Trump’s enfeebled America stands alone


July 20, 2017

Trump’s enfeebled America stands alone

Economic change has affected other countries, but they have managed globalisation

by Martin Sanbu@www.ft.com

Image result for Trump Go it Alone Foreign PolicyDonald Trump with his Foreign Policy Novice, SIL Jared Kushner

The US President used to be thought of as the leader of the free world. America’s western friends are finding that they can no longer rely on it. But the truly transforming change is that they may find they no longer need to — and that the US needs the world more than the other way around.–Martin Sandbu

The greatest challenge posed by Donald Trump’s presidency is not that he will deploy American strength against the global common good. It is that he demonstrates how weak the US has become.

Recall Mr Trump’s inaugural address. The phrase that has resounded around the world is “America first”. But the more significant phrase he used is that other, more inward-looking one: “American carnage”. What sort of country describes itself, in the words of its highest leader no less, in such terms? Not one that feels strong.

Some Americans may not recognise the dystopian conditions his speech described. But a large group surely does. American decline is not a figment of Mr Trump’s imagination. The US economy has left large numbers of people with stagnant wages for decades. It is an economy in which millions fewer people have a job than at the peak in 2000, and which still leaves tens of millions without secure, decent healthcare.

It is an economy dotted with towns that were thriving within living memory, but have been devastated by the loss of factory jobs — lost because automation made plants too productive to need as much human labour as before, or because a failure to automate made them uncompetitive against rivals.

Above all, it is an economy in which centuries-old progress against mortality has gone in reverse for middle-aged low-educated Americans, who are dying from the afflictions of broken lives and broken communities: drug overdoses, liver disease and suicide.

Deep economic change has affected other advanced economies too. But others have not let globalisation get in the way of managing it. The US is weak not because it has uniquely been cheated out of a golden age of factory jobs by foreigners, but because it has failed to create a prosperous new future for all at home.

Mr Trump’s railing against Washington is therefore not without foundation. Economic dysfunction has long been matched by glaringly inadequate governance. The devastation of the global financial crisis — which was at its core a US financial crisis, unsuspected by its regulatory system — followed the gross incompetence of the George W Bush administration’s handling of Hurricane Katrina and its adventurism in Iraq.

Mr Trump’s speech in Poland before the G20 summit was the international version of his American carnage speech. Just like the US, in his telling, is a landscape of decay at the mercy of corrupt leaders, he presented the western world as mortally threatened by destructive forces because of decadence within.

But while he may be a fiery prophet of US decline, he is wrong about the wider world. If other western countries display a quiet confidence vis-à-vis Mr Trump, it is because they have reason to. Their unrepentant globalism is striking. Canada’s reconsecration of its globalist destiny matches its ambitious welcome of refugees. Europe and Japan are creating one of the world’s largest free trade areas. The EU vows not to withdraw from globalisation but to shape it to its values of solidarity. Japan is leading the other spurned partners from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Mr Trump has pulled out of, in an effort to complete trade liberalisation without US participation.

What lessons can we draw from this contrast? First, take the theatrics of populism seriously. Populism paradoxically mixes machismo with an incessant focus on weakness — but blames weakness on elements that must be expelled, allowing the true representatives of the forgotten people a free hand.

Image result for Macron and Merkel

A revitalised Franco-German Partnership for a Strong EU–Macron and Merkel

Second, this worsens the problem populists promise to solve. It deepens existing divisions and paralyses democratic politics. For aspiring totalitarians that may be part of a plan. For others, it is simply a self-fulfilling prophecy. Look no further than Britain for a nation that has acted on a mistaken belief that its strength has been sapped by the global liberal order (in the form of the EU), only to throw itself into true political disarray and indecision.

Third, the clash between populism and globalism is theatrical all right, but it is a theatre of the grotesque that expresses reality by transmogrifying it. Those who most try to project strength are those with the most domestic weakness to hide. Leaders of harmonious countries have no need to brag.

