Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Trump Foreign Policy Thus Far? Not Good

CBC Radio asked me to discuss a bit of Trump foreign policy for ten different radio stations across Canada this morning.  What did I say? 

They asked about the Secretary of State possibilities.
a) Trump's Secretary of State is likely to be marginalized in a fairly normal tradition of US foreign policy;
b) Romney is more likely to be humiliated than to be named;
c) I have no idea who Trump will choose from the veritable cornucopia of choices.

What do we make of the call with President of Taiwan?  Why was it important? What is strategic?
a) It is a mess, as antagonizing China seems to be a bad idea. China considers Taiwan to be a part of China, and we have all gone along with the legal fiction that Taiwan is not independent. 
b) The stakes are high as the standard scenario for World War III starting in the Pacific is over a China-Taiwan crisis with the US Pacific Fleet in the middle.
c) Taiwanese interests were certainly strategic, working on this for months, paying Bob Dole's lobbying firm heaps of money.  Was Trump being strategic? I tend to think not.  He might like playing up China as an adversary, but I doubt he has spent months thinking about this.  I do think some of the people close to him have been, which speaks to how influential the aides of an under-briefed, incurious President can be.  The real contest to watch over the next four years is among the aides seeking to manipulate Trump.
d) Lobbyists can game US foreign policy more easily when an amateur takes the big job.
e) More questions about Trump's business ties influencing policy.

What about Kissinger's meeting with Trump?
a)  Tis a dance all US presidents and candidates do, as Kissinger is seen as the old wise man of US foreign policy (old he is, wise?  no).
b) Along with Trump meeting Gore, this meeting might suggest something--that Trump is going to be moderate.  NO.  Focus not on meetings but on the actual appointments.  A few minutes with Kissinger is far less important than having Lt. General (ret.) Michael Flynn as National Security Adviser.  Flynn has financial ties with Russia and Turkey, is a rabid Islamophobe, a hot head and fosters group think (he told his subordinates he is always right and they will be right when they agree with him).  Flynn is on a course to be the worst NSA ever, replacing Condi Rice.

Let's just say I am not optimistic about Trump foreign policy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree with your general assessment about the appointments and lack of strategic moves with regards to China. I would say however, that China has been planning long-term to solve the Taiwan issue by force. Much of their military reorganization (which includes clearer lines of command, more focus on air and naval units) along with their A2/D2 (anti-access, area denial) strategy is aimed at solving the Taiwan issue. Moreover, some Chinese thinkers, see the US as having a ring of containment around China stretching from Japan to Indonesia. In that ring several key strategic straights like Malacca could easily be used to blockade China or deny general access to the Pacific. One of their main focuses is to break out of that containment ring, which they believe they can do through solving the Taiwan issue or in the South China Sea.

Of course, this is all long term planning on the part of the Chinese, as they generally adopt the strategy of 'biding time and avoiding the light' as Deng Xiaoping would say. I think that a China-Taiwan-US crisis would be moving along regardless who was president, though I believe the timing would be different and up to China for the most part.