The Diplomatic Big Bang


June 16, 2018

The Diplomatic Big Bang

by Ahmed Charai

https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/12515/diplomatic-big-bang

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Clinton, Albright, Kissinger, Kerry, Baker and Powell–Past Secretaries of State

Diplomacy is changing before our eyes.

“The unspoken objective is to constrain the U.S., and to transfer authority from national governments to international bodies. The specifics of each case differ, but the common theme is diminished American sovereignty, submitting the United States to authorities that ignore, outvote or frustrate its priorities…. By reasserting their sovereignty, the British are in the process of escaping, among other things, the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights.” — Ambassador John R. Bolton, Wall Street Journal, March 7, 2017.

The Singapore summit is indeed historic. First, it is so because just a few weeks ago we were closer to a nuclear war than to even the semblance of a peace process. The way we got here is surprising, because it did not obey the usual rules.Image result for The Singapore Summit at Sentosa

A few days ago, during the G7 summit held in Canada, US President Donald Trump upheld his decisions on tariffs and his positions on the trade deficit. These stances followed his decision to pull out of the Paris climate change agreement and the Iranian “nuclear deal”. It is clear that the new US administration challenged the alliances inherited from the Cold War. President Trump, a businessman, not a politician — one of the reasons he was elected — is asking America’s trading partners just to have “free, fair and reciprocal” agreements. It is probably not all that unusual to feel affronted when asked for money or to regard the person asking for it as mercenary or adversarial. It does not always mean that this feeling is justified.

Pictured: Donald Trump and other heads of state deliberate at the G7 summit on June 9, 2018 in Charlevoix, Canada. (Photo by Jesco Denzel /Bundesregierung via Getty Images)

In short, President Trump’s arguments, which sound like a leitmotif, go back to the economic aspect of things. NATO? Why should it be normal that, in order to defend Europe, the American taxpayer pays the heaviest part. Free trade? Why should America suffer a trade deficit with so many countries? Climate change? The results of the Paris Climate Change conference, COP 21, were apparently not only costly but questionable, and to critics, looked like a list of unenforceable promises that would not have come due until 2030 — if ever.

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A new paradigm is shaping up on the international scene: This is the first time that the US domestic policy is to prevail over its so-called “strategic” role — sometimes possibly to the detriment of allies.

Ambassador John R. Bolton, before he was appointed National Security Advisor, rejected any external constraints or supranational authority — starting with the WTO’s trade dispute body, the Dispute Settlement Understanding (DSU):

“The unspoken objective is to constrain the U.S., and to transfer authority from national governments to international bodies. The specifics of each case differ, but the common theme is diminished American sovereignty, submitting the United States to authorities that ignore, outvote or frustrate its priorities…. While many European Union governments seem predisposed to relinquish sovereignty, there is scant hint of similar enthusiasm in America…. By reasserting their sovereignty, the British are in the process of escaping, among other things, the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights.”

Image result for John Bolton at G-7 Summit In Canada

America’s Walras John Bolton–The Trade Wracking Ball

Unfortunately, Europe is the first to suffer from this new reality. But is the European Union able to stage a showdown? Probably not. The populist wave flooding the EU countries is primarily the result of the social impacts of the fiscal policy imposed by Germany. While the US has an unemployment rate effectively past full employment, the rather sluggish growth in Europe produces a near-zero effect on this indicator. With 27 members, and because of the rule of “one country one vote,” as well as a possibly outdated view of how to incentivize growth and finance pensions, Europe has been slowing down even the possibility any development on issues such as immigration or common defense. Europe is shattered, all the more that there does not seem to be any solution on the horizon.

The group called the European Union does not weigh much against the forced march of Donald Trump. The US President only believes in bilateral agreements when it comes to international relations. The use of the principle of ex-territoriality, or diplomatic immunity, has taken the agreement with Iran out of the equation. The big French and German companies have already withdrawn from it.

Diplomacy is changing before our eyes. “The Western camp,” it seems, is becoming nothing more than a specter that does not rest on any on-the-ground reality.

Inevitably, each power will have to adapt, according to its own interests. As Europeans continue to cast their votes, these adjustments may, in turn, feed current divisions even more.

Ahmed Charai is a Moroccan publisher. He is on the board of directors for the Atlantic Council, an international counselor of the Center for a Strategic and International Studies, and a member of the Advisory Board of The Center for the National Interest in Washington and Advisory Board of Gatestone Institute in New York.

© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad speaks to VOA


May 30, 2018

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad speaks to The Voice of America (VOA)

 

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, back in power after a 15-year hiatus, says his first 20 years in office were “fairly easy” compared to what is confronting him now — massive debt in a country with an international reputation for corruption. Mahathir returned to power on May 9 in a spectacular election upset that saw him unite with his former opposition foes to overthrow a prime minister — Najib Razak — who is accused of helping to steal billions from his country in one of the biggest corporate frauds in history. Najib denies all the charges. “Well my first 20 years as prime minister was fairly easy. I inherited a system that is already there. All I had to do is to introduce new ideas so that we can expedite the growth and development of Malaysia,” the 92-year-old Mahathir told VOA in an exclusive interview. “But here I am dealing with a country that has been actually destroyed. Its finances have been destroyed. The system of government has been ignored and not used and a new system, or rather an authoritarian system has been introduced,” he said.

https://www.voanews.com/a/hold-for-vi…

President Donald Trump’s strategy for the upcoming midterm elections– Creating an immigration crisis


May 6, 2018

President Donald Trump’s strategy for the upcoming midterm elections– Creating an immigration crisis

by Dr. Fareed Zakaria@https://fareedzakaria.com

Image result for trump's immigration policy

President Trump has said that the group of migrants that recently made its way from Central America to the United States symbolizes out-of-control immigration, lawlessness and violence besetting the country. “Getting more dangerous. ‘Caravans’ coming,” he tweeted last month. This week, he added : “The migrant ‘caravan’ that is openly defying our border shows how weak & ineffective U.S. immigration laws are.”

The facts suggest the opposite. Last year, according to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection report, illegal cross-border migration was at its lowest level on record.

Trump, of course, claims that this drop is the result of his policies. Consider this boast from a State of the Union address, that the administration had put “more boots on the southern border than at any time in our history” and had cut “illegal crossings to their lowest levels in 40 years.” The problem with crediting Trump, however, is that this was the State of the Union delivered in February 2013 — and that the president making the speech was Barack Obama.

The decline in illegal immigration has been a two-decade trend. Over that time, the number of Border Patrol apprehensions along the southern border has dropped by about 80 percent, from 1.6 million in 2000 to 300,000 in 2017.

As for Mexican migration, even before Trump’s rise, more Mexicans were leaving the United States than entering. According to a Pew Research Center study, from 2009 to 2014, 1 million Mexicans and their families (including children born in the United States) went back to their home country, while 870,000 arrived here.

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As for that caravan, the more than 1,100 migrants largely from Central America fleeing poverty, gang violence and repression banded together for safety. They are a peaceful group of mostly women and children. Many will probably end up living in Mexico. A small number, about 200, are expected to apply for asylum in the United States, and past admission rates suggest that only a quarter will be accepted. That is the reality of the supposedly menacing caravan that Trump conjures up.

And yet, Trump is unrelenting in his attacks on these destitute, defenseless people. He demonizes them, describing them as threats to the United States, symbols of the lawlessness and violence that supposedly pervade the country. (In fact, violent crime has dropped by 66 percent since the early 1990s.)

Why is he doing this? The most likely answer is that he is searching for a strategy for the upcoming midterm elections, which are looking grim for Republicans, who have little to talk about. There is no trillion-dollar infrastructure program. The new tax law is unpopular, seen as largely a giveaway to corporations and the rich. It has not boosted economic growth as promised. Health care is now even more complex, given the partial repeal of Obamacare.

And then there are Trump’s own approval ratings, lower than any President’s in modern history at this point in his term except Jimmy Carter’s. Oh, and add to that the cloud of the investigation by Robert S. Mueller III. What is the way out for Republicans?

Focus on the cultural anxieties of the American public. Nothing embodies these fears as much as immigration. It has become a catch-all, particularly among non-college-educated whites, Trump’s core supporters. The President has often noted how crucial the border wall is to his base, declaring that “the thing they want more than anything is the wall.” Indeed, a recent poll indicated that 81 percent of Republicans want the wall to be built.

In a midterm, in which it is crucial to bring out your most ardent supporters, nothing will work as well as immigration. (Though do not be surprised if Trump also picks a few fights with black athletes or victims of police violence in the coming months.)

A study published last week by the National Academy of Sciences finds that Trump voters in the 2016 election were motivated less by economic anxiety and more by status anxiety — fears of waning power and status in a changing country. And an earlier analysis by the Public Religion Research Institute had come to a similar conclusion, highlighting “fears about cultural displacement” as the key to understanding the motivations of white, working-class Trump voters.

