Category: Foreign Policy (Page 1 of 11)

Your weekend long reads, Sweden, Migrants, Trump and Russia

Some of you must remember Swedish foreign minister trolling Donald Trump’s all male lineup during a signature of a bill cutting random funding to NGOs providing abortion worldwide. That act alone doesn’t tell us anything, it might be very well a part of America First and cutting additional expenditure. Boy, the reaction was swift. The Dutch started a fund to compensate the American funding cut, prompting the question, what were they waiting for so long? Also, shouldn’t they be spending the money in NATO? But never mind. Let’s stick to Sweden. When the Swedish FM penned an opus in Guardian, named “What Donald Trump could learn from the Feminist government of Sweden“, punching questions like, “The question remains: who should decide over a woman’s body, if not herself?” (Or Iranian mullahs maybe), irony died laughing clearly. In other news, Swedish Secretariat of Gender Studies, an organisation as notorious as the Soviet politburo in their promotion of unscientific dogma, called for an academic boycott of US. I personally think the yanks dodged a bullet there. The Swedish gender research is a laughing stock in mainstream academic community, and is essentially unverifiable, unfalsifiable dross anyway.

My critique on the myth of Sweden’s Feminist foreign policy as well as my book review of Professor Tom Nichols’ “The Death of Expertise” is out in Quillette. Read them here.

Also, my first piece for “The Conversation” on threat inflating Russia came out recently. I try to provide some realism and nuance amidst the ongoing hysteria.

 

 

 

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Will Trump change US-Russia relation?

I was interviewed by Radio Sputnik, Moscow, yesterday. 

The audio clip is not very good, but I am attaching it here

The transcript is below.

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Source: Google Public Data Explorer

Tariffs are falling everywhere but in America — 12 charts to explain the economy

Economic charts to explain some aspects of Trump’s economic policy.

Donald Trump has proposed a 20 percent tariff to pay for his proposed barrier on the border with Mexico. During the campaign, he often proposed raising tariffs on China up to 40 percent and renegotiating or leaving trade deals. Among his first executive orders was one to call for “renegotiating” NAFTA and leaving the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Trump’s argument for doing so rests on the case that America imports a lot of goods and thus has a high trade deficit and that he and some of the economists he has surrounded himself with, such as Peter Navarro, believe that America’s trade deficit is causing manufacturing jobs to be lost to countries with low wages, like China.

Trump is right that the U.S. has a high trade deficit, though he often espouses false and exaggerated numbers. In one debate he said the U.S. had an $800 billion trade deficit. In fact, the U.S. had a $484 billion trade deficit (deficit in current account balance) in 2015. Canada and Mexico were also among the top seven.

However, the United States also has the largest economy in the world. America’s trade deficit is nearly the same as that of Canada and Mexico as a percentage of GDP. Indeed, according to the IMF, the three countries rank consecutively.

Tariffs around the world have been falling for years as countries embrace free trade. While Mexico’s average tariffs remains higher and more volatile than Canada’s or America’s, it has fallen since 1990.

Source: Google Data Explorer

Source: Google Data Explorer

Tariffs in important Asian countries have fallen “bigly.” China’s average tariff fell from over 30% in 1992 to less than 5% by 2014. When China joined the WTO in 2001, its tariff fell from close to 15% to 10% the next year.

Source: Google Public Data Explorer

Source: Google Public Data Explorer

Along with a decrease in tariffs, major Asian countries have also seen increases in imports.

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Trump: Neither isolationist nor interventionist

At China.org.cn, I analyze Trump’s foreign policy and why it doesn’t fit into traditional frames of reference:

The discourse over whether Donald Trump is “anti-interventionist” or a militant warmonger is misguided. Trump is neither, and yet he’s also both. Indeed, he has put forward arguments — contradictory as this may sound — for both ways of thinking.

The media and ideological analysts like narratives, and this has led them to seek to place Trump in one or other ideological camp. For instance, after he made noises that suggested he favored isolationism, many Americans on that side of the political spectrum considered Trump as one of their own.

A cohort of academics involved in international relations studies, including Professor Daniel Drezner of Tufts University, argued that Trump’s self-proclaimed anti-interventionism should be understood as “realism;” meanwhile, most respected realist scholars, such as Harvard’s Steven Walt, argued Trump wasn’t a realist at all.

The latest shot in the academic debate comes from George Washington University professor Henry Nau, who argued in The American Interest, just in time for Trump’s inauguration, that his traditional nationalism represents a dire threat to the longstanding American policy of “nationalism of internationalism,” which Nau defines as “intervention abroad to defend democratic allies, defeat terrorism, and trade freely.”

