Trump’s Interview with The Times and Germany’s Bild


January 17, 2017

Trump’s Interview with The Times and Germany’s Bild

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/full-transcript-of-interview-with-donald-trump-5d39sr09d

Michael Gove and Kai Diekmann, right, interviewing Donald Trump in his eponymous tower in New York– Daniel Biskup

This is the full transcript of Donald Trump’s interview with Times’ Michael Gove and Kai Diekmann, former chief editor of the German newspaper Bild.

Mr President-elect, your grandfather is from Germany, your mother is from Scotland. As you know, Michael is Scottish, I am German. How will you manage relations with our countries?

Trump: Well, it’s similar. We have great love for both countries. These are great countries, great places. It’s very interesting how the UK broke away. I sort of, as you know, predicted it. I was in Turnberry and was doing a ribbon cutting because I bought Turnberry, which is doing unbelievably, and I’ll tell you, the fact that your pound sterling has gone down? Great. Because business is unbelievable in a lot of parts in the UK, as you know. I think Brexit is going to end up being a great thing.

So do you think we will be able to get a trade deal between the US and the UK quite quickly?

Absolutely, very quickly. I’m a big fan of the UK, uh, we’re gonna work very hard to get it done quickly and done properly — good for both sides. I will be meeting with [Theresa May] — in fact if you want you can see the letter, wherever the letter is, she just sent it.

Image result for Theresa May

UK’s Theresa May–The Midwife of BREXIT

She’s requesting a meeting and we’ll have a meeting right after I get into the White House and it’ll be, I think we’re gonna get something done very quickly.

Why do you think Brexit happened?

People don’t want to have other people coming in and destroying their country and you know in this country we’re gonna go very strong borders from the day I get in. One of the first orders I’m gonna sign – day one – which I will consider to be Monday as opposed to Friday or Saturday. Right? I mean my day one is gonna be Monday because I don’t want to be signing and get it mixed up with lots of celebration, but one of the first orders we’re gonna be signing is gonna be strong borders.

We don’t want people coming in from Syria who we don’t know who they are. You know there’s no way of vetting these people. I don’t want to do what Germany did.

And I’ve great respect for Merkel, by the way, I have to say. I have great respect for her. But, I, I think it was, I think it was very unfortunate what happened.

And you know I have a love for Germany because my father came from Germany and I don’t want to be in that position. You know the way I look at it, we have enough problems.

You said during the campaign that you’d like to stop Muslims coming to the US. Is that still your plan?

Well, from various parts of the world that have lots of terrorism problems.

There will be extreme vetting, it’s not gonna be like it is now, they don’t even, we don’t even have real vetting. The vetting into this country is essentially non-existent as it is, as it was at least, with your country.

Are there any travel restrictions that could be imposed on Europeans coming to the US?

Well, it could happen, I mean we’re gonna have to see. I mean, we’re looking at parts of Europe; parts of the world and parts of Europe, where we have problems where they come in and they’re gonna be causing problems. I don’t wanna have those problems. Look, I won the election because of strong borders and trade. And military, we’re gonna have strong military.

You mentioned you have German ancestors. What does it mean for you to have German blood in your veins?

Well, it’s great. I mean, I’m very proud of Germany and Germany is very special Bad Dürkheim, right? This is serious Germany, right? Like this isn’t any question — this is serious Germany. No, I’m very proud of Germany. I love Germany, I love the UK.

Have you ever been to Germany?

Yes, I have been to Germany.

When Obama came for his last visit to Berlin, he said that if he could vote in the upcoming election he would vote for Angela Merkel. Would you?

Well, I don’t know who she’s running against, number one, I’m just saying, I don’t know her, I’ve never met her. As I said, I’ve had great respect for her. I felt she was a great, great leader. I think she made one very catastrophic mistake and that was taking all of these illegals, you know taking all of the people from wherever they come from. And nobody even knows where they come from. You’ll find out, you got a big dose of it a week ago. So I think she made a catastrophic mistake, very bad mistake. Now, with that being said, I respect her, I like her, but I don’t know her. So I can’t talk about who I’m gonna be backing — if anyone.

When are you coming to the UK as President?

I look forward to doing it. My mother was very ceremonial, I think that’s where I got this aspect because my father was very brick-and-mortar, he was like, and my mother sort of had a flair, she loved the Queen, she loved anything — she was so proud of the Queen. She loved the ceremonial and the beauty, cause nobody does that like the English. And she had great respect for the Queen, liked her. Anytime the Queen was on television, an event, my mother would be watching. Crazy, right?

Is there anything else you take from having a Scottish mother?

Well, the Scottish are known for watching their pennies, so I like to watch my pennies — I mean I deal in big pennies, that’s the problem.

Is there anything typically German about you?

I like order. I like things done in an orderly manner. And certainly the Germans, that’s something that they’re rather well-known for. But I do, I like order and I like strength.

In your campaign you said Angela Merkel’s policy on Syrian refugees was insane. Do you still think so?

Image result for angela merkel

Germany’s Outstanding Chancellor, Angela Merkel

I think it’s not good. I think it was a big mistake for Germany. And Germany of all countries, ’cause Germany was one of the toughest in the world for having anybody go in, and, uh, no I think it was a mistake. And I’ll see her and I’ll meet her and I respect her. And I like her but I think it was a mistake. And people make mistakes but I think it was a very big mistake. I think we should have built safe zones in Syria. Would have been a lot less expensive. Uh, get the Gulf states to pay for ’em who aren’t coming through, I mean they’ve got money that nobody has.

Would have been a lot less expensive than the trauma that Germany’s going through now — but I would have said — you build safe zones in Syria. Look, this whole thing should have never happened. Iraq should not have been attacked in the first place, all right? It was one of the worst decisions, possibly the worst decision ever made in the history of our country. We’ve unleashed — it’s like throwing rocks into a beehive. It’s one of the great messes of all time. I looked at something, uh, I’m not allowed to show you because it’s classified – but, I just looked at Afghanistan and you look at the Taliban – and you take a look at every, every year its more, more, more, you know they have the different colours – and you say, you know – what’s going on?

Who do you blame? Obama, Pakistan? Who do you blame?

Afghanistan is, is not going well. Nothing’s going well — I guess we’ve been in Afghanistan almost 17 years — but you look at all of the places, now in all fairness, we haven’t let our people do what they’re supposed to do. You know we have great military, we’re gonna have much greater military because we’re gonna have — you know right now it’s very depleted, we’re gonna have great military, but we haven’t let our military win.

Boeing and Lockheed Martin are you know big contractors for this country and we have an F-35 program that has been very, very severely over budget and behind schedule. Hundreds of billions of dollars over budget and seven years behind schedule. And, uh, they got to shape up.

And what’s your priority for the military as Commander-In-Chief?

Isis.

And how are you going to deal with Isis?

Well, I’d rather not say, I don’t want to be like Obama or others where they say — I always talk about Mosul, you know Mosul’s turned out to be a disaster — brutal.  So Mosul, so they announced four months ago we’re going to attack Mosul — I said, “Why do you have to announce it?”. Like you said, “What’s going to be your priority?”. When are you going to attack? When are you gonna, how are you gonna do it? What kind of weapons are you gonna use, right? What time of the day?

You think Obama telegraphed his punch?

Mosul turned out to be a disaster because we announced five months ago that we were going into Mosul, in five months. In four months we said, “We’re getting ready”, by the time we get in, it’s been so much talk — and it’s been very hard to take — you know that, right?

Do you think that what’s happened in Syria now with Putin intervening is a good thing or a bad thing?

Nah, I think it’s a very rough thing. It’s a very bad thing, we had a chance to do something when we had the line in the sand and it wasn’t — nothing happened. That was the only time — and now, it’s sort of very late. It’s too late. Now everything is over — at some point it will come to an end — but Aleppo was nasty. I mean when you see them shooting old ladies walking out-of-town — they can’t even walk and they’re shooting ’em — it almost looks like they’re shooting ’em for sport — ah no, that’s a terrible — that’s been a terrible situation. Aleppo has been such a terrible humanitarian situation.

Talking about Russia, you know that Angela Merkel understands Putin very well because he is fluent in German, she is fluent in Russian, and they have known each other for a long time — but who would you trust more, Angela Merkel or Vladimir Putin?

Well, I start off trusting both — but let’s see how long that lasts. It may not last long at all.

Can you understand why eastern Europeans fear Putin and Russia?

Image result for Vladimir PutinThe Tough and Enigmatic Russsian

Sure. Oh sure, I know that. I mean, I understand what’s going on, I said a long time ago — that NATO had problems. Number one it was obsolete, because it was, you know, designed many, many years ago. Number two — the countries aren’t paying what they’re supposed to pay. I took such heat, when I said NATO was obsolete. It’s obsolete because it wasn’t taking care of terror. I took a lot of heat for two days. And then they started saying Trump is right — and now — it was on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, they have a whole division devoted now to terror, which is good.

