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Archive for January, 2017

citizenshipThere are many grounds to criticize the immigration order, but a Muslim ban it is not.

The order is harsh, ambiguous, and appears to have had inadequate internal review before being published.  Moreover, the idea itself is a blunt, likely ineffective or counter-productive policy tool. But it is not a Muslim ban.  Reporting it that way undermines credibility of the very institutions whose credibility is needed to hold the Trump administration to account.

The order should have a sunset provision, provision for the screening of friends and such as translators for the State Department and military, and should move from blanket ban to individualized, careful screening as quickly as possible.

Criticism of the order is justified, but it should focus on the actual flaws, better alternatives, and avoid hyperbole.

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trump-vs-chinaThe first casualty of Trump’s withdrawal from TPP is not trade – it’s trust. China is the beneficiary.

History may record that the American Century ended in the Pacific today with TPP.  China is poised to become the axis about which all other Asian countries must revolve – economically, politically and militarily.  America has left the stage.

It’s no surprise that dependability doesn’t figure in Trump’s transactional world view. He built an empire by repeatedly, publicly walking out on his commitments. And, as he will tell you, that’s how he won.  Q.E.D.

TPP was not a great deal. It should not have been signed. But it should have been renegotiated. The strategic value to America of Pacific prosperity and stability would have been enormous. The loss will reverberate down through history, and will be seen as a fateful turning point for Asia and for Pax Americana generally.

If there’s any hope, it’s that Trump’s withdrawal may be a negotiating position, not a final answer.

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600px-flag_of_the_united_states-svgHow will Trump act out his slogan, “America First”?

There are two broad possibilities, one transactional, the other strategic.  The transactional stream views each choice as a zero-sum game.  When one country gains an advantage, another loses.  The strategic stream seeks opportunities for mutual gain, sees peace and prosperity beyond our borders as good for America too, and considers whether both short and longer term consequences will be good for us.

Here are some examples:

TRADE

Transactional

  • We win if we maximize our exports and minimize our imports
  • We win if we exclude goods that can be made domestically

Strategic

  • We win if we maximize trade volume balanced equally
  • We win if we achieve full employment domestically, even if we import at high volume
  • We win if we and other countries have stronger economies, rising wages and improving working conditions

NATO

Transactional

  • We win if we have a strong military
  • Allies must take care of themselves, and be no burden to us
  • If our allies need help, we will be there if we see it as in our interests to do so at the time.

Strategic

  • We win if we and our allies all have a strong military
  • When our allies are strong, it’s good for us.
  • If our allies need help, they can rely on us 100%.

CLIMATE CHANGE

Transactional

  • We can weather the storm at home, if it comes
  • Drill, baby, drill

Strategic

  • Instability beyond our borders is a threat to us
  • We can prosper by developing and selling the energy solutions of tomorrow

ISRAEL

Transactional

  • Israel right or wrong

Strategic

  • General peace and prosperity for all is good for us and good for Israel

So the questions is not, America First or World First.  The question is, which vision of America First really does put America first?

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