Fourth, it is in countries where US-style social and economic decay is most visible that the global liberal order is most contested: above all the UK, but also France and Italy. The rest of the west must redouble efforts to improve the social protections that have kept decay at bay for now.

Germany is of particular importance: its labour reforms 15 years ago have produced a worrying increase in inequality and precarious work. It must not repeat the US’s mistakes.

Finally, the global liberal order is more than the US. Its remaining supporters aim to carry on by forging the unity of purpose collectively that the US cannot even muster at home. A few decades ago that would have been unthinkable. Today, it may just be true that US isolationism will most harm the US itself.

The US President used to be thought of as the leader of the free world. America’s western friends are finding that they can no longer rely on it. But the truly transforming change is that they may find they no longer need to — and that the US needs the world more than the other way around.

martin.sandbu@ft.com

In the Post Lee KuanYew Era, can Singapore still walk tall on Global Stage?


July 19, 2017

In post-Lee Kuan Yew era, can Singapore still walk tall on global stage?

By  Bhavan Jaipragas

Singapore has a Lee Kuan Yew conundrum, and it has little to do with his house.

As the late independence leader’s three children this week continued their bitter public quarrel over his century-old bungalow, the Lion City’s leading diplomats were having a slug out of their own debating his foreign policy legacy.

The rift among the foreign ministry top guns was sparked when one of them publicly lamented in a July 1 op-ed that the respected statesman’s demise two years ago meant the city state no longer wielded an outsized influence in the global arena.

In a political career spanning six decades – including 31 years as premier – Lee’s counsel on geopolitics was sought by dozens of world leaders from Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) to Barack Obama.

Upon the patriarch’s death in March 2015, Obama led global platitudes, hailing him as a “true giant of history… and one of the great strategists of Asian affairs”.

Dean KIshore Mahbubani, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public  Policy

In the Straits Times commentary, Kishore Mahbubani, a former Singaporean envoy to the United Nations (pic above), cautioned that without Lee’s diplomatic heft, Singapore now needed to “exercise discretion” in foreign policy. He suggested the Lion City could become like Qatar – now mired in a stand-off with its larger Gulf neighbours – if it imprudently stepped on the toes of major powers.

“We are now in the post-Lee Kuan Yew era,” wrote Kishore, currently the Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

“As a result, we should change our behaviour significantly … exercise discretion. We should be very restrained in commenting on matters involving great powers,” wrote the former diplomat.

That stance did not sit well with Kishore’s peers in the highest echelons of the foreign ministry. On Facebook, Bilahari Kausikan, a fellow diplomatic grandee, lambasted him for his “muddled, mendacious and indeed dangerous views”.

A SLIGHT AT PM LEE?

“Independent Singapore would not have survived and prospered if they always behaved like the leaders of a small state as Kishore advocates,” wrote the ambassador-at-large, who has an impressive following on social media. “I don’t think anyone respects a running dog.” Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam, a former foreign minister, also took aim, describing Kishore’s writing as “questionable, intellectually”.

The nub of the blowback from the establishment was that Kishore’s views appeared to be a slight aimed at the current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong – Lee Kuan Yew’s eldest son – for lacking the diplomatic finesse of his father and predecessor Goh Chok Tong.

Responding to one commenter who defended Kishore, Bilahari said: “I disagree, it’s a thinly disguised attack on the PM”. Premier Lee, in power since 2004, has faced some domestic criticism over his foreign policy, but the fact that this time the dissent was from within – and at a time when the government is facing questions over its China policy – appeared to touch a raw nerve.

 

The erudite Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong

Local blogs have increasingly blamed the premier for the city state’s troubled relationship with Beijing in the last year.

Last August, Lee angered Chinese leaders after he said he backed arbitration as a way to peacefully resolve international disputes. Beijing took offence as the comments came soon after an arbitral ruling on the South China Sea dispute largely went against its favour.

As a small state, should Singapore hide when ‘elephants’ fight?

