By Harry C. Blaney III
The last few days have shown again the total lack of seriousness, long term strategy, and assessment of risks and gains, compounded by ignorance of even the basics of foreign and national security policy and history by Trump and his rag-tag retinue.
The Taiwan “call” debacle is only one of many such acts of unbelievable imbecility which we are now learning was a deliberate programmed act instigated by an outside representative law firm working for the Taiwan government led by Robert Dole who it is reported arranged the call in conclusion with the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the U.S. And while this makes this act more serious in the eyes of China, it also has implication for our understanding of how out-of-it the Trump regime is of the fundamental interest and the playing field of Asia. My old boss at the State Department, Henry Kissinger and architect of the “Opening to China” in the 1970s, had visited Trump before this odd call and also had briefed China President Xi. Clearly I am sure Trump did not take whatever Kissinger told him about the hard fact of the arrangement of relative power in Asia and the binding elements of the Shanghai Agreement.
Even Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen said her phone call with Trump should not be interpreted as a shift in U.S. policy. She stressed that both sides “see the value of maintaining regional stability.” In effect she tried to indicate that the impact of the call may have been a “bridge too far” at this moment.
What is also interesting is that none of Trump’s foreign policy associates cautioned him about the possible risks of such an action. Or if they pressed him to this act they did so not telling him of the costs but simply were playing to their blind extreme ideological right-wing views without telling the “Emperor” that there might also be high costs especially when it come to dealing with the Elephant in the room that is China as far as Asia goes.
What is really worrisome for a sane foreign or security policy going forward is knowing again that his myopic advisors do not seem capable to do what is a necessity of policy making and advice: to give both pros and cons to the decision maker and especially give the high risks of actions which would harm American long-term interests over short-term gains.
Finally, Asia is important and China is often the path to progress on many issues and also an adversary in some areas that need constant and thoughtful assessment and attention of the deepest kind. This includes trade, investment, global security including nuclear proliferation, dealing with a nuclear armed North Korea, the conflict over jurisdiction in the South China Sea, and the preservation of our alliances with Japan and South Korea.
Our interests must also be our concern for the independence and stability of other Asian nations. President Obama was right to establish the “Pivot to Asia” which incorporated a close dialogue and work with China with the protection of other nations from a possible aggressive and overreaching China. Trump apparently does not see these fine points and looks more increasingly like the “Bull in the China Shop.”
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Perhaps it is also short term given the damage that Trump has already done to American leadership just in the last few weeks and look at his choices of foreign affairs top posts.
This is not stupidity; this is a businessman’s short term transactional effort to gain a short term advantage.
Sadly, the game is a long term one.
Watch this playing out in a period of years.