The most surprising thing about President Trump’s decision to overrule his top advisers and withdraw U.S. forces from Syria and Afghanistan isn’t that it was improvised and disruptive. Sudden shifts are part of Mr. Trump’s method, and disconcerting senior officials is one of his favorite management tools.
The surprise is that for the first time, Mr. Trump made a foreign-policy decision that divides the coalition that brought him into the White House and risks his control of the GOP. Mr. Trump has frequently challenged and infuriated his political opponents, but his Syria decision risks alienating allies he can ill afford to lose.Mr. Trump’s greatest political asset has been his feel for the priorities of his populist base. The importance of this skill is sometimes underrated, but his ability to unite and energize his voters gave him control of the Republican Party and the White House. If he loses his bond with the base, he will quickly find himself isolated in a Washington that loathes him.
Nowhere has Mr. Trump’s sense of populist America been more important than in foreign policy. As a candidate in 2015-16, he showed that he understood something his establishment rivals in both parties did not: that the post-Cold War consensus no longer commanded the American people’s support.
.. During the Cold War, a large majority of Americans united around the policies that built the international liberal order after World War II. But when the Soviet Union collapsed, a gap opened between those who saw an opportunity to expand America’s world-building activities and those who saw an opportunity for the U.S. to reduce its commitments overseas. The foreign-policy establishment across both parties supported an ambitious global agenda, but increasingly alienated populists preferred to pull back.
Fatou Bensouda, asked the court’s judges to authorize an investigation of possible war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Afghanistan since 2003, including allegations of torture by members of the U.S. military and agents of the Central Intelligence Agency. Bolton, who was at the time a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, responded immediately with an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal: “The Trump administration should not respond to Ms. Bensouda in any way that acknowledges the ICC’s legitimacy. Even merely contesting its jurisdiction risks drawing the U.S. deeper into the quicksand.”
.. “Any day now,” Bolton said in his speech, “the I.C.C. may announce the start of a formal investigation against these American patriots, who voluntarily signed on to go into harm’s way to protect our nation, our homes, and our families in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. . . . An utterly unfounded, unjustifiable investigation.”
.. the I.C.C. showed no intention of going after Americans, and, in Bush’s second term, when Bolton was serving as the Ambassador to the U.N., U.S. officials began to see that the court could serve as a useful instrument in pursuing their own interests, and began to offer it support and coöperation accordingly, ultimately stepping aside—over Bolton’s objection—to allow its investigation of war crimes in Darfur.
.. His telling of the I.C.C. backstory left off in 2002, with a note of regret that he had been unable to convince “every nation in the world” to pledge to protect Americans from the court, and also with a dig at holdouts in the European Union, where, he said, “the global-governance dogma is strong.”
.. he said that his “worst predictions” about the I.C.C. had been confirmed and decried what he claimed to be its supporters’ “unspoken but powerful agenda”: to “intimidate U.S. decision-makers, and others in democratic societies,” and thereby to “constrain” them... The I.C.C., from its inception, has been impossibly compromised by the simple, definitive fact that many of the world’s most lawless countries, along with some of its most powerful—including the U.S., Russia, and China, the majority of permanent members of the U.N. Security Council—reject its jurisdiction. After sixteen years with no major triumphs and several major failures to its name, it would be easier to make the case for it if there were reason to believe that it could yet become the court of last resort for all comers that it is supposed to be, rather than what it is: a politically captive institution that reinforces the separate and unequal structures of the world... simultaneously exaggerating the power of the I.C.C. as an ominous global colossus and belittling it as a puny, contemptible farce. The only historically proven deterrent to “the hard men of history,” he declared, is “what Franklin Roosevelt once called ‘the righteous might’ of the United States.”.. it is tempting to think that he was deployed to deflect attention from the White House chaos, while his boss spent the day issuing uncharacteristically Presidential tweets about the hurricane bearing down on the Carolinas... The President and the nation cannot be held to account or supervised, so the prosecutor has to be. The President and the nation cannot be criminals, so the prosecutor must be.
The United States will threaten Monday to punish individuals that cooperate with the International Criminal Court in a potential investigation of U.S. wartime actions in Afghanistan, according to people familiar with the decision.
The Trump administration is also expected to announce that it is shutting down a Palestinian diplomatic office in Washington because Palestinians have sought to use the international court to prosecute U.S. ally Israel, those people said.
.. Bolton is a longtime opponent of the court on grounds that it violates national sovereignty.
.. Bolton is expected to outline a new campaign to challenge the court’s legitimacy as it considers cases that could put the United States and close allies in jeopardy for the first time
.. threat of sanctions or travel restrictions for people involved in prosecuting Americans.
.. One person said Bolton plans to use the speech to announce that the Trump administration will force the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s office in Washington in a dispute over a Palestinian effort to seek prosecution of Israel through the ICC.
