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How Trump Has Changed New Zealand’s future

Written By: - 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.

28 comments on “How Trump Has Changed New Zealand’s future ”

  1. Peter 1

    How the world is left by Trump doesn't concern him. How the USA is left doesn't concern him.

    What concerns him is how he is when it is all over.

  2. tc 2

    Great piece Ad, digital warfare with alleged state sponsored actors a global issue.

    Also post Trump the next POTUS has to get back in with WHO. they're not at the table, lost that soft power and their place in the vaccine queue.

  3. Dennis Frank 3

    That's an excellent analysis. Regional alignments with temporal gearing look likely, to accompany those traditional that remain culturally valid such as western solidarity.

    I agree with tc re WHO. Extending that point, we need a shift toward a more sophisticated form of global collaboration. One that operates without being hamstrung by the UN.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.1

      The UN is hamstrung by the major powers in such a way so that it is, essentially, useless.

      If the UN was what it should have been from the beginning then it would be a federated world government with the military force to back it up. Then international law would have the teeth necessary to ensure that it was obeyed. Instead, pretty much any country ignores it at will and the only ones that get even mildly remonstrated for it are the ones that go against the wishes of the major powers.

      The major powers do as they wish and nobody holds them to account. This must end but the only way it could do so is by the Rest of the World cooperating to hold them to account and that seems unlikely.

  4. Stuart Munro 4

    The combination of globalisation and neoliberalism has as much or more to do with the decline of the democracies as Trump, or their large state enemies. The representative arm of the hermaphrodite state withered, and the state functions that once protected it, corrupted by Treasury influence, not merely allowed but encouraged pathologies like land and asset sales, privatization, and exploitable mass low-wage unskilled migration. The democracies never had a mandate for that, and both their wealth and their stability decreased accordingly.

    The Left however, has never been more important. It is a larger proportion of the electorate because failed policies have grown inequality even beyond the failed promises of economic growth. It's just that their representatives have sold them out, and consequently they have lost the trust that leaders like Savage, by not betraying his constituency, was able to retain.

    • Ad 4.1

      What is the "hermaphrodite state"?

      • Stuart Munro 4.1.1

        It's one of Eckstein's conceptions – Eckstein Division and Cohesion in Democracy Princeton University Press 1966. That modern democracies have a dual nature, only part of which is participatory and representative.

        You might prefer Dahl.

  5. Andre 5

    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.

    Yet the biggest threats we all face have zero chance of any amelioration through international rivalry. The only chance of significant progress is through international cooperation and agreement. Climate change, nuclear arms, food and water security etc etc.

    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.

    Ahem. Really? Trump's professed love affairs with Xi and Kim and mortal fear of uttering even a squeak against Putin have been the biggest boost autocrats have had in decades. As far as actual actions against China goes, the actual actions taken have been entirely autocratic and deeply dysfunctional and rife with unfavourable consequences. They've been great for autocrats looking for validation for their own dysfunction, but comprehensively crap for everyone else.

    • Dennis Frank 5.1

      Trump jilted Xi. The initial glow faded. Perhaps an informal understanding between the two was sabotaged by Xi, so Trump reverted to nationalism.

      I agree that the autocracy model applies, and Trump's upbringing inclines him thataway. He's been way more irrational, narcissistic, bombastic etc than I expected, but pragmatism can be gleaned in his mix at times. Nowhere near enough!

      Re Putin, yeah. Muted support still – covert due to being unpalatable to his supporters. I wrote here back when it became apparent that it was due to a decision to use Putin to triangulate against Xi. That may still apply.

      His gamble that doing a Nixon will work is looking good currently but is likely unsustainable. Radicals on the streets are giving him plenty of ammo just as they did Nixon. But Laura Norder may get defeated if the third of the electorate who are non-aligned decide that Trump is engineering the radicals as his stooges. I suspect they will.

    • RedLogix 5.2

      All the Americans have to do to collapse the CCP is go home. Hell even the Australians can hurt them badly by stopping selling them iron ore.

      The Chinese have assiduously built up this image of a wealthy, dynamic and above all powerful new kid on the block who is going to kick the old US bully in the nuts. It's the biggest bullshit bluff of our lifetimes.

