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Trump’s broad international challenges

Written By: - Date published: 9:00 am, December 1st, 2016 - 10 comments
Categories: afghanistan, aid, China, International, us politics - Tags: ,

trump-and-obama

Last time I wrote about him, I gave a nice soft ‘well done’ to outgoing President Obama. Here’s the ‘but’.

As the US heads towards Presidential investiture on January 20th, we get to the stuff Obama made worse or left in the international Too Hard basket. President Obama is bequeathing to President-elect Trump a set of policy challenges far harder than those he inherited.

The grand strategy that has guided post-Cold War Presidents thus far – Bush, Clinton, Bush II, Obama – looks to be at a crisis point (sure, they say that to all the newbies, but hear me out).

Obama continued Bush II’s Asia strategy (although he turned ‘pivot’ into ‘piroutette’). Development aid in sub-Saharan Africa continued (Although Sudan went forward, split, then reversed in a hurry). He troop-surged in Afghanistan (with little long-term effect). He threw everything into stabilizing Iraq and neutralizing Iran (slowly successful, except for making an unnecessary total mess of the rise of ISIS). He made no useful inroads into anything to do with the poisonous influence of Saudi Arabia, and a colossal mess of anything to do with the Arab Spring.

Certainly not all of these uneven results are his fault, and most have been worth trying. But trying don’t look so good for the world right now. What hasn’t helped is that Obama has certainly been undercut by the corrosion of a number of assumptions about post-Cold War strategy becoming quite contestable. A few of the really big assumptions could start to fall away soon:

  1. The United States enjoys and will continue to enjoy uncontested military primacy, both globally, and in all strategic theatres.
  2. U.S. allies are the richest, most capable countries in the world.
  3. A richer and more globally integrated China will also be a freer and more peaceful China.
  4. Great-power war is obsolete.
  5. The advance of democracy is unstoppable and irreversible.
  6. Globalisation is irrevocable.
  7. Technological innovation will lead to greater human flourishing and freedom, and will disproportionately favour the U.S.

All of the above has been true, at times, since WWII, but is far less so now.

I’m not wishing the decline of the U.S. The decline of strong, democratic, rich, stable, free states including the U.S. is not in my interests, or IMHO the whole world. Decline would be a bad idea because the alternatives are of a measure so bad that they could only be measured on the co-sine button of my calculator.

I’m not at all confident that the reactionary buffoon the U.S. has elected will be up to re-writing a set of overall grand strategy objectives. (After all, I was a Hillary supporter, and she had memorized the above and its challenges from the back of an envelope!). It is in my interests to hope that Trump has what is takes to – ouch – make America great again (I’m preparing the normalization of Trump for TS readers, you see).

Trump faces a great and solemn assignment as part of his job. His responses to the above will go a long way to determining the success of his presidency.

10 comments on “Trump’s broad international challenges”

  1. joe90 1

    His responses to the above will go a long way to determining the success of his presidency.

    His reponse……

    Get it straight: Pakistan is not our friend. When our tremendous Navy SEALS took out Osama bin Laden, they did… (cont) http://t.co/s6u5o8Co— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 6, 2011

    to…..one of the most intelligent people….has been yuuge…
    /

    Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif called President-elect USA Donald Trump and felicitated him on his victory. President Trump said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif you have a very good reputation. You are a terrific guy. You are doing amazing work which is visible in every way. I am looking forward to see you soon. As I am talking to you Prime Minister, I feel I am talking to a person I have known for long. Your country is amazing with tremendous opportunities. Pakistanis are one of the most intelligent people. I am ready and willing to play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems. It will be an honor and I will personally do it. Feel free to call me any time even before 20th January that is before I assume my office.

    On being invited to visit Pakistan by the Prime Minister, Mr. Trump said that he would love to come to a fantastic country, fantastic place of fantastic people. Please convey to the Pakistani people that they are amazing and all Pakistanis I have known are exceptional people, said Mr. Donald Trump.

    http://www.pid.gov.pk/?p=30445

  2. save nz 2

    I don’t wish the decline of the US, just the decline of their neoliberal ideology.

    The election of Trump has highlighted the inevitable outcome of 30 years of hard right neoliberalism (from both Republican and Democrats) and the rise of social destruction and disunity of Americans.

    Obama like Bush oversaw the virus like spread of war throughout the middle east, the spread of terrorism through that warfare policy, the use of that to reduce human rights around the world (surveillance, torture), their illogical economic focuses and their lack of interest in their own citizens welfare.

  3. Draco T Bastard 3

    The United States enjoys and will continue to enjoy uncontested military primacy, both globally, and in all strategic theatres.