Some have also taken issue with Lee’s actions years earlier. In 2013, the premier sparked a mini controversy over light-hearted jibes he made at China’s expense during an after-dinner speech in Washington.

“Beijing residents joke that to get a free smoke all they have to do is open their windows,” Lee had said.

‘NO LINK TO SIBLING FEUD’

Kishore – facing an onslaught of rebuttals from within the establishment – did not back off from his original stance.

“I wrote this article as I believe that some of our senior officials have been imprudent in their public statements,” the 68-year-old wrote in a statement following the string of responses.

“As a result there have been some serious mishaps in our external relations,” he said in the statement posted on the Channel NewsAsia website. “The hard work by our founding fathers has been squandered. Our geopolitical space has shrunk.”

The diplomat said officials who viewed his commentary as an attack on the premier in the midst of his highly publicised family feud were mistaken. The article was published two days before the premier was to address parliament over abuse-of-power allegations made against him by his siblings Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Wei Ling.

“This argument is flawed because my article was submitted to the ST [Straits Times] several weeks ago. It was the ST that chose to run it this weekend,” Kishore wrote.

Foreign policy observers said the open tiff put on full display internal debates within the country’s diplomatic complex, amid growing pressure to accommodate the rise of China as a superpower alongside the United States. Officials have long stressed that the Lion City would not waver from publicly supporting the international rule of law, even if that means angering bigger powers.

BALANCING ACT

“Singapore has a vested interest in standing up for a rules-based international order, as it is the framework that underpins the Lion City’s success,” said Hugo Brennan, an Asia-focused analyst with the global risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft. “But it will always be a balancing act between taking a principled stand and refraining from tickling the dragon’s tail,” he said.

Mustafa Izzuddin, a Southeast Asia politics researcher at the ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute, said the “Kishore-Bilahari kerfuffle should be viewed in a positive light as it illustrates that there is no danger of groupthink in Singapore’s foreign policy”.

Why the Lee Kuan Yew family feud is a metaphor for Singapore

The Straits Times, which published the commentary kick-starting the saga, on Friday said in an editorial that Premier Lee’s invitation to the G20 summit in Berlin this week illustrated the Lion City’s continued diplomatic prowess.

Image result for bilahari kausikan at the university of cambodia

Ambassador at Large Bilahari Kausikan

https://publichouse.sg/role-small-states-bilaharis-criticism-kishore-wrong-misleading/

Despite not being a leader of a G20 nation, Premier Lee has been a fixture at the summits as a guest of the host nation. Bilahari meanwhile pointed to Lee’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) on the sidelines of the summit to bolster his argument that the Lion City should stick to its foreign policy guns. “The moral of the story for us is keep calm: things are never as bad as they may seem,” he wrote in a Facebook post about the meeting. “Do not mistake noise – shouting – for substance. Psy-ops do not work if you keep calm.”

 

 

The G20 and the Inequality Crisis


July 13, 2017

The G20 and the Inequality Crisis

by Helle Thorning-Schmidt*

https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/g20-solutions-to-ending-inequality-by-helle-thorning-schmidt-2017-07

Image result for Helle Thorning-Schmidt*

*Former Prime Minister of Denmark, is the Chief Executive of Save the Children and a Commissioner on the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity.

Almost a decade ago, facing a near-collapse of the financial system and the risk of a depression, the world needed a new form of leadership to navigate and restore confidence in the global economy. That’s why, in 2009, at his first global summit as US President, Barack Obama joined then-British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to spearhead the G20’s upgrade, making it the world’s preeminent economic forum. What they created helped solve one immediate problem, but it let linger another global challenge.

With the Obama-Brown upgrade, the G20 – comprising 19 of the world’s largest advanced and emerging economies, plus the European Union – took over the role played by the G7 (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the US). Obama and Brown knew that a group that did not include rising economic powers, like China and India, could not propose effective solutions to the global economy’s biggest problems.

