Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Developing Trump foreign policy

Rachel Maddow's chronically perky style has always bugged me a big bit. Her recent snarky reporting on the Trump-Russia scandal has been heavy on drama and speculation but light on analysis.

But the first part of this report, Donald Trump Hides Signing Of Unpopular Legislation MSNBC 04/04/2017, does a good job of flagging the rising direct US military involvement in combat inside Syria.

She makes a sober observation, "It is a hard strategic question for the United States as to how to make that situation better." (Just after 4:40)

She defends Obama's relative restraint on the Syria civil war. And she even manages to avoid using the humanitarian catastrophe to encourage the US to "do something," which all too often in recent decades has meant "expanding military intervention."

Michael Klare has been following the development of the Trump foreign policy. In A "China First" and "Russia Second" Foreign Policy? TomDispatch 02/14/2017, a column by Klare with an introduction by Tom Engelhardt, he writes:

In his approach to China, Donald Trump has been almost exclusively focused on the issue of trade, claiming that his primary goal is to combat the unfair practices that have allowed the Chinese to get rich at America’s expense. It’s hardly surprising, then, that his nominee as U.S. trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, is an outspoken critic of that country’s trade behavior. “It seems clear that the U.S. manufacturing crisis is related to our trade with China,” he told Congress in 2010. But while trade may be an important part of the U.S.-China relationship, Trump’s single-minded fixation on the issue leaves aside far more crucial political, economic, diplomatic, and military aspects of the Sino-American competition for world power and influence. By largely ignoring them, in just weeks in the Oval Office, President Trump has already enabled China to gain ground on many fronts.
And Klare makes this comment on the shift to a more pro-Russian, less pro-EU policy that has only beome more obvious in the last month and a half:

For Trump, however, Putin’s transgressions in Europe and elsewhere seem to be of little consequence in comparison to his possible collaboration in fighting the Islamic State. “I think it would be great if we got along with Russia because we could fight ISIS together,” he declared during the second presidential debate last October. As for NATO and the Europeans, Trump has indicated little sympathy for their worries about Moscow and has shown little inclination to increase America’s contributions to their defense. Not only did he claim that NATO was “obsolete” last March, insisting that it wasn’t doing enough to fight terrorism, but that it was “unfair, economically, to us,” because “it really helps them more so than the United States, and we pay a disproportionate share.”

Since assuming the presidency, President Trump has behaved as if Russia were indeed a key ally-in-waiting and the NATO powers were former lovers who had lost their appeal. Yes, he met with British Prime Minister Theresa May before any other foreign leader, but he remained silent when she spoke of the need to maintain pressure on Moscow through sanctions, making her look at that moment like an unwelcome houseguest.
Given the state of the Russia Scare, I should emphasized that whether a particular policy is in the interest of the United States and world peace - for the majority who still value the latter - is not determined by whether it's "pro-Russian," i.e., something of which Putin's government may approve or accept.

It's also important to understand that making shifts in policy of the magnitude the Trump Family Business Administration has been undertaking requires not only strategic acumen and just plain luck. It also requires competent conduct of the government institutions that have to develop and implement them. As Engelhardt writes, "Now, it looks like a man has been elevated to the White House who truly is a suicide bomber. The question isn’t whether he’ll explode; it’s just who, what, or how much he’ll take down with him in the process." Not a comfortable thought.

Klare wrote about Trump's prospective foreign policy during the transition period, Michael Klare, The World as Seen by Donald Trump Middle East Online 01/07/2017.

TYT Politics' Emma Vigeland has an accessible commentary on why progressives and peace advocates should be very cautious about seeing Trump's foreign policy as going in a less interventionist direction, BREAKING: Steve Bannon Kicked Off National Security Council 04/05/2017:

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