Sunday, 11 December 2016

Kissinger advises Trump

Before I came to live in Romania I understood world affairs better. Has Obama been a foreign policy disaster without my noticing? 

Niall Ferguson, unlike me, supported invading Iraq but I think he argues this persuasively in this article entitled Donald Trump’s New World Order in The American Interest. Perhaps I have given Obama a free pass because he has been very much better than his predecessor.

As Niall Ferguson points out, on Obama's watch terrorism has surged worldwide. Brexit is a failure for Obama. He encouraged Mrs. Merkel to take in migrants. His administration encouraged the coup in Kiev but did not expect the resulting Russian invasion. He drew red lines in Syria without taking State Department advice and then did nothing when Assad crossed them, a humiliation though he was right not to topple Assad.
On the other hand I think infuriating both Netanyahu and the Saudi King means Obama must have been doing something right. He tried to move away from being the world's policeman, exactly the thing which people are scared Donald Trump might do and what in 2000 people feared George W. Bush would do (if only!)
The article quotes interesting advice for President-elect Trump from Dr Kissinger, whose biography Ferguson is writing. Dr. Kissinger advises him to do a deal with Putin over Ukraine, avoid conflict with China and arrange a Bosnian-style cantonised Syria.
And Dr Kissinger says he should treat Brexit as an opportunity to steer the continental Europeans away from bureaucratic introspection and back to strategic responsibility.

“They’re talking about tactical matters while they’re in the process of giving up the essence of . . . what they’ve represented throughout history.”
That's very true. Europe is going through a period of decadence, though Great Britain is not.

Niall Ferguson provides this quotation from Theodore Roosevelt that was new to me and aptly illustrates the conservative and liberal approaches to foreign policy.

I regard the Wilson-Bryan attitude of trusting to fantastic peace treaties, to impossible promises, to all kinds of scraps of paper without any backing in efficient force, as abhorrent. It is infinitely better for a nation and for the world to have the Frederick the Great and Bismarck tradition as regards foreign policy than to have the Bryan or Bryan-Wilson attitude as a permanent national attitude. . . . A milk-and-water righteousness unbacked by force is to the full as wicked as and even more mischievous than force divorced from righteousness.
Rather late in the day I come to see that what Hillary Clinton allegedly said about President Obama while in her cups, that he's "incompetent and feckless" was probably right.

'"The thing with Obama is that he can’t be bothered and there is no hand on the tiller half the time. That’s the story of the Obama presidency. No hand on the f***ing tiller.’

When Obama's legacy is assessed these words should be taken into account. 

I suspect that Obama will be remembered for being black and having enabled Trump to become president. Hillary will be remembered for being a woman, Libya and helping Trump to win. George W. Bush, for all his willingness to use force and not worry about international law, will be seen as a Wilsonian liberal not a Teddy Roosevelt, Vladimir Putin as a Frederick the Great.

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