Rutland Herald and Monpelier (Barre) Times Argus
July 22nd, 1018
During his presidential campaign President Donald Trump said "it's going to be so easy" to repeal and replace Obamacare. Barely a month into his presidency, he would complain, "Nobody knew healthcare would be so complicated." Actually, anyone who understood healthcare was aware it was complicated. It's just that he didn't.
So, it was no surprise, when faced with dealing with North Korea's growing nuclear threat, President Trump said, "It's not as simple as people would think." Again, no one who knew North Korea thought it was simple. It's just that he did.
This is the continuing story of the Trump presidency - that the man really doesn't know much. And in the area of foreign policy, when the president of the United States doesn't understand basic issues, he can do some serious damage.
A useful start for examining Trump's foreign policy is to consider how the rest of the world sees him. It so happens last month, the highly credible Pew Research Center published a report after polling more than 40 thousand people in 37 countries. It states that Donald Trump’s presidency and many of his key policies are broadly unpopular around the globe. According to the new survey just 22% expressed confidence in Trump to do the right thing when it comes to international affairs. This stands in contrast to the final years of Barack Obama’s presidency, when 64% were confident in his ability to direct America’s role in the world.
Here are some specifics:
- 62% oppose tighter American restrictions on immigrants from six mainly Muslim countries.
- 71% oppose American withdrawal from Paris climate change agreement.
-76% oppose the construction of a wall to keep Mexicans out.
On the subject of Trump's character, by a wide margin the top three descriptions chosen by the global public were "arrogant," "Intolerant" and "dangerous."
Last month, the Washington Post published a major examination of how President Trump's has changed American foreign policy. I would like to highlight some of it here, along with some of my own comments.
The Post report begins by noting that President Trump had campaigned on an "America First" philosophy which promised less foreign intervention, fairer trade deals and stronger borders. Within this framework the Post says Trump has made "concrete changes," in some cases reversing signature Obama achievements.
These include American withdrawal from the Trans Pacific partnership, his rejection of the Paris Climate change agreement and the institution of a travel ban against originally seven now six Muslim majority nations.
The Post's next category is more intriguing. These are the policies it says were "partially or fully unrealized." These include Russia, the Iran nuclear deal, the Mexican border wall, ISIS, Syria, North Korea, Afghanistan, NATO, Cuba, Israel-Palestine and NAFTA.
Let's look at a few of these in more detail.
- Russia. Even with Trump's evident fixation with Russia, he has- as yet- made no major policy shifts that we know of. In two plus hours of talks with Russian President PutIn he evidently accepted Putin's denials of Russian meddling in the 2016 American election. But at mid-week we learned of a previously undisclosed Trump-Putin meeting at the G-20 dinner in Hamburg in which the two talked for an hour, using only a Russian interpreter. At the summit level, this is considered reckless. Who knows what it produced?
-Iran nuclear deal: This was the International agreement to freeze Iran's nuclear program in exchange for lifting economic sanctions. Trump has repeatedly called it "the worst" agreement he had ever seen and threatened to get out if he was elected. But he hasn't. In fact he has now twice officially certified that Iran is complying with its end of the bargain. What that tells me is that at least on this issue, Trump is listening to his experts, who believe that if America pulls out of the deal, Iran's nuclear program will soon be unfrozen and in a year or two. America will be faced with still another hostile nuclear power.
-Syria. When it appeared Syria President Bashar Assad had used poison gas on more of his own people, unlike President Obama,Trump was quick to react, sending 59 cruise missiles onto the Syrian-Russian airbase from which the poison gas attack was said to originate
But this was clearly a one off- very little damage was done and no major strategic changes have taken place. Pentagon officials maintain they will continue to keep U.S. troops out of the conflict.
-North Korea. By relying on China to put the squeeze on North Korea, and calling for broad economic sanctions, Trump's actions have not been dissimilar from Obama's, although recently his warnings have been more bellicose. The problem is there really is no credible military solution to the threat that North Korea increasingly represents. .
I have my own thoughts about what should be done. North Korea already has nuclear weapons and it is testing missiles which eventually could threaten the mainland United States.That said, North Korea is not going to give up its nukes, because they were developed solely to thwart any attempts by the U.S. at regime change.. The fates of Iraq's Saddam Hussein and Libya's Muammar Gaddafi substantiate their paranoia.
So unless America is willing to use major military force to destroy North Korea's nuclear capabilities, which would almost certainly provoke the North into massive retaliation against the millions of South Koreans in Seoul and the thousands of American troops serving there- denial that North Korea is now a nuclear power makes no sense.
Once that tacit recognition is made it would be incumbent upon the American president to explicitly warn North Korea's dictator Kim Jung Un, that if he should ever dare to use nukes against America or its allies, he and his country would cease to exist. I do not think he is suicidal and based on Cold War history, I believe this would be an effective deterrent.
I welcome your comments. To post your thoughts, click the word "comments" below.