Thursday, July 12, 2018

Trump Goes To Europe

I have been reading about Trump's European policies. They are a fun reminder of the fact that those who voted for Trump are getting closer to breaking the whole world.  I have been told that they wanted change, and change they are getting.  If the outcome in foreign politics is a bit like hiring a hurricane to redecorate the living-room, well, the client knew the decorator is a hurricane, right?

What's fascinating about Trump's foreign policy is not only its transactional nature, but that it's naive and simplistic, a bit as if Trump is playing a one-round game against one presumed enemy* while all his opponents are playing simultaneous multi-round games against many opponents.

Take the case of NATO.  Trump hates NATO and would like it not to exist, perhaps because he doesn't have the imagination to see that the vacuum that would create would not remain a vacuum for very long, but would be filled with various dictatorial countries who wish to expand their spheres of dominance.

I believe that he hasn't even thought what might happen if NATO stopped existing or how many smaller countries Putin would have for breakfast.  But then, of course, Trump likes Putin as he likes Erdogan:

After a brief chat with Turkey’s authoritarian president on the sidelines of the summit, Trump mouthed: “I like him, I like him.”
For Germany — in contrast — there was vitriol.

Both Putin and Erdogan are moving away from democracy and human rights.  And, of course, Germany is led by a woman**, and Trump is not comfortable with women he is not allowed to rank for racks.

What appears to be beyond Trump's skills is understanding how his own statements and actions might have consequences not limited to others simply groveling to him and fulfilling his wishes.  On NATO, for instance, Trump's rages have changed the future of NATO, but not necessarily in the direction he might have desired:

Now, even as the Europeans try to avoid further blowups, they are eagerly pursuing policies that stand to rewrite the international order but in ways that undercut American leadership rather than reinforce it.
They are racing to complete major trade deals from the South Pacific to South America. And they are allocating billions of euros to develop European military capabilities, an effort Washington has begun criticizing, having suddenly realized the long-term threat it could pose to U.S. dominance.
Then there's Trump's gullibility.  It's so awful that it's almost awesome:

In an interview with Fox News last month, Trump speculated that he and Putin could potentially hash out solutions to Syria and Ukraine over dinner.
“I could say: ‘Would you do me a favor? Would you get out of ­Syria,’ ” Trump said. “ ‘Would you do me a favor? Would you get out of Ukraine.’ ”
Some White House officials worry that Putin, who has held several calls with Trump, plays on the president’s inexperience and lack of detailed knowledge about issues while stoking Trump’s grievances.

The Russian president complains to Trump about “fake news” and laments that the U.S. foreign policy establishment — the “deep state,” in Putin’s words — is conspiring against them, the first senior U.S. official said.
“It’s not us,” Putin has told Trump, the official summarized. “It’s the subordinates fighting against our friendship.”

I bet Vladimir Putin can't stop laughing while thinking of the Supreme Leader of the Free World.   Or of the gullibility of sixty million plus voters in that country.

It's all playing according to his wishes!  Putin wants to break the European Union, and Trump rants against it, Putin wants to kill NATO, and Trump rants against it.  That the US is not gaining anything from Russia is probably especially pleasing to our Vlad The Impaler.  Instead, his propaganda machine will be allowed to be fully functional in future American elections, too.

Trump's unpredictability has been a concern for both the (previous?) allies of the United States and for his own aides.  It's hard to craft policy when one tweet can nullify months of effort!  But that unpredictability may also have other consequences which Trump may not have predicted.  For instance, in Europe:

Many I spoke with saw Europe facing one of two bad choices. A bleakly hopeful group is betting that Europe can put the operational level of the transatlantic relationship in hibernation for a few years and have it reawaken in a post-Trump world. They seemed resigned to the fact that many policy areas would simply sit frozen for the next two years. A second group, however, feared a much darker scenario in which the U.S. turns more aggressively against Europe. For them, a realignment in global politics is coming—and waiting is for suckers. I was deeply saddened to hear these people, whom I consider Atlanticists, consider decoupling from the U.S. militarily and possibly forging relationships with other states to balance against U.S. pressure. You could feel that they were crossing a mental Rubicon, opening up the possibility for the first time something that had been simply unthinkable before—that they may need to protect themselves from U.S. power.
Bolds are mine.

So.  Today world politics is like a television drama series which ends a season by leaving all the main characters in some terrible peril, and we, the viewers,  must wait several months for next season's episodes to find out if they have survived.

The small difference is that our cliff-hanger is a real one, and the anxious waiting is about which parts of the world still might exist or function when Trump has left the office.

*  Often this one enemy seems to be Barack Obama, to be honest.  Trump wants to wipe out every single achievement of the Obama administration.

** That Trump has been particularly nasty to Angela Merkel and to Theresa May could be because these leaders are female.  But Trump also seems to get most of his information from the US right-wing press where Europe is pictured as utterly destroyed by refugees and migrants, and Trump sees Merkel and May as responsible for that:

During an April visit by French President Emmanuel Macron to the White House, a frustrated Trump was sharply critical of both British Prime Minister Theresa May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, U.S. and European officials said. Asked about his comments, the president in a statement to The Washington Post said that “immigration is destroying Europe as we know it and it is very sad to be witness to what is happening.”

Still, it's not an accident that authoritarian leaders like Trump, Putin or Erdogan do not care for any sort of equality between men and women.  Right-wing ideologies, whether religious or not, always begin by putting women back into the home, under some man's headship.