Trump

  • Source: "Goodbye to values"           

    A timeline of American foreign policy positions.

    WW 1 and Wilson - the idea that the US should use its power for good in the world.
    1950’s - rivalry with the Soviet Union meant that the US wanted to serve as an inspiration to those who dream of freedom (Acheson) but must also deal with the realpolitik of the Cold War. This meant sometimes supporting dictators like Somoza in Nicaragua (“a bastard but our bastard” said Truman).
    1970’s: Nixon puts detente with the USSR above “grandstanding” on human rights.
    1975: President Ford, following the policy of detente, refuses to meet with Alexander Solzhenitsyn. This refusal to acknowledge the reality of the gulags earns Ford accusations of appeasement from both Republicans and Democrats.
    1977: In a return to Wilson, President Carter “reaffirmed America’s commitment to human rights as a fundamental tenet of our foreign policy”. This move had bipartisan support. Reagan followed Carter’s lead.
    1990’s: post Cold war - the emergence of neo-Wilsonianism based on three ideas with bipartisan support. First, “democratic peace theory” holds that the more democracies there are, the fewer wars. Hence, encourage democracy whenever possible. Next, “democratic transition theory” holds that there is a great worldwide movement towards democratic government. The US should be a leader here. Finally, R2P or “responsibility to protect” - the US must engage in measured military action to prevent tragedies (like Rwanda). The NATO interventions in the Balkans are R2P in action.
    Obama viewed R2P differently. He preferred to fund civic groups inside authoritarian regimes to push them towards democracy rather than use military power.

    Now we have Trump and the return to “America First”, to purely transactional considerations when dealing with foreign governments and the abandonment of the Wilsonian idea of using American power as a force for good in the world. Trump made phone calls of support in April ’17 to Erdogan of Turkey (100,000 arrested after a failed 2016 coup) and Duterte of the Philippines (9,000 killed in a drug law campaign).

    From the article: “Secretary of State Rex Tillerson conveyed a similar impression to his department’s employees on May 3 017. He used the loaded phrase “America First”—coined by isolationists seeking to keep America out of the second world war—to define the new administration’s foreign policy. Central to his theme was that the pursuit of interests must take precedence over the promotion of values. Diplomats could express support for democracy, the rule of law and human rights, but only if that did not put an “obstacle” in the way of national-security and economic interests.This represents a rupture with at least four decades of bipartisan consensus in favor of liberal internationalism. Far from conflicting with America’s interests, argues Ted Piccone, a former foreign policy adviser in the Clinton administration now at the Brookings Institution, advancing normative values is essential to those interests, and is the basis for America’s national prestige and international legitimacy.”

    From John McCain:“Depriving the oppressed of a beacon of hope could lose us the world we have built and thrived in.”

  • NYT Article: Opinion - Leonhardt "Who Still Thinks Russia Didn't Meddle in the Election?"      

    > From the article: 

    1. Russia attacked the United States in 2016 by disrupting the presidential election.

    2. The origin of the attack is a matter of consensus among American intelligence agencies.

    3. The current president of the United States refuses to acknowledge the attack, refuses to respond to it and refuses to help protect the country against a likely follow-up attack.

    4. In the wake of the mass murder of 17 Americans in Florida, the president falsely claimed that the F.B.I. failed to prevent the massacre because it was too occupied with the Russia investigation. In doing so, he repeated his frequent lie that the Russian operation did not exist.

    There is no longer any doubt that President Trump is failing to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, as he solemnly swore to do.

     “At every turn, Trump has failed to do what a patriotic president would do — failed to put the national interest first,” writes David Frum in The Atlantic.

  • NYT Article: Opinion - Leonhardt "Who Still Thinks Russia Didn't Meddle in the Election?"      

    > From the article: 

    1. Russia attacked the United States in 2016 by disrupting the presidential election.

    2. The origin of the attack is a matter of consensus among American intelligence agencies.

    3. The current president of the United States refuses to acknowledge the attack, refuses to respond to it and refuses to help protect the country against a likely follow-up attack.

