Thursday, February 2, 2017

Aussie, Aussie, Oh I am So Sorry

That Trump is now pissing off Australia is simply bad news.  But it has implications beyond a bilateral relationship that was solid, easy to manage, and downright fun until yesterday.

Remember, the turning point in the conversation seems to be this: Turnbull asked if Trump would respect the deal that Obama had made--taking a very small number of refugees off of Australia's hands.  Trump went ballistic.  Because he has a thing about brown people.  And poor people. 

But the larger importance is this: America's word is no longer good.  Trump is willing to break agreements with America's best allies* even when these deals impose modest costs on the US.  Imagine if you are not America's best ally or if the exchange involves higher costs than less than 1500 refugees. 

So, as SecDef Mattis goes to Asia and as NATO SecGen goes around Europe, both trying to reassure allies of America's commitment, no one should buy what these guys are selling.  NO ONE.  Trump is demonstrating that the US is now thoroughly unreliable.  It is not just Trump's zero-sum, transactional view of the world. It is also that he has long stiffed those who trusted him--wives, banks, contractors.  He is not changing at age 70, and the office is not going to mature him.  He is what he is: a temperamental brat who insists on getting 110% of his way all the time. 

So what are allies supposed to do?  Dodge, dip, duck, dive and dodge?  That is what Canada is doing now, and it really might make the most sense.  Perhaps offering to take refugees off of the US's hands (the Australian refugees, those stuck in the pipeline due to Friday's mess, etc) would allow Justin Trudeau to uphold Canadian values in a way that helps Trump.  All I can say is that no ally should count on the US for anything.  And that is mighty, mighty disturbing.  Given that these countries have relied on the American nuclear umbrella for generations, they may have to find another umbrella (France, anyone?), or appease the autocrats nearby (perhaps that is South Korea's path) or develop one's own nuclear deterrent.  Remember, Trump was not so upset at the prospect of Japan developing nuclear weapons.  The unthinkable is now easily imaginable.

*  I have often written about the contest for worst US ally (Pakistan and Saudi Arabia usually vie for the top spot although Turkey sometimes comes close).  I haven't written about best ally, but a country that shows up to help out the US in every war, even the most ill conceived (Vietnam, Iraq 2003) is near the top of the list.

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