Trump’s Ignorant Comments About Japan Were Bad Even for Him

His needlessly provocative remarks should take everyone’s breath away.

President Trump reserves some of his worst behavior for foreign trips, such as abasing himself before President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in Helsinki a year ago, skipping a ceremony in France last fall to honor American soldiers killed in World War I (too rainy, the White House said) and insulting the mayor of London earlier this month. Yet even by Mr. Trump’s dismal standards, his performance this week before the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, should take everyone’s breath away. More than yet another demonstration of his erratic behavior, this was also an object lesson in the dangers of his context-free hostility to the world beyond the United States.

Before arriving in Japan, Mr. Trump had reportedly been musing about withdrawing the United States from the security treaty with Japan signed in 1951 and revised in 1960 — the cornerstone of the alliance between the United States and Japan and a pillar of American foreign policy. On Wednesday, asked about the treaty on Fox News, Mr. Trump sneered, “If Japan is attacked, we will fight World War III.” Then he added: “But if we’re attacked, Japan doesn’t have to help us at all. They can watch it on a Sony television.”

Mr. Trump’s comment demonstrates a strategic cluelessness and historical ignorance that would disqualify a person from even a modest desk job at the State Department.

Though Mr. Trump implied that the security treaty favors Japan, it was largely dictated by the United States. After Imperial Japan surrendered to the Allies in August 1945, ending World War II, the country was placed under an American-led occupation overseen by the domineering Gen. Douglas MacArthur. When that occupation ended in April 1952, Japan had turned away from militarism to embrace ideals of pacifism and democracy. Under Article 9 of a new Constitution that was originally drafted in English at MacArthur’s headquarters, Japan renounced war and pledged never to maintain land, sea or air forces.

Furthermore, Mr. Trump insults his Japanese hosts by overlooking how Japan actually responded when the United States was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001. The Japanese public grieved for their American allies after the terrorist attacks, which also killed some Japanese citizens. Japan’s conservative and pro-American prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, took the massacre as an opportunity to reconsider Article 9 and urge his country to shoulder more international responsibilities. His government rammed through an antiterrorism law which enabled Japan’s Self-Defense Force to provide support for the American campaign in Afghanistan, although — because of the country’s official pacifism — without fighting or directly supporting combat operations.

When President George W. Bush invaded Iraq in 2003, Mr. Koizumi was one of his staunchest foreign supporters. Although Japan remained constitutionally forbidden from joining in the invasion or taking a direct military role, Mr. Koizumi’s government passed a special law allowing the Self-Defense Force to help in humanitarian support missions in postwar Iraq. Hundreds of Japanese ground troops in Iraq provided water and medical help, and fixed roads and buildings. One might reasonably fault Mr. Koizumi, as plenty of Japanese do, for going along with Mr. Bush’s disastrous invasion — but it is far harder to blame Japan, as Mr. Trump does, for not standing alongside the United States.

Mr. Trump’s words are also a pointless slap to Japan’s right-wing prime minister, Shinzo Abe, who has ardently sought to cultivate a relationship with Mr. Trump and is trying to mediate a way out of the crisis between the United States and Iran. The 1960 treaty was signed by Mr. Abe’s grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, another prime minister. During a four-day state visit to Japan in May, Mr. Abe flattered Mr. Trump with an extraordinary meeting with Japan’s new emperor, a sumo wrestling match and a lavish state banquet at the Imperial Palace. Yet standing next to Mr. Abe at a news conference in Tokyo, Mr. Trump shrugged off Japanese fears about North Korea’s recent tests of short-range ballistic missiles that could kill thousands of Japanese civilians.

What could Mr. Trump possibly hope to gain from his ignorant, ungrateful and antagonistic behavior? He is unlikely to withdraw from the security treaty. Yet by questioning the alliance with Japan, Mr. Trump encourages North Korea and a rising China to test that bond. His words undercut an essential alliance for no evident reason and erode the stability of a strategic region torn by rivalry.

And we are all so used to it by now that it barely registers.

No Need to Prepare to Meet Kim Jong-un? Trump Has a Point

For a property developer-turned-president, the tête-à-tête, scheduled for Tuesday in Singapore, is a long-anticipated test of Mr. Trump’s conviction that he can slice through decades of diplomatic orthodoxy and strike a grand bargain with North Korea, a feat that eluded his three immediate predecessors.