      1. If we think the US has a fiscal debt problem, the PRC's one is orders of magnitude worse, not only in size but more importantly in their ability to deal with it. The yuan will never be a hard currency, it suffers terminal capital flight every time they make it fully convertible, and eventually even their utterly bullshit banking system will collapse. Every country that has gone down this same path of capital formation for political purposes over real world returns, has suffered the same fate.
      2. They are the fourth most rapidly aging society in the world. 35 years of the one child policy … and well guess what. There will be no consumption led recovery for them.
      3. Their geography is crap, surrounded by relatively hostile neighbours who are not interested in doing them any favours. Yet they are highly dependent on shipping vast amounts in raw materials and oil inward, and on exports of manufactured goods outward. 'Made in China 2025' only made sense if you could actually ship stuff. The PLAN may have a lot of ships, but it's not a true blue water navy capable of projecting power anywhere in the world. Currently only the USA, Japan, the UK and maybe the French can do this. The cannot protect their essential shipping routes; blockading them would be child's play. Without the US Navy imposing Freedom of Navigation globally, the world reverts back to the conditions prior to WW2. And without reliable access to the global trade order there will be no export led recovery for the PRC.
      4. And perhaps least understood in the West, is that what we think of as modern China is not a historically stable entity. Yes there has been a distinct Han culture in the region for many thousands of years, but rarely in that entire period has it formed a stable self-governing entity. Hell one of the longest periods of stability was under the rule of the Mongols.

      This is all of course before we take into account the horrors of Xi Xinping's genocidal regime. It's a perfect geopolitical storm, and the CCP is well aware of it's imminent landfall. Hence the escalating hyper-nationalism of the past six months.

      • Andre 5.2.1

        Yet China has been putting huge resources into universities and research and manufacturing. While the US in particular has been deliberately dumbing down internal capability and relying on being able to cream the best and brightest from the rest of the world. In terms of people and in terms of manufacturing capability.

        In the 90s when you wanted to take advantage of Chinese cheap labour, you had to teach them everything about how to make what you wanted. Now they're a legitimate technological powerhouse in their own right.

        So combine that with a smart educated populace, well a few hundred million of them anyway, pushing back against excessively heavy-handed control, we certainly are about to live in interesting times.

        • RedLogix 5.2.1.1

          Yes. And much of that educated and developed component of the Chinese population is concentrated in one of three major regions, the global cities in the south like Hong Kong, Shenzen Guangzhou, and the two big industrial/merchantile regions on the Yellow River, Shanghai and Sichuan.

          All of these regions have a long history of relative cultural and political independence from Beijing. And the CCP know this.

          Unless Xi Xinping is deposed by internal factions, we will almost certainly see an intensification of the totalitarian control. Evidence arising from the ongoing nightmare in Xinjiang is only becoming more clear cut and incontrovertible by the month. Anything we might care to level at the USA or Trump, utterly pales into insignificance in this light.

          Given that Xi will show no mercy to any dissident or perceived opponent, then yes I have to agree … interesting times.

      • Draco T Bastard 5.2.2

        The yuan will never be a hard currency

        With every currency floating then no currency should be a hard currency. That's pretty much the definition of floating exchange rates. Of course, we've got it wrong on how the exchange rates are set as they're set by speculation rather than trade weighting.

        The PLAN may have a lot of ships, but it's not a true blue water navy capable of projecting power anywhere in the world. Currently only the USA, Japan, the UK and maybe the French can do this.

        And the military actions of the US over the last two decades have proven that they can't either and everybody else is far behind what the US can do. Projecting power is very, very difficult.

        Without the US Navy imposing Freedom of Navigation globally

        Considering the number of ships that get pirated that doesn't seem to be happening.

        All the Americans have to do to collapse the CCP is go home. Hell even the Australians can hurt them badly by stopping selling them iron ore.

        And yet it was the US and the EU that took China to the WTO for their presumption of cutting back on exports of REM. Yes, the rest of the world can hurt China by not selling to them (although, I think doing so may be illegal in the current paradigm) but China can do the same.

        And now we have this:

        A plunge in China’s rare earth exports last month has fanned speculation over whether Beijing has been curbing overseas shipments of the raw materials to inflict pain on its trade partners, but an industry association official says the decline in such exports is more of a result of coronavirus shock than a deliberate effort to cut off supplies.

  6. RedLogix 6

    While I agree strongly with the general thrust of your article here Ad, it's wrong to paint this as all Trump's fault. That gives entirely the wrong root cause, and leads us to imagine that maybe a Biden administration will turn things around.

    The post WW2 US led global trade order that we have all grown up with, and have stupidly imagined was going to last forever is now ended. It's purpose was primarily to win the Cold War, and once that was done, the US people elected a series of Presidents who had relatively little interest in foreign affairs, and certainly no big vision about 'what would come next&#039. The entire project has been sleepwalking since 1990.

