Fareed Zakaria: Trump has drawn three red lines that are bound to be crossed

February 5, 2018

Fareed Zakaria: Trump has drawn three red lines that are bound to be crossed

by Dr, Fareed Zakaria


Image result for fareed zakaria in davos 2018

NEW YORK — President Trump’s State of the Union speech mostly ignored the world outside of America. He made a few tough statements on things like the Iran deal and Guantanamo and described (accurately) the evil nature of the North Korean regime, but he said very little about his foreign policy. This masks a more dangerous reality. The Trump administration has in fact, either accidentally or by design, laid out aggressive markers in three different parts of the world — three red lines — without any serious strategy as to what happens when they are crossed.

The first is with North Korea. Trump and his top officials have asserted that the era of “strategic patience” with North Korea is over. They have ruled out any prospect of accepting North Korea as a nuclear state and believe traditional deterrence will not work. The president has specifically promised that North Korea would never be able to develop a nuclear weapon that could reach the United States. Meanwhile, CIA Director Mike Pompeo says Pyongyang is “a handful of months” away from having this capability.

Image result for State Department Victor ChaDr.Victor Cha is a Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University, Washington DC and served as Director for Asian Affairs at the National Security Council under President George W. Bush.
Image result for State Department Victor Cha

So what happens when that red line is crossed? What would be the American response? Victor Cha, a seasoned expert who was expected to be the nominee for ambassador to South Korea, explained to the administration that there really is no limited military option, not even a small strike that would “bloody” the nose of the North Korean regime. For this frank analysis, he was promptly dropped from consideration for the ambassadorship.

Cha simply raised the fundamental problem with the Trump administration’s approach. It has outlined maximalist goals without any sense of how to achieve them. In response to North Korea’s new capabilities, would Trump really rain down “fire and fury” and “totally destroy North Korea”?

Image result for State Department Victor Cha

Trump has done something similar with Iran. He has announced that he will withdraw from the nuclear deal if Congress and the European allies don’t fix it. The Europeans have made clear they don’t think the pact needs fixing and believe it is working well. In about three months, we will reach D-Day, when Trump has promised to unilaterally withdraw if he can’t get a tougher deal.

Image result for iran

Were Trump to unilaterally abrogate the accord, the Iranians have several options. They could pull out themselves and ramp up their nuclear program, which would mean the Trump administration would have to deal with another North Korea, this time in the Middle East. Or Iran could simply sideline the United States, keep adhering to the deal, and do business with the rest of the world. Most likely, Tehran would make the United States pay a price by using its considerable influence to destabilize Iraq, which is entering a tumultuous election season.

The third arena where the White House has talked and acted tough without any follow-on strategy is Pakistan. The administration has publicly branded that country a terrorist haven and suspended military aid on those grounds. This is an entirely understandable impulse, because the Pakistani military has in fact been supporting terrorists and militants who operate in Afghanistan, even against American troops, and then withdraw to their sanctuaries across the border in Pakistan. As then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen noted in 2011, one of these terrorist groups “acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency.”

Image result for Pakistan and the US

Demonstrators shout slogans in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital during a protest in Peshawar, Pakistan Dec. 12, 2017.

But being right is not the same thing as being smart. Most experts predicted that Pakistan would respond to the American action in two ways: First, by pursuing closer relations with China, which can easily replace the aid. Second, the Pakistani military would ratchet up the violence in Afghanistan, demonstrating that it has the capacity to destabilize the pro-American government in Kabul, throw the country into chaos and tie down the U.S. forces that are now in their 17th year of war. And that’s what has happened. China immediately voiced support for Pakistan after the American announcement. And in the last two weeks, Afghanistan has suffered a spate of horrific terror attacks.