    That may have been the assumption but it’s never really been true. Sure, no country or even a group of countries could ever invade and defeat the US but it’s also true that the US can’t invade a country and then dictate to that country. Just look at Iraq, the overthrow of the elected government of Iran in the 1950s and the coup in Chile.

    U.S. allies are the richest, most capable countries in the world.

    This has only been true because the world has been exporting huge amounts of raw resources to those countries. As those countries develop their own economies they’ll export less. And, of course, China has been buying up all the exports recently as it became the manufacturing centre of the world.

    Wealth = resources. Exporting those resources makes a country poorer.

    A richer and more globally integrated China will also be a freer and more peaceful China.

    Well, we’re learning that that was a load of bollocks as China takes over territory that was never theirs.

    Great-power war is obsolete.

    The US has been at war continuously for over a century so that should never have been a belief.

    The advance of democracy is unstoppable and irreversible.

    It’s unfortunate that the failures of Representative Democracy are making way for more dictatorship. We should be demanding more democracy, not less and that more needs to be as Participatory Democracy.

    Globalisation is irrevocable.

    Globalisation was actually more widespread in the 19th century – although that was more due to the lack of regulations in undeveloped countries. It’s always been protectionism that’s brought about better local conditions.

    Technological innovation will lead to greater human flourishing and freedom, and will disproportionately favour the U.S.

    All technologies can and will be duplicated by all other nations. Believing that other peoples are less capable than the people in the US is the problem here.

    • Ad 3.1

      Far more interesting to consider which one of those assumptions – which is what they are – will really fall the fastest.

      If you think it’s never been true that the US has in the past had uncontested military primacy, you might like to revisit the results of World War 1, World War 2, and a few others. No one has claimed that the US doesn’t lose wars sometimes.

      On your China “bollocks”, you’ll probably recall Tianenmen Square 1989. That was the moment China’s government confirmed that it would not fall to the same democratisation as then-Soviet Russia. So it’s been quite an assumption for a fair while longer than its’ more recent marine claims.

      The point about democracy is one of the most fundamental values to defend by the remaining leftist activisms. Even as unionism and socialism recede really fast, democracy itself is receding almost as fast globally.

      Quite a claim you have that globalisation was more widespread in the 19th century. Have you seen the shipping and air flight and satellite and cellphone and television and internet volume tracking maps now, compared to 150 years ago?

      The duplication of technology by other countries is simply not the point; the sustained advantage is that the digital industries of the US will continue to provide innovations faster and across more fields than any other country.

      It’s pretty useless to worry about whether the assumptions were right to a greater or lesser degree; the question is which ones will be seen to comprehensively fail the fastest under this kind of administration.

      Trump is a particle of accelerated entropy.

      • Draco T Bastard 3.1.1

        If you think it’s never been true that the US has in the past had uncontested military primacy, you might like to revisit the results of World War 1, World War 2, and a few others.

        The English were already winning WWI before the US entered. Or, if you believe this guy, the war would simply have petered out. Same would have been true of WWII. In neither war was the US needed to bring about victory.

        And I pointed out they could invade a country but couldn’t dictate how that country then ran. This is because they can’t maintain active military conditions indefinitely and that condition, which is true at all times and for all people, precludes ‘uncontested military primacy’.

        If they did have ‘uncontested military primacy’ then ISIS wouldn’t be a problem, Iran would have stayed a US client state and Iraq would now be a US client state.

        That was the moment China’s government confirmed that it would not fall to the same democratisation as then-Soviet Russia.

        I wasn’t addressing their democracy and lack thereof but their peacefulness. Dictatorships are never peaceful and will never allow democracy. This latter can be seen in NZ as well as this government reduces and removes our democracy, limited as it is, in favour of commercial enterprise.

        Quite a claim you have that globalisation was more widespread in the 19th century. Have you seen the shipping and air flight and satellite and cellphone and television and internet volume tracking maps now, compared to 150 years ago?

        You’re confusing peoples ability to move and communicate with globalisation. Globalisation is about trade and trade was, in many respects, actually freer in the 19th century than today but it was more due to the lack of regulations than an actual policy setting.

        The duplication of technology by other countries is simply not the point;

        Actually, it is the point because of diminishing returns on investment. The first innovation is easy but each innovation after that gets harder. This means that a country that duplicates the technology has the possibility of catching up. Especially if they develop their economy in such a way as to increase the percentage of the population involved in R&D.

        the question is which ones will be seen to comprehensively fail the fastest under this kind of administration.

        The ones that fail fastest will be the one that were more wrong to start with.