Mr. Trump, current and former aides said, has been preoccupied with North Korea since his predecessor, Barack Obama, warned him in a closed-door meeting two days after he was elected that the reclusive state would be his No. 1 foreign policy challenge. But he has been tantalized by the idea of solving the North Korea problem since long before that.

.. “If a man walks up to you and puts a gun to your head and says, ‘give me your money,’” Mr. Trump said in 1999, “wouldn’t you rather know where he’s coming from before he had the gun in his hand?”

..  Aides say he has mused about the motives of Mr. Kim, who, like him, is a scion born into wealth and privilege, with a skill for self-promotion and an ambition to be a major player.

.. “This is something that Trump has thought about for a long time, even before the election,” said Joseph Y. Yun, a former top Korea negotiator at the State Department

.. If Mr. Kim makes any moves toward disarmament, he is likely to press for security guarantees in exchange. The danger, Mr. Yun said, is that Mr. Trump does not understand the complex dynamics of security on the Korean Peninsula, where 28,500 American troops are deployed to keep the peace in a war that, as the president himself recently noted with wonder, never formally ended.

.. Mr. Trump left little doubt that he would improvise. “It will be something that is always spur-of-the-moment,”

.. The National Security Council has held no high-level meetings to devise a strategy for how to negotiate with him. In part, officials said, that reflects the recognition that whatever his briefing papers say, Mr. Trump will act on instinct once he is across the table from Mr. Kim.

.. Mr. Trump was steeped in the heroics of a Korean War commander, Gen. Douglas MacArthur. The brilliant tactician who led the amphibious assault at Inchon in 1950, MacArthur later clashed with Harry S. Truman, who fired him for insubordination. At Mr. Trump’s school, however, he remained a hero: When he died in 1964, the class organized a tribute.

 

The MacArthur Model for Afghanistan

Consolidate authority into one person: an American viceroy who’d lead all coalition efforts.

Afghanistan is an expensive disaster for America. The Pentagon has already consumed $828 billion on the war, and taxpayers will be liable for trillions more in veterans’ health-care costs for decades to come. More than 2,000 American soldiers have died there, with more than 20,000 wounded in action.
For all that effort, Afghanistan is failing. The terrorist cohort consistently gains control of more territory, including key economic arteries

.. First, he should consolidate authority in Afghanistan with one person: an American viceroy

The coalition has had 17 different military commanders in the past 15 years, which means none of them had time to develop or be held responsible for a coherent strategy.

  1. .. In Afghanistan, the viceroy approach would reduce rampant fraud by focusing spending on initiatives that further the central strategy, rather than handing cash to every outstretched hand from a U.S. system bereft of institutional memory.
  2. .. Troops fighting for their lives should not have to ask a lawyer sitting in air conditioning 500 miles away for permission to drop a bomb. Our plodding, hand wringing and overcaution have prolonged the war—and the suffering it bears upon the Afghan population.
  3. .. Third, we must build the capacity of Afghanistan’s security forces the effective and proven way, instead of spending billions more pursuing the “ideal” way. The 330,000-strong Afghan army and police were set up under the guidance of U.S. military “advisers” in the mirror image of the U.S. Army. That was the wrong approach.     .. frequent defections, which currently deliver the equivalent of two trained infantry divisions per year to the enemy.

.. a different, centuries-old approach. For 250 years, the East India Company prevailed in the region through the use of private military units known as “presidency armies.” They were locally recruited and trained, supported and led by contracted European professional soldiers. The professionals lived, patrolled, and—when necessary—fought shoulder-to-shoulder with their local counterparts for multiyear deployments. That long-term dwelling ensured the training, discipline, loyalty and material readiness of the men they fought alongside for years, not for a one-time eight-month deployment.

.. the viceroy would have complete decision-making authority in the country so no time is wasted waiting for Washington to send instructions. A nimbler special-ops and contracted force like this would cost less than $10 billion per year, as opposed to the $45 billion we expect to spend in Afghanistan in 2017.

.. The military default in a conventional war is to control terrain, neglecting the long-term financial arteries that fund the fight, and handicaps long-term economic potential.

The Taliban understand this concept well. They control most of Afghanistan’s economic resources—including lapis, marble, gold, pistachios, hashish and opium—and use profits to spread their influence and perpetuate the insurgency. Our strategy needs to target those resources by placing combat power to cover Afghanistan’s economic arteries.

.. We need to encourage the growth of legitimate industries to raise tax revenue while choking off the Taliban’s sources of income. It’s absurd that Afghanistan—which holds an estimated $1 trillion worth of mineral resources—still doesn’t have a mining law, after 15 years of American presence and “advice.”

