major and overriding theme of my administration.” Was he deliberately invoking the isolationist, nationalistic and anti-Semitic movement America First of the pre-WWII years? Trump’s past appeals to white supremacists tend to confirm that. It is of course possible that it was Trump’s ignorance of American history that failed to ring a bell warning him away from a slogan with such an odious precedent.

Trump does want to regress to the 40s and 50s when the “greatest generation beat back the Nazis and Japanese imperialists” and the Cold War that followed. At least he understands that it took Republicans and Democrats working together to defeat the Axis powers and eventually win the Cold War.

In his first foreign policy speech, Trump made the obligatory Republican obeisance to Ronald Reagan and reiterated the same baseless charges against President Obama that Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and most other Republicans mindlessly repeat ad nauseum: The President “has weakened our military by weakening our economy.” What they refuse to acknowledge is that since Obama took office, the budget deficit has declined by roughly $1 trillion, and we are in the longest period of sustained job growth in our history. Unemployment, which reached 10 percent in Obama’s first term, is now 5 percent, lower than when the sainted Reagan left office. Under Obama, the economy has recovered from the Great Recession, which he inherited from his predecessor, George W. Bush, significantly faster and better than any of the other major world economies.

Gene Sperling, the former director of the National Economic Council, told the NY Times, “If we were back in early 2009 … with the economy losing 800,000 jobs a month and the Dow under 7,000 — and someone said that by [Obama’s] last year in office, unemployment would be 5 percent, the deficit would be under 3 percent, AIG would have turned a profit and we made all our money back on the banks, that would’ve been beyond anybody’s wildest expectations.” But most people don’t know that because the Republicans have constantly been hammering the lie that the economy is in shambles.

When it comes to thrashing out an international treaty, Trump doesn’t seem to understand the difference between the subtlety and nuance of diplomatic negotiation and the strong-arm tactics he is used to employing in commercial transactions. Sovereign states all have non-negotiable national interests, yet Trump insists, “You always have to be willing to walk.” He equates the achievement of an international accord with the conclusion of a business deal, failing to appreciate the importance of wringing a necessary concession from China or Iran by making a shrewdly calculated concession of our own.

You can take away his red cap and give him a speech and a teleprompter, but you can’t make a statesman out of an egocentric narcissist.

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Clinton, Rice, Power: Three Women Swing U.S. Policy on Libya

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

The key players who brought about the sharp shift in policy were women. For a veteran of the feminist battles of the 1960s and ’70s, that disclosure was stunning. My take is here; the New York Times story is here.

Susan Rice, US Ambassador to the UN

Samantha Power, Senior Adviser, National Security Council

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Filed under Politics, Random, Women