Image result for Thomas Schelling,

Thomas Schelling, the Nobel-prize winning scholar of strategy, once remarked that two things are very expensive in international affairs: threats when they fail, and promises when they succeed. So, he implied, be very careful about making either one. President Trump seemed to understand this when his predecessor made a threat toward Syria in 2013, and Trump tweeted, “Red line statement was a disaster for President Obama.” Well, he’s just drawn three red lines of his own, and each of them is likely to be crossed.

Fareed Zakaria is a columnist for The Washington Post and host of Fareed Zakaria GPS on CNN.

5 thoughts on “Fareed Zakaria: Trump has drawn three red lines that are bound to be crossed

  1. Many more experienced and qualified Republicans from past Republican administrations refused to work for this horndog Donald Trump’s administration.That is why we have good for nothing culled rejects hired and now have a chaos Trump adult center in 1600,Pennsylvania Avenue.The two others who really lusted for cabinet posts were Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani.But after using them,Trump throw then in the toilet like used condoms.

    Why Dr Victor Cha was thrown under the bus,is because to work for Donald Trump,one have to be culled,well trained and yes,a “YESMAN”.Just look at Kevin Nunes carrying Trump’s water,not once,twice but whenever Trump snaps his finger.Paul Ryan,a very well respected house leader have now become an eunuch.John Kelly,a well respected 4 star general has now turned into a compulsive liar.John Kelly owned an African American congresswoman an apology,but lost his manhood by not manning up.They have all jumped on board the Trump Banana Republican train and have been turned into pariahs.

    Foreign policy?What foreign policy?Donald Trump cannot even managed his own personal problems.He let Stormy Daniels spanked him for being a dud in bed.Then shamed him by talking to the press,before being paid to keep her silence.Donald cannot control Robert Mueller,so he and his culled dogs are attacking the FBI and Justice Department.And where is the AG culled dog Jeff Sessions?His Justice Department is under attack and he is curling like a porcupine in the corner?At least the new FBI director Ray got enough marbles to defend his department.There has never been so much corruption as a sitting president enriching his own self and family.So much for draining the swamp.

  2. Trump actions, including drawing these” 3 red lines” are largely the reactions directed against or in dismantling Obama’s policy/legacy , often seen on the surface, done without in-depth deliberation or merits.

    It is difficult to know if Trump has (presidential) previleged knowledge of Obama, hidden agendas, (if there was any ), that were considered a threat or harm to the Americans, he (Trump ) would be considered bigoted racist against Obama for personal reasons and being a black.

    An “America First” is actually a White America First.

    So far, Trump’s accident- prone policy conduct,
    at best, is seen as disruptive and dangerous.

  3. Quote;- “…two things are very expensive in international affairs: threats when they fail, and promises when they succeed”

    The supreme advantage of being a politician or God is the ability of making excuses, (or excuses made on his or His behalf), and therefore get away with it in either scenario. Not so for a parent, which is why parents very rarely make promises to their children which they know they couldn’t keep.

    Why is it so? Because of the immediacy of relationships.

    Could anyone walk into the White House and chastise President Trump should all or any of the “Red Lines” were crossed? Of course not. (See the regular “crossings” President Obama’s Red Lines) But your child could question you during dinner time.

    So unless Trump wants to start WWIII, then N. Korea will “…be able to develop a nuclear weapon that could reach the United States” in due course of time.

    N. Korea knows this and so does China and so too the nameless hermits living on one of the peaks in Tian Shan Mountain.

    Like everything else now happening in the World, everything seems to depend on China. Once again we are reminded that with great power comes great responsibility.

    So the question is not whether China can or could rise peacefully, but responsibly. The vast expanse of Chinese history, ancient and modern, gives no clue at all. Not to me anyway.

