Tuesday, April 19, 2016
Trump’s refreshing foreign policy heresy
By Left-leaning journalist Stephen Kinzer, writing in the Boston Globe
THANK YOU, TRUMP! That does not roll trippingly off the tongue. There is ample reason to be terrified of Donald Trump’s possible ascension to the presidency. Yet because he has dared to question ossified principles of our foreign policy, he deserves our gratitude.
Trump steadfastly refuses to accept the world affairs catechism that President Obama recently called "the Washington playbook." This has spread panic through the inbred American foreign policy establishment. It is a delight to watch.
The "Washington playbook" posits a series of delusional principles that are not only outdated, but undermine America’s national security. Our leaders reflexively genuflect before these false idols: The world is in endless conflict between good and evil; people everywhere look to the United States to fight for the good; and this fight must be waged with force or the threat of force, since only force can crush evil.
Trump is the first serious presidential candidate in this century who appears not to have read the playbook, or not to care what it says. Many of his foreign policy pronouncements sound somewhere between ignorant and scary. Others, however, are astonishingly realistic. Regardless of how this campaign ends, it will be remembered at least in part for Trump’s willingness to reject stale foreign policy dogma.
Instead of denouncing President Vladimir Putin of Russia, Trump proposes to treat him as a reasonable negotiating partner. He has dared to suggest that the United States should be neutral between Israel and the Palestinians. Asked about our commitment to defend Japan and South Korea against all threats forever, he replied, "There is going to be a point at which we just can’t do this anymore." For good measure he added, "We spend billions of dollars on Saudi Arabia, and they have nothing but money. And I say, why?"
Trump also sees the foolishness of maintaining commercial sanctions on Iran while other countries lift them, which prevents American companies from competing for giant contracts like the ones Iran will soon sign to buy hundreds of new civilian airliners. "We give them the money, and we now say, ‘Go buy Airbus instead of Boeing,’ " he reasons. "So how stupid is that?"
Trump’s view of the horrific war in Syria is equally logical. He describes our policy of fighting Bashar Assad’s government as "madness and idiocy." Pointing out what should now be obvious, he adds, "Our far greater problem is not Assad. It’s ISIS." This raises the prospect that under President Trump, the United States would abandon its efforts to depose Assad and focus on the real enemy in Syria.
Nor would Trump send American troops to confront Russia over Ukraine, where the United States has no vital interest. "Ukraine is a country that affects us far less than it affects other countries," he reasons. "Why are we always the one that’s leading potentially the third world war, OK, with Russia?"
Trump has even had the temerity to describe NATO, the first peacetime military alliance the United States ever joined, as obsolete. "It was really designed for the Soviet Union, which doesn’t exist anymore," he said last month. "It wasn’t designed for terrorism. . . . A new institution, maybe, would be better for that than using NATO, which was not meant for that."
These statements send a startling message to the rest of the world. Under President Trump, the gravy train would stop, or at least slow down, and Uncle Sucker would no longer subsidize other countries’ armies and send troops to defend every corrupt regime that asks. Trump has summarized American security policy in these trenchant few words: "We defend everybody. When in doubt, come to the United States. We’ll defend you — in some cases, free of charge."
Trump’s alternative is to declare, "We can’t be the policemen to the world." Rather than list all the places in the world where he wants to intervene, he asks, "Why is it always the United States that gets right in the middle of things?"
This apostasy is direct rebellion against the Republican/Democrat, liberal/conservative consensus on foreign policy. That consensus is based on the principle that policing the world is the essence of America’s providential mission, and that chaos will ensue if we stop. Left unspoken is the fear that defense contractors would lose huge amounts of money if the United States stopped waging endless wars and arming countries that do not have our interests at heart. Trump challenges not only Washington politicians and think tanks, but also the plutocrats who bankroll them and foreign regimes that see the United States as an inexhaustible source of cash.
Trump’s heresy is wonderfully refreshing. Unfortunately, it must be taken along with the rest of his proposed foreign policy. Some of his positions, like his promise to renounce last year’s nuclear deal with Iran, are straight from the "Washington playbook." By demonizing Muslims and Hispanics, he alienates much of the world. His enthusiasm for torture is chilling. When he says he will "listen to the generals," he implicitly rejects diplomacy and suggests he will consult mainly with Pentagon lifers who are obsessed with finding and fighting supposed enemies.
On some days, Trump seems to reject the "regime change" paradigm and favor a foreign policy based on prudent restraint. Too often, however, he rails ignorantly against imagined enemies. He deserves thanks for sending chills down many spines in Washington.
Washington’s Bureaucracy Strikes Again
If you want to understand the corruption, deceit, and might-makes-right culture at the core of the federal government’s dysfunction and disgrace today, look no farther than the two big stories out of Washington last week.
On Monday, President Barack Obama’s Treasury Department released sweeping new regulations effectively rewriting the tax code to make it even more difficult for U.S. companies to escape the double taxation on overseas earnings currently extracted by the IRS. Rather than trying to lower the U.S. corporate income tax rate—which is the highest in the industrialized world—the Obama administration wants to make it even more costly to do business in America.
The Obama administration wants to make it even more costly to do business in America.
