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Trump the dealmaker will see politics as transactional and turn his talents to diplomacy, trying to rework Nato, say, or America’s poisonous relationship with Putin (“I think I’d be able to get along with him”) or with China, the last a relationship where trade disputes and great power rivalry could intersect in dangerous ways.

The greatest negotiators in the world are going to be busy, and if they apply the brinkmanship, bad faith and histrionics that typically come with big-ticket real estate transactions, the world will be in for sleepless nights, nights made more fraught still by Trump’s long-held belief that negotiation is a zero-sum game. There are only winners and losers, and Donald Trump is not a loser. 

But, for all this uncertainty, there are themes certain to be reflected in the policies that will be pursued by a Trump administration. Pre-eminent among them is his suspicion — shared by many Americans — that the US is being ripped off by its partners, whether in trade or in defence. As far back as 1987, Trump spent nearly $100,000 on full-page newspaper ads in which he maintained that Japan (then regarded as America’s main economic challenger) was free-riding off America’s willingness to pick up the tab for the country’s defence. He argued for a different approach: “Make Japan, Saudi Arabia, and others pay for the protection we extend our allies . . . ‘Tax’ these wealthy nations, not America . . . Let America’s economy grow unencumbered by the cost of defending those who can easily afford to pay us for the defence of their freedom. Let’s not let our great country be laughed at any more.” 

Nearly 30 years later, Trump was making a similar case to the New York Times (and not only the New York Times), except that the list of freeloaders now included most of Nato, run on a basis that he described as “unfair”, an adjective that, with its synonyms, has long been a bad, bad word in the Trump lexicon. In keeping with The Donald’s paranoid style, it hints at hostile conspiracy. Remember all that talk of a “rigged” election? But back to Nato: the US, Trump complained, was paying a “disproportionate share” of the freight.

He has a point. Currently America pays a little over 20 per cent of Nato’s direct costs, a number which is adjusted regularly and based on a percentage of its share of the alliance’s collective GNP. That seems reasonable enough (and, as these things go, the number is not huge), but the real problem concerns something far larger. The US effectively accounts for more than 70 per cent of all defence spending by Nato members. Some of that mismatch reflects the global reach of American power, not all of which is of much benefit to other Nato states either directly or indirectly, but even so.

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Juggling For A Cure
January 16th, 2017
2:01 AM
Liberal media and celebrities were acidic toward Trump before election as well. However they did not remember that acid turns blue litmus red.

Milton Ezrati
December 19th, 2016
10:12 AM
Criticism of anything by Andrew Stuttaford always presents a challenge. The problem is he writes so much and is generally so thoughtful and so clever that one cannot help but agree with many of his points. The above has an equivocal title that makes my point - "Trump is No Loser, But Government is Harder". In this one, as with so much written about Trump, it is less his analysis that irritates than his tone. This piece starts with a confession that the author underestimated Trump's ability to take the Republican nomination and a further confession that he underestimated Trump's ability to win the general election. But then, without a hint of further humility, Stuttaford rolls on to examine how Trump's abilities will fall short of the demands of the job. One cannot argue with such a conclusion. I cannot think of anyone who has abilities fully up to the demands of that job. One can only hope that Trump, behind his boastful manner, has enough humility to proceed carefully and to subject his initial attitudes to review. One can only hope, too, that Mr. Stuttaford might reflect on his earlier failures and subject his initial attitudes to review. But he, like so much elite opinion, seems to feel no need to hesitate even for a moment or qualify conclusions in light of past failings. I suspect, though I cannot know, that he, and much elite opinion, cannot help himself because Trump is so unlike him in style, background, and aspiration, and that might be the most mortal of sins. One passage in the article stood out in this regard. About a third of the way through, Stuttaford tells us that Trump has "boasted about hiring the best and letting them get on with it." Then he contrasts that with Trump having added "but I always watch over them." My first problem is his use of the word boasted. Trump is an irritating braggart, but his comment about hiring the best does not sound like a boast at all. On the contrary, it sounds like a promise to the voters and an executive pursuing a well-respected approach to management. Worse is Stuttaford's effort to imply that oversight is somehow a contradiction. An executive, mush less a president, would be a fool to neglect oversight, even of the very best. That is what Eisenhower did with his generals and what many other successful leaders have done. But with tone alone, Mr. Stuttaford leaves the impression that these attitudes reflect inadequacies. There are other examples throughout the article. It is surely Trump's manner that makes good sense sound silly in Stuttaford's ears, but he owes it to his readers to see beyond style to the substance.

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