And the other thing is the countries aren’t paying their fair share so we’re supposed to protect countries but a lot of these countries aren’t paying what they’re supposed to be paying, which I think is very unfair to the United States. With that being said, NATO is very important to me.

Britain is paying.

Britain is paying. There’s five countries that are paying what they’re supposed to. Five. It’s not much, from 22.

For decades now, Europe has depended on America for its defence. Will that guarantee be there in the future as well?

Yeah, I feel very strongly toward Europe — very strongly toward Europe, yes.

Do you support European sanctions against Russia?

Well, I think you know — people have to get together and people have to do what they have to do in terms of being fair. OK? They have sanctions on Russia — let’s see if we can make some good deals with Russia. For one thing, I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially, that’s part of it. But you do have sanctions and Russia’s hurting very badly right now because of sanctions, but I think something can happen that a lot of people are gonna benefit.

Will you rip up the Iran deal?

Well, I don’t want to say what I’m gonna do with the Iran deal. I just don’t want to play the cards. I mean, look, I’m not a politician, I don’t go out and say, ‘I’m gonna do this — I’m gonna do —’, I gotta do what I gotta do. But I don’t wanna play. Who plays cards where you show everybody the hand before you play it? But I’m not happy with the Iran deal, I think it’s one of the worst deals ever made, I think it’s one of the dumbest deals I’ve ever seen, one of the dumbest, in terms of a deal. Where you give — where you give a $150 billion back to a country, where you give $1.7 billion in cash — did you ever see a million dollars in hundred-dollar bills? It’s a lot. It’s a whole — it’s a lot. $1.7 billion in cash. Plane loads. Of, of — think of it — plane, many planes. Boom. $1.7 billion. I don’t understand. It just shows the power of a president — when a president of this country can authorise $1.7 billion in cash, that’s a lot of power.

And you think that money is now funding terror?

No, I think that money is in Swiss bank accounts — they don’t need that money, they’re using other money, I think they’ve taken that money and they’ve kept it for themselves. That’s my opinion.

What did you think of Obama’s approach towards the UN Security Council resolution on Israel just before Christmas?

I think it was terrible. It should have been a veto. I think it was terrible.

Do you think the UK should have vetoed it?

Well, the UK may have another chance to veto if what I’m hearing is true, because you know you have a meeting as you know, this weekend. And there are a lot of bad stories being circulated. The problem I have is that it makes it a tougher deal for me to negotiate because the Palestinians are given so much — even though it’s not legally binding it’s psychologically binding and it makes it much tougher for me to negotiate. You understand that? Because people are giving away chips, they’re giving away all these chips.

And do you think the UK should veto any UN Security Council resolution on Israel put forward this week so that you are in a stronger position to get the right deal for the Middle East?

Well, I’d like to see the UK veto. I think it’d be great if they veto because I’m not sure the United States is gonna veto, amazingly. They won’t, right? You think the United States is gonna veto? I’ll have friends who are Jewish have a fundraiser for Obama and I’ll say, “What are you doing? OK — what are you doing?”

Is it true you’re going to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem?

Well, I don’t want to comment on that, again, but we’ll see what happens.

You know that famous saying by Henry Kissinger: “Which number do I dial if I want to talk to Europe?” Which number are you going to dial?

Yeah, well I would say Merkel is by far one of the most important leaders. ’Cause you look at the UK and you look at the European Union and it’s Germany. Basically a vehicle for Germany. That’s why I thought the UK was so smart in getting out and you were there and you guys wrote it — put it on the front page: “Trump said that Brexit is gonna happen”. That was when it was gonna lose easily, you know, everybody thought I was crazy. Obama said to go to the back of the line. Meaning, if it does happen — and then he had to retract — that was a bad statement to make.

And now we are at the front of the queue?

I think you’re doing great. I think it’s going great.

What is your view on the future of the European Union? Do you expect more countries to leave the European Union?

I think it’s tough. I spoke to the head of the European Union, very fine gentleman called me up.

Mr Juncker?

Yes, ah, to congratulate me on what happened with respect to the election. Uh, I think it’s very tough. I think it’s tough. People, countries want their own identity and the UK wanted its own identity but, I do believe this, if they hadn’t been forced to take in all of the refugees, so many, with all the problems that it, you know, entails, I think that you wouldn’t have a Brexit. It probably could have worked out but, this was the final straw, this was the final straw that broke the camel’s back.

I think people want, people want their own identity, so if you ask me, others, I believe others will leave.

As a successful businessman, do you trust the European currency?

Image result for Trump and The US Dollar--I trust the Dollar

“I trust the dollar”. –Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States (w.e.f. January 20, 2017)

Well, it’s doing OK. I mean, you know. What do you trust? I trust the dollar, I’m gonna trust the dollar a lot more in four years than I do now, but sure I mean it’s a currency, it’s fine. But I do think keeping it together is not gonna be as easy as a lot of people think. And I think this, if refugees keep pouring into different part of Europe. I think it’s gonna be very hard to keep it together cause people are angry about it.

What is better for the United States — a strong European Union or stronger nation states?

Personally, I don’t think it matters much for the United States. I never thought it mattered. Look, the EU was formed, partially, to beat the United States on trade, OK? So, I don’t really care whether it’s separate or together, to me it doesn’t matter. I can see this — I own a big property in Ireland, magnificent property called Doonbeg, what happened is I went for an approval to do this massive, beautiful expansion — that was when I was a developer, now I couldn’t care less about it — but I learnt a lot because I got the approvals very quickly from Ireland and then Ireland and my people went to the EU to get the approval — it was going to take years — that was a very bad thing for Ireland.

Do you think that the EU is holding back all its member states? Is it an obstacle to their growth and prosperity?

Well I can tell you from the environmental standpoint, they were using environmental tricks to stop a project from being built — I found it to be a very unpleasant experience. To get the approvals from the EU would have taken years — I don’t think that’s good for a country like Ireland so you know what I did? I said forget it I’m not gonna build it.

People in Europe and beyond have expressed concern that America may have a protectionist trade policy that will hurt America’s friends. What would you say to them?

Well, I can tell you that in the last … I think I’ve done more than any president-elect ever — Many factories now, many car plants, that were going to be built-in other locations are building in Michigan and Ohio — ya know Ford announced a big one, Fiat Chrysler announced a big one, General Motors is announcing, they’re all announcing and I’m not just talking about cars I’m talking about other things, there will be many other things — you can’t allow companies to leave our country, fire all of its employees, move to Mexico, make whatever the product is, and then sell it back in with no tax — and there will be a very substantial border tax for companies that do that. And when people hear that — they say we’re gonna stay here or we’re gonna build in the US — so they’ll go and they’ll build their car plant or they’ll build their air-conditioning plant and they’re gonna sell their air conditioners but they’re gonna pay 35 per cent tax . . . there’s not gonna be any tax because they’re not gonna leave — see there’s not gonna be any tax — but the conservative theory is open borders, open borders is all fine. First of all it’s bad for security — for trade it’s fine — the problem is the US is always taken advantage of — we have hundreds of billions of dollars of trade deficits with China — we have $805 billion in trade deficits with the world — ya almost say, who’s making these deals when you’re losing that kind of money, right — we actually have almost $800 billion — almost $800 billion in trade deficits with the world — so you say, who’s making these deals?

Well, Germany is obviously benefiting because we are the world champions at exporting?

Well you’re very good at export — we buy lots of your cars.

Do Europeans have to fear something similar to what you might announce for China — higher custom duties?

It’s going to be different — I mean Germany is a great country, great manufacturing country — you go down Fifth Avenue everybody has a Mercedes-Benz in front of their building, right — the fact is that it’s been very unfair to the US, it’s not a two-way street. How many Chevrolets do you see in Germany? Maybe none — not too many — how many — you don’t see anything over there — it’s a one-way street — it’s gotta be a two-way street — I want it to be fair but it’s gotta be a two-way street and that’s why we’re losing almost $800, think of it, $800 billion a year in trade so that will stop — ya know we have Wilbur [Ross, his choice for commerce secretary] as one of our guys, ya know Wilbur . . .

And I will say most of it . . . most of it is China ’cause China is a tremendous problem.

You just mentioned Mercedes, BMW, even VW — do you expect them to build more plants in the US? For example, BMW wants to open a plant in 2019 in Mexico . . .

I would tell them, don’t waste their time and money — unless they want to sell to other countries, that’s fine — if they want to open in Mexico, I love Mexico, I like the President, I like everybody — but I would tell BMW if they think they’re gonna build a plant in Mexico and sell cars into the US without a 35 per cent tax, it’s not gonna happen, it’s not gonna happen — so if they want to build cars for the world I would say wish them luck — they can build cars for the US but they’ll be paying a 35 per cent tax on every car that comes into the country . . . so what I’m saying is they have to build their plant in the US, it will be much better for them and what we’re doing — maybe more importantly, is we’re lowering taxes — corporate taxes — down to from 15 to 20 per cent and were getting rid of 75 per cent of the regulations — from 35 down to 15 to 20, we haven’t picked the final but from 15 to 20, and we’re also gonna let the companies bring back their money with the inversion, corporate inversion.