Image result for trump's immigration policy

Trump may not read academic studies, but he clearly understands in his gut what stirs his base. And he is determined to inflame these fears regardless of the facts or the effect it will have on the country.

(c) 2018, Washington Post Writers Group

Trump’s immigration game plan


May 5, 2018

Trump’s  immigration game plan

by Dr. Fareed  Zakaria

https://fareedzakaria.com/columns/2018/5/3/why-trump-is-manufacturing-an-immigration-crisis

Trump may not read academic studies, but he clearly understands in his gut what stirs his base. And he is determined to inflame these fears regardless of the facts or the effect it will have on the country.”–Dr. Fareed Zakaria

Image result for trump's immigration policy

President Trump has said that the group of migrants that recently made its way from Central America to the United States symbolizes out-of-control immigration, lawlessness and violence besetting the country. “Getting more dangerous. ‘Caravans’ coming,” he tweeted last month. This week, he added : “The migrant ‘caravan’ that is openly defying our border shows how weak & ineffective U.S. immigration laws are.”

The facts suggest the opposite. Last year, according to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection report, illegal cross-border migration was at its lowest level on record.

Trump, of course, claims that this drop is the result of his policies. Consider this boast from a State of the Union address, that the administration had put “more boots on the southern border than at any time in our history” and had cut “illegal crossings to their lowest levels in 40 years.” The problem with crediting Trump, however, is that this was the State of the Union delivered in February 2013 — and that the president making the speech was Barack Obama.

Image result for trump's immigration policy

“Mexico will pay for the Wall”, says POTUS -45

The decline in illegal immigration has been a two-decade trend. Over that time, the number of Border Patrol apprehensions along the southern border has dropped by about 80 percent, from 1.6 million in 2000 to 300,000 in 2017.

As for Mexican migration, even before Trump’s rise, more Mexicans were leaving the United States than entering. According to a Pew Research Center study, from 2009 to 2014, 1 million Mexicans and their families (including children born in the United States) went back to their home country, while 870,000 arrived here.

As for that caravan, the more than 1,100 migrants largely from Central America fleeing poverty, gang violence and repression banded together for safety. They are a peaceful group of mostly women and children. Many will probably end up living in Mexico. A small number, about 200, are expected to apply for asylum in the United States, and past admission rates suggest that only a quarter will be accepted. That is the reality of the supposedly menacing caravan that Trump conjures up.

Image result for trump's mexican wall

And yet, Trump is unrelenting in his attacks on these destitute, defenseless people. He demonizes them, describing them as threats to the United States, symbols of the lawlessness and violence that supposedly pervade the country. (In fact, violent crime has dropped by 66 percent since the early 1990s.)

Why is he doing this? The most likely answer is that he is searching for a strategy for the upcoming midterm elections, which are looking grim for Republicans, who have little to talk about. There is no trillion-dollar infrastructure program. The new tax law is unpopular, seen as largely a giveaway to corporations and the rich. It has not boosted economic growth as promised. Health care is now even more complex, given the partial repeal of Obamacare.

And then there are Trump’s own approval ratings, lower than any president’s in modern history at this point in his term except Jimmy Carter’s. Oh, and add to that the cloud of the investigation by Robert S. Mueller III. What is the way out for Republicans?

Focus on the cultural anxieties of the American public. Nothing embodies these fears as much as immigration. It has become a catch-all, particularly among non-college-educated whites, Trump’s core supporters. The President has often noted how crucial the border wall is to his base, declaring that “the thing they want more than anything is the wall.” Indeed, a recent poll indicated that 81 percent of Republicans want the wall to be built.

In a midterm, in which it is crucial to bring out your most ardent supporters, nothing will work as well as immigration. (Though do not be surprised if Trump also picks a few fights with black athletes or victims of police violence in the coming months.)

A study published last week by the National Academy of Sciences finds that Trump voters in the 2016 election were motivated less by economic anxiety and more by status anxiety — fears of waning power and status in a changing country. And an earlier analysis by the Public Religion Research Institute had come to a similar conclusion, highlighting “fears about cultural displacement” as the key to understanding the motivations of white, working-class Trump voters.

Trump may not read academic studies, but he clearly understands in his gut what stirs his base. And he is determined to inflame these fears regardless of the facts or the effect it will have on the country.