    • You’re right about the red lines, Wayne. The first time a red line became a topic for discussion was, I think, when Netanyahu drew one to determine where Iran must not cross. He, for a while, became a joke of many blogs. The result of Netanyahu’s red line was an agreement with Iran that pretty much satisfied the Iranians, much to the chagrin of the Israeli hardliner. Really, Trump’s detractors must make up their minds: is Trump really irrational, insane, as they charged? If he is, what’s a red line or ten red lines? Like Humpty Dumpty, Trumpty can say anything this minute and deny it the next minute. Because whatever Trumpty says means just what he wants to mean at any moment he decides it should mean. Surely Fareed understands that

  4. Kind of miss your blog, Din. But I’ve been very busy with the chemistry lab in the university. Can’t wait for the return of my friend to resume his classes.

    It’s getting very interesting in Washington D.C. There’s now a call for investigation into Republicans in Congress who are taking money from Russia. The call did not come from the Democrats. The call came from former Bush ethics lawyer Richard Painter, a Republican.

    Painter said on The Beat with Ari Melber: “They are trying to cover up for President Trump and obstruct the Mueller investigation and do everything but protect our country from the Russians. What that committee ought to be doing is focusing on the Russians and who is collaborating with the Russians, and the other issue is the Russians have been funneling money through people with dual citizenship to members of Congress. We ought to find out about that. How many members of Congress who are attacking Bob Mueller and attacking the FBI how many of them are getting money from the Russians? Because we do not need the Russians interfering with our elections anymore.”

    The NRA is being investigate by the FBI for laundering money from Russia to Trump during the 2016 campaign, and there have been reports that other members of Congress have taken donations that have come from Russia but were laundered through Americans with dual citizenship.

    It is possible that many of the Republican lawmakers who are attacking Mueller are doing so at the request of their Russian donors. The Russian infiltration of US politics doesn’t end with Donald Trump. Putin has gotten himself into the Republican Party, and before Americans can get the Russians out of their elections, the Republicans will have to get the Russians out of the GOP.

    I’m surprised that even Faux (Fox) News is now admitting that the phony Nunes memo meant to undercut the Russia investigation does not “vindicate” Donald Trump. Referring to Trump’s reaction to the memo, Judge Andrew Napolitano said on Faux (Fox) News: “I don’t think he should have a false sense of confidence. I understand why he says things like that, it gins up his base and it may help him politically, but legally it’s of no moment.” And he added: “I think the Republicans over-promised and under-delivered with their memo….”

    Napolitano is correct. There was nothing in the Nunes memo that did anything to change the trajectory of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia and whether he obstructed justice. The memo was a desperate Republican effort to use an obscure and credible FISA warrant on former Trump campaign adviser and Russian operative Carter Page to undercut the investigations into Trump. It left out key facts, fudged reality and made anybody who read it just a little but less smart.

    Meanwhile, Donald Trump continues to make me laugh when he accuses Democrats of treason because they didn’t clap for him at SOTU. At a speech in Ohio, Trump said: “And it got to a point where I really didn’t even want to look too much during the speech over to that side. Because honestly, it was bad energy. That was bad energy. You’re up there, you’ve got half of the room going totally crazy wild, they loved everything. They wanted to do something great for the country. And you have the other side, even on positive news, really positive news, like that, they were like deaf. And un-American. Un-American. Somebody said treasonous. I mean, yeah, I guess, why not. Can we call that treason? Why not. I mean, they certainly didn’t seem to love our country very much.”

    A president who is under federal investigation for possible crimes committed with a hostile foreign power is accusing the opposition party treason. Trump’s idea is that a president is America and, since he is the president, loving him is patriotism. Trump is running a cult where he expects total worship at all times. Criticism is not tolerated. Not showing Trump love is a crime against America.

    Trump’s definition of treason is straight out of the authoritarian’s playbook. Democrats commit treason by disagreeing with Trump. The important thing is that his Trumpanzees believe him, and he knows he will get total worship from his Trumpanzees. Donald Trump knows what he’s doing, and his attack on Democrats was a preemptive strike to try to negate future Russia scandal revelations.

    And I believe it might not be much longer until the American people get a real taste of what treason looks like — courtesy of Robert Mueller and his Special Counsel investigation.

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