That will affect people like Google?

Well, we’ve got five — I think it’s five, they say it’s 2.5-3, I think it’s five, but it’s $5 trillion over there and they can’t bring back their money so that’s part of our tax bill, the money comes back.

Given your views on free trade, would you say that you’re a conservative?

I’m pragmatic, look I go in front of crowds — I had the biggest crowds anybody’s ever had for a presidential election and that’s tough and when I was fighting with Jeb Bush, ya know “low energy” Jeb, he would say, ‘Donald Trump is not a conservative’, so I’d go in front of 25,000 people and, like in Michigan, where there’s massive — 32,000 people — and I’m screaming, ‘Jeb Bush says I’m not a conservative’, they’re screaming, ‘Who cares?’, and I said, ‘What do you want? Do you want conservative or a good deal?’ And the reason, because Jeb Bush said I’m not a conservative because I don’t believe in free trade — well I do believe in free trade, I love free trade, but it’s gotta be smart trade so I call it fair trade — and the problem, so I said to the people, ‘Do you want a conservative or do you want somebody who’s gonna make great deals?’, and they’re all screaming, ‘Great deals, great deals’ — they don’t care, there are no labels — ya know there’s some people, he is not — Jeb Bush would stand up — ‘He is not a true conservative’ — who cares — I am a conservative, but I’m really about making great deals for the people so they get jobs . . . the people don’t care ya know when you’re talking — they don’t care, they want good deals — ya know what? They want their jobs back.

Do you have any models — are there heroes that you steer by — people you look up to from the past?

Well, I don’t like heroes, I don’t like the concept of heroes, the concept of heroes is never great, but certainly you can respect certain people and certainly there are certain people — but I’ve learnt a lot from my father — my father was a builder in Brooklyn and Queens — he did houses and housing and I learned a lot about negotiation from my father — although I also think negotiation is a natural trait, I don’t think you can, you either have it or you don’t, you get better at it but basically, the people who I know who are great negotiators or great salesmen or great politicians, it’s very natural, very natural . . . I got a letter from somebody, their congressman, they said what you’ve done is amazing because you were never a politician and you beat all the politicians. He said they added it up — when I was three months into the campaign, they added it up — I had three months of experience and the 17 guys I was running against, the Republicans, had 236 years – ya know when you add 20 years and 30 years — so I was three months they were 236 years — so it’s sort of a funny article but I believe it’s like hitting a baseball or being a good golfer — natural ability, to me, is much more important to me than experience and experience is a great thing — I think it’s a great thing — but I learned a lot from my father in terms of leadership.

Your policy platform of America First implies you’re happy to see the rest of the world suffer. Do you?

I don’t want it to be a disruption — I love the world, I want the world to be good but we can’t go — I mean look at what’s happening to our country — we are $20 trillion — we don’t know what we’re doing — our military is weak — we’re in wars that never end, we’re in Afghanistan now 17 years, they told me this, really — 17 years, it’s the longest war we’ve ever been in.

Given what’s been reported this week, what does that say about your relations with the intelligence community?

Well, we have to have, ya have to have the right people and as you know Pompeo — who’s really been received, did a good job yesterday, head of the CIA — might I think we have some very great people going in — I think we have some great people — ya know I have a lot of respect for the intelligence but a lot of leaks, a lot of fake news coming out, a lot of fake news.

It’s been reported that a British former diplomat was involved in this whole thing — do you think that we, in Britain, need to look at our intelligence services?

Well, that guy is somebody that you should look at, because whatever he made up about me it was false — he was supposedly hired by the Republicans and Democrats working together — even that I don’t believe because they don’t work together, they work separately — and they don’t hire the same guy — what they got together? See the whole thing is fake news because it said the, whoever it was, intelligence, the so-called intelligence, said he’s an operative of Republicans and Democrats — they don’t work together, they don’t work together.

Who do you think, then, is behind it all?

I think probably could be intelligence or it could be, it could be, the Democrats.

When I just heard it — I ripped up the mat . . . if I did that in a hotel it’d be the biggest thing — they’d have me on the front page of The New York Post, right? And the other thing, I can’t even, I don’t even want to shake hands with people now I hear about this stuff — ugh.

It’s fake news, it was totally made up and I just got a letter from people who went to Russia with me — did you see that letter — very rich people, they went with me, they said you were with us, I was with them, I wasn’t even here when they said such false stuff.

I left, I wasn’t even there . . . I was there for the Miss Universe contest, got up, got my stuff and I left — I wasn’t even there — it’s all . . . so if this guy is a British guy you got a lot of problems.

How is being President going to change how you operate?

Ya know this is a very, very big change — I led a very nice life and ya know successful and good and nice and this is a lot different — but ya know my attitude on that is when you’re president, you’re in the White House which is a very special place — you’re there for a limited period of time — who wants to leave? Like I’ve liked President Obama, he’s been very nice, yeah he’s been nice one on one, but maybe not so nice in other ways — but who wants to leave the White House to go to some other place and be away on a vacation? The White House is very special, there’s so much work to be done, I’m not gonna be leaving much — I mean a lot of work to be done — I’m gonna be in there working, doing what I’m supposed to be doing — but who wants to leave the White House?

They say Camp David is very nice.

Yea, Camp David is very rustic, it’s nice, you’d like it. You know how long you’d like it? For about 30 minutes…

When you’re President will you still tweet? And if you do will it be as the Real Donald Trump, as POTUS, or probably as Real POTUS?

@realDonaldTrump I think, I’ll keep it . . . so I’ve got 46 million people right now — that’s a lot, that’s really a lot — but 46 million — including Facebook, Twitter and ya know, Instagram so when you think that your 46 million there, I’d rather just let that build up and just keep it @realDonaldTrump, it’s working — and the tweeting, I thought I’d do less of it, but I’m covered so dishonestly by the press — so dishonestly — that I can put out Twitter — and it’s not 140, it’s now 140, 280 — I can go bing bing bing and I just keep going and they put it on and as soon as I tweet it out — this morning on television, Fox — “Donald Trump, we have breaking news” — I put out a thing . . .

. . . You were tweeting a lot this morning?

I tweeted a little bit, yeah.

And you do it on your own?

I tweeted about the intelligence agencies because it all turned out to be false information.

And you do it on that phone there?

This — I have numerous, I have numerous — I have iPhones, I have . . .

But nobody else knows how to log into your Twitter account?

No, I do — I have one or two people who do during the day I’ll just dictate something and they’ll type it in.

So, Steve Bannon or someone else?

No, not Steve, but I have people who do it. But ya know the tweeting is interesting because I find it very accurate — when I get a word out and if I tell something to the papers and they don’t write it accurately, it’s really bad — they can’t do much when you tweet it and I’m careful about, it’s very precise, actually it’s very, very precise — and it comes out breaking news, we have breaking news — ya know, it’s funny, if I did a press release and if I put it out, it wouldn’t get nearly — people would see it the following day — if I do a news conference, that’s a lot of work.

Although the media have been better lately, which is shocking, shocking — in fact today they have a front-page story saying that Trump’s people will never leave him — ya know all of the voters that I have will never leave — which is very interesting cause we have great support in the country, tremendous support, I was very surprised at that story.

What role will [your son-in-law] Jared [Kushner] play?

Image result for jared kushner

Harvard educated Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump and 45th POTUS

Oh, really . . . Ya know what, Jared is such a good kid and he’ll make a deal with Israel that no one else can — ya know he’s a natural, he’s a great deal, he’s a natural — ya know what I was talking about, natural — he’s a natural deal-maker — everyone likes him.

And will [your daughter] Ivanka play a big role in the administration?

Well, not now, she’s going to Washington, and they’re buying a house or something, but ya know she’s got the children, so Jared will be involved as we announced — no salary, no nothing. If he made peace — who’d be better at that than Jared, right — there’s something about him . . .

Are you looking forward to meeting our prime minister?

Well, I’ll be there — we’ll be there soon — I would say we’ll be here for a little while but and it looks like she’ll be here first — how is she doing over there, by the way, what do you think?

Theresa?

Yeah, May.

She’s got very strong approval ratings.

Popular. How are they doing with the break-up? How’s the break-up going?

Well, the PM wants to get a strong deal with the US.

Well, we’re gonna get a trade deal. Well, how is our Nigel doing? I like him, I think he’s a great guy, I think he’s a very good guy and he was very supportive. He’d go around the US — he was saying Trump’s gonna win. He was one of the earliest people who said Trump was gonna win. So, he’s gotta feel for it. Michael, you should’ve written that we were gonna win.

Well, at least let me give you a copy of my book on how to fight terrorism.

Good, I’d love that. That’s fantastic — how to fight terrorism, I can use that.