Whatever one thinks of the G20 – and it is by no means perfect – this more inclusive grouping helped to overcome the consequences of the 2008 global financial crisis. With an expanded coterie of world leaders taking charge, jittery financial markets stabilized, and the G20 then helped launch, and sustain, a global economic stimulus, led by China, which reversed the downward spiral.

Today, the G20, now meeting in Hamburg for its annual summit, must confront the challenge of inequality. With the world’s richest 1% now owning 40% of its assets, the benefits of growth are not being shared in a way that is either economically efficient or politically sustainable.

This crisis had been building for many decades, but it accelerated sharply after the global financial meltdown that the G20 helped stem. As a result, disillusioned and disaffected voters in advanced economies are challenging established political parties to find solutions or cede power, while millions of people from poor countries, unable to envision a future at home, are risking their lives by crossing deserts and seas in search of economic opportunity.

Image result for G-20 Leaders in Hamburg, Germany

 

It is up to the G20 to deal with the global inequality crisis with the same urgency it showed during the Great Recession of 2008-2009. Just as Obama and Brown led the way then, German Chancellor Angela Merkel must respond purposefully and powerfully to the widening divide between rich and poor, which has become an acute danger to the world economy, and to social cohesion and political stability.

The G20, which Germany now leads, could take many steps to address the crisis of inequality, but three are most important.

First, the G20 needs to get serious about accelerating work on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The SDGs set a bold but achievable agenda for addressing poverty, reducing inequality, improving education and health, and protecting the planet. But almost two years after their launch, a business-as-usual approach prevails in most countries, and accountability has been reduced to exercises in collecting data. The G20 countries, which collectively account for most of the world’s population and resources, should lead by translating the SDGs into national policies, and by harnessing government budgets and their private sectors to drive implementation.

Second, the G20 must crack down on economic abuses that weaken states and markets, and erode public trust. Tax avoidance by big corporations and wealthy individuals, which by some estimates cost poor countries $200 billion a year, is a case in point. Many business leaders do understand that the future of the world economy, and their own companies, depends on reducing poverty, and that this is becomes harder to achieve as inequality widens. But to tackle a crisis of this scale, the entire business community must be on board.

Finally, the G20 should lead the way toward giving every child access to quality education by 2030. This is the real game changer when it comes to addressing inequality. For example, teaching all students in poor countries to read could help pull more than 170 million people out of poverty, equal to a 12% decline in the number of poor people worldwide.

But this would require a dramatic increase in education spending, including more funding for existing programs, like Education Cannot Wait, which supports the continuation of schooling for children in disaster areas, and the Global Partnership for Education, which provides grants to support education in countries with the most need. It must also include investment in proposed initiatives, like the International Finance Facility for Education, which aims to bring public and private donors together to increase global education financing by more than $10 billion dollars a year.

The G20 is still the world’s leading forum when it comes to the global economy. It helped us through the global financial crisis. Now is the time for the G20 to step up again, and to act with genuine resolve, to address the global inequality crisis.

Let us face it: Donald Trump is No Harry S. Truman


July 12, 2017

Let us face it: Donald Trump is No Harry S. Truman

by Jeffery Frank

http://www.newyorker.com

Image result for Harry S Trump and Donald Trump

On April 17, 1945, five days after Franklin D. Roosevelt’s sudden death, of a cerebral hemorrhage, in Warm Springs, Georgia, his successor, Harry S. Truman, the nation’s thirty-third President, held his first press conference. Between then and the end of his Presidency, he held three hundred and twenty-four of them, during which he tried, usually with good humor, to answer what he was asked. In that first outing, he said, “If you want to ask me anything, I will try to answer, and, if I don’t know, I will tell you.”