(c) 2018, Washington Post Writers Group

Paul Krugman: What’s the Matter with Trumpland?


April 4, 2018

Image result for What's the Matter with Trump

Jack Ma –What’s the Matter with this American President?

These days almost everyone has the (justified) sense that America is coming apart at the seams. But this isn’t a new story, or just about politics. Things have been falling apart on multiple fronts since the 1970s: Political polarization has marched side by side with economic polarization, as income inequality has soared.

And both political and economic polarization have a strong geographic dimension. On the economic side, some parts of America, mainly big coastal cities, have been getting much richer, but other parts have been left behind. On the political side, the thriving regions by and large voted for Hillary Clinton, while the lagging regions voted for Donald Trump.

I’m not saying that everything is great in coastal cities: Many people remain economically stranded even within metropolitan areas that look successful in the aggregate. And soaring housing costs, thanks in large part to Nimbyism, are a real and growing problem. Still, regional economic divergence is real and correlates closely, though not perfectly, with political divergence.

But what’s behind this divergence? What’s the matter with Trumpland?

Image result for Paul Krugman

Trump won 2016 Presidential Elections but he is breaking up American society on the pretext of draining the swamp in Washington DC. The Republican leaders in the House (Paul Ryan) and the Senate (Mitch McConnell) are helping Trump do it.–Din Merican

Image result for paul ryan mitch mcconnell

Regional disparities aren’t a new phenomenon in America. Indeed, before World War II the world’s richest, most productive nation was also a nation with millions of dirt-poor farmers, many of whom didn’t even have electricity or indoor plumbing. But until the 1970s those disparities were rapidly narrowing.

Take, for example, the case of Mississippi, America’s poorest state. In the 1930s, per-capita income in Mississippi was only 30 percent as high as per-capita income in Massachusetts. By the late 1970s, however, that figure was almost 70 percent — and most people probably expected this process of convergence to continue.

But the process went into reverse instead: These days, Mississippi is back down to only about 55 percent of Massachusetts income. To put this in international perspective, Mississippi now is about as poor relative to the coastal states as Sicily is relative to northern Italy.

Mississippi isn’t an isolated case. As a new paper by Austin, Glaeser and Summers documents, regional convergence in per-capita incomes has stopped dead. And the relative economic decline of lagging regions has been accompanied by growing social problems: a rising share of prime-aged men not working, rising mortality, high levels of opioid consumption.

An aside: One implication of these developments is that William Julius Wilson was right. Wilson famously argued that the social ills of the nonwhite inner-city poor had their origin not in some mysterious flaws of African-American culture but in economic factors — specifically, the disappearance of good blue-collar jobs. Sure enough, when rural whites faced a similar loss of economic opportunity, they experienced a similar social unraveling.

So what is the matter with Trumpland?

For the most part I’m in agreement with Berkeley’s Enrico Moretti, whose 2012 book, “The New Geography of Jobs,” is must reading for anyone trying to understand the state of America. Moretti argues that structural changes in the economy have favored industries that employ highly educated workers — and that these industries do best in locations where there are already a lot of these workers. As a result, these regions are experiencing a virtuous circle of growth: Their knowledge-intensive industries prosper, drawing in even more educated workers, which reinforces their advantage.

And at the same time, regions that started with a poorly educated work force are in a downward spiral, both because they’re stuck with the wrong industries and because they’re experiencing what amounts to a brain drain.

While these structural factors are surely the main story, however, I think we have to acknowledge the role of self-destructive politics.

That new Austin et al. paper makes the case for a national policy of aiding lagging regions. But we already have programs that would aid these regions — but which they won’t accept. Many of the states that have refused to expand Medicaid, even though the federal government would foot the great bulk of the bill — and would create jobs in the process — are also among America’s poorest.

Or consider how some states, like Kansas and Oklahoma — both of which were relatively affluent in the 1970s, but have now fallen far behind — have gone in for radical tax cuts, and ended up savaging their education systems. External forces have put them in a hole, but they’re digging it deeper.

And when it comes to national politics, let’s face it: Trumpland is in effect voting for its own impoverishment. New Deal programs and public investment played a significant role in the great postwar convergence; conservative efforts to downsize government will hurt people all across America, but it will disproportionately hurt the very regions that put the G.O.P. in power.