 

Trump’s Unrealpolitik


January 7, 2017

Trump’s Unrealpolitik

by Shlomo Ben-Ami, a former Israeli foreign minister, is Vice President of the Toledo International Center for Peace. He is the author of Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy.–http://www.project-syndicate.org

Some in the United States have praised President-elect Donald Trump for his supposed realism. He will do what is right for America, they argue, without getting caught up in thorny moral dilemmas, or letting himself be carried away by some grand sense of responsibility for the rest of the world. By acting with the shrewd pragmatism of a businessman, he will make America stronger and more prosperous.

This view is, to be frank, delusional.

Image result for Greek historian Thucydides

It is certainly true that Trump will not be caught up in questions of morality. He is precisely what the Greek historian Thucydides defined as an immoral leader: one of “violent character” who “wins over the people by deceiving them” and by exploiting “their angry feelings and emotions.”

But immorality is neither desirable nor a necessary feature of realism. (Thucydides himself was an ethical realist.) And there is little to suggest that Trump has any of the other realist qualities that his supporters see. How could anyone expect the proudly unpredictable and deeply uninformed Trump to execute grand strategic designs, such as the Realpolitik recommended by Harvard’s Niall Ferguson, Henry Kissinger’s biographer, following the election?

Image result for Harvard’s Niall Ferguson on Realpolitik Quote

Ferguson, like Kissinger, believes that true Realpolitik under Trump should begin with an alliance among the US, China, and Russia, based on a mutual fear of Islamic extremism and a shared desire to exploit lesser powers to boost their own economies. These countries would agree to prevent Europe from attaining great-power status (by destroying the European Union), and to ensure that populist or authoritarian governments control the United Nations Security Council’s five permanent members.

Image result for trump le pen putin

To this end, Trump could work with Russian President Vladimir Putin to help Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s anti-EU nationalist right, win April’s presidential election. Moreover, in order to consolidate a post-EU Anglo-Atlantic sphere, Trump could transform the North American Free-Trade Agreement into a North Atlantic arrangement, replacing Mexico with the United Kingdom. Finally, he could put pressure on NATO members to pay more for defense – a move that would surely undermine the security of the Baltic states and Ukraine.

Achieving these goals would require more than an ability to avoid moral impediments. Like all statecraft, it would require an aptitude for careful diplomatic engineering, respect for facts and truth, historical knowledge, and a capacity for cautious examination of complex situations when formulating (or revising) policies.

Yet Trump is the most anarchic, capricious, and inconsistent individual ever to occupy the White House, and all he has to help guide him is a cabinet full of billionaire deal-makers like him, preoccupied with calculable immediate interests. For them, casting off allies might seem like an easy way to streamline decision-making (and boost share prices).

But repudiating America’s role as a global beacon – and thus the idea of American exceptionalism – is a bad bet for the future. Scrapping free-trade deals with Asia and Latin America, for example, could provide a short-term gain for the US economy; but doing so would ultimately undercut the projection of American power there, paving the way for penetration by China.

Image result for China the Power in Asia

The US should be aiming to curtail China’s influence without incurring its wrath. Another lesson from Thucydides – reinforced by historical experience – is that rising, not established, powers tend to upset the international order.

Protecting that order requires the main global power to uphold the institutions that underpin it, in order to prevent revolutionary behavior by lesser powers. Yet Trump has criticized and disregarded international institutions to such an extent that it is now China that is defending global governance – including the Paris agreement on climate change and the nuclear deal with Iran – from a revolutionary US.

Worse, Trump has seemingly abandoned all caution with regard to China. On the diplomatic front, by speaking directly with the president of Taiwan after the election, he violated a protocol maintained for four decades, by Democratic and Republican presidents alike. On the economic front, he has leveled reckless (and plainly wrong) accusations that China is manipulating its currency to gain an unfair trade advantage.

Provoking China, doubting NATO, and threatening trade wars is nihilism, not strategy. At this point, Trump seems set to do on a global scale what former President George W. Bush did to the Middle East – intentionally destabilize the old order, and then fail to create a new one. The first step would be a deal with Putin on Syria – a move that, like Bush’s defeat of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, would amount to handing a victory to Iran.

This is not to say that none of the Realpolitik envisioned by Ferguson will come to fruition. But what elements of it do emerge will likely be driven more by Putin than by Trump – with dangerous outcomes. Already, Putin has begun work on dismantling the EU. After Le Pen was refused credit from French banks, Russian banks saved her campaign. And Russian state-sponsored propaganda is helping to drive former Soviet republics away from the EU.

Trump, a vocal Putin fan, is unlikely to redress the tilting balance of power as part of, let alone as a condition for, a diplomatic “reset” with Russia. What kind of a realist would not use a united Western alliance to limit a Russia that is trying to engineer a return to Cold War spheres of influence?

And, for that matter, what kind of a realist sends to Israel an Ambassador whose pro-settlement rhetoric threatens to inflame the entire Muslim world against the US? What is so realistic about a war of annihilation against the Islamic State that is not backed by a plan for engagement with the broader Middle East?

Trump might have some realistic instincts. But they will not be enough to ensure measured responses to even the slightest provocation, much less to underpin a sweeping and consistent strategy.

Trump’s Trip to Reality


January 5, 2017

Trump’s Trip to Reality–Dealing with Xi and Russia’s Putin

by Donald Kirk@www.asiasentinel.com

Image result for Dealing with China and Russia--Trump

US President-elect Donald Trump faces the delicate question of how to deal with two of the world’s most powerful leaders as soon as he sits down in the oval office of the White House after his inauguration on January 20. His dealing with both Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and China’s President Xi Jinping will have tremendous influence over policy from eastern Europe to the middle east to Northeast Asia.

It’s hard to say which of these two confronts Trump with the more serious problem, but let’s start with Xi. Trump has promised to impose protective tariffs on China for what he sees as unfair practices that have given China a trade surplus with the U.S. of multi-billions of dollars over the years.

Image result for Dealing with China and Russia--Trump

US President-elect Donald Trump faces the delicate question of how to deal with two of the world’s most powerful leaders as soon as he sits down in the oval office of the White House after his inauguration on January 20. His dealing with both Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and China’s President Xi Jinping will have tremendous influence over policy from eastern Europe to the middle east to Northeast Asia.–Donald Krik

That tough campaign promise, though, runs smack into China’s bond with North Korea. Yes, the United States, after strenuous negotiations, managed to persuade China to sign on to highly strengthened sanctions against North Korea in retaliation for the North’s fifth nuclear test and numerous missile tests. No, China may not enforce sanctions as desired while maintaining its own close relations with North Korea. We have to assume that Xi would be even less likely to want to bear down on North Korea if the US were to carry out Trump’s threats of a tariff wall that would also deepen the confrontation all around the Chinese periphery, from the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea to the East China Sea.

It’s hard to believe that Trump, while engrossed in shifting US policy on domestic issues and carrying on with efforts to block illegal immigration across the southern border and tightly screen Muslims coming to the US, will want to face off right away with China. More likely, the US will hold out the possibility of barriers to Chinese imports while attempting to win concessions that will somehow reduce the imbalance. As this drama unfolds, we may expect relations between Trump and Xi to be quite uncertain.

The standoff with Russia is just as complicated. Trump seems to have formed a special friendship with Putin, and Rex Tillerson, whom he’s named as secretary of state, has had major dealings with Russia as Exxon boss. Both of them should be inclined to want to be warm and friendly with Putin, but other factors may upset US-Russian relations.

Image result for Obama tough on Russia

With 15 days left, Mr.Obama, you can’t do much about Russia

The most obvious is the cyber-espionage against which President Obama retaliated by expelling 35 Russian diplomats from the US, among other measures. Was Russia really trying to influence the US presidential election? Democrats are convinced the Russians, at Putin’s direction, wanted Trump to defeat Hillary Clinton, who might have taken a hard line on Russia had she won.

Trump dismisses such talk as an absurd attempt at rationalizing her defeat and would like to give Russia the benefit of any doubt. That’s why, of course, Putin did not respond in kind to the expulsion of Russian diplomats to the US, preferring to do nothing while hoping Trump will be inclined to smooth over differences.

Trump may equivocate on the cyber-espionage issue pending advice and evidence from US intelligence agencies but will probably want to move on even if he’s convinced the Russians were up to something. What to do about Russia will be more difficult, however, as the spotlight shifts to countries in which the US and Russia share quite differing interests. Puitin’s Russia has inflamed tensions in eastern Europe by taking over portions of Ukraine beginning with Crimea. Russia and Iran both supported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a terrible campaign in which hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives.

Heart-rending images from the city of Aleppo showed the agony of a war in which the US chose not to intervene. The U.S. and Russia both oppose the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq, deep differences make cooperation all but impossible. Differences are most acute over Iran, which Russia sees as almost an ally and Israel views as a mortal enemy. The US remains totally committed to Israel, the recipient annually of US$3.2 billion in aid, soon to rise to US$3.8 billion, despite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rage over U.S. refusal to veto the UN Security Council resolution excoriating Israel for building settlements on Palestinian land.