Three months later, Truman was on his way to Potsdam, Germany, to attend a summit, which lasted more than two weeks, with the other members of the “Grand Alliance” that had defeated Nazi Germany: the Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin, and the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill (who was about to be voted out of office and replaced at the conference, by Clement Attlee). Before Potsdam, Truman crammed, as if for the biggest exam of his life. “Have been going through some very hectic days,” he wrote in the journal he kept intermittently throughout his Presidency. “Eyes troubling somewhat. Too much reading ‘fine print.’ Nearly every memorandum has a catch in it and it has been necessary to read at least a thousand of ’em and as many reports. Most of it at night.” The conference wore everyone down, but Truman returned to Washington with generally good reviews from his peers. “He seems a man of exceptional charm and ability, with an outlook exactly along the lines of Anglo-American relationships as they have developed,” Churchill remarked.

Last week, shortly after the seventy-second anniversary of Potsdam, Donald J. Trump, the nation’s forty-fifth President, attended a summit meeting of the G-20 leaders in Hamburg. But, after six months in office, Trump looked, and acted, like an awkward, uninformed outsider, the guest at the dinner with whom no one wants to converse. On Friday, upon his first confirmed in-person meeting with the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, Trump’s initial thoughts were that “President Putin and I have been discussing various things. I think it’s going very well. We have had very, very good talks. We are going to have a talk now, and obviously that will continue. We look forward to a lot of positive things happening between Russia and the United States and for everybody concerned.” While a new ceasefire agreement in Syria, announced after their meeting, sounded like welcome news, it also sounded a lot like several earlier ceasefire agreements in Syria. It’s far from clear what actually was said, or agreed to, in the leaders’ more than two hours of “very, very good talks,” though Trump soon tweeted this: “Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded.” Before Sean Spicer or Sarah Huckabee Sanders got a chance to translate the idea, which was widely judged to be silly and unworkable, Trump untweeted himself: “The fact that President Putin and I discussed a Cyber Security unit doesn’t mean I think it can happen. It can’t-but a ceasefire can, & did!”

Image result for donald trump and vladimir putin at G20

America First versus Russia First–Screw Europe and the Rest of the World

It is to be hoped that Trump, at his next press conference, will be able to give a better sense of what went on in Hamburg. Perhaps he’ll begin to show that he intends to master big issues as well as the minutiae of the job. Since taking office, Trump has held eleven press conferences—ten of them in the company of other world leaders. In his only solo appearance, on February 16th, he rambled, and digressed; he boasted, as he often has, about what he viewed as his demonstrable greatness and enormous string of successes. “We have made incredible progress,” he said then. “I don’t think there’s ever been a President elected who, in this short period of time, has done what we’ve done.” His hostility to his interrogators was ever present, with references to “fake news,” “the failing New York Times,” and the pioneering cable-news network CNN, which led to this odd exchange with the correspondent Jim Acosta:

ACOSTA: And, just for the record, we don’t hate you, I don’t hate you.

TRUMP: O.K.

ACOSTA: So, just wanted to pass that along.

TRUMP: Ask [the President of CNN] Jeff Zucker how he got his job, O.K.?

Privately, in frustration, Truman sometimes referred to the “sabotage press,” or “the traitors and sabotage press,” or “character assassins.” He had a particular animus toward a few columnists, among them Westbrook Pegler, whom he called a guttersnipe; and a few newspapers, among them the Chicago Tribune, which several times called for his impeachment, and once described him as a “nincompoop” and a “vote-stealing, graft-protecting, gangster-paroling” President who, to boot, had been a “catastrophic failure as the director of foreign policy.” But, unlike Trump, Truman never lost sight of the tradition he was part of, and honored.

At Truman’s final press conference, on January 15, 1953, he said, “This kind of news conference where reporters can ask any question they can dream up—directly to the President of the United States—illustrates how strong and how vital our democracy is. There is no other country in the world where the chief of state submits to such unlimited questioning. I know, too, from experience that it is not easy to stand up here and try to answer, off the cuff, all kinds of questions without any advance notice. Perhaps succeeding Presidents will be able to figure out improvements and safeguards in the procedure. I hope they will never cut the direct line of communication between themselves and the people.”