Not to be outdone by the economic folly of their colleagues at the Treasury Department, bureaucrats at the Department of Labor have published 1,000 pages of new regulations—collectively called "the fiduciary rule"—targeting the investment industry that will make it more expensive and less likely for low and middle-income Americans to save for their future. Working Americans already face a host of obstacles that prevent them from saving for retirement or unexpected financial hardships, and observers from across the political spectrum agree that these new regulations will only further discourage private savings.
But as harmful as these policies will be for American families and businesses trying to get ahead in a still stagnant economy, the real scandal of these new sets of rules are the flagrant abuses of power that created them.
In 2014, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said, "We do not believe we have the authority to address this inversion question through administrative action. […] That’s why legislation is needed." This was not a groundbreaking statement: Everyone in Washington knows that the Secretary of the Treasury does not have the power to unilaterally change the tax laws just because he doesn’t like them. And yet that’s exactly what he did this week, with the blessing of Obama—abandoning his constitutional scruples and betraying his respect for Congress’ rightful role in writing tax policy in order to score cheap political points.
Likewise, the secretary of labor has no legitimate authority to regulate the transactions between brokers and their retail clients as it does in its new fiduciary rule. The Dodd-Frank so-called financial reform law of 2010 explicitly authorized the Securities and Exchange Commission to perform this function. And yet, because the SEC had not yet fulfilled this mandate under Dodd-Frank, the Department of Labor stepped in to fill the regulatory void.
This is not how the American people expect their government to work, because it’s not how the federal government is supposed to work. The rules and regulations governing American society—especially those that have a major impact on our economy—must be debated and passed by elected members of Congress, not negotiated by industry insiders and unelected regulators behind closed doors in the shadowy federal bureaucracy.
Liberal Equivalent of: "Nice little family you got here. Would be a shame if something happened to them."
Moral/cultural engineering, to the liberal mind, is a piece of cake. It consists of one-way streets only: well-marked; patrolled by well-armed officers of the media, the entertainment industry and other closely linked institutions; stiff fines for violators. My way is the highway!
At present, liberal squad cars are pulling over and detaining state officials who have the temerity to advocate or enact public protections for citizens doubtful of the new orthodoxy in sexual matters — to wit, my sexuality is my affair and what’s it to you, bub?
The latest recruits to the cause are business leaders trying to burnish their social credentials by visiting, or threatening to visit, commercial retribution on states that bar use of women’s restrooms by anyone who conceives of himself/herself as a woman, despite birth as a male.
Gender "reassignment" is the nation’s trendiest cause, bolstered by the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision last summer, which struck down state prohibitions against same-sex marriage. So-called "bathroom laws" in various states are part of the pushback that should have been foreseen from the start. These laws ratify once-ordinary understandings of who visits which comfort facilities, never mind which sex they claim, irregularly, as their own. Similarly, the laws allow churches and private businesses to maintain long-normative understandings of who may marry. Florists and bakers, for instance, to whom the idea of a same-sex union is unwelcome, could escape legal liability for turning away the business of a same-sex couple.
The idea of "choice for everybody" lies at the heart of the "bathroom laws." However, "choice for everybody" isn’t what our liberal engineers have in mind. Their notion is choose their way: the street that goes in just one direction.
A great uproar ensued when Georgia’s legislature passed a bathroom law. See here, guys, said the National Football League, which was considering putting the 2019 Super Bowl in Atlanta. Know what we can do? We can put our bowl anywhere but Atlanta.
It was the sports equivalent of: "Nice little family you got here. Would be a shame if something happened to them."
The moral mobsters, abetted by Georgia businessmen distraught over possible loss of business, got their way. Gov. Nathan Deal slew the dreaded bill with a veto.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory received equivalent warnings concerning his state’s Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act. Why, how could he sign such a thing?
PayPal, for one, said it would pull out of a multimillion-dollar expansion in North Carolina due to the presumptive denial of "equal rights" to employees: those rights trumping North Carolinians’ right to trepidation at the overthrow of existing moral arrangements. Other companies weighed in: irate, indignant. McCrory signed the law anyway. And Bruce Springsteen canceled a concert! The horror, the horror!
A similar wrangle in Mississippi ended with similar results. The people’s will prevailed. The moral/cultural engineers of the left (again with business support) shielded their eyes from the dismaying sight. Where might it all end, this resistance to the one-way moral street, this humiliating concern for liberties enshrined in the First Amendment?
Perhaps we are overdue for some examination of those liberties? It cannot have been the Founders’ intention that mobs of the morally earnest could overwhelm and muzzle opponents with alternative views of religious liberty. The moral totalitarianism of the left, as displayed in places supposedly solicitous of free thought and expression and applauded in the media of the East Coast and the Internet, is a phenomenon hardly remarked upon in the presidential campaign.
No wonder: In politics, especially of the presidential variety, the left assumes a moral superiority not dependent on facts and context. The moral engineers see themselves as bearers of unassailable truth. They want the old norms — the leftovers from Western civilization in its triumphant time — swept out of sight. To believe in the old norms is possibly permissible for now. But to attempt their enforcement? The left is having none of it; and neither is that growing corner of the business community that views commercial success — the amassment of multimillions instead of mere millions – as trumping arguments for mutual respect. As for serious discussion of differences — what a backward idea. This is America, 2016, and don’t you forget it.
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Posted by JR at 12:28 AM