And then there’s North Korea. Putin is deeply interested in enlarging on ties with North Korea partly to compete with China. Russia exports natural gas to the North, and traffic moves by railroad from Russia across the Tumen River to the North Korean economic complex at Rason. Like China, Russia may not be interested in enforcing sanctions on North Korea despite having voted for sanction resolutions imposed by the UN Security Council.

Putin’s response will be attuned to relations with the US in the Middle East and Europe. Trump and Tillerson may find Putin cold and calculating despite previous friendly encounters. It will be exciting to see how well, or badly, Trump gets along with these two giants, China and Russia, both of which are sure to be looking for weaknesses in the US global network of military and diplomatic alliances.

American Foreign Policy: Nixon, Kissinger, Eisenhower, and Obama


January 4, 2017

The Long History of Leading From Behind

Obama’s effort to fix an overextended foreign policy is a lot like Nixon and Kissingers.

Image result for The Long History of Leading From Behind Obama’s effort to fix an overextended foreign policy is a lot like Nixon and Kissinger’s.
Image result for The Long History of Leading From Behind Obama’s effort to fix an overextended foreign policy is a lot like Nixon and Kissinger’s.

 

  • Stephen Sestanovich, The Atlantic, January/February 2016 Issue

 

No matter how many books are written about Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, there’s always room on the shelf for more. Our fascination with these two larger-than-life characters hardly needs explaining. There’s the doomed and moody president, manic when he wasn’t melancholic, and his super-brainy, super-vain, Nobel Prize–winning adviser—a pair of shape-shifting personalities who took control of American foreign policy at its lowest moment of the Cold War. They combined ambitious statesmanship with jaw-dropping weirdness, sparked controversies that continue to this day, and—while pretending otherwise—were obsessively desirous of our good opinion. How could we not be just as interested in them?

It’s not only the pull of great characters, of course, that keeps the Nixon and Kissinger books coming. There’s plenty of fresh material, too. The many titles of the past year draw on reams of declassified documents; the final batch of Oval Office tapes; first-ever access to some personal papers; extensive interviews with friends, family members, and staffers; and much more. It’s a measure of the abundant information available that one author can pay tribute to another scholar by calling him the only person to have read the “millions of papers at the Nixon Library.” These new books come by their juice and color the old-fashioned way—through tedious, time-consuming research.

The torrent of information has not, alas, given us the unified picture of Nixon and Kissinger that we might have hoped for. The clash of views is sharper than ever. The journalist Evan Thomas (Being Nixon: A Man Divided) and the historian Niall Ferguson (volume one of whose Kissinger biography is arrestingly subtitled The Idealist) are determined to humanize their subjects. Leading the vilification effort are another journalist, Tim Weiner (One Man Against the World: The Tragedy of Richard Nixon), and another historian, Greg Grandin (Kissinger’s Shadow: The Long Reach of America’s Most Controversial Statesman). The first two want to complicate and soften our views; the second pair aim to simplify and harden them.

Nixon and Kissinger combined ambitious statesmanship with jaw-dropping weirdness.

Humanizers and vilifiers do share a crucial premise. They believe the story of Nixon and Kissinger can best be told by delving into their personalities and peculiarities, mapping every quirk, savoring every tape, noting every outrageous conversation and vulgarity. (The president does seem to have been very fond of the word nut-cutting.) And it’s not enough to be inside the Oval Office, listening to the astonishing things Nixon and Kissinger said. These books want us inside their heads, too, inside their wild ids and egos. Humanizers and vilifiers don’t disagree on where to look, only on what they find there. Of the young Kissinger’s overripe prose, Grandin jokes, “You can almost hear Wagner’s ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ in the background.” Ferguson claims to hear Bob Dylan.

More than 40 years after Nixon resigned the presidency, and almost 40 after Kissinger stepped down as secretary of state, this hyper-personalized approach is nearly spent. Both demonizers and defenders have produced valuable and entertaining books. They have clarified the strengths and weaknesses, prejudices and preferences, and thoroughly unsettling pathologies of two major public figures. But it’s time for a change—and not just because the flow of shocking revelations is slowing down. We have found out amazing things about what went on in the Nixon White House. Even so, we have much to learn by trying to see past some of the horrifying details. We need to appreciate the story’s ordinariness as well.

Our first step should be back to the history books. Nixon and Kissinger were neither the first nor the last to manage American foreign policy while the country was feeling overextended and unsure of itself. How do their efforts compare with what others in the same situation have done—most recently, and notably, Barack Obama? The answer gives Nixon and Kissinger’s record more-normal human proportions, and makes clear that they were neither madmen nor demigods. It clarifies the challenges they faced—and our own.

Image result for Evan Thomas Being Nixon

Putting aside our long debate about these two will not be easy. Both critics and admirers have what seem like pretty good arguments. If you hate Nixon and Kissinger, you talk about the cruel—some say criminal—use of American military power in Indochina. If you admire them, you stress their pathbreaking diplomatic initiatives. Christmas bombing versus opening to China—the conversation hasn’t changed much in four decades.

These same fixations animate the latest books. Speaking for the demonizers, Weiner says that “subterfuge and brutality” were Nixon’s “preferred” policy mode. The two halves of this formula—the harsh use of force produced by hidden decision making—also loom large in Grandin’s book. Both authors recount the regular bursts of military power that marked the Nixon presidency—the secret bombing of Cambodia (complete with falsified record-keeping arranged by the new national-security adviser, Henry Kissinger), the Cambodian invasion of 1970, the copycat (and thoroughly botched) operation in Laos in 1971, the mining of Haiphong harbor in 1972, and the Christmas bombing of North Vietnam later that year.

Most of these episodes have a similar story line, with the White House overruling (or excluding) dissenting Cabinet secretaries, and the president barking out orders for more planes, more bombs, more sorties, more destruction. Nixon can seem completely indifferent to domestic consequences. “Let this country go up in flames,” we hear him say—and he wasn’t referring to Vietnam. (This particular outburst, to be fair, may have been the liquor talking—Weiner’s Nixon is often drunk.)

Like much of the Nixon and Kissinger record, these stories could be recounted with less vilifying zeal, but the basic facts are hard to dispute. No matter how much new information they present, the humanizers will win few converts on the secrecy, illegality, and brutality front. Thomas may convince us that Nixon was awkward and graceless and insecure (didn’t we sort of know this?), but no amount of talk about poor social skills will make anyone see his foreign policy differently. If you believe Nixon was a war criminal, hearing that he was an introvert will not change your mind.

Image result for Ferguson’s Kissinger

Ferguson’s Kissinger faces the same hurdles. Calling the book a bildungsroman, Ferguson gamely tries to make Kissinger a regular-guy genius. He was devoted to his cocker spaniel, Smoky; he was just as snotty to his parents as any bright young man; and so forth. But it’s a struggle. The book also reminds us that, long before entering government service, Henry Kissinger the young Harvard professor made his reputation with one big policy idea—that small nuclear weapons were essential instruments of modern war. There was a reason people thought him a model for Dr. Strangelove.

Of course, when the humanizers get a chance to talk about their favorite elements of the Nixon and Kissinger record, they too make a lot of points that aren’t easily countered. Who, after all, is against visionary and effective diplomacy? Speaking at Nixon’s funeral in 1994, Bill Clinton helped along this reassessment of the former president. Nixon’s legacy, he said, had to be judged “in totality”—meaning, let’s remember the good stuff. Even the megalomania and weirdness look a lot more excusable, perhaps almost desirable, when measured against the demands of high-pressure peacemaking. As Joe Biden said recently at a Washington awards dinner, with the former secretary of state present, “I’m still intimidated by Dr. Kissinger.”

Thomas’s summary aphorism about Nixon—that “inner torment and even a touch of wickedness can be catalysts to greatness”—may not seem quite enough to justify the bombing of Cambodia. Still, when offered the goal of a “generation of peace,” which Nixon conjured in his second inaugural address, the demonizers become a lot less vehement. They don’t drop their overall indictment. (Détente, Grandin gripes in a footnote, just didn’t go far enough—Washington should have “thoroughly demilitarized.”) But few critics challenge the idea that their favorite villains were genuinely innovative strategists.

Polemics like these keep us from seeing Nixon and Kissinger in a fresh light. For that, we must weigh their record alongside those of other leaders who were given the job of ending America’s stalemated wars. Judged merely by temperament, after all, Dwight Eisenhower, who wound down the Korean War, and Barack Obama, who reduced U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, could hardly be further from Richard Nixon. And their advisers are not to be confused with Henry Kissinger. Yet personal differences were not decisive. Eisenhower and Obama chose policies strikingly similar to Nixon’s.

All three presidents began with the same analysis of their strategic predicament. For the long haul—to avoid going “down the drain as a great power,” as Nixon put it—America needed a downsized foreign policy that better connected ends and means. A “spasmodic reaction to the stimulus of emergencies”—Eisenhower’s description of the way his predecessor, Harry Truman, had done things—was not sustainable, politically or economically. Ike’s answer: military budget cuts that were deeper and faster than any his successors made.