Embedded in his argument, however, some assumptions, derived from the view that Trump is an isolationist, simply don’t stand up to scrutiny. America will fall apart, Nau argues, if it reverts to “fighting terrorism at home because the United States is no longer willing to fight it on the ground abroad.” (“Fighting terrorism abroad” so Americans don’t have to face it at home is a neo-conservative argument for sending troops to Iraq or Afghanistan to fight ISIS, al-Qaeda and other insurgent groups).

It’s a misnomer, however, that Trump doesn’t want to send American troops abroad to fight terrorist and insurgent groups. After all, he’s repeatedly said he wants to “bomb the shit” out of ISIS in Syria. In March, he even paid lip-service to the need to send in up to 30,000 ground troops.

Read my full article: Trump: Neither isolationist nor interventionist

Trump applies the lessons of Iraq backwards

The false choice between “intervention” and “restraint”

A survey by the Charles Koch Institute and the Center for the National Interest is being touted as showing Americans want “restraint” in their foreign policy. According to the write up, 52 percent believe that U.S. foreign policy has made America less safe over the past 15 years, and twice as many want the U.S. to pull troops out of Europe compared to those who want to increase troop levels. (60 percent chose to keep troop levels the same or had no opinion.) Daniel DePetris a fellow at Defense Priorities, an organization that advocates for a “more prudent, restrained foreign policy that assesses the world as it exists,” writes this means “Americans want restraint.”

His view is supported by a growing trend towards anti-interventionist sentiment amongst Americans over the years, illustrated in Donald Trump’s campaign promises to renegotiate trade deals and demand changes to America’s defense treaty obligations with his allies, and playing down the threat of Russia—even to the point of denying that Russia hacked into the DNC’s and Hillary Clinton’s servers (while saying on the trail that Russia should hack Hillary’s server).

There’s one narrative about Barack Obama’s presidency that he intervened in too many countries—causing Libya to become destabilized, fueling war in Syria, and inflaming relations with Russia.

On the other hand, there’s another opposite narrative about Obama that Obama wasn’t interventionist enough. By staying out of Syria, ignoring ISIS until it was too late, and failing to see the threat of Russia (remember he would have more “flexibility” in dealing with Russia after his reelection, he told Dmitry Medvedev), he projected “weakness” and emboldened America’s enemies.

Donald Trump buys into both narratives. Even as Trump has put Article 5 defense of NATO allies into question, he has also called for “bombing the shit” out of ISIS in Syria and invading to steal Iraq and Syria’s oil. Barack Obama smartly didn’t send large numbers of ground troops to Syria or Iraq to get stuck in another quagmire. Trump has said about sending troops, “We really have no choice. … I would listen to the generals, but I’m hearing numbers of 20,000 to 30,000.”

The lesson in Iraq should be that wars in unstable Middle Eastern countries are rarely quick and easy. Trump has apparently not learned that lesson. Instead, he appears to buy into into the argument that Obama was “weak” for either not overthrowing Assad or not taking on ISIS with a ground war.

A related lesson should be to not overreact to terrorist attacks. For all the attention to ISIS, there have been no attacks directed by ISIS in the United States and only five attacks inspired by ISIS between October 2015 and July 2016, resulting in 53 of the more than 16,000 murder that occur in the country every year. The amount of Americans who would be killed directly in battle and indirectly as a result of massive American war in Syria could easily exceed the number killed by terrorism each year by many factors.

On the other hand, Trump takes the critique of Iraq and applies a broad “anti-interventionist” messages to parts of the world that are comparatively safe—namely Europe and Northeast Asia. Because Russia isn’t invading Poland, we should pull back from NATO. But America’s commitment to NATO hasn’t cost the U.S. anywhere near as much as its previous attempts to bomb the shit out of the Middle East and destroy terrorism have. NATO expansion, I have argued, unnecessarily lead to Russia feeling antagonized, and NATO countries could contribute more, but that implies reforms, not scraping the project. Trump’s plan amounts to pulling down your umbrella in a rainstorm because you’re not getting wet.

The American public is fickle and poll questions are not made for capturing nuance. Politicians will use any kind of argument they can think of to hit the other party; hence Republican House Majority Leader Paul Ryan praising Obama’s Russia sanctions while slamming him for doing too little, too late—while ignoring that his party’s leader wants even less to be done. The solution, then, isn’t a false choice between “intervention” and “restraint” but a smarter foreign policy. Trump, as it stands, espouses the wrong answers for both sides of the equation.