.. Bolton’s announcement is closely related to concern at the Pentagon and among intelligence agencies about potential U.S. liability to prosecution at the court over actions in Afghanistan
.. The Trump administration has questioned whether the ICC has jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute U.S. citizens for actions in Afghanistan, because Afghan, U.S. and U.S. military law all could apply in different situations
.. This year, the administration has withdrawn from the United Nations human rights body, halted financial support for a U.N. aid program for Palestinian refugees and threatened to pull out of the World Trade Organization.
.. Three successive U.S. administrations of both political parties have rejected the full jurisdiction of the international court over American citizens, although U.S. cooperation with the court expanded significantly under the Obama administration.
The United States has never signed the 2002 international treaty, called the Rome Treaty, that established the court, which is based in The Hague.
.. it’s going to create the impression the United States is a bully and a hegemon,”
.. efforts to pressure other countries into agreements not to surrender U.S. citizens to the body.
.. prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, who last fall asked for permission to formally investigate alleged crimes committed during the Afghan war. That could potentially include actions by U.S. military or intelligence personnel in the detention of terrorism suspects.
.. “America’s long-term security depends on refusing to recognize an iota of legitimacy” of the court, he wrote.
.. The court is also considering a request from Palestinian authorities to probe alleged crimes committed in Palestinian territories, a step that could result in attempts to prosecute Israeli officials.
.. That office serves as a de facto embassy, staffed by an ambassador, to represent Palestinian interests to the U.S. government.
.. The Trump administration contends that the Palestinians violated U.S. law by seeking prosecution of Israel at the ICC. The administration’s initial decision to close the office caused a breach with Abbas that widened in December when Trump announced that the United States would recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and move its embassy there.
.. The Trump administration has not publicly committed to support a separate sovereign Palestine alongside Israel, which was the goal of previous administrations. But like previous U.S. administrations, the Trump White House considers Palestinian efforts to seek statehood recognition through international organizations to be illegitimate.
Watching President Trump recently accuse Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of stabbing him in the back prompted me to Google a simple question: How many Canadians were killed or wounded since April 2002 fighting alongside Americans in Afghanistan? The answer: 158 were killed and 635 wounded.
.. And yet, when their prime minister mildly pushed back against demands to lower Canada’s tariffs on milk, cheese and yogurt from the U.S., Trump and his team — in a flash — accused Trudeau of “betrayal,” back-stabbing and deserving of a “special place in hell.”
A special place in hell? Over milk tariffs? For a country that stood with us in our darkest hour?That is truly sick.
.. Everything is a transaction: What have you done for ME today?
The notion of America as the upholder of last resort of global rules and human rights — which occasionally forgoes small economic advantages to strengthen democratic societies so we can enjoy the much larger benefits of a world of healthy, free-market democracies — is over
.. “Trump’s America does not care,” historian Robert Kagan wrote in The Washington Post. “It is unencumbered by historical memory. It recognizes no moral, political or strategic commitments. It feels free to pursue objectives without regard to the effect on allies or, for that matter, the world. It has no sense of responsibility to anything beyond itself.”
.. But what’s terrifying about Trump is that he seems to prefer dictators to our democratic allies everywhere.
.. As Trump told reporters about the North Korean dictator on Friday: “He speaks, and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.”.. Trump later said this was a joke. Sorry, no U.S. president should make such a joke, which, alas, was consistent with everything Trump has said and done before: He prefers the company of strongmen and, as long as they praise him, does not care how leaders anywhere treat their own people
.. Harb, an enormously decent British-educated surgeon, was imprisoned merely for tweeting mild criticism of Sisi’s crackdown on dissent... “The message is clear that criticism and even mild satire apparently earn Egyptians an immediate trip to prison.”
.. “For the second consecutive year, more than half of those jailed for their work around the world are behind bars in Turkey, China and Egypt
.. in once pro-Western Poland, the country’s most powerful politician, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, is trying to replace the independent judiciary with judges selected purely for their loyalty to him and his party, snubbing his nose at the European Union’s liberal, rule-of-law values.
.. Trump doesn’t even have ambassadors in Turkey and Saudi Arabia today to whisper.
.. “In America, we’re going to survive Trump,” says Michael Posner, director of the Center for Business and Human Rights at N.Y.U. Stern. “We have strong institutions and plenty of people committed to maintaining our democratic processes. But places like Egypt, Turkey or the Philippines are fragile states where activists for decades relied on the U.S. to stand up and say, ‘There are consequences for your relations with the U.S. — trade, aid, military, investment — if you crush peaceful dissent.’
.. Today, we have a president who is not only not critical, he actually congratulates leaders on their fraudulent elections and seems to endorse their bad behavior.”
.. Remember: These leaders are not repressing violent radicals, Posner adds; they are literally “criminalizing dissent and debate.” And their citizens now think that we’re O.K. with that.
If that stands, the world will eventually become a more dangerous place for all of us.