In the same spirit, Nixon told Congress in his 1970 “State of the World” message that the United States could no longer “conceive all the plans, design all the programs, execute all the decisions, and undertake all the defense of the free nations of the world.” Other nations had to do more too—if only, as Kissinger had written just before becoming national-security adviser, to “discipline our occasional impetuosity.” Barack Obama thought of George W. Bush much as Nixon did of Lyndon B. Johnson and Eisenhower did of Truman, and he certainly agreed with Kissinger. The core of a better strategy was to stop, as Obama had it, doing “stupid shit.”

Eisenhower, Nixon, and Obama further agreed on how to implement their analysis—by making the big decisions themselves. Humanizers and vilifiers tend to see the centralization of power in the White House as an outgrowth of Nixon’s and Kissinger’s personal oddities. In fact, strong policy control is characteristic of all retrenchment presidents. Elected to clean up a mess, they tend (with some justice) to view the bureaucracies they inherit as prisoners of old ideas and aims.

How such presidents overcome obstacles can vary; their determination to do so does not. Eisenhower, accustomed to command, asserted his authority without any of Nixon and Kissinger’s extreme secrecy and intrigue. He insisted on a crisp and orderly process—but felt free to ignore the recommendations it produced. Having become president as a foreign-policy neophyte, Obama found it far more difficult than Ike did, at least at first, to impose his views on his advisers. But on one issue after another—from Iran to Ukraine—he has carried the day. Seeing Obama as an ineffectual egghead is as wrong as considering Eisenhower a grandfatherly golfer. Both knew that managing weakness requires a strong hand.

Nixon and Kissinger’s critics insist, of course, that they used their total dominance of policy to make retrenchment a far bloodier and more violent process than it has been in any other administration. This can hardly be doubted. Yet the accusation misses something fundamental, both about how the United States got out of Vietnam, and about how other presidents have limited the risks that accompany a downsized foreign policy.

Richard Nixon’s strategy to achieve peace in Vietnam had two equally important leitmotifs. First was his readiness, at key moments, to rain down death and destruction on the other side. But the second was an unshakable commitment to get the hell out. His “go for broke” military offensives were inseparable from steady troop withdrawals. As he bombed Cambodia in 1969, Nixon started bringing the boys home. The United States invaded Cambodia in 1970, right after the announcement of an even bigger withdrawal. Equally large troop drawdowns were made in 1971. One reason Nixon relied so heavily on airpower to pound North Vietnam in 1972 was that by then he had cut the U.S. force to fewer than 70,000 men, not even 15 percent of the number he began with. Nothing—certainly not the appeals of his generals—ever led Nixon to suspend or slow the pace of withdrawals. He was getting out of the war, and if he used brutal bombing campaigns to cover his retreat, there’s no doubt that it was a retreat. “Peace with honor” was no bar to horrific violence, but it wasn’t exactly mindless, either. Nixon had accepted the inevitable—he just wasn’t ready to have it look as though pulling out had been forced on him.

Outreach to adversaries has followed each of our stalemated wars.

Did other presidents manage the downsizing of foreign policy without the threat or use of compensatory violence? Certainly not. Eisenhower believed that only his threat of nuclear war had achieved an armistice in Korea. (A secret threat, of course, not shared with the American public or U.S. allies.) Ike actually considered and even threatened using nuclear weapons more than any other president. They were his go-to tool for deterring Soviet advances. Where nuclear threats would not do the job, covert action played its part. Some of the most important CIA operations ever, in Iran in 1953 and Guatemala in 1954, were undertaken—or, in the case of the 1961 Bay of Pigs fiasco, planned—under Eisenhower. And who launched the largest Cold War military operation in the Middle East—the American intervention in Lebanon in 1958—simply out of worry that his policy had begun to look too weak? Same president.

For Obama, winding down overseas combat operations has been as firm a goal as it was for Nixon. The troop surge Obama allowed his generals in Afghanistan was limited, and it came with a strict deadline that he devised himself and would not extend, despite repeated appeals. (Only recently, with a tiny force left, did he change his mind about going all the way to zero.) In pulling out of the post-9/11 wars, Obama wanted what Nixon wanted—a way to keep casualties low and limit the risk of big military setbacks. His means—increased use of unmanned drones, greater reliance on Special Operations forces and cyber attacks, aggressive telephone and e-mail intercepts—were ones whose purpose Nixon and Eisenhower would have applauded. Yes, George W. Bush fashioned these policies, but Obama has used them—and the secrecy they depend on—far more fully. He has given them, moreover, a different goal—not to advance Bush’s strategy, but to reverse it.

Nixon and Kissinger’s claim to immortality rests on the other half of their foreign policy—the new relationships they forged with the Soviet Union and China. Their visits to Beijing were among the most skillfully orchestrated moves in American diplomatic history. Alongside détente with Moscow, these initiatives seemed precisely what the country needed for a successful rebound from the Vietnam War.

Image result for Tim Weiner Nixon

All the same, the impulse behind the new strategy was far from unique. Outreach to adversaries—and especially an effort to achieve what Kissinger called an “ideological truce”—has followed each of our stalemated wars. Eisenhower, even after the armistice in Korea, felt there was still a public “hunger for peace”—for relief from the rigors of the Cold War—that he had to satisfy. He considered harsh anticommunist rhetoric “tragically stupid and ultimately worthless.” He spent his presidency seeking a Soviet-American agreement that would lift the threat of nuclear war. None of Eisenhower’s proposals—not “Atoms for Peace,” not “Open Skies,” not a nuclear-test ban—led anywhere with Moscow. The hopeful moods he sought to create—the “Spirit of Geneva,” which followed his first meeting with Nikita Khrushchev, in 1955, and the “Spirit of Camp David,” which followed his next one, in 1959—came to nothing.

But Ike persisted. If scaling back the Cold War meant compromising long-standing positions, he was ready for it. He told his advisers that to stop nuclear tests, he would accept pretty much any inspection arrangements Khrushchev proposed. He wanted a 20 percent drawdown of U.S. troops in Europe; when others called for a 25 percent defense-budget increase, he preferred none. (One of the most vocal critics of this early search for détente was Henry Kissinger, who warned that the United States was losing its will to carry on the East-West competition.)

It’s unclear whether Obama has drawn consciously from either Eisenhower or Nixon and Kissinger. Yet the same impulses that shaped their strategy have clearly shaped his. All three administrations shared the goal of developing a post-ideological foreign-policy vocabulary; the conviction that the resource levels devoted to national security were unsustainably high; the desire to make relations with adversaries less competitive; and the hope to use nuclear agreements as levers with which to advance a broader geopolitical (even civilizational) transformation.

Just as Nixon and Kissinger’s critics insist that their crimes were sui generis, their admirers can be counted on to claim that their foreign-policy achievements stand alone. Didn’t the architects of “triangular diplomacy”—détente with the Soviet Union paired with an opening to China—give us a master class in how to manipulate rival powers for mutual benefit? Has any other administration displayed such strategic insight or dazzling professional skill?

The Beijing and Moscow summits of 1972 were, to be sure, a gigantic domestic political triumph. They restored a sense of direction and purpose after years of setbacks. But the president and his adviser thought they were doing much more than pandering to voters. (Of the public’s enthusiasm for his China policy, Nixon’s view was typically disdainful: “The American people are suckers.” He derided the very hope he had created by restoring ties: “ ‘Getting to know you’—all that bullshit.”) The big strategic idea underlying their policy was to preserve American “influence” by yielding “formal predominance.” By playing the two leading Communist states against each other, Washington could get their help in Vietnam, soften the hard ideological edges of their foreign policy, and—especially in the case of China—make them supporters of a continuing global role for the United States.

Image result for kissinger's shadow

Little of this big idea unfolded as Nixon and Kissinger had hoped. Soviet and Chinese aid to North Vietnam went up, not down. The dramatic U.S. military operations of 1972—first the mining of Haiphong harbor, and then the Christmas bombing—took place because triangular diplomacy had not kept Hanoi from launching another offensive that spring. The Russians and the Chinese did not force the North Vietnamese to the negotiating table, nor oblige them to accept adverse terms once negotiations began. Nixon and Kissinger had successfully taken the ideological element out of their own relations with the Soviet Union and China, but the same was not true of relations between Moscow and Beijing. If anything, American policy made ideological rivalry between the major Communist states more acute, not less. The United States had to cope with the consequences not only in Vietnam but also, later in the decade, in Africa—as Moscow and Beijing vied for influence in Angola and Ethiopia.

Kissinger has long insisted that after his early visits, China became an advocate of a strong and confident international role for the U.S. (Mao even admitted to being a closet Republican: As he told Nixon in 1972, “I like rightists.”) What Kissinger does not say is that in those same visits he sketched out for his hosts a very different American role, less strong and less confident. Nixon, Kissinger told Zhou Enlai, was not guided by “dreams of the past” and would pursue a different strategy, especially in Asia. The U.S. would not try to “stop history” by propping up weak clients, such as South Vietnam and Taiwan. Kissinger forecast an end to the U.S. military presence in South Korea and expressed alarm at Japan’s growing economic strength. Beijing and Washington, he speculated, might have to unite to oppose Tokyo’s militarism. But he urged Zhou not to push for too much too fast. Washington was still getting used to its new role. “You could not respect us,” he pleaded, “if we found this easy.”