    From Bill Clinton onwards the decay was a matter of tone and a lack of vitality, but by the time we got to 2016 whether Hilary Clinton or Trump won mattered little to the fate of the order. Hilary's withdrawal would have involved a lot of Powerpoints, speeches and posturing on world forums and taken 4 – 8 years. Trump simply got to the same result in 4 – 8 tweets.

    So, Wellington and Washington, there’s no going back whether it’s Trump or Biden.

    Let's be clear on this, the reason is not Trump, it's more fundamental than this. What the rabid left anti-US view never understood is that the USA was never really interested in Empire, at least not as thousands of years of world history understood the term prior to WW2. The past 75 years was nothing like 'normal' and has been a massive anomaly.

    Globalisation and economic interdependence have in some respects been great levellers for small non-wealthy countries like us,

    That is true, but understates what has really been happening. Essentially the USA has provided both the mechanisms for global trade, the rules based order, the globally convertible hard currency and the freedom of the seas security guarantee. While the USA certainly took some benefits from this, overall it has come at great cost to them. We only have to look at the erosion of their physical and social infrastructure, the education and health systems to see the impact. Only a nation with such a uniquely beneficial geography could have afforded the immense military they built up in order to act as the 'world's policeman'.

    Well not only were they not always particularly good world policemen, but the effort has bankrupted them not only financially, but more importantly morally. And now they are packing up their toys and going home. While they do maintain bases and specialist operational capacity in many places around the world, overall total overseas troop deployments are lower than anytime since the 1920's and declining.

    Well if you think their poor policing is unfortunate, you'll really, really love it when there is none. As ordinary people in places like Portland are discovering to their horror.

    Well now the USA is energy independent and has it’s own cosy NAFTA trade region, it will only engage the rest of the world when it sees a clear self interest in doing so. NZ is probably well down the list, and only just over the cut-off point.

    We had better hope that the US election produces a clear cut winner, because if neither side concedes you have all the ingredients for civil war. At the same time the PRC will collapse into it's own crisis, Xi Xinping's immense paper tiger will fold in on it's own multiple contradictions and fault lines. Both the great powers faltering like this, is the worst case scenario, and right now I'd rate it at a 30% chance of happening within the next few years.

    • Draco T Bastard 6.1

      While I agree strongly with the general thrust of your article here Ad, it's wrong to paint this as all Trump's fault.

      Not Trumps fault. The faults were already there in the capitalist free-market system so what Trumps done is highlight those faults.

      That gives entirely the wrong root cause, and leads us to imagine that maybe a Biden administration will turn things around.

      I don't believe that there's any turning around of the coming global collapse. There's simply too much momentum in each of the individual aspects of it:

      • Climate change
      • Increasing poverty in developed nations
      • Increasing inequality as more of the world is owned by fewer and fewer people
      • Corruption within the global elite including politicians

      Hilary's withdrawal would have involved a lot of Powerpoints, speeches and posturing on world forums and taken 4 – 8 years. Trump simply got to the same result in 4 – 8 tweets.

      😆 yes

      What the rabid left anti-US view never understood is that the USA was never really interested in Empire, at least not as thousands of years of world history understood the term prior to WW2.

      The US Empire is an implicit coop of many empires – the Bush Empire, The Clinton Empire, The Lincoln Empire, The Kennedy Empire etcetera. In other words, a global oligarchy led by the richest US families.

      We only have to look at the erosion of their physical and social infrastructure, the education and health systems to see the impact.

      Yeah, that came about because of the actions of those rich families cutting back government support of those things so that they could be richer.

      Even now, the US could probably "guararntee" those goods that you suggest if they had kept up an industrial society rather than shifting to a service economy.

      And we could do our part if we became an industrial power house as well. I really don't like not being able to do our part because some idiots decided that it was cheaper to get shit manufactured in first the US and then China.

      NZ is probably well down the list, and only just over the cut-off point.

      I suspect that NZ isn't on the list.

      We had better hope that the US election produces a clear cut winner, because if neither side concedes you have all the ingredients for civil war.

      As far as I can make out, that will be good for the world. Yes, there will be death and destruction like we've never seen before (make WWII look like a garden party) but at the end of it the world will be a better place (same as it was a better place after WWII).

      Of course, I'd prefer to avoid the war bit but I can't actually see a way to do so.

  7. Grumpy 7

    In the meantime……..Trumps COVID unemployment employment compensation rate is $US600, almost twice what New Zealand is paying for similarly affected citizens………and US cost of living is much less!

    Most Americans I know are happy with Trump's economy and his attitude of America First.