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Don’t listen to the false prophets of humanitarianism

Must be hearing how Middle East civil wars are exactly like Jews being persecuted by Nazis in Europe during the 1930s?

I wrote on Quillette, why that is a lie. An excerpt.

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Read the whole thing here.

 

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When terror hits home

As a student of political science, and as a researcher in intelligence, I am no stranger to the concept, history, and effects of terrorism. It has been widely researched, and in recent years has become a staple in the education of any person with the remotest interest in international affairs. Certainly it is a centerpiece of tertiary education in political sciences. However, being Australian and having been educated in New Zealand, terrorism has always been a remote practice, removed from my everyday life. That changed this week.

I must first admit that I was slightly behind the times when I woke up this morning. As a full time PhD student that also works twenty hours a week and reviews books in her ‘spare time,’ I rarely have enough hours in the day to complete my work AND keep up on current affairs beyond my express area of research. See, my gym session with the trainer this morning was an hour earlier than usual, so I had a little time on my hands afterward; I decided to get a coffee and some breakfast. As is my custom when I have the time to do this, I asked for the paper to read. When it was delivered to me with my glass of orange juice, all I could do was stare.

Terrorist plot foiled, seven arrested, Christmas Day explosions planned. Headlines I’ve seen before, as I’m sure many have. But this time, the plot that was foiled? Was in my city. My home. Several full colour photos dominated the multiple page spread; Flinders St Station, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and Federation Square. I was in two of those places just two days ago, and across the street from the other. Doing my Christmas shopping, glaring at the horse-and-buggies, laughing with my sister. My sister, who it occurred to me this morning, had we been in the wrong place at the wrong time, could have been killed. By terrorists. In AUSTRALIA. In Melbourne. In our home city.

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Will Donald Trump start a “Clash of Civilisations” in Middle East?

(Originally published by the Centre For Land Warfare, New Delhi, India. Republished here, with added links.)

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Taiwan will suffer most in any Sino-American brinkmanship

So, once again, as usual, Donald Trump when faced with allegations about Russian hacking in his election, quickly gave an interview to Fox News about Taiwan. That helped in diverting much of the traffic towards the issue, in a communication diversion strategy that Trump has mastered since he decided to stand for election. The interview itself was obviously incoherent, and Trumpian…as in he said a lot of things, half said even more, and almost all of them contradictory. Typical example being he claimed Obama’s policies were a failure, but simultaneously claimed that President Obama has been a terrific president. If any observer was watching for signs of Trump’s pivot towards centrism, this is as good as it gets.

However, the important part was his comments about One China policy. Trump said, he understands completely what a One China policy is, and why US governments have followed it for over forty years, but he fails to comprehend why it should be continued if there’s no deal with China. “I fully understand the ‘one China’ policy, but I don’t know why we have to be bound by a ‘one China’ policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade,” Trump told Fox, as reported by Reuters.

(For a Military comparison, check GlobalFirePower)

Well, that’s a bold statement, because for a start, he doesn’t understand One China policy. And, a deal is already in place. The deal is so the planet earth doesn’t look like a sequence from Fallout 4. But on the other hand, he cleverly didn’t say that he wants to topple the One China policy and chart a new US foreign policy towards China. It’s like an art of saying things, without saying things; kind of like thinking out aloud, wondering, what does it matter if the policy is overturned. If the Chinese administration was looking for hint, this is it. Let me explain.

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The long legacy of the Nanjing Massacre on Asian politics

“When will Japan’s war with China become history?”

Today, as with every December 13 for the past four years, Chinese officials gathered at the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall and rang the bell for the up to 300,000 killed by Japanese imperial soldiers who invaded and captured Nanjing in 1937.

The conquest of the Republic of China’s capital six months after the Second Sino-Japanese War started inspired joy and complacency in Japan. Just weeks earlier the Japanese had completed their capture of Shanghai, a three month battle. Nanjing fell in less than two weeks. General Iwane Matsui was confident that taking Nanjing would result in China’s surrender. (It didn’t, and the war went on for seven more years before Japan surrendered.)

Upon victory on December 13, soldiers committed random acts of violence throughout the city. Civilians fleeing were shot in the back. Homes were invaded, women raped and then stabbed. Pregnant woman were bayoneted in the stomach. Dead bodies were thrown in rivers. Much of the city was destroyed by looting and arson.

Japanese soldiers rounded up masses of men on the grounds they were suspected of being soldiers. Some soldiers had indeed thrown off their uniforms and tried to blend in with civilians, but many more of those taken out to be executed had never fought in the first place. Hundreds of POWs were tied up and shot to death by the Yangtze River on December 18.

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