Nothing unites the Nixon and Kissinger record more tightly with those of Eisenhower and Obama than the difference between their first and second terms. For all the trials of downsizing, each of these three presidents made foreign policy a major asset in his first four years—and a ticket to resounding reelection. Adlai Stevenson, George McGovern, and Mitt Romney never had a chance against the masters of retrenchment. But then came something altogether different. A strategy that had been broadly accepted as a way to extricate the United States from over commitment seemed less relevant when the war was over, less valuable in responding to new challenges. Retrenchment, to the surprise of its own architects, became ever more controversial.

Kissinger liked to portray his critics as isolationists or militarists.

What went wrong? To Nixon and Kissinger, the only thing that made any sense of this sudden disenchantment was Watergate. Post-Vietnam demoralization played a part, and so perhaps did skyrocketing oil prices and then recession. But the destructive impact of these events was nothing alongside a domestic political scandal almost unique in American history. Kissinger likes to describe Watergate’s significance this way: “We were castrated.” No wonder the “glittering promise” he felt at the beginning of Nixon’s second term was ultimately wasted.

The postwar-retrenchment blues of other presidents should, however, alert us to other explanations. If, without Watergate, Eisenhower faced a strong second-term challenge to his foreign policy, and Obama has too, then maybe we need to look beyond scandal and “castration” for the real story.

Eisenhower had his own way of explaining his second-term frustrations. The key was Sputnik and what he called, in his famous farewell address, the “military-industrial complex.” When the Soviet Union launched the first globe-circling satellite in 1957, hard-liners with strong corporate backing stoked fears of a “missile gap.” Unfortunately, the president could not reassure the public without compromising top-secret intelligence.

Yet Ike’s version of how his foreign policy lost its allure was incomplete. Fears of a changing nuclear balance were just one factor. In the late 1950s, the U.S. and its friends seemed suddenly on the defensive almost everywhere. New crises erupted in virtually every region of the world—in Berlin, Lebanon, the Taiwan Strait, and Cuba. Calls for a more consistent and better-articulated policy were heard across the political spectrum, even among Eisenhower’s closest advisers. As East-West tensions rose, Ike responded with annoyance. He invoked his own vast foreign-policy experience, said the U.S. was not falling behind, belittled those who wanted to spend more on defense, and impugned their motives. He pushed back, but it was not enough.

Second-term presidents who have managed to tidy up an inherited foreign-policy mess have always been blindsided by what came next. Slow to cope with—or even recognize—new problems, they hope to stick with the winning formulas of their first term. Here too Obama has had much in common with Eisenhower. In the past two years, as he talked about banging out “singles” and “doubles” (while Ukraine was under siege, Syria in flames, and China muscling American allies), Obama channeled Eisenhower’s complacency. When he said that criticism of his nuclear deal with Iran reflected the same mind-set that led to war with Iraq, he displayed Ike’s irritability.

Nixon and Kissinger didn’t see their troubles coming either. Though détente had evoked little real opposition while fighting continued in Vietnam, it fell to earth once the war was over. In the ensuing debate, Kissinger, easily the most acclaimed policy celebrity of modern times, often hurt his own case. He called those who questioned his arms-control offers to Moscow “strategically and politically illiterate.” When support for Soviet dissidents grew in Congress, he inflamed it by advising the president (now Gerald Ford) not to meet Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. When Congress banned covert aid to anti-Soviet guerrillas in Angola, he treated the measure as a kind of peacenik absurdity. (In fact, most Republican senators present—from Jacob Javits to Jesse Helms—had voted against him.)

America’s retrenchment presidents have all hoped to devise a foreign policy for the long haul.

Kissinger liked to portray his critics as isolationists or militarists—the left- and right-wing fringes of serious debate. He claimed to be the prudent centrist, to have the only long-term strategy for advancing the national interest. No setbacks shook this conviction. In an otherwise conciliatory letter he wrote to Daniel Patrick Moynihan shortly after leaving office, Kissinger tried to take the edge off their earlier clashes. As ambassador to the United Nations, Moynihan had seen human rights as a way to retake the ideological high ground of the Cold War. The secretary of state, his nominal boss, would have none of it. “I had to position our policy for a long haul,” Kissinger explained, “while you were concerned with the immediate crisis.”

It was a telling inversion of the truth. Kissinger’s position as chief steward of American foreign policy obliged him to focus on a large portfolio of endless pressing concerns. Yet in managing them on a daily basis, he failed to elaborate a strategy that could command support from one administration to the next. He missed, in fact, exactly what Eisenhower—and later, Obama—missed. He had lost the center.

There was no shortage of reasons for this result. The American people may have wanted uplift more than nuance. They may have been too easily frightened by new difficulties. They may have responded too quickly to partisanship. They may have sensed that their leaders were not really leveling with them, were too in thrall to their own ideas, could not see how to change course. Whatever the reason, the public needed a more compelling and coherent description of what Kissinger was trying to do. It wasn’t Watergate that held him back.

America’s retrenchment presidents teach an ironic lesson. Coming in to manage a disaster, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, and Barack Obama all hoped to devise a foreign policy for the United States that would avoid big swings between over- and undercommitment. What they came up with, however, turned out to command support only as an interim measure. Once it became clear that the world was still a confusing and tumultuous place, the acclaim they had enjoyed was soon forgotten. The resurgence of heated policy debate didn’t just disappoint them—it infuriated them. They found their second terms a bumpy ride, full of criticisms they felt were unfair and unconstructive. They got angry at American politics, and at the American people.

If retrenchment presidents are irritable, they are also surprisingly inarticulate. Few rise to the challenge of explaining their policies. In the course of their careers, Eisenhower, Nixon, and Obama were all known—in very different ways—for clear and persuasive expression. Yet this gift failed them when their ostensibly long-haul foreign policy came under attack. Persuasiveness gave way to petulance.

Strategies of retrenchment always lose their shine.

Inarticulateness overcame other presidents who carried out strategies of retrenchment. Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter adopted many of Nixon’s policies, especially toward China and the Soviet Union—and explained them no better. George H. W. Bush, having achieved both the successful conclusion of the Cold War and victory in the Persian Gulf, sought to de-emphasize foreign policy in the second half of his presidency. But international upheavals—from the Balkans to Somalia—did not subside. Like other downsizers, Bush seemed unsure how to handle these new issues—much less how to talk about them.

Retrenchment is a hard product to market. Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Bush 41, and Obama belong to an honor roll of presidents all with the same problem: how to convince the American people that their foreign policy was more successful, less rudderless and reactive, than it seemed. Believing that they had fashioned a creative response to national war weariness, they found themselves labeled too passive. Certain that theirs was the standard against which all other strategies should be measured, they were called confused. Confident that they had put American foreign policy on a sustainable course that hardly needed to be debated, they lost control of the conversation.

As these presidents discovered, strategies of retrenchment always lose their shine. That’s normal. For Henry Kissinger, of course, normal will be a hard verdict to accept. But it fits. He had only a very difficult assignment, we can now see, not a unique one. In carrying it out, he did some things well, others not so well, and still others badly. With the perspective that time affords, both the calumny and the praise he and Nixon elicited seem obviously excessive. They were sometimes brilliant, sometimes foolish, sometimes lucky, sometimes terribly unlucky. For all their eccentricity and defensive self-regard, their record looks less distinctive than we have usually thought.  If, 10 years from now, the next generation of scholars has produced a new shelf of books that help us to see the ordinariness of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, we will understand them—and perhaps ourselves—far better than we do now.

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/01/the-long-history-of-leading-from-behind/419097/

Nixon’s  Vietnam Treachery

by John A. Farrell@ http://www.nytimes.com

 

Richard M. Nixon always denied it: to David Frost, to historians and to Lyndon B. Johnson, who had the strongest suspicions and the most cause for outrage at his successor’s rumored treachery. To them all, Nixon insisted that he had not sabotaged Johnson’s 1968 peace initiative to bring the war in Vietnam to an early conclusion. “My God. I would never do anything to encourage” South Vietnam “not to come to the table,” Nixon told Johnson, in a conversation captured on the White House taping system.

Now we know Nixon lied. A newfound cache of notes left by H. R. Haldeman, his closest aide, shows that Nixon directed his campaign’s efforts to scuttle the peace talks, which he feared could give his opponent, Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, an edge in the 1968 election. On Oct. 22, 1968, he ordered Haldeman to “monkey wrench” the initiative.

The 37th president has been enjoying a bit of a revival recently, as his achievements in foreign policy and the landmark domestic legislation he signed into law draw favorable comparisons to the presidents (and president-elect) that followed. A new, $15 million face-lift at the Nixon presidential library, while not burying the Watergate scandals, spotlights his considerable record of accomplishments.

