Trump’s Geopolitical Madness

Donald Trump James Mattis
American president Donald Trump and his then-defense secretary, James Mattis, arrive for a NATO summit in Brussels, July 12, 2018 (NATO)

Defenders of Donald Trump’s foreign policy confuse his lack of sentimentality for realism. In fact, his disinterest in America’s decades-old alliances in Europe and the Far East defies a century of geopolitical wisdom.

Strategists from Halford Mackinder to Zbigniew Brzezinski understood that only a united Eurasia, which has two-thirds of the world’s population and resources, can pose a threat to the Americas, while Robert Kagan and Henry Kissinger recently warned, in The Jungle Grows Back (2018) and World Order (2014), respectively, that the long peace since World War II has owed as much to American “hard” power as to the world’s belief that Americans will, by and large, do the right thing.

These assumptions were widely shared in Washington — until Trump became president. Read more “Trump’s Geopolitical Madness”

“Strategic Autonomy” Divides Europe’s Top Liberals

Angela Merkel Ursula von der Leyen Emmanuel Macron Mark Rutte
German chancellor Angela Merkel, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and French president Emmanuel Macron watch Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte walk into a European Council meeting in Brussels, July 18 (European Council)

Emmanuel Macron and Mark Rutte belong to the same European liberal family, but they take different views on the future of the liberal world order.

The French president believes Europe should become less reliant on the United States and foreign trade. He argues for “strategic autonomy” in everything from the digital economy to defense to environmental policy.

The Dutch prime minister has doubts, rooted in decades of Dutch Atlanticism and centuries of overseas trade.

Both have allies.

Macron has the support of German chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, a former German defense minister.

Rutte is backed by smaller countries in Central and Northern Europe as well others in the European Commission. The Financial Times reports that plenty suspect “strategic autonomy” is a fancy way to dress up French protectionism; are wary of formally endorsing the principle if it means undermining NATO and open trade; and are skeptical of the push for reshoring of industry and supply chains.

They have reason to be. Read more ““Strategic Autonomy” Divides Europe’s Top Liberals”

How to Restore American Democracy After Trump

United States Capitol
The United States Capitol in Washington DC (Shutterstock/Brandon Bourdages)

Donald Trump’s presidency has exposed and exacerbated fundamental weaknesses in American democracy. He must be voted out in November, but that won’t be enough.

If Democrats gain power, they must make five reforms to restore fairness, restore balance between the three branches of government and reverse the polarization that has made it impossible for the two parties to compromise on everything from climate change to gun laws to health care to immigration:

  1. Abolish the Electoral College.
  2. Add states.
  3. Put Congress first.
  4. Make it easier to remove the president.
  5. Abolish the two parties. Read more “How to Restore American Democracy After Trump”

How Trump Will Try to Steal the Election

Donald Trump
American president Donald Trump enters a limousine at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, September 17 (White House/Shealah Craighead)

America could be heading into its worst political crisis since the Civil War.

If, as the polls predict, Joe Biden wins more votes in November but Donald Trump refuses to leave, there is no template for how to guarantee a peaceful transfer of power.

Asked on Wednesday if he would commit to one, the president said, “We’re going to have to see what happens.”

You know that I have been complaining very strongly about the ballots. And the ballots are a disaster. … Get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer frankly. There’ll be a continuation.

He also explained why he’s in a rush to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the Supreme Court:

I think this will end up in the Supreme Court. And I think it’s very important that we have nine justices.

Ginsburg, a liberal justice appointed by Bill Clinton, died a week ago. The Court now has five conservative and three liberal members.

In 2016, Trump told supporters he would only accept the outcome if he won.

When he did win, Trump claimed — without evidence — that three million people had voted illegally for Hillary Clinton, the very margin by which she won the popular vote. Trump prevailed in the Electoral College.

If Trump loses this year and refuses to concede, that alone could throw the period between the election on November 3 and the inauguration on January 20 into chaos.

But there’s more Trump and his party could do to stay in power. Read more “How Trump Will Try to Steal the Election”

Conservatives Should Look to Bavaria

Colomanskirche Schwangau Germany
Colomanskirche in Bavaria, Germany, May 26, 2019 (Zsolt Czillinger)

Caroline de Gruyter writes in EUobserver that Bavaria’s Christian Social Union (CSU) — which allies with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union nationally — has moved back to the center after it tried, and failed, to outflank the far right.

Conservatives in France, Spain and the United States should take note. Read more “Conservatives Should Look to Bavaria”

Don’t Defund the Police

Police car Washington DC
Police car outside the White House in Washington DC (Unsplash/Matt Popovich)

It’s exasperating to see yet another black man shot by police in America when he posed no apparent threat. Officers fired seven bullets into the back of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, when he leaned into his car.

Blake survived. George Floyd didn’t. He suffocated when a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, sat on his neck for almost 9 minutes in Minneapolis in May.

Floyd’s death triggered nationwide protests. Blake’s shooting provoked demonstrations as well as looting and riots in Kenosha.