.. Our failed population-centric approach to Afghanistan has only led to missed opportunities

.. A smarter, trade-centric approach will boost Afghanistan’s long-run viability by weaning it off donor welfare dependency.

.. Mr. Trump must not lose sight of the reason we became involved in Afghanistan: to deny sanctuary to those who want to destroy our way of life.

.. The U.S. should adjust course from the past 15-plus years of nation building and focus on pounding the Taliban and other terrorists so hard that they plead for negotiation. Until they feel real pressure and know the U.S. has staying power, they will win.

Quit calling Donald Trump an isolationist. He’s worse than that.

What Trump really believes is far more dangerous.

.. The problem is, Trump isn’t an isolationist. He is a militarist, something far worse. And calling Trump an isolationist isn’t an effective critique.
 .. What united them was their opposition to entering the Second World War after the devastation of the First. Judging the United States capable of repelling any outside invasion, they wanted to steer clear of armed entanglement in Europe and Asia.
.. The first America Firsters, then, were antiwar more than anti-Semitic or pro-fascist, strains that recent critics of Trump overemphasize. True, the group’s spokesman, aviator Charles Lindbergh, railed against “Jewish influence” months before Pearl Harbor. But the anti-Semitic diatribe crippled the movement rather than advanced it, and few America Firsters favored the Axis.
.. Ever since, foreign policy elites have deployed the “isolationist” tag to expel anti-interventionists from the bounds of legitimate debate.
.. It’s often an unfair label, but it’s especially nonsensical when it comes to the current commander in chief: Trump is no isolationist, whether caricatured or actual. Rather than seeking to withdraw from the world, he vows to exploit it. Far from limiting the area of war, he threatens ruthless violence against globe-spanning adversaries and glorifies martial victory. In short, the president is a militarist.
Scholars define militarism, broadly, as the excessive use and veneration of force for political ends, or even for its own sake, extending at times to full military control of the state. (Trump has appointed two Marine generals, Jim Mattis and John F. Kelly, to his Cabinet.) Militarism, the pioneering historian Alfred Vagts wrote in 1937, promotes values “associated with armies and wars and yet transcending true military purposes.”
.. Not even the European Union escapes Trump’s zero-sum squint: He casts it as a German vehicle to “beat the United States on trade,”
.. Previous presidents — Theodore Roosevelt, Richard Nixon — have scorned non-Western cultures and accentuated divergent interests among states. But Trump is unique in seeing America as a victim nation, a net global loser that must now fight back.
His single most consistent political conviction is that other countries have exploited the United States.
.. Trump’s sense of abuse and humiliation is potent. “The world is laughing at us,” he endlessly repeats.
.. Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany did not conquer territory for the thrill of it; their leaders acted out of perceived desperation, believing that they were losing a ruthless competition for power and status.
.. He talks of grabbing wealth from other countries, most vividly in his mantra to “take the oil” in Iraq. “Maybe we’ll have another chance,” he said in a speech at the CIA. Trump may be posturing, but the posture is militaristic.
.. To announce a lust for oil, to chest-thump about torture, to envisage military parades down Pennsylvania Avenue — these do not achieve strategic objectives so much as exalt brute force. “I’m the most militaristic person there is,” Trump said in the primaries. Perhaps he was telling the truth.
.. Drawing a moral equivalencebetween the United States and Vladimir Putin’s Russia, Trump rejects America’s traditional identity as an exceptional nation shining the light of freedom to the world. What identity does he offer instead? While ignoring the Founding Fathers, he constantly invokes the “old days of General MacArthur and General Patton,” the most extreme generals of the mid-20th century.
.. MacArthur and Patton are Trump’s new founders.
.. Trump’s disavowal of nation-building offers little comfort. His predecessors said the same during their presidential campaigns. Trump will avoid large-scale conflict only if he sets limited objectives and acts prudently.
.. “Our military dominance must be unquestioned,”

.. Last year Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, professed “no doubt” that “we’re going to war in the South China Sea in five to 10 years” — and that’s on top of the “global war against Islamic fascism” that he believes to be in its opening stages.

.. When critics seem to assail Trump for being too peaceful, for questioning military alliances and hoping to cooperate with Russia, they reinforce his message. They verify that he’s against not only the establishment but costly wars to boot.
.. a peace candidate turned warmonger, a populist outsider serving arms dealers and autocrats.