Foreign Policy: 2 Kinds of Problems

There are 2 kinds of problems:

  1. Easy to figure out, but difficult politically
  2. No one has a good solution:
    1. North Korea
    2. Syria
    3. Pakistan

Richard Fontaine of the Center for a New American Century, Gideon Rose of Foreign Affairs Magazine, and David Miliband of the International Rescue Committee with an update on America’s place in the world.

Foreign Policy is like 19th century — mercantilistic economic component with gunboat diplomacy military aspect (11:30 min)
Trump see the US as a victim of the international order — economic and political malfeasance. Trump sees the US as a victim of humiliation, not an anchor of the global order.

Russian Hacking Report Complicates Donald Trump’s View of World Order

Intelligence findings make it harder to warm to Moscow as a way to challenge Beijing

 .. while it’s hard to read the enigmatic Mr. Trump, it also appears his vision of how to prosper in that world is to develop friendly ties with Russia on the one hand, thereby improving the American strategic position to challenge China on the other.

.. the report also said this about the intentions of Russian President Vladimir Putin: “We assess Russian intelligence services will continue to develop capabilities to provide Putin with options to use against the United States, judging from past practice and current efforts. Immediately after Election Day, we assess Russian intelligence began a spearphishing campaign targeting U.S. Government employees” and others, referring to a type of cyberattack. “This campaign could provide material for future influence efforts as well as foreign intelligence collection on the incoming administration’s goals and plans.”

In other words, the intelligence community has just warned the incoming president that his team is the next target.

.. Playing the Russians off against the Chinese was long a standard move in the American strategic handbook. The two Communist giants despised each other and worried about the balance of power tilting the wrong way if the other moved too close to the U.S. In that environment, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once said that the American goal was to maintain closer ties with both Moscow and Beijing than the two did with each other.

.. Mr. Trump will take office clearly intending to challenge China more directly on trade and military activity in the South China Sea, but with less freedom to pursue an offsetting warming of relations with the Russians than seemed likely just a few weeks ago.

.. The best way to deal with that strategic reality, Mr. Sestanovich argues, is to use strong ties with America’s networks of allies, in Europe and Asia, to temper any Russian or Chinese efforts to misbehave.

.. The Chinese seek to challenge the U.S., on both economic and security fronts. At the same time, Mr. Carter said, there is in Beijing “a recognition that, in order for them to have the prosperity that they need for their people and for political stability, they can’t be picking fights and they can’t be ruining the system that is working for them.”

Trump likes to be ‘unpredictable.’ That won’t work so well in diplomacy.

And the ambiguity of a president who contradicts himself frequently could sow confusion among rivals of the United States. The problem is that it will also sow confusion among key allies and partners. Ultimately, Trump’s bluster and impulsiveness will hurt our national interest. If allies — or enemies — stop believing what they hear from the White House, Trump is likely to blunder into conflicts that are not of his own choosing.

.. His rise to political prominence came from lying about President Obama’s citizenship status. During his presidential campaign, Trump and his aides gaslighted on a regular basis: In one debate, Trump flatly denied that he had called global warming a Chinese hoax — when he very clearly had . According to every reputable fact-checker, Trump lied far more frequently than Hillary Clinton.

.. As Salena Zito put it in the Atlantic in September, Trump’s voters took his rhetoric seriously but not literally; the press, meanwhile, took it literally but not seriously.

.. But after a campaign in which he faced almost no consequences for lying or exaggerating, Trump will be moving to a far different arena. Getting caught bluffing in international politics is embarrassing. Getting caught in an outright lie is more dangerous.

.. John F. Kennedy lied to hide the fact that Soviet removal of nuclear weapons from Cuba in 1962 was contingent on the United States withdrawing Jupiter missiles from Turkey. But that was a lie to the American people.

In his book “Why Leaders Lie,” political scientist John Mearsheimer came to the surprising conclusion that foreign policy leaders rarely lie to other governments.

.. On the other hand, it’s not always clear that Trump knows when he’s lying. He simply doesn’t care at times whether he’s telling the truth or not. But even if he’s just winging it rather than lying, that will be a marked change from past commanders in chief.

.. As the Atlantic’s David Frum noted this week, “It’s really a terrible thing that the word of the president-elect of the United States cannot be believed or trusted.”

.. Trump’s impulsiveness alone won’t pose as much of a problem as it will in conjunction with his inability to tell the truth.

.. Furthermore, for all Trump’s fits of pique, it is worth remembering that he also reverses course frequently. Trump raged against Kelly but eventually sat down for a one-on-one interview with her.

.. According to “Frontline,” Obama’s 2011 roasting of Trump inspired his presidential run, but since winning the election, the president-elect has been nothing but complimentary toward his predecessor. Just this past week, Trump tweeted that he had canceled a scheduled meeting with the New York Times, only to reverse course later in the morning and show up for an on-the-record interview . In that interview, he backed away from some of his core campaign promises, which only underscores how hard it is to know when Trump means what he says.

