Donald Trump Ignores All of Zbigniew Brzezinski’s Advice

Former American national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski speaks at an event of the Atlantic Council in Washington DC, April 29, 2014
Former American national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski speaks at an event of the Atlantic Council in Washington DC, April 29, 2014 (ImageLink Photography/Dennis Kan)

For almost a century, America’s strategic priority has been to prevent the emergence of a dominant power in Eurasia that could challenge it for world supremacy.

Halford Mackinder recognized as early as 1904 that a single power could lord over the continent if it controlled the entire Eurasian “Heartland”, stretching from Moscow to Tehran to Vladivostok.

Alfred Thayer Mahan and Nicholas Spykman argued it was rather control of the “Rimlands” on the edge of Eurasia that could tip the balance of power: Europe, the Middle East and East Asia.

Their ideas were not mutually exclusive. They both informed the United States’ successful policy of containment during the Cold War. To block Russian ambitions, America allied with democratic Europe, Turkey, the shah’s Iran and Japan. It exploited the Sino-Soviet split and armed the mujahideen in Afghanistan to hasten the Soviet Union’s demise.

Now Donald Trump is overturning this century-old wisdom. Read more

Mar-a-Lago Summit Overshadowed by Syria Strikes

Miniature American and Chinese flags on a table at the Pentagon in Washington DC, August 23, 2012
Miniature American and Chinese flags on a table at the Pentagon in Washington DC, August 23, 2012 (DoD/Glenn Fawcett)

The recent summit between Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping was unprecedented in its fashion and noteworthy in several respects.

Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida was an unusual venue for the first meeting between the two most powerful men on the planet. Barack Obama’s summits with the Chinese president were more formal.

The summit was expected to shed light on the policies of both leaders toward various smoldering issues: North Korea, Taiwan, territorial disputes in the South China Sea and Sino-American trade relations. Read more

Stop Reading Masterplans into Donald Trump’s Mistakes

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau speaks with American president Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, February 13
Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau speaks with American president Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, February 13 (Flickr/Justin Trudeau)

Donald Trump’s first weeks as president have been so shambolic, it’s almost hard to believe he can really be so incompetent.

Indeed, some refuse to. From his misguided attacks on the judiciary to his botched diplomacy with China, these are observers who read masterplans into Trump’s puerile behavior.

Please don’t.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Trump, it’s that he is self-absorbed and ill-tempered. He had no political experience before seeing the presidency and now surrounds himself in the White House with sycophants and zealots, as opposed to critical thinkers and professionals.

The more likely explanation for his mistakes is that they’re just that: mistakes. Read more

Remember Trump’s “One China” Threat? It Was a Stupid Bluff

American president Donald Trump reviews troops at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, February 6
American president Donald Trump reviews troops at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, February 6 (DoD/D. Myles Cullen)

Remember when Donald Trump, then newly elected, accepted a phone call from the president of Taiwan and his apologists told us it was all part of a masterplan? If it meant revising the “One China” policy, they said, well, maybe that needed revising anyway? Who’s China to say which countries America can and cannot recognize!

My interpretation was that Trump was simply ignorant of the sensitivities of Sino-Americans relations and had blundered his way into a diplomatic incident.

Trump’s first phone call with the president of China, Xi Jinping, supports that contention. Read more

Uncertainty in China as Trump Takes Office

Men stare across the bay of Shanghai, China, April 10, 2010
Men stare across the bay of Shanghai, China, April 10, 2010 (Ying Tang)

This weekend, more than a billion Chinese will gather with their families to celebrate the Chinese New Year and the Year of the Rooster. It is a lively tradition, the biggest family celebration in the year and, like New Year’s Eve in the West, it breathes the magic of the new.

But with the inauguration of the new American president, Donald Trump, it is even more unpredictable what this new year will bring. Read more

World Upside Down: China Defends Globalization from America

President Xi Jinping of China attends the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 17
President Xi Jinping of China attends the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 17 (WEF/Valeriano Di Domenico)

Chinese president Xi Jinping defended globalization in an address to the World Economic Forum on Tuesday, likening the world’s interconnectedness to a “big ocean that you cannot escape from.”

Xi didn’t mention Donald Trump, but his speech sounded like a warning to the incoming American president.

“Pursuing protectionism is just like locking one’s self in a dark room,” Xi said: “Wind and rain might be kept outside but so are light and air.” Read more

Why Taiwan Could (Still) Start World War III

An F-18 fighter jet prepares for launch on flight deck of the American aircraft carrier USS Nimitz on deployment in the Pacific Ocean, June 27, 2012
An F-18 fighter jet prepares for launch on flight deck of the American aircraft carrier USS Nimitz on deployment in the Pacific Ocean, June 27, 2012 (USN/Ian A. Cotter)

Surely you know already the tripwire: Taiwan is a de facto country but a de jure province of mainland China. The people’s republic wants to bring it back under mainland China’s rule while the people of Taiwan want exactly the opposite.

Moreover, Taiwan’s military security is guaranteed by the United States via the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, which stipulates the United States must respond militarily to a communist invasion.

So if the PRC tries to bring Taiwan back into the fold by military force, the United States must retaliate. Conventional battles turn to nuclear battles and then we all die in the irradiated glow of our own monstrous weapons. Read more