Through seven years, Truman, for all his flaws, embodied patriotism, spine, personal dignity, and, as he demonstrated at Potsdam, a determination to assume the responsibilities of world leadership, the reverse image of what the world saw last week in Germany. Even in the worst moments of the postwar Presidency, that standard was always met. But that was another world, and another time; regarding it from the distance of the present age only increases alarm at what the nation, and the world, is trying to get used to.

Jeffrey Frank, a former senior editor of The New Yorker and the author of “Ike and Dick: Portrait of a Strange Political Marriage,” is working on a book about the Truman era.

DJT is Making America a G-20 Pariah


July 11, 2017

Wake Up: DJT is Making America a G-20 Pariah

by John Cassidy

Australian journalist Chris Uhlmann demolishes Trump after G20: ‘biggest threat to the west’

Mr Trump is a man who craves power because it burnishes his celebrity. To be constantly talking and talked about is all that really matters. And there is no value placed on the meaning of words. So what is said one day can be discarded the next.

So what have we learned?

We learned Mr Trump has pressed fast forward on the decline of the US as a global leader. He managed to diminish his nation and to confuse and alienate his allies.He will cede that power to China and Russia — two authoritarian states that will forge a very different set of rules for the 21st century. Some will cheer the decline of America, but I think we’ll miss it when it is gone. And that is the biggest threat to the values of the West which he claims to hold so dear.– Chris Uhlmann

Image result for Trump is destroying America

Just when you think you’ve seen it all, out comes another Donald Trump tweet, or tweetstorm, to prove you wrong. On Sunday morning, America’s forty-fifth President, having just returned to Washington from the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, pronounced his trip “a great success for the United States.”

It says something about Trump’s grip on reality that he could reach such a conclusion after a summit in which he and the rest of the U.S. delegation were utterly isolated on major issues such as climate change and international trade. In fact, the only way that German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s diplomatic sherpas were able to cobble together a communiqué that everyone could sign onto was to include a section that noted America’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, but which added, “Leaders of the other G20 members state that the Paris Agreement is irreversible.” The symbolism here was powerful: in a global forum that the U.S. government, especially the Treasury Department, helped to create during the late nineteen-nineties, Trump’s America stood alone.

Of course, the G-20 is far from perfect: the protesters assembled outside the Messehallen Convention Center, most of whom were peaceful, were right about that. The organization’s membership is arbitrary—Italy is a member, Spain isn’t; South Africa is in, Nigeria is out—and its pronouncements can reflect the sometimes hidebound thinking of finance ministers and central bankers. But the G-20 is also one of the few political forums for tackling global economic problems, such as financial contagion, tax evasion, and climate change (which is ultimately a market failure). And, until Trump’s election, U.S. leadership was widely recognized as an integral part of any G-20 get-together.

The message of Hamburg was that Trump’s “America First” rhetoric—and his inability to see international agreements as anything other than zero-sum deals—have changed that situation, at least temporarily. The rest of the world hasn’t turned its back on the U.S.; the country is still far too big and powerful for that to happen. And, in any case, many foreign leaders harbor respect for the values that the U.S. espouses and the global order that it has helped maintain for seven decades. At the moment, however, they are looking for ways to work around Washington and its rogue President.

Image result for Trump and Putin at G-20

Outplayed by Valdimir Putin of Russia?

Judging by his Twitter comments on Sunday, Trump is proud of having turned the U.S. into a G-20 pariah. But even more revealing, and disturbing, was the readout he delivered on his meeting last Friday with Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Here it is, not quite in its entirety (as, since we’ve heard Trump criticize Barack Obama and the “fake news” media many times before, I’ve left out those bits):

I strongly pressed President Putin twice about Russian meddling in our election, He vehemently denied it. I’ve already given my opinion. . . . We negotiated a ceasefire in parts of Syria which will save lives. Now it is time to move forward in working constructively with Russia! Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded . . . and safe. Questions were asked about why the CIA & FBI had to ask the DNC 13 times for their SERVER, and were rejected, still don’t . . . have it. . . . Sanctions were not discussed at my meeting with President Putin. Nothing will be done until the Ukrainian & Syrian problems are solved!

