- Date published:
7:00 am, September 2nd, 2020 - 28 comments
Categories: Deep stuff, Donald Trump, Free Trade, Globalisation, International, jacinda ardern, Politics, trade, uncategorized, us politics - Tags:
Since the end of the Cold War, New Zealanders have observed a U.S. foreign policy beguiled by a set of illusions about the world order, illusions that cost them, allies, and enemies the deaths of hundreds of thousands of dead and wounded. Illusions for which we have been reluctantly pulled in, too often, for too little reward.
President Donald Trump, no product of the American foreign policy community, had no such illusions. He’s withdrawing troops from Afghanistan with no victory. He’s withdrawing much of his military from Germany with barely a shot fired in 60 years.
He has pulled apart strong networks of international co-operation, including in trade, climate, human rights, public health, and military support, like they were dewed spiderwebs. He’s successfully encouraged the breakup of Europe. Trump has been a massive disrupter of foreign policy.
Trump’s policies, though coming from a quite odious individual, have set in motion a series of long-overdue corrections. Many of these necessary adjustments have been mis-analysed because our clicks prefer his spectacle of permanent media offence to smaller, quieter steps. Trump’s instincts have permanently re-shaped U.S. foreign policy.
The changes Trump has initiated will help ensure that the international order remains favourable to U.S. interests and values – and to those of other free and open societies. Gulp if you like, but the United States ranking in the Democracy Index is flawed but still strong compared to most countries in the world, and that is set to continue.
As Trump’s first (hopefully only) administration comes to a close, Washington’s policy, intelligence and military strategists will need to adopt new ideas about the country’s role and new thinking about rivals such as China and Russia – states that have long manipulated the rules of the liberal international order for their own benefit. He’s not the only cause but he is the greatest accelerant. Forget the noise: New Zealand has mostly benefited from Trump’s foreign policy.
Contrary to optimistic predictions following the Soviet Union’s collapse, widespread political liberalisation and the growth of transnational organisations have not tempered rivalries among countries. Trump has been quite clear sighted about the necessity of permanent and open international rivalry. He is as deeply sceptical about globalisation as Stiglitz or any who fought The Battle For Seattle. None of our speeches to the United Nations have prepared us to adjust to that.
Globalisation and economic interdependence have in some respects been great levellers for small non-wealthy countries like us, but also accelerated vulnerabilities of those same small or poor states to the powerful with expanding empires. Trump has accurately and openly nailed China more than any other elected leader in the world so far. In doing so he has encouraged other countries to speak out strongly and to turn the tide against autocracy.
Similarly, the proliferation of digital technologies has increased productivity in ways that are exceedingly good for tiny distant states like ours, but has also eroded power from the traditional military and shifted it to California and other digital capitals. No leader has effectively defended the relative openness of U.S. digital platforms upon which open societies like ours rely like Trump has. Check out if the NZ sharemarket is still alive before you click on those ads begging us to download trader apps.
So, Wellington and Washington, there’s no going back whether it’s Trump or Biden.
Goodbye post-9-11 unipolar moment. Goodbye heroic expansion of democracies. Goodbye presumed triumph of liberal and capitalist democratic governance supported by the big altruistic institutions.
Goodbye global trade rules.
In November 2021 New Zealand’s MFAT, our new Foreign Minister, and our refreshed Prime Minister must prepare NZ for a world in which new regional trade blocs are more important as allies than old hard military alliances..
They must prepare for international pacts that last perhaps 5 or 10 years but no more. Not for us now the postwar immutability of generational compacts signed by giant statesmen in obscure forest castles.
They must prepare for war which is primarily digital, and is a perpetual war. Perpetual Denial Of Service hits from bad actors, from within major states who are neither implicit friends nor enemies, relegating longstanding trade partners to merely relationships constantly re-evaluated. It’s tiring just to write, let alone work among.
They must prepare for the world Donald Trump has left them.
It’s going to be a world that’s much, much harder for us.