Haldeman’s notes return us to the dark side. Amid the reappraisals, we must now weigh apparently criminal behavior that, given the human lives at stake and the decade of carnage that followed in Southeast Asia, may be more reprehensible than anything Nixon did in Watergate.

Nixon had entered the fall campaign with a lead over Humphrey, but the gap was closing that October. Henry A. Kissinger, then an outside Republican adviser, had called, alerting Nixon that a deal was in the works: If Johnson would halt all bombing of North Vietnam, the Soviets pledged to have Hanoi engage in constructive talks to end a war that had already claimed 30,000 American lives.
Photo

Anna Chennault, 1969. Credit Ira Gay Sealy/The Denver Post, via Getty Images

But Nixon had a pipeline to Saigon, where the South Vietnamese president, Nguyen Van Thieu, feared that Johnson would sell him out. If Thieu would stall the talks, Nixon could portray Johnson’s actions as a cheap political trick. The conduit was Anna Chennault, a Republican doyenne and Nixon fund-raiser, and a member of the pro-nationalist China lobby, with connections across Asia.

“! Keep Anna Chennault working on” South Vietnam, Haldeman scrawled, recording Nixon’s orders. “Any other way to monkey wrench it? Anything RN can do.”

Nixon told Haldeman to have Rose Mary Woods, the candidate’s personal secretary, contact another nationalist Chinese figure — the businessman Louis Kung — and have him press Thieu as well. “Tell him hold firm,” Nixon said.

Document

H.R. Haldeman’s Notes from Oct. 22, 1968

During a phone call on the night of Oct. 22, 1968, Richard M. Nixon told his closest aide (and future chief of staff) H.R. Haldeman to “monkey wrench” President Lyndon B. Johnson’s efforts to begin peace negotiations over the Vietnam War.

OPEN Document

Nixon also sought help from Chiang Kai-shek, the President of Taiwan. And he ordered Haldeman to have his vice-presidential candidate, Spiro T. Agnew, threaten the C.I.A. director, Richard Helms. Helms’s hopes of keeping his job under Nixon depended on his pliancy, Agnew was to say. “Tell him we want the truth — or he hasn’t got the job,” Nixon said.

Throughout his life, Nixon feared disclosure of this skulduggery. “I did nothing to undercut them,” he told Frost in their 1977 interviews. “As far as Madame Chennault or any number of other people,” he added, “I did not authorize them and I had no knowledge of any contact with the South Vietnamese at that point, urging them not to.” Even after Watergate, he made it a point of character. “I couldn’t have done that in conscience.”

Nixon had cause to lie. His actions appear to violate federal law, which prohibits private citizens from trying to “defeat the measures of the United States.” His lawyers fought throughout Nixon’s life to keep the records of the 1968 campaign private. The broad outline of “the Chennault affair” would dribble out over the years. But the lack of evidence of Nixon’s direct involvement gave pause to historians and afforded his loyalists a defense.

Time has yielded Nixon’s secrets. Haldeman’s notes were opened quietly at the presidential library in 2007, where I came upon them in my research for a biography of the former president. They contain other gems, like Haldeman’s notations of a promise, made by Nixon to Southern Republicans, that he would retreat on civil rights and “lay off pro-Negro crap” if elected president. There are notes from Nixon’s 1962 California gubernatorial campaign, in which he and his aides discuss the need to wiretap political foes.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that, absent Nixon, talks would have proceeded, let alone ended the war. But Johnson and his advisers, at least, believed in their mission and its prospects for success.

When Johnson got word of Nixon’s meddling, he ordered the F.B.I. to track Chennault’s movements. She “contacted Vietnam Ambassador Bui Diem,” one report from the surveillance noted, “and advised him that she had received a message from her boss … to give personally to the ambassador. She said the message was … ‘Hold on. We are gonna win. … Please tell your boss to hold on.’ ”

In a conversation with the Republican senator Everett Dirksen, the minority leader, Johnson lashed out at Nixon. “I’m reading their hand, Everett,” Johnson told his old friend. “This is treason.”

“I know,” Dirksen said mournfully.

Johnson’s closest aides urged him to unmask Nixon’s actions. But on a Nov. 4 conference call, they concluded that they could not go public because, among other factors, they lacked the “absolute proof,” as Defense Secretary Clark Clifford put it, of Nixon’s direct involvement.

Nixon was elected president the next day.

A History of U.S. Foreign Affairs in Which Grandiose Ambitions Trump Realism


January 2, 2017

A History of U.S. Foreign Affairs in Which Grandiose Ambitions Trump Realism

The Trump Matrix–Countdown to January 20, 2017


December 29, 2016

The Trump Matrix-Countdown to January 20, 2017

Image result for The Trump Presidency

Making America an Imperial Nation

Anyone who tells you, with perfect confidence, what a Trump administration will do is either bluffing or being a fool ( he makes policy pronouncements via the twitter). We have a prospective Cabinet and a White House staff, but we haven’t got the first idea how the two will fit together or how the man at the top (he is t will preside over it all.

What we can do is set up a matrix to help assess the Trump era it proceeds, in which each appointment and development gets plotted along two axes. The first axis, the X-axis, represents possibilities for Trumpist policy, the second, the Y-axis, scenarios for Donald Trump’s approach to governance.

The policy axis runs from full populism at one end to predictable conservative orthodoxy on the other. A full populist presidency would give us tariffs and trade wars, an infrastructure bill that would have Robert Moses doing back flips, a huge wall and E-Verify and untouched entitlements and big tax cuts for the middle class. On foreign policy it would be Henry Kissinger meets Andrew Jackson: Détente with Russia, no nation-building anywhere, and a counterterrorism strategy that shoots, bombs and drones first and asks questions later.

Related image

Emperor Donald J. Trump

In an orthodox-conservative Trump presidency, on the other hand, congressional Republicans would run domestic policy and Trump would simply sign their legislation: A repeal of Obamacare without an obvious replacement, big tax cuts for the rich, and the Medicare reform of Paul Ryan’s fondest dreams. On foreign policy, it would offer hawkishness with a dose of idealistic rhetoric — meaning brinkmanship with Vladimir Putin plus military escalation everywhere.

The second axis, the possibilities for how Trump governs, runs from ruthless authoritarianism at one end to utter chaos at the other. Under the authoritarian scenario, Trump would act on all his worst impulses with malign efficiency. The media would be intimidated, Congress would be gelded, the Trump family would enrich itself fantastically — and then, come a major terrorist attack, Trump would jail or intern anyone he deemed a domestic enemy.

At the other end of this axis, Trump and his team would be too stumbling and hapless to effectively oppress anyone, and the Trump era would just be a rolling disaster — with the deep state in revolt, the media circling greedily and any serious damage done by accident rather than design.

Trump’s transition can be charted along both axes. On policy, much of his Cabinet falls closer to the conventional conservative end, with appointees like Tom Price and Betsy DeVos, who would be at home in a Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio or even Jeb! administration.

Image result for The Trump Presidency teamDonald Trump’s Political Generals

On the other hand, his inner circle will have its share of truer Trumpists. Stephen Bannon is intent on remaking the GOP along nationalist lines, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump seem eager for their paterfamilias to negotiate with Democrats, Peter Navarro is girding for a trade war with China. And Trump’s foreign policy choices — especially Rex Tillerson at State — seem closer to full-Trumpist realpolitik than to Reaganism-as-usual.

On the governance axis, the President-Elect’s strong-arming of the private sector, his media-bashing tweets and his feud with the intelligence community all suggest an authoritarian timeline ahead.

But anyone who fears incompetence more than tyranny has plenty of evidence as well. Trump’s tweets might be a sign not of an incipient autocrat but of an unstable president who will undermine himself at every step. He has no cushion in popular opinion: If things go even somewhat badly, his political capital will go very fast indeed. He has plenty of hacks, wild cards and misfit toys occupying positions of real responsibility — and his White House has already had its first sex scandal!

Image result for The Trump Presidency team

What are their roles?

Then, finally, there is the question of how the axes interact. A populist-authoritarian combination might seem natural, with Trump using high-profile deviations from conservative orthodoxy to boost his popularity even as he runs roughshod over republican norms.

But you could also imagine an authoritarian-orthodox conservative combination, in which congressional Republicans accept the most imperial of presidencies because it’s granting them tax rates and entitlement reforms they have long desired.

Or you could imagine a totally incompetent populism, in which Trump flies around the country holding rallies while absolutely nothing in Washington gets done … or a totally incompetent populism that ultimately empowers conventional conservatism, because Trump decides that governing isn’t worth it and just lets Paul Ryan run the country.

As for what we should actually hope for — well, the center of the matrix seems like the sweet spot for the country: A Trump presidency that is competent-enough without being dictatorial and that provides a populist corrective to conservatism without taking us all the way to mercantilism or a debt crisis.

But this is Donald Trump we’re talking about, so a happy medium seems unlikely. Along one axis or the other, bet on the extremes. — The New York Times/www.themalaymailonline.com.my