Black men in America are two-and-a-half times more likely to be killed by police than white men. African Americans comprise 12 percent of the population but 33 percent of prisoners. Black men are routinely arrested and prosecuted for misdemeanors and victimless crimes when whites aren’t.

So it’s not hard to understand why “defund the police” has become a popular slogan.

But it’s not a solution. Read more “Don’t Defund the Police”

What Biden Wants

Joe Biden
Former American vice president Joe Biden gives a speech in Des Moines, Iowa, January 4 (Phil Roeder)

Joe Biden could become the most progressive president of the United States since Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

That might sound odd after he was declared a “centrist” and the “establishment” candidate in the Democratic primaries.

The former vice president isn’t as left-wing as some of his former rivals, like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. He doesn’t want to break up big tech, defund the police, forgive all student loans or nationalize health insurance.

But the whole Democratic Party has moved to the left and Biden has moved with it. He has involved Democrats and allies from the left to the center, including environmental and minority rights groups, gun control advocates and trade unions, in drafting his program. Left-wing congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez helped write his climate policy. Biden incorporated Senator Cory Booker’s proposal to tie federal funding to looser building codes in his housing plan.

The result is that Biden has buy-in from across the Democratic coalition, which — provided the party wins not just the presidency but the Senate in November — means his plans stand a good chance of becoming reality. Read more “What Biden Wants”

Why Republicans Need to Lose Decisively

Donald Trump
American president Donald Trump answers questions from reporters in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, July 18, 2019 (White House/Shealah Craighead)

Anti-Trump conservatives in the United States are debating how much to punish the Republican Party for enabling a would-be strongman.

David French argues against voting out Republicans at every level, calling it “counterproductive for those of us who still believe that the conservative elements of the Republican Party provide the best prospects for securing the liberty, prosperity and security of the American republic” and “completely devoid of grace.”

It ignores the monumental pressures that Donald Trump has placed on the entire GOP and the lack of good options that so many GOP officeholders faced.

Charles Sykes is less forgiving, arguing it’s impossible to defeat Trumpism while leaving his bootlickers in power.

I agree. Going against Trump may have been difficult for Republican legislators; we don’t elect politicians to do the easy thing. Read more “Why Republicans Need to Lose Decisively”

EU Once Again Proves the Doomsayers Wrong

Mark Rutte Pedro Sánchez Charles Michel
Prime Ministers Mark Rutte of the Netherlands and Pedro Sánchez of Spain speak with European Council president Charles Michel in Brussels, July 20 (European Council)

Whenever the EU is in crisis, you can count on the doomsayers to predict its imminent demise.

Not just the Euroskeptics: British tabloids, Russian propaganda and far-right politicians amplified by Russian propaganda arguing the EU is on the “brink of collapse”.

Even Europhiles. Former European Commission chief Jacques Delors warned that “the lack of European solidarity pose[s] a mortal danger to the European Union.” Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte threatened the “destruction of the single market” if other EU countries didn’t agree with his demand for a €750 billion coronavirus recovery fund consisting wholly or largely of debt-financed grants.

Lucas Guttenberg, deputy director of the Jacques Delors Center in Berlin, warned that Austria, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands and Sweden — the “frugal five” — were “playing with fire” by demanding verifiable economic reforms in return for financial support.

Christopher Wratil, an assistant professor in European politics at the University College London, argued “anyone with a sense of solidarity” would exclude those five countries from the recovery fund altogether.

As the EU summit, where the size and terms of the recovery program were hashed out this weekend, dragged on for days, the patience of pro-Europeans wore thin and inevitably World War II entered the discussion. Philipp Heimberger, an economist at the Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies, tweeted:

Thinking about the Marshall Plan and debt forgiveness after World War II. Striking: leading European politicians today are oblivious to history. How else could you become a nitpicker on essential common efforts for an EU recovery fund, harming your own long-term interests?

Pay up, or war! Read more “EU Once Again Proves the Doomsayers Wrong”

Italy Should Heed Dutch Advice

Giuseppe Conte Mark Rutte
Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte is received by his Dutch counterpart, Mark Rutte, in The Hague, July 10 (Palazzo Chigi)

The Dutch government is criticized in the international media for resisting EU grants (it prefers loans conditions on reforms) to help pay for the economic recovery in coronavirus-struck Southern Europe. But the critics are oddly incurious about the Netherlands’ motives.

An editorial in Monday’s Financial Times is typical. It accuses Prime Minister Mark Rutte of singlehandedly putting the EU economy at risk, but it resorts to stereotype and innuendo to explain why he’s unwilling to sign off on a €750 billion recovery fund: the Dutch are stingy and Rutte is worried about losing voters to the Euroskeptic right. (He’s never been more popular.)

Mr Rutte pays lip service to the idea of a stronger, geopolitical Europe but is unwilling to accept the price tag that comes with it, especially with national elections looming next year.

I single out the Financial Times because it should know better. There have been worse opinion columns in the Italian and Spanish press.

At least the Financial Times hints at the need for “productivity-enhancing reforms” in Italy and Spain, which have borne the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic. But it doesn’t say which reforms or why.

In an opinion column for EUobserver, I do. Read more “Italy Should Heed Dutch Advice”