Conversation with Noam Chompsky
In his zero-sum universe, you’re either victorious or you’re defeated... “Vast numbers of manufacturing jobs in Pennsylvania have moved to Mexico and other countries. That will end when I win!”.. “China, Japan, Mexico, Brazil, these countries are all taking our jobs, like we’re a bunch of babies. That will stop,”.. In Trump’s view of the world, there is a finite amount of everything — money, security, jobs, victories — and nothing can be shared... It’s a universe where the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must, as Thucydides said... The problem is that the triumphs that Trump craves — strength, safety, prosperity — cannot be achieved alone... They require friends and allies, and they require the president to see those people as partners, not competitors... other governments don’t like to be punching bags, the only role he appears to envision for them... In real estate, relationships often take the form of one-off transactions: You can cheat people you’ll never do business with again... Winners have trade surpluses, and losers have trade deficits... The United States is the biggest economy with the biggest military, and therefore the United States has leverage to get the best deals. If we don’t emerge from negotiation with a clear advantage, that’s because our negotiator was a soft-headed, do-gooder globalist who didn’t put America first... Washington has the most leverage when it deals with countries one on one, which is why, he says, “we need bilateral trade deals,” not “another international agreement that ties us up and binds us down.”To abide by the same rules as less-powerful countries would be to sublimate American interests to those of lesser nations... Trump seeks to begin negotiations with a threat that forces the other side to defend its smaller piece. He pledges to tear up NAFTA, rip up the Iran nuclear deal and revisit America’s relationship with NATO — unless he gets concessions... he gains advantage not by telling the truth but by saying things he believes will boost his bargaining power and sell his vision: China has been allowed to “rape our country.”.. He’s just an alliance-hating unilateralist... he sees three kinds of immigrants:
- smart guys from smart countries, like Norway,
- undeserving charity cases from “shithole” countries and
- terrorists/gang members who threaten ordinary Americans.
.. The zero-sum cosmology touches everything. Obamacare supposedly sticks us with the bill for people who should pay for their own insurance — or a find a job that provides it.
.. he doesn’t exercise, because “the human body was like a battery, with a finite amount of energy, which exercise only depleted.”
.. China is more a strategic competitor than a real partner linked by shared values.
.. “after more than four decades of serving as the nation’s economic majority, the American middle class is now matched in number by those in the economic tiers above and below it.” That’s a real problem, and Trump is right to point it out.
.. He could have demanded that NATO members pay more without signaling that he might abandon the mutual-defense agreement that undergirds a treaty to contain Russia.
.. Relations among nations are not like real estate deals. The president has to negotiate with the same people again the next month, and they’ll remember how they’ve been treated.
Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu never forgave President Barack Obama for openly criticizing his approach to settlement-building;
imagine how every other leader feels about being constantly humiliated by Trump.
.. Other countries form judgments about whether American promises are credible and whether they can trust the president. Trump says he’s willing to talk with North Korea about its nuclear program, but surely Kim Jong Un is watching as Trump threatens to shred the Iran nuclear agreement.
.. The Belt and Road Initiative, China’s plan to blaze new commercial trails and cement new political ties via infrastructure investment in dozens of countries, is seven times larger than the Marshall Plan when adjusted for inflation.
.. More than 120 nations already trade more with China than with the United States.
.. China is investing in smaller European Union members like Hungary and Greece to alter official E.U. attitudes toward Beijing. That’s why the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Trump quashed, was more than just a trade deal. By joining, Trump could have expanded U.S. ties with many of China’s neighbors, governments that fear overreliance on China’s goodwill for future growth.
.. Trump’s win-or-lose philosophy is most confused when it comes to immigration. Foreigners who want to become Americans are not charity cases. They participate in the labor force at higher rates (73.4 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics) than native-born Americans.
.. Trump’s tendency to hire foreign guest workers over Americans at his own properties suggests that he understands something about how hard they work.
.. The undocumented contribute $13 billion to the nation’s retirement fund each year and get just $1 billion in return.
.. “More than three out of every four patents at the top 10 patent-producing US universities (76%) had at least one foreign-born inventor,”
.. he doesn’t seem to know that some of our country’s greatest success stories began in failure.
- Thomas Edison famously erred 1,000 times on the way to inventing the light bulb — it “was an invention with 1,000 steps,” he said.
- Henry Ford went broke repeatedly before he succeeded.
- Steve Jobs, a college dropout, was fired from the company he founded. Even
- Trump’s own businesses have gone bankrupt.
.. If he wants to track terrorists before they try to enter the United States, he needs support from foreign intelligence services.
.. Today, the United States doesn’t have that kind of leverage, and Trump’s aggressive criticism of other countries, including allies, poisons public attitudes toward the United States and makes it harder for foreign leaders to cooperate with Washington publicly.
.. Trump and his leadership at some of the lowest levels since Pew began tracking the U.S. image abroad in 2002. Almost three-quarters of those surveyed said they have little to no confidence in Trump.
.. if Trump wants to make the best deals, he’ll need to learn a few words:
- cooperation and
These ideas won’t fire up a campaign rally. But they might help build an American strategy that works.