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They’re baffled by Trump? Not a bit of it… July 12, 2018

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Some time back I knew a person who used to occasionally crop up on panels or giving presentations at conferences. They had quite a schtick. They’d sit down quietly but within a few minutes start very vehemently disagreeing with an opinion offered by a usually older or better known person on the panel. For those who hadn’t seen this before it came across as a remarkable, laudable even, willingness to take on others. For those who had it became ever increasingly predictable. Because it happened at every event this person was involved in. And the point wasn’t, of course, to arrive at a greater understanding of the issues but instead to ensure that the person who articulated these disagreements had as high a profile as possible. The most entertaining / irritating aspect was to see behind the scenes ahead of the events at lunches or meetings where even when the same issues were discussed there was never a hint of disagreement. That was always left for the public side. And more than one person treated to this had a look of bewilderment at the sudden change of tone.

Almost needless to say the issues themselves were far from existential.

And there’s all of that in the current Trump approach to NATO and indeed almost all arena’s he finds himself in. Of course he’s going to attack rhetorically, it’s easy to do so against nominal allies-what are they going to do back? And of course he’ll parade his ego-that’s easy too. And it’s easy too to talk of excellent relations with nominal enemies he’ll meet for an hour or two a couple of times a year. And he’ll make demands and fly out again and next year we’ll hear a repeat performance.

But the idea the ‘allies’ are baffled is very wide of the mark. I’d bet this was factored in long ago. And that presents an interesting set of questions because how are they meant to deal with this? Ignore it? Work around it? Hardly confront it, or not yet. But he’s predictable even if the specific line of attack is not. And the problem with a schtick – however good or bad – is that it is just a schtick. The world continues to turn, events move on, people will cope and hope something or someone better turns up.

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1. Barnes - July 12, 2018

They can’t be baffled. They have been listening to it every year since president 43. Obama said the same in 2014,15, and in 2016 bother before and after the election.

There is a current of thought in American foreign policy which seems to argue exactly what trump is saying and it goes all the way back to Bush.

I don’t think this is just Trump. He may just be the crowd articulator of a strategy being honed by clever people. He is doing it in a blunt and harder way but this isn’t just him.

Reuters had an article where in some EU diplomat said in Europe their was a realisation that Trump actually appears to have a strategic vision and appears to be rolling it out and wasn’t just a total bumbler.

It was depressing to think EU diplomats could be so intellectually lazy and just go with the idea that Trump is tit there that’s our full analysis. Well he is a tit and perhaps a total one but even such can have plans.
I read a small book before written by some GoP type and lent to me by a Korean. It argued thr precise points Trump is making.

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2. EWI - July 12, 2018

Don’t engage, don’t react.

Trump is looking for escalation to drive his fanbase, maybe provide the pretext to storm out of NATO.

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Barnes - July 13, 2018

But he can proceed without them. He can rewrite a lot of what they believe is the fixed order and they’ll have no choice but to react
They have to react to Iran. They have to react to aluminium tariffs. They will have to react to the coming car tariffs. They will have to react to the likely coming nordstream tariffs and now they will have to react to him sounding like NATO is a waste of space.

This will go down well with his fan base but it’s bigger than just appealing to them.

Now he is apparently pushing may for a hard brexit.

The EU cannot pretend he isn’t there. He is too powerful and too engaged on undermining the EU at , it seems, every turn .

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EWI - July 13, 2018

The EU cannot pretend he isn’t there. He is too powerful and too engaged on undermining the EU at , it seems, every turn .

But Trump’s schtick – the (fascist) strongman schtick – is to keep hitting and keep your opponent off balance, appear a winner to your fans.They need to duck and weave so his punches don;’t connect, and get some of their own in elsewhere (aggressive external tariffs tied to CO2 emissions, as has been knocking around for a while, would be an excellent start).

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Barnes - July 13, 2018

My belief is they can’t duck and weave because :
(1) little capability to pursue a truly independent foreign policy
(2) little ability to assert an independent defensive posture or to maintain it’s interests
(3) dependence on the rest if the world to feed it’s surplus to maintain it’s current economic model.

Tariffs threaten point 3 and Germany most of all. The ability of Europe to last a trade war will be sorely tested and the EU cannot avoid this.

The German car industry is already having. It agreed to have zero tariffs on American cars with the us ambassador. Neither was authorised to agree such a thing but it sure undermined the unity of Germany in the face of tariffs.

To prepare for this moment would have taken 20 years but no preparation was made.

The Trump wrecking ball will have free reign and it’s serious.

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WorldbyStorm - July 13, 2018

Don’t think the German car industry did agree to that though that’s the framing by some pro Brexit UK press. There was indeed a meeting but according to Reuters while an offer was made it wasn’t agreed and indeed it couldn’t be ‘agreed’ unilaterally by the heads of the car manufacturers since that’s not how tariffs work. They’re not company to state but state or EU to state.

I think it is important to keep these matters in perspective – the US doesn’t have sufficient weight of its own to simply push everyone else either by threats or cajoling to agree with it. It’s also fair to say Trump is unique, the fact is in all these years other states haven’t faced this sort of a President, and he overestimates his own power. As noted elsewhere there are limits not least in Congress and the GOP to his pursuing outright trade wars. Sectoral conflict sure but even with say German cars the reality is fewer and fewer are imported simply from the EU and more and more are made inside NAFTA including most importantly the US itself – in that respect manufacturers have been inadvertently or not preparing.

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