.. Trump and his brain trust clearly believe that candor is a sign of weakness.

..  His preference was for a “sneak attack ” (despite doubts among military experts that such an operation would be possible).

..  This sentiment echoes what Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, told the Wall Street Journal this week: “Politics is war. General Sherman would never have gone on TV to tell everyone his plans. I’d never tip my hand to the other side.”

.. But most presidents have been slow to anger and reluctant to lie in world politics. And there are pretty good reasons for that.

.. When foreign policy leaders get angry as a theatrical tactic, the idea is to get more in negotiations. What happens the first time the president loses his cool — and then just plain loses? Then the anger will be seen as a bluff.

.. leaders don’t bluff much in world politics because they want their promises to be believed by other countries. That is the nature of deterrence.

..  Trump pilloried Obama during a debate for not following through in August 2013 on his declaration that using chemical weapons would be a “red line” for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (though Trump supported Obama’s decision at the time ). To many in the foreign policy establishment, that decision signaled American weakness in the Middle East. The more the Trump administration makes threats it doesn’t carry out, the more other countries will not take subsequent promises seriously. They will be perceived, as Trump put it, as “just words.”

.. Being hot-headed as a tactic only works if other leaders are not hot-headed in response. The very leaders most like Trump — Putin, Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan — are the ones most likely to respond to anger with anger, escalating any dispute.

.. however, the president-elect doesn’t seem to have thought about what will happen after other countries adjust to his bluffing and dissembling.

The Biden Doctrine

Former Defense Secretary Bob Gates wrote in his memoir, Duty, that Biden has been “wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”

.. I haven’t always agreed with Biden’s positions, but those positions have tended to follow a pattern and demonstrate a consistency of approach, analysis, and engagement that stands out—particularly when compared with many other foreign-policy players who often don’t leave clear footprints.

.. decisions on whether to deploy America’s “enormous military capability,” he said in the interview, should depend on assessments of “(a) what is the strategic interest? And (b) what are the second, third, and fourth steps in this process?” His contention to me that “you do not commit force unless you can demonstrate that the use of that force is sustainable and will produce an outcome” sounds nearly identical to the views President Barack Obama expressed to Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlanticarticle “The Obama Doctrine.”

.. what makes his approach distinctive is that he may very well be the nation’s first “personality realist.” Unlike Obama—whose relationships with world leaders from Japan’s Shinzo Abe to Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu are famously chilly—Biden says of his doctrine that “it all gets down to the conduct of foreign policy being personal. … All [foreign policy] is, is a logical extension of personal relationships, with a lot less information to act on.”

 .. She supported the U.S. surge of forces into Afghanistan in 2009, at a time when Biden opposed it. In 2011, she supported both America’s Libya intervention and the raid to kill Osama bin Laden
.. Americans, he said, tend to over-respond to the “wolf at the door” without recognizing that there are other wolves out in the field.
.. The “wolves in the field,” then—the real existential threats facing the nation—he sees not as terrorism, even from ISIS, but rather the prospect of “loose nukes, and unintended nuclear conflict that erupts with another nuclear power” like Russia or China. Other big threats include “that not-stable figure in North Korea,” Kim Jong Un, and Pakistan, which, he reminded me, he dubbed the “most dangerous nation in the world” nine years ago.
.. “Terrorism is a real threat,” Biden said, “but it’s not an existential threat to the existence of the democratic country of the United States of America.

.. had seen Biden take his granddaughter Finnegan to China to help break open new terrain with the new Chinese leaderwhen Xi Jinping first took office, and do the same with his granddaughter Naomi*
.. “You’ve got to figure out what is the other guy’s [leader’s] bandwidth. … You have to figure out what is realistically possible
.. Netanyahu had enough trust in the vice president to ask him to help normalize his country’s relations with Turkey, which had ruptured in 2010. Biden took the mission, mediating between Netanyahu and Erdogan—himself not an uncomplicated leader. And it worked. The two countries signed a deal to normalize relations this summer. Netanyahu called the vice president thanking him for his role in making their rapprochement—and a potential natural-gas deal between the two countries—work.
.. Biden has tried to effect similar reconciliations between South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
.. Biden is regularly handed the lemons in the foreign-policy sphere—the tough, unglamorous cases, the ones that have to be worked for a long time. It’s worth noting, as Goldberg has, that there are leaders Obama never really warmed up to. Biden tends these relationships
.. Biden would be the golden retriever of the administration.’
.. Biden Doctrine, then, has four key components. 1) Don’t use force unless it counts and is sustainable. 2) Shore up and strengthen alliances—and build common cause on common projects with other global stakeholders. The world is changing and fragile and America can’t do all that needs to be done alone. 3) Have a sense of perspective, and think about proportional responses to threats—terrorism is not existential but nuclear exchanges are. 4) Relationships and the personal side of foreign-policy making—with allies and with enemies—is a key part of successful foreign-policy execution. It’s this fourth dimension of “personality realism” that represents the vice president’s biggest contribution