        As for Trump:

        While it is unclear what Allison is being considered for, there have been reports that he is being considered for the Chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Treasury Secretary, or a spot as the Federal Reserve Governor of Oversight.

        The last possible appointment is interesting given Trump’s statements on the campaign trail have questioned the future of the Federal Reserve’s political independence. Allison actually takes that rhetoric a step further. While running the The Cato Institute, Allison wrote a paper in support of abolishing the Fed altogether.

        “I would get rid of the Federal Reserve because the volatility in the economy is primarily caused by the Fed,” wrote Allison in a 2014 article for the Cato Journal, a publication of the Institute.

        Allison said in the article that simply allowing the market to regulate itself would be preferable to the Fed harming the stability of the financial system.

        “When the Fed is radically changing the money supply, distorting interest rates, and over-regulating the financial sector, it makes rational economic calculation difficult,” wrote Allison. “Markets do form bubbles, but the Fed makes them worse.”

        Allison, in the same paper, also suggested that the government’s practice of insuring bank deposits up to $250,000 should be abolished and the US should go back to a banking system backed by “a market standard such as gold.”

        If any of that comes about you can kiss the US economy goodbye.

        • Ad 3.1.1.1

          There will need to be a full list of who has got every post, what their proposals are, and how this relates to the first big speech at inauguration. In all his cabinet posts. Then we can do a reckoning rather than looking at any one candidate for one post.

          I can argue quite happily all your other points at another time but work beckons – but as I pointed out they are not the point of the post: the point is they are operating assumptions that are lived by, and are collectively under quite some decay. It’s the rate of entropy that needs to be measured, not their fact.

          I am not convinced that losing any one of them would be fatal to US society or its economy. The measure is whether Trump’s government will address any of them, or indeed start to write some of his one.

          For example, if he withdrew from NATO, or re-wrote the Munroe Doctrine, and signalled that pretty early on, we would see a good tilt in the affairs of the world. Let’s see what he’s really made of, well clear of the election and the nominations and all the jockeying. We need to see his mettle when he is the chair itself.

          • joe90 3.1.1.1.1

            We need to see his mettle when he is the chair itself.

            Testing the new administration?.

            Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Ihor Dolhov says some 55,000 Russian troops are now massing near the border with Ukraine.

            Currently, Russia has amassed about 55,000 servicemen near the Ukrainian border. The presence of the Russian regular army on the territory of Ukraine varies from 5,000 to 7,500 soldiers. In Crimea, this figure is 23,000 troops, of which 9,000 are on the administrative border,” he said at the fifth Tiger Conference in Kyiv on November 29, LІGA.net reported.

            http://www.unian.info/war/1650496-ukrainian-defense-ministry-55000-russian-troops-massing-near-ukraine.html

  4. One Anonymous Bloke 4

    I’m not at all confident that the reactionary buffoon the U.S. has elected will be up to re-writing a set of overall grand strategy objectives.

    You’re assuming that Trump and his creatures are going to play along. Usually, fascists have a completely different agenda.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 4.1

      For example, the photoshop image accompanying the article proves that Liberals hate us, and that we must defend ourselves against them 😈

  5. rhinocrates 5

    How the Trump administration responds depends on what the corporations want. I don’t think that the swamp is going to be drained any time soon, instead its being filled to overflowing.

    The end of TPP might be a mere distraction if regulations protecting workers are removed to make the US ‘friendlier’ to transnational corporations.

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/30/donald-trump-george-monbiot-misinformation?CMP=twt_gu

    Essentially, he’s packing his cabinet and transition team with lobbyists. George Monbiot has a look at their pedigree:

    Yes, Donald Trump’s politics are incoherent. But those who surround him know just what they want, and his lack of clarity enhances their power. To understand what is coming, we need to understand who they are. I know all too well, because I have spent the past 15 years fighting them.

    Over this time, I have watched as tobacco, coal, oil, chemicals and biotech companies have poured billions of dollars into an international misinformation machine composed of thinktanks, bloggers and fake citizens’ groups. Its purpose is to portray the interests of billionaires as the interests of the common people, to wage war against trade unions and beat down attempts to regulate business and tax the very rich. Now the people who helped run this machine are shaping the government.

    As usual, the left and centre (myself included) are beating ourselves up about where we went wrong. There are plenty of answers, but one of them is that we have simply been outspent. Not by a little, but by orders of magnitude. A few billion dollars spent on persuasion buys you all the politics you want. Genuine campaigners, working in their free time, simply cannot match a professional network staffed by thousands of well-paid, unscrupulous people.

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