The truth is that doing something about America’s growing regional divide would be hard even with smart policies. The divide will only get worse under the policies we’re actually likely to get.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A23 of the New York edition with the headline: What’s the Matter With Trumpland?. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

GE-14 :Time to shift Political Discourse to Policy Issues


February 25, 2018

GE-14 :Time to shift Political Discourse to Policy Issues

by Wan Saiful Wan Jan

http://www.thestar.com.my

THE date of GE14 has been on our minds for quite some time. Most analysts I know are suggesting that polling will likely take place in April or early May.

Image result for ge-14 najib vs mahathir

Political parties are clearly ramping up their efforts to woo voters. Ceramah are organised every night in various places across the country. These talks are quite exciting to watch.

In the absence of good stand-up comedy shows, the hypocrisy of some of our politicians is the next best thing, especially when they claim that their side monopolises everything that is good, while those who are not on their sides are the root of all evil. Isn’t it amusing that, in their eyes, everything is either black or white, with no shades of grey at all?

I suspect that as we get closer to GE14, race and religion will once again dominate the political discourse.

Image result for Malaysia --Battle for the Malays
UMNO Leaders–Najib Razak and Zahid Hamidi–can be expected to play the Islam and Malay Survival card in order to retain power. Najib Razak’s shift towards policy issues is an attempt to appear liberal and moderate to non-Malay voters–Din Merican

 

This is necessary because politicians from ethnic-based parties need to achieve immediate-term victories, while the long-term fate of this country is not the top priority.

Ensuring society is divided and sowing distrust between groups are the only way for ethnic- and religion-based parties to remain relevant in the modern world. If society rejects division, starts to trust each other unconditionally and opts for unity, these parties will become irrelevant.

I can be more specific. I have been studying Malay politics and Malay political parties in depth since March last year. In the many interviews and focus group discussions I’ve conducted, the most common issue brought up by the Malay voters is their fear of a Chinese “takeover”.

In the eyes of many Malays, the Chinese cannot be trusted because they want to remove Malay political control from the rubric of this country. Supposedly, the Chinese can only be trusted if they are subservient.

The impact of this sentiment is many-pronged. UMNO and PAS will remain influential in constituencies with certain demographics without much contest. As a coalition, Pakatan Harapan must accept the Malay leadership provided by Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Pribumi), just like Barisan Nasional accepted the leadership of UMNO.

 

Image result for Malaysia --Battle for the Malays

Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad– The Revivalist and Reformer

Non-Malay parties in both BN and Pakatan must know what they can talk about and what they must avoid. The dividing lines may be invisible, but they exist. And, for the politicians who feel that they cannot win when debating policy and governance, their best strategy is to further embed the dividing lines.

Sadly for Malaysia, the divide-and-rule strategy is still the more successful one when it comes to political competition. In fact, ethno-religious division is so rooted in the country today to the extent anyone who does not play the same game will find it very difficult to win.

My biggest fear is the damage created by this divisive strategy will be entrenched even further in our society as a consequence of what the politicians do to win in GE14.  But desperate politicians usually have no qualms about destroying relations between our multicultural groups so long as they can win in the immediate term.

Having said the above, I am glad that there is an increasing number of political leaders calling for debates that are more policy-oriented. If you listen to the formal speeches by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak over the last few weeks, you can sense the push towards policy. And many other politicians, from both sides, are following suit.

I also noticed that among the ideas gaining traction is the proposal to separate the roles of the Attorney-General from that of the Public Prosecutor.

Currently, there is a clear conflict of interest because the A-G is also the Public Prosecutor. The A-G holds absolute discretion in deciding whether to prosecute someone.

The A-G is also the chief legal adviser to the Government, which means the Government is his “client”. It is incredible that the defence lawyer also holds the power to decide if his own client should be taken to court.

I think this is among the most urgent changes that we need to make. The Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) has been advocating this reform for more than three years now, and I am glad that more people have warmed up to the proposal. I hope political parties from both sides will now take it one step further and include this reform in their respective manifestos.

It is not difficult to make this change. The A-G should be a politician who is a member of the Cabinet.

He will continue to be chief legal adviser to the Government. The Prime Minister should appoint a trusted MP to this post. But the Public Prosecutor should be a different person, appointed from the legal or judicial system, or perhaps even a suitable senior civil servant.

The main point is, the Public Prosecutor should not be a political appointment, whereas the Attorney-General can be. That way, the Public Prosecutor has no master other than the rule of law.

Wan Saiful Wan Jan is chief executive of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (www.ideas.org.my). The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.

Wan Saiful Wan Jan

Wan Saiful Wan Jan is chief executive of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs.