Trump’s inner circle of foreign policy advisors. Kangaroos loose in the top paddock?
Blog No. 122
This is the sequel to Blog 121, ‘The World after ‘Trump Part 1: domestic policy outcomes.’ http://www.khakispecs.com/?p=3063
“We will serve the citizens of the United States of America, believe me… There is no such thing as a global anthem, a global currency, or a global flag.” “My job is not to represent the world. My job is to represent the United States of America.” Extracted from two addresses made by President Trump within his first month in office.
Donald Trump appears to have a perfectly clear vision of what he is trying to achieve within the realm of domestic policy. He has far less interest in, or knowledge of foreign affairs. This field of policy is being delegated to a raggle-taggle collection of right-wing ‘experts,’ who seem to lack a coherent policy other than their boss’s umbrella instruction that they are to bash all terrorist groups, who might have plans to attack the USA, and to otherwise, avoid what he sees as money-consuming entanglements, be they wars, aid programmes or multilateral treaties.
Whether or not he will achieve this aim and avoid such entanglements is a moot point. Some of his closest foreign affairs advisors hold delusional beliefs that would tend in the opposite direction. http://www.businessinsider.com.au/book-steve-bannon-is-obsessed-with-the-fourth-turning-2017-2?r=US&IR=T
Furthermore, the Washington playing field still has no shortage of players, who, despite their president’s expressed preferences; seem determined to continue pursuit of the so often disastrous, interventionist/expansionist policies of previous administrations. http://www.khakispecs.com/?p=2761
“The counter to extreme globalism and internationalism is the argument that the United States has a right to keep its own interests in mind, decline to act as the first responder on international crises, and protect its national priorities without having to first consider their global ramifications…
We sit at a pivotal point in U.S. history, one that wasn’t caused by Trump but reflected in his very election. If what we’re seeing isn’t just noise in the system, or the overly ambitious attempt by a new president to overturn the policies of his predecessor, then we face a global system in flux. For now at least, the United States seems willing to shake off its global responsibilities, a mantle few are eager or able to take up in its stead. It will leave behind a fragmented world, still connected by trade, transport and telecommunications links but distracted by national and regional issues that take center stage, side-lining aspirations for global solutions as a quaint notion of a bygone era…
It will be a disorderly world, with a changing of the guard in many regions. The one constant will be the continued and maturing power of the United States — a power that will be much less visible and that will be utilized far less in the next decade.”
The above quotes, taken from Stratfor, indicate that the American establishment is gearing itself up for acceptance of the sea-change in how its foreign policy will be conducted. (They also indicate the extent to which the American establishment likes to justify its previous expansion of empire on the grounds that it was acting philanthropically and doing everyone else a favour.)
A characteristic of Stratfor forecasts is a patriotic refusal to accept any possible outcome other than the perpetuity of American greatness. Though, in its description of the impending Trump-induced flux in international affairs, it would appear that Stratfor’s appreciation of the current situation is correct, that might not hold good for all that Stratfor has to say about the world after Trump.
Given the enormous volume of soft variables, forecasts in global affairs, Stratfor’s included, should never be taken as gospel. As indicated by my Blogs No.30 and 31, just two years ago, Stratfor was forecasting that the Polish economy would overtake that of Germany within ten years: that the biggest problem facing the good guys in the next decade will be Russia’s imminent breakup (giving the West the problem of how to secure its nuclear arsenal from the multiple powers and factions attempting to seize control of the fragmenting state): that Japan will become the dominant power in Asia and that China will not be militarily assertive. None of the above forecasts would appear to be still on track (nor, seen through khaki-tinted specs, did they appear to be at the time.)
If such learned and well-informed analysts, as those writing for Stratfor can, in so short a time, veer so far into La La Land, then my own attempts at crystal-ball gazing, are likely to diverge equally, or even further, from future events. What is certain is that analyses of the past tend to be more accurate than projections of the future!
As Stratfor says, whatever happens to the Trump presidency, there already have been and there will be further international consequences. Already, several of Trump’s edicts and tweeted pronouncements will have seriously undermined international confidence in America’s reliability as a trading partner and as guardian of the international economic order. Trump has clearly demonstrated that Treaties signed by one American administration are liable to be challenged and disregarded by the next.
The global economy is a very finely calibrated eco-system: mess with one of the components and a considerable re-balancing of the whole is required. As in a natural eco-system, it is not immediately obvious which and how components will be affected as the re-balancing progresses.
It is clear from my http://www.khakispecs.com/?p=3005 that the global leader is advocating, and thereby possibly legitimising, protectionism as a legitimate pursuit of sovereign self-interest. While it is questionable whether or not Trump’s abrupt withdrawal from the now well-established global free-trade system will benefit his fellow citizens, it is clear that it has the potential to bring about a dramatic disruption of both the global economy and polity. Fortress America is unlikely to be immune as contagion rages beyond its walls.
Even before Trump’s entry on the scene, the international system was teetering on the edge of the cliff. https://dailyreckoning.com/next-lehman-moment-coming-2017/
Signs were that the neo-liberal system was coming to the end of its natural life. The huge disparities in the distribution of wealth that it brought about, not just between nations, but even within nations were rapidly becoming intolerable. https://www.oxfam.org/en/pressroom/pressreleases/2017-01-16/just-8-men-own-same-wealth-half-world As demonstrated by the BREXIT and Trump votes and the emergence of right wing nationalist parties within the EU, the seeds of neo-liberalism’s demise were starting to sprout.
Trump, as a paleo-conservative, represents the antithesis to neo-liberalism. The neo-liberal economy was based on the maintenance and extraction of American advantage from a global chain of nations subscribing to the system. These nations will now see Trump’s America as being concerned only with its own selfish interests to be pursued at the expense of all other players in the international system. The new system is to be a ‘win – lose’, rather than a ‘win heaps – win something’ system.
In the neo-liberal, globalised system that had been built up since Reagan’s presidency, the satellites of the American empire knew where they stood. If they reported dutifully to the milking shed each morning, stood quietly to have their teats massaged and let their cream be dispatched to Wall Street, wild beasts and rustlers, looking to fill their home freezers, would be kept at bay and there would always be fodder in their stalls. A more or less comfortable symbiosis had come to exist between the Empire and its adjuncts.
The current situation is akin to the extreme angst that must have gripped the inhabitants of Roman occupied England in the 4th Century. As the legions were withdrawn to fight wars closer to home, the Emperor Honorious told them that they were now on their own when it came to coping with Anglo-Saxon raiders.
It is now apparent to the herd that there has been a sudden and dramatic event at the farmhouse. The farmer has left the gates open, gone on holiday and might never return. The continuity of old routines can no longer be relied upon. The guaranteed food in the stalls may no longer be available. The disconsolate cows are being left to wander off with their aching udders to their separate corners of the farm where they may fall victim to starvation and other perils.
Alternatively they can seek to join a neighbour’s herd (in the hope that he is committed to dairy, rather than to beef.) Better still, they could form their own cooperative and run the estate as they would best like it run.
There would seem to be three main possibilities for the post Trump world. The trend towards the first and second will both be apparent at the same time and the timing of the third will be dependent on how alarmed global leaders and populations become by the rapidity and disruption of climate change.
With export options curtailed, some economies succumb to mastitis.
1. The cows go off in misery and dangerous isolation to different corners of the paddock.
This seems to be the favoured hypothesis as to what will happen after Trump’s disruption of the globalised trading economy and of the international institutions that were put in place to hold it together. Nationalism, greatly encouraged by America’s selfish example, will triumph over internationalism. (Noteworthy, is Albert Einstein’s quote on the subject of nationalism, “an infantile disease, the measles of mankind…,”) This trend will be reinforced by fear and anger resulting from weakness in, or even a breakdown of the global economy. It will be further reinforced by the refugee-flows engendered by America’s previous policies and by the climate change that Trump proposes to accelerate. Trade wars and kinetic wars will proliferate between and within the isolated nation states. This four-minute video, produced by the Pentagon, gives an insight into what was then the neo-liberal future as anticipated by the American establishment. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gEPdOZbyzbw
2. The cows seek a replacement farmer/empire to shelter under.
Small groups of nations will try to cling together in competing and rival regional alliances. More probable will be that the nations left adrift by America’s withdrawal, gradually conglomerate around a new economic and military power. Now that Trump has cancelled the TPP, the other potential signatories are looking at inviting China to replace the USA. Meanwhile, the China-centric, Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is gathering increasing support from other Asian nations, while there are unmistakable indications that China, with its ardent advocacy of free-trade and its enormous investments in the Silk Road development, sees itself as a potential replacement for the formerly ‘indispensable’ nation. http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/02/27/u-s-allies-are-learning-that-trumps-america-is-not-the-indispensable-nation/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=EP%202-27&utm_term=%2AEditors%20Pick
No doubt, those foolish Eastern European states that have been making a living out of neo-liberal America by daringly ramping up their shrill hostility to Russia, are going to have to reconsider their options. (Signs are that the first of these to pop will be the US State Department’s corrupt and anarchic Ukrainian dependency.) Whether or not the EU remains intact, it or its individual components will be looking for a more amicable and intimate relationship with Russia than that acceptable to previous US administrations and the NATO hierarchy.
The above scenario would appear the most probable end outcome from the change of American policy, were it not for one other factor – rapid and disastrous climate change.
3. The cows get their act together and form their own cooperative.
A significant section of American public and leadership opinion views the existence of the United Nations Organisation as an affront to the USA’s sovereignty and an inconvenient brake on its freedom of international action. This, as the world’s exceptional and most powerful nation, it need not submit to. It is not just the UN that is affected by this American mind-set, multiple other international agreements have gone unratified by the USA. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_treaties_unsigned_or_unratified_by_the_United_States
Throwing off the shackles imposed by membership of international organisations and participation in multi-lateral treaties is a key objective of Trump’s paleo-con administration. The made-great-again America will be a Prometheus unbound – and Trump the Hercules, who breaks his chains.
Prometheus Bound By Gioacchino Ereto (with a Herculean Trump in the background.)
In particular, the Trump administration poses what could be an existential threat to the United Nations. The threat to UN funding at a time when US policy is set to provoke increased conflict and reduced food availability should ensure that populations around the globe experience a sharp decline in their living standards and in the stability of the governments they live under. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/donald-trump-united-nations-funding-cuts-abortion-israel-settlements-president-executive-order-a7546486.html
Though a grotesquely deluded Trump might believe that climate change is a hoax and that there is no need to adjust his policies in an attempt to mitigate or to adapt to it, every other government in the world recognises the threat for what it is – even if short-sighted political considerations prevent many present political leaders from taking meaningful steps to address it. Happily, national judiciaries appear to be progressing at a faster rate than their political leaders. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/mar/08/how-climate-change-battles-are-increasingly-being-fought-and-won-in-court?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Email
The sad fact is that climate change places all nations in the same peril that they would face were a giant asteroid en route to impact Earth within the next several decades. No nation can scurry for individual cover. The only hope for mankind is united action and such action can only be achieved by multinational agreement and organisation. The longer the delay in addressing the problem the more drastic the action and the measures required to enforce it will become.
As things stand, the United Nation Organisation’s Paris Framework Agreement on Climate Change http://unfccc.int/paris_agreement/items/9485.php represents the main escape route by which humanity might ensure its continued existence. Trump might wish to withdraw from it, but no responsible national leadership will follow the USA’s example.
The UN is not only responsible for addressing the existential threat of climate change, but through its multiple agencies, for addressing the multiple other common threats facing the nations – be they war, famine, poverty, pandemic, etc.
The sad fact is that the UN, as presently constituted, is not best suited to purpose. The legacy of WWII, which resulted in the drawing up of its constitution, has left too many anomalies in its structure. The make-up of its ‘upper-house,’ the Security Council, is no longer equitable and the powers of veto, still held by some of its members, often render the whole institution hamstrung in face of situations requiring urgent executive action. The fact that the Upper House should have more authority than the General Assembly is a constitutional anachronism – as too is the location of its headquarters in New York; hosted by a nation now hostile to its purpose.
The world could perhaps get by with a Trump induced de-funded and deteriorating UN, but for one thing. The nations need a supra-national organisation with strong executive power to deal with the rapidly approaching climate crisis – and the increasing number and violence of international conflicts that it will engender. Sooner or later, and almost certainly within the next decade, a climate event will occur that makes this simple fact obvious to everyone – except possibly the ostriches in Washington.
I wrote on this subject at a time when the possibility of a Trump presidency was remote. http://www.khakispecs.com/?p=1930 Now, with Trump’s climate change denial pulling on the pillars supporting the temple’s roof, the ideas set out in that blog appear to have more hope of future realisation.
A portion of the nations of the Earth can by-pass both the USA and the current UN organisation and set up a self-funding, veto-free, independent structure, with full executive powers – but only in the field of climate change mitigation and adaptation. (Singapore, Crimea, the Baltic States, Switzerland or even Jerusalem, are possible HQ locations that spring immediately to mind.)
As the new climate organisation demonstrates the reasonableness and effectiveness of its conduct and as the dangers posed by climate change become more apparent, more nations will join the new organisation and potentially, fresh responsibilities may accrue to it. Ultimately, the new climate authority will gather sufficient strength to impose sanctions and bring to heel those nations, such as Trump’s USA, that seek selfish advantage in their refusal to conduct their economies in a manner conducive to the welfare of all humanity and life on Earth.
This blog didn’t take the originally intended detailed and circuitous route through Trump’s foreign policy. In preparation for such a trip, I had gathered a few, random hyperlinks, which I haven’t made use of, but which some readers might find of interest.
· Already, China is stepping up to the climate leadership plate. https://foreignpolicy.com/2017/02/24/only-china-can-save-the-planet/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=New%20Campaign&utm_term=%2AEditors%20Picks
· http://www.marketwatch.com/story/you-can-count-on-china-reacting-to-trump-with-its-own-big-sticks-2017-01-25 Chinese ability to retaliate should Trump instigate a trade war.
· http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/46405.htm The Silk Road and the Kissinger gambit to drive a wedge through the Russia-China alliance.
· http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/46447.htm Trump keeps on track with Saudi Arabia.
· http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/46400.htm A Belgian interview with President Assad after the fall of Aleppo.
· http://www.cfr.org/global-governance/world-order-20/p38702 Richard Haass, highly influential President of the neo-liberal Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), on the development of international relations in the post Trump world.
At least Trump’s denial of climate change appears to have inspired his opponents in the CFR to take it more seriously than they had in the past. However, Haass’s leisurely view of the time-scale available would imply that he still has not grasped the gravity of the situation. “Establishing the concept of sovereign obligations as a pillar of the international order will take decades of consultations and negotiations – and even then, its acceptance and impact will be uneven. Progress will come only voluntarily, from countries themselves, rather than from any top-down edict. Realistically, it will be difficult to forge agreement on what specific sovereign obligations states have and how they should be enforced.” Sadly, humanity does not have the CFR’s wished for decades in which to divert the fast approaching asteroid.