  8. Byd0nz 8

    Yea. Trump will win and be the catalist to destroy American world Power standing, hoo fuckin ray. American foreign policy is and has always been pure evil, and it is the American people who vote for it so they need to change the two party one system facist state that is the USA to a more people orientated one.

    • Stuart Munro 8.1

      Never heard of a guy called Marshal then? Europe would've been a long time coming out of WWII without him – a lot of kids would've gone hungry. Korea is pretty glad of US intervention also, and Japan, expecting the kind of treatment meted out to defeated nations in Asian histories, found the US much less oppressive than they might have.

      They've done plenty wrong too – but not so much that either their collapse or their replacement in areas they might be obliged to abandon is necessarily an unmixed blessing.

  9. Tricledrown 9

    Red logix your claim the US never interested in Empire is totally laughable.

    Empires don't need to invade a country to take it over just put in a tin pot dictator.Financial colonization media colonization religious subjugation.

    The Roman's may not have conquered most of Europe but through trade and religious subjugation they were able to control most of Europe.

    • RedLogix 9.1

      Red logix your claim the US never interested in Empire is totally laughable.

      I explicitly qualified my claim by going on to say "at least not as thousands of years of world history understood the term prior to WW2. ". You’re welcome to expand the word ’empire’ to mean whatever you want, but I had a very clear and conventional meaning in mind.

      While the rabid anti-US left believes the USA is an evil empire full of nothing but sin, the reality is quite different. The North American continent is so geographically advantageous that the USA is capable of being naturally wealthy and prosperous. And the reality is that of all the developed nations, overseas trade as a fraction of GDP, the USA is less less involved with the rest of the world than all others.

      This isn't a matter of politics, it's simple geography. The have rich resources, the largest food basin on earth, good rainfall, proper seasons, excellent riverine and land transport and most importantly, the innate security of ice, deserts and oceans as borders. The shale oil revolution now means they're energy independent as well.

      By contrast the empires of old were in the exact reverse position; the constraints of their low energy agriculture, their limited agriculture and resources meant that in order to develop culturally they were forced to expand into the territories of others; establish local political control and then siphon raw material resources back to the centre where they were then transformed into higher added value and then either consumed or re-exported for more profit back to the colonies. This was the invariable pattern.

      By every measure the USA fails to match this pattern. For a start it never established significant political colonies, it never imported much in the way of raw material (besides oil) and was never a strong exporting nation. Compare the US hegemony with the British Empire that proceeded it; the differences could not be more stark.

      And keep in mind the USA itself was founded as an act of rebellion and rejection of empire. A certain default isolationism is written into the DNA of the US Constitution.

      At the end of WW2, having expended so much in the defeat of nazi fascism they were now facing down Stalin's marxist state and a rampantly victorious Red Army. There was no way the US military was going to tackle this new enemy on it's own continent. Instead the US embarked on a new Cold War that had the visionary idea that by rebuilding the democracies of Europe (and the wider world) that they could build a global alliance to defeat communism without firing a shot.

      It was a brilliant conception, rolled out at Bretton Woods and implemented via network of US led by an alphabet soup of institutions such as the UN, NATO, WTO, IMF and layers of technical organisations. It opened up it's borders to allow rebuilding economies in Europe and Asia to export high end goods back into it's own domestic market, absorbing the opportunity costs of doing so. It provided the world's most powerful navy to ensure freedom of navigation for the vast majority of trade, regardless of who was involved. Ships could leave any nation and arrive anywhere else and be certain of arriving because of this implicit global security guarantee. We take all of this for granted, but this was a unique arrangement in all of human history, that one major power should expend so much military security to the ultimate benefit of so many others.

      All they asked in return for being the 'world's policeman' was that you be on their side against the Soviet Union.

      No other major power has ever attempted such a thing, and to a remarkable degree it worked. Not only did they defeat the Soviets without a major war, but the rest of the world developed at an astonishing rate, also unprecedented in human history.

      Of course attempting something never done before will come with mistakes and missteps. Nothing I'm saying here defends this record; particularly in Latin America, Vietnam, Afghanistan or above all Iraq. There was no template for how to be the global super power absent the ancient model of empire. We have to accept the US lost it's way on numerous occasions.

      But now it's over; and all of the lefties here who've reflexively hated on the evil US Empire all their lives can rejoice. The Yanks are going home … and taking many of the toys on which our modern lives are built with them.

  10. karol121 10

    Having achieved so much mayhem and hostility, many might consider him to be a true 21st Century statesman!!!

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