In the spirit of generosity, it should be acknowledged that the final sentence here was a welcome one. And Moscow’s many critics in Congress will surely remind Trump of it if he decides, during the coming months, to relax the restrictions that the Obama Administration imposed on Russia following its annexation of Crimea.

But the rest of what the President wrote on Sunday was a mess of confusions and contradictions. Trump didn’t out-and-out confirm the claim made by Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s Foreign Minister, that he had accepted Putin’s denials of any Russian involvement in hacking during the election. But Trump made perfectly clear that he still rejects the view of the U.S. intelligence community that Russia was responsible for hacking and that, for policy purposes, he considers the matter to be closed. Any effort to get to the bottom of what happened—much less impose some real punishment on Moscow—will be subjugated to the imperative of “working constructively with Russia.”

Image result for cyber security unit

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., on Capitol Hill in Washington have criticised the Trump-Putin proposal to create a joint “Cyber Security unit” to safeguard future elections.

That brings us to the nuttiest part of the tweetstorm, perhaps the nuttiest thing an American President has said in decades: the proposal to create a joint “Cyber Security unit” with Moscow to safeguard future elections. Whether Trump himself came up with this ingenious proposal, or whether it was Putin’s idea, the Tweeter-in-Chief didn’t say. But it drew instant ridicule from both sides of the political divide.

“It’s not the dumbest idea I have ever heard but it’s pretty close,” the Republican senator Lindsey Graham told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said on CNN, “If that’s our best election defense, we might as well just mail our ballot boxes to Moscow.”

What was Trump thinking? As ever, we have to consider the possibility that he wasn’t thinking at all, and what he says doesn’t mean anything—not even when he is reporting on his dealings with the leader of a rival nuclear power. “Donald Trump is a man who craves power because it burnishes his celebrity: to be constantly talking and talked about is all that really matters,” Chris Uhlmann, the political editor of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, said, in remarks about the G-20 summit that went viral. “And there is no value placed on the meaning of words, so what’s said one day can be discarded the next.”

The other reading is a darker one, and it involves taking Trump at his word. For whatever reason, he still appears to see Putin as a potential partner—maybe even one who can be trusted with some of America’s most sensitive secrets, such as the workings of its voting systems. If this is indeed the case, it matters little whether Trump is a Russian dupe or a Russian stooge: he needs to be stopped.

On Sunday night, Trump disavowed part of what he had said earlier in the day, writing in another tweet, “The fact that President Putin and I discussed a Cyber Security unit doesn’t mean I think it can happen. It can’t-but a ceasefire can,& did!” This message illustrated Uhlmann’s point about the half-life of Trump’s utterances, and also confirmed the truth of the Australian journalist’s over-all conclusion about the President’s trip to the G-20 meeting: “So what did we learn? We learned that Donald Trump has pressed fast forward on the decline of the United States as a global leader.”

On North Korea, hope is not a strategy


July 11, 2017

On North Korea, hope is not a strategy

by Fareed Zakaria*

Image result for fareed zakaria

Fareed Zakaria with POTUS Donald J. Trump

*Dr. Fareed Zakaria writes a foreign affairs column for The Post. He is also the host of CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS and a contributing editor for The Atlantic. Before being named to his position at time in October 2010, Zakaria spent 10 years overseeing Newsweek’s editions abroad and eight years as the managing editor of Foreign Affairs. He is the author of “The Post-American World” (2009) and “The Future of Freedom” (2007). Born in India, Zakaria received a B.A. from Yale College and a Ph.D. from Harvard University. He lives in New York City with his wife, son and two daughters.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/syndication/columnists/fareed-zakaria/?utm_term=.59f31eadcc52

In Washington, there is a conventional wisdom on North Korea that spans both parties and much of elite opinion. It goes roughly like this: North Korea is the world’s most bizarre country, run by a crackpot dictator with a strange haircut. He is unpredictable and irrational and cannot be negotiated with. Eventually this weird and cruel regime will collapse. Meanwhile, the only solution is more and more pressure. But what if the conventional wisdom is wrong?

The North Korean regime has survived for almost seven decades, preserving not just its basic form of government but also its family dynasty, father to son to grandson. It has persisted through the fall of the Soviet Union and its communist satellites, the Orange Revolution, the Arab Spring and the demise of other Asian dictatorships, from South Korea to Taiwan to Indonesia.

Image result for North Korea--The Kims

North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un defies Donald Trump and his allies and now threatens peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific. His survival depends on the Military and the backing of China and Russia.–Din Merican

The Kim dynasty has been able to achieve striking success in its primary objective — survival. Of course, this is because it rules in a brutal and oppressive fashion, but so did many other regimes, from Romania to Syria to Myanmar. But somehow North Korea has maintained its system.

Kim Jong Un is a young man but has been highly effective at preserving his authority. He has secured the support of the military and sidelined or killed anyone who threatened his grip on power — including his uncle and, allegedly, his half-brother.

Look at the world from North Korea’s perspective. The regime saw the collapse of the Soviet empire and an even more unsettling transformation in China, which went from being a fiery ideological soul mate to a pragmatic trading state that has eagerly integrated into world markets. These days, Beijing seems to view Pyongyang as a nuisance, and China now often votes to condemn and sanction North Korea at the United Nations.

And the world’s most powerful country has made clear that North Korea is destined for the ash heap of history. After 9/11, when the U.S. was attacked by Islamist terrorists emanating from the Middle East, George W. Bush announced that the United States would no longer tolerate an “axis of evil” comprising Iraq, Iran — and North Korea. It invaded Iraq. Current U.S. policy toward Iran, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently said, is to “work toward support of those elements inside of Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of that government.” And regarding North Korea, Donald Trump wants China to “end this nonsense once and for all,” which again can only mean getting rid of the Kim government in some way.

So, the North Korean regime has tried to buy insurance. And in the realm of international affairs, the best insurance is having a nuclear capacity. Pyongyang knows that it has a large-enough army and the Korean theater of war is so small and dense that a conventional war would be unthinkable, producing hundreds of thousands of casualties and millions of refugees pouring into China and South Korea. North Korea has accurately calculated that China and South Korea are more terrified of the chaos that would follow its collapse than of its nuclear arsenal.

Perhaps the right way to look at North Korea is as a smart, rational, calculating government that is functioning shrewdly given its priority of regime survival. More pressure only strengthens its resolve to buy even more insurance. How to handle it under these circumstances?

The first way to break the logjam in U.S. policy would be to convince China to put real pressure on its ally. That won’t happen by serving President Xi Jinping chocolate cake at Mar-a-Lago. Beijing faces an understandable nightmare — under sanctions and pressure, North Korea collapses and the newly unified country becomes a giant version of South Korea, with a defense treaty with Washington, nearly 30,000 American troops and possibly dozens of Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons — all on China’s border.

Washington will have to promise Beijing now that in the event of unification, it would withdraw its troops, change the nature of its treaty relationship with the new Korea and, working with China, eliminate Korea’s nuclear arsenal.

But pressure will work only if there is also some reason for North Korea to make concessions. Pyongyang has indicated in the past that it seeks a formal end to the Korean War (Washington signed only an armistice in 1953), a recognition of the regime, and the lifting of sanctions. Obviously none of this should be offered right now, but there is no harm in talking to Pyongyang and searching for ways to trade some of these concessions for the complete eradication of the nuclear program.

It’s a bitter pill for Washington to swallow, but the alternative is to hope that China will act against its interests and crush its ally, or that North Korea will finally collapse. But hope is not a strategy.

Fareed Zakaria’s email address is comments@fareedzakaria.com.

(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group