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One corollary of Trump’s more modest view of America’s role is that US allies will — if they are serious about it — have to assume more responsibility for their own defence than in the past. Another is the implicit recognition that the global political system is multi-polar, something that Putin has long claimed and the Chinese have not even had to bother mentioning. That, in turn, may well imply a return to realpolitik that is closer to Nixon/Kissinger than Reagan’s loftier vision, let alone George H.W. Bush’s nutty “new world order”. The debate — and the pushing — will not be over the existence of spheres of interest, but over the location of their boundaries, something that may have grim implications for borderlands such as Ukraine.

Trump insists he is not an isolationist, and I don’t think that he is. He is planning a major increase in defence spending. Where he sees threats, whether it’s the Iran deal or IS, he does not wish them away. That said, he does not appear to have learned enough from seeing what Obama’s leading from behind has led to. When the US withdraws, the vacuum can be filled in dangerous ways. Trump is correct that America’s allies ought to pay more for their own defence, but an overly forceful insistence on this will lead to a fraying of both the transatlantic alliance and America’s partnerships in Asia. The consequences are hard to predict, but will inevitably involve a dilution of America’s ability to control what happens next.  That’s unlikely to end happily.

These consequences will be worsened by the new administration’s policies on trade and the environment, which, whatever their merits, will be seen as further evidence that the US is going its own way. And in Europe, at least, the more hard-edged side of Trump’s domestic agenda, not to speak of the spectacle of, to some, an ugly American beyond all caricature taking up residence in the White House, will do even more to stoke up the anti-Americanism forever soiling the continent’s intellectual and political life.

That won’t deter Trump. The president-elect has already appointed Myron Ebell, a leading climate change sceptic from the Competitive Enterprise Institute think tank, to oversee his environmental transition team. Reversing Obama’s climate change regulation, much of which he introduced by executive order (and what was brought to life by the pen can be killed by the pen) while initiating America’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord (legally, a more complex process) are obviously, so to speak, in the pipeline. It’ll mean  yet more international opprobrium, so add it to the pile. Domestically it will enrage those who are already enraged by the prospect of a Trump presidency, but it will reassure many of his supporters — who are in for quite a few let-downs in the years to come — and, as a gesture of support to Team Trump’s symbolically important coal miners, will go down well with the Donald’s crucial blue-collar supporters. 

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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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