Saturday, June 30, 2018

The Best Analysis yet of Trump’s America

The article by Frank Buckley, Brian Lee Crowley and Sean Speer in today’s Globe & Mail is by far the best analysis of the driving forces behind the new American  government that I have read.

The article (headed Canada must recognize that the game is changing) is a clear, insightful, penetrating and very accurate assessment of the changed world view all the countries now face in the Trump administration.

If you want to influence Canada’s reaction to Trump, cut out the article and send it (or a hyperlink to it), to your own MP and local journalists. The more people who read it the better for all of us. You can find the article here.  

Why is this analysis so remarkable?

Because most commentators and politicians (including the Trudeau Liberal government) are missing the boat.

Tectonic shift represented by Trump:

The essence is that there is a massive shift taking place in the view of Americans of the place that America occupies in the world, with some of that shift taking the form of the election of Trump.

The authors:
  • dissect Trump’s views in the context of this tectonic shift, 
  • agree that many of his positions reflect that shift, 
  • point out that Trump has been very consistent in his own views, 
  • highlight the nature of the change (from a more subdued nanny state posture to a more transactional one), 
  • and recommend a fresh approach in dealings by other states with the new America.

Major facts of the new American approach:

A few quotes from their article will illustrate:

The truth is he’s been consistent about the need to revisit the basic framework for U.S. global engagement for some time. It started with his campaign launch when he talked about the United States’ asymmetrical trade and military relationships with various countries. As he put it then: “We have all the cards, but we don’t know how to use them. We don’t even know we have the cards because our leaders don’t understand the game.”

And about symmetry:

He’s fed up with asymmetry on inputs combined with symmetry in influence. One can certainly argue that he’s wrong or that his administration is mishandling these issues. But the questions he’s asking aren’t at all unreasonable.

And Americans’ views of the trade-offs:

Is the United States getting value for this spending? Are these institutions still the best means of advancing American interests?

Mr. Trump’s “America First” model, which has majority public support, says no. It thus proposes to replace the notion of “American leadership” of a largely consensual alliance with a rawer exercise of national interest. 

This doesn’t necessarily mean isolationism. But it unambiguously involves a narrower conception of American interests and the United States’ role in the world.

What this means for the future:

We’ll likely see more ad hoc arrangements in U.S. foreign policy rather than permanent international institutions or structures. We’ll also likely see more utilitarian or realist engagements with different countries on an issue-by-issue basis.

The ineffectiveness of tariff retaliations:

The truth is the Trump administration just doesn’t care.
It also isn’t going to be moved by “retaliatory” measures.

Change needed in Canada’s approach to the new America:

The authors propose several changes.

One critical one concerns China:

Instead, a new transactional arrangement must be focused on mutual exchange. The Canadian government must advance areas of mutual interest to work in partnership with the administration. 

Targeting China’s unfair trading practices and national security risks is one example of a policy on which Washington would welcome Canadian help. 

Co-operating on regulatory harmonization to reduce binational transaction costs is another.

Hurry to the newstand and get your hands on this article. Read it several times, until its arguments are lodged firmly in your mind. Send copies or links to all you think might be concerned about what’s happening.

And measure any proposals offered by politicians or pundits against the hard facts in this article.

You will be surprised by how vacuous most suggestions are.

Oh, and welcome to the new  age of America First.

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