    4. In the wake of the mass murder of 17 Americans in Florida, the president falsely claimed that the F.B.I. failed to prevent the massacre because it was too occupied with the Russia investigation. In doing so, he repeated his frequent lie that the Russian operation did not exist.

    There is no longer any doubt that President Trump is failing to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, as he solemnly swore to do.

     “At every turn, Trump has failed to do what a patriotic president would do — failed to put the national interest first,” writes David Frum in The Atlantic.

  • Article: "Deep breath, America"  

    On May 17, former FBI Director Robert Mueller was appointed as special counsel to take over the FBI probe into Russian influence in the 2016 US Presidential election.

    Some highlights: 
    > In December 2016, US intelligence agencies concluded that the Russian government had interfered with the election. Trump denied this and denied any connection between his campaign and the Russian government.
    > In January of 2017, Trump insisted on hiring Flynn as National Security Advisor despite multiple indications that he was deeply compromised. Trump would later fire Flynn.
    > AG Jeff Sessions was found to have lied about contact with Russian ambassador Kislyak and had to recuse himself.
    > Trump leans on FBI Director Comey to go easy on Flynn - “I hope you can let this go” - then fires Comey in May.

    Comment from John McCain - the President’s scandals are of “Watergate size and scale.”

     

  • Source NYT 6/06/18: "Despite Trump, the West Must Stay United"  

    The G7 or Group of Seven includes the US, the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan. Together, these 7 nations account for about 60% of the world’s net wealth and about half the world’s GDP. In 2014, the G8 included Russia but Russia was suspended from membership after their annexation of Crimea. President Trump has disrupted the G7 by calling for Russia’s reinstatement; by withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal; by threatening tariffs on steel and aluminum and by withdrawing from the Paris climate accords.

    G7 leaders are concerned that Trump’s actions are not just the incidental and personal prerogatives of a President but indicative of a new strategic trend in which we see the first signs of a breakup of the Western political community, which the G-7 represents and informally leads.  

     

  • Source: "Donald vs OPEC"  

    Trump faces as "iron triangle" on oil prices in that he has three policy goals that are mutually exclusive. First, he wants cheap gas for the midterms (currently crude is $77 a barrel and gas is approaching or exceeding $3 a gallon). Supplies are tight despite recent increases in production from Saudi Arabia and Russia, mainly due to instability in Libya and Venezuela. Next, Trump wants to punish Iran by forcing American allies to stop importing Iranian oil by November 4th or face sanctions. This will impact about a billion barrels a day with the main squeeze coming in September. Finally, there is the developing US-China trade war. One option the Chinese have warned they will use will be to put tariffs on American oil imports. Some analysts predict that Trump would release oil from the SPR (Strategic Petroleum Reserve) to flood the market and bring down prices. "That would be tantamount to launching a trade war against OPEC and Russia." And whither shale? They simply can't respond quickly enough to changing price signals and thus are not a factor. 

    Also of interest from the same issue: "Egypt is optimistic" Egypt will soon be a net exporter of gas thanks to massive discoveries in the Mediterranean off the coast of Sinai. The  Zohr field in 2015, now the Noor field last year. From the article: "Mediterranean gas will have no shortage of buyers. Demand is soaring in developing countries. Consumption in China alone grew by 15% last year. But it would be particularly attractive to Europe, which depends on Russian gas. European imports from Russia hit a record high in 2017. Former Soviet states fear this gives Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, leverage over them. His country has cut off supplies in the past. Egypt and its neighbors could help Europe diversify its suppliers."

  • Article: "Zero sums"      

    Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget director, has delivered a budget proposal to Congress. Entitled “A New Foundation for American Greatness”, it leaves Social Security, Medicare and military spending alone, but slashes everything else (the non-defense discretionary spending) by 40%. Medicaid would be cut by half, food stamps by 25%. Combining these cuts with a robust 3% annual growth prediction would eliminate any budget deficits in ten years.

    > Problem: the extra $2 trillion in tax revenues generated over a decade by the unlikely 3% growth estimate has already been earmarked by a massive tax cut. Another problem: Mulvaney’s budget counts on increased revenues from the inheritance tax in one section while promising to abolish it in another.