Trump’s Syrian trifecta: Putin wins, Kurds lose, allies uncertain

Thomas Friedman in the NYT: “The job of the president, though, is to balance the understandable desire of Americans to no longer bear every burden and oppose any foe to ensure the survival of freedom with the fact that U.S. interests and values still require us to remain engaged around the world in a sustainable way.

“But sustainable engagement requires us to do at least three things: make fine distinctions, leverage allies and amplify islands of decency. Alas, Trump violated all these principles in Syria. …

“In taking responsibility with the Kurds for defeating ISIS in Syria, we relieved Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and al-Assad of a huge burden, enabling them to crush the regime’s domestic rivals. And what’s really crazy is that — we did it for free! We didn’t even demand autonomy for our Syrian Kurdish allies or power-sharing with moderate Sunni Syrian rebels. …

“For instance, Iraqi Kurdistan and the Syrian Kurdish regions, while they have plenty of corruption and tribalism, are nevertheless islands of decency where women tend to be more empowered, Islam is practiced in more moderate forms and Western liberal education is promoted in American-style universities. In just walking away from the Syrian Kurds, Trump has weakened their island of decency, rather than amplified it.

“America is better than that, even if our current president is not.”

Views: 58

Have no fear, Rudy is here!

“If America can be said to have a foreign policy at this debased stage of the Trump administration, it mostly consists of sucking up to strongmen while betraying everyone who ever believed in America’s putative ideals. Trump has given Turkey his blessing to assault the Syrian Kurds, America’s crucial allies against ISIS. In June, he reportedly promised China that he wouldn’t speak out in favor of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, some of whom have been carrying American flags, as long as trade talks progressed.

“Here in Ukraine, a country locked in a proxy war with Russia, coping with a deluge of disinformation and propaganda and struggling to transcend a history of corruption, reformers are trying to figure out what it means when the American president sides against them.”

Views: 49

Who’s paying Rudy?

“Giuliani appears to have spearheaded Trump’s efforts to convince the Ukrainian president to open an investigation into Trump’s political rivals. Text messages released by Congress also show he was steering U.S. policy in Ukraine in a direction that alarmed career State Department officials, who thought it harmed U.S. interests there. …

“Despite playing such an important role in U.S. foreign policy, Giuliani — who is named in the whistleblower complaint that touched off an impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives — claims not to be bound by ethics rules designed to prevent conflicts of interest and provide transparency into the financial interests that might influence public officials.”

A loophole in ethics laws lets Trump?s personal lawyer sidestep disclosure.

Views: 31

Crossing the line on Greenland

Thomas Wright of the Brookings Institution writes in The Atlantic: “It is one thing to float a cockamamie idea that no one believes is serious or will go anywhere. “Let’s buy Greenland!” Yes, very funny. A good distraction from the economy, the failure to deal with white supremacy, White House staff problems, or whatever is the news of the day. It is quite another to use leverage and impose costs on Denmark in pursuit of that goal—and make no mistake, canceling a presidential visit is using leverage and imposing costs. …

“This is the kind of thing the Russians and the Chinese do. It is territorial revisionism—the use of national power to acquire territory against the desire of its sovereign government and its people. The use of leverage would also call into question the U.S. commitment to the 1975 Helsinki Final Act, which is the cornerstone of stability in Europe. …

“One uncomfortable truth is already inescapable. Free societies and autocracies are at odds with each other—over human rights, the rule of law, technology, freedom of the press, the free flow of information, and territorial expansion. At this particular moment, it is not sufficient to say that the free world is without a leader. He has actually defected to the other side.”

The president crossed an important line when he canceled a meeting with the Danish prime minister.

Views: 89

But he said they’re easy to win!

Paul Krugman in the New York Times: “So how will this end? Trade wars almost never have clear victors, but they often leave long-lasting scars on the world economy. The light-truck tariffs America imposed in 1964 in an unsuccessful effort to force Europe to buy our frozen chickens are still in place, 55 years later.

“Trump’s trade wars are vastly bigger than the trade wars of the past, but they’ll probably have the same result. No doubt Trump will try to spin some trivial foreign concessions as a great victory, but the actual result will just be to make everyone poorer. At the same time, Trump’s casual trashing of past trade agreements has badly damaged American credibility, and weakened the international rule of law.”

Views: 62

NATO is still relevant to some people

NATO’s original purpose was to protect member states from Russian (previously Soviet) aggression. Non-member states? Not so much. And admitting Georgia would be extremely provocative so it’s not going to happen. Presumably, the problem will go away when Georgia goes away (which is slowly happening through “borderization“).

As the transatlantic alliance turns 70, Georgia?situated on Russia?s doorstep?desperately hopes to join.

Views: 31