October 20th 2018


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Internal strife at Fortress ABC by Peter Westmore

EDITORIAL The state is separating children from families

CANBERRA OBSERVED Liberals are bare favourites for Wentworth

DEREGULATION Sugar growers are getting burned on churned-up playing field

EUROPE Attempt to discipline Hungary divides the EU

CHINA Social Credit System gives complete control of every citizen

EDUCATION Curriculum refinements will not fix schools

BANKING ROYAL COMMISSION Banks' failures are a symptom of social malaise

HISTORY Moby Dick and American exceptionalism

SHAKESPEARE Tick-tock: clues to the timeless appear of the Bard

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Trump to UN: we'll do it our way; you do it yours

MUSIC Well-tempered scale: might put an alien in a bad temper

CINEMA Alpha: Beautiful beginnings

BOOK REVIEW Essays towards reconstruction

BOOK REVIEW Can society survive the decay of religion?

LETTERS

CLIMATE CHANGE Hockey 1, hockey 2: Good science contradicts IPCC's two-degree alarmism

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INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS
Trump to UN: we'll do it our way; you do it yours


by Colin Teese

News Weekly, October 20, 2018

U.S. President Donald Trump’s annual address to the United Nations General Assembly revealed once again that the media still don’t get it. Forget about Mr Trump’s personal, or personality, failings: he is charting a different course for U.S. policy – domestically and internationally.

Most of the reporting on his General Assembly address concentrated on the President’s rather extravagant account of his first two years in office, and the laughter this drew from the floor. What was not reported or commented on were several important points from what was, on any account, a landmark address.

Most presidential speeches to the UN in recent times have been filled with either empty platitudes or exhortations to other countries to continue supporting time-honoured aspects of U.S.-sourced internationalism and economics.

By contrast, Mr Trump’s speech was loaded with substance. “Making America Great Again” is his catch-cry. He is now putting flesh onto the bones of that vision. In doing so, he is dismantling the foundation upon which U.S. politics and economics have stood since the end of World War II. Unless one accepts this reality, it is impossible to understand what he is doing, and why his actions are generating so much resistance both at home and abroad.

Trump’s aim is to set aside the strategy that was developed to help manage the consequences of the emergence of the Soviet Union as a major power after World War II. That strategy rested on two fundamentals: Europe, especially Germany, had to have its re-industrialisation financed; and there had to be export markets for Europe’s surplus output.

The U.S. was in a position to provide the money – which it did courtesy of the Marshall Plan – and the U.S. market was made willing and able to accept floods of German and other European exports. In this way European political and economic strength could be rebuilt.

This economic integration was pulled together politically under the umbrella of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

This became the essential underpinning of the U.S. strategy of containment of the Soviet Union. In particular, a prosperous and powerful Europe standing alongside the U.S. stood as testimony that Western democracies could deliver better social and economic outcomes than the Soviet Union could.

Later, the same basic strategy, to the same end, was used in Asia as a bulwark against Communist China. It resulted in the economic emergence of Taiwan and South Korea and the creation of Japan as an economic powerhouse.

In the process the U.S. came to occupy a position of dominance of what became known as the “Free World”.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and a fundamental change in the U.S. attitude towards China dating back to President Richard Nixon, successive U.S. presidents worked towards consolidating the U.S. as the head of a unipolar world. The U.S. took on itself the setting and enforcing of the rules – both political and economic – according to which the world would operate.

Part of this mission has been to spread the United States’ particular version of liberalism around the world. Mainstream elite life in U.S. administrations of both political persuasions remain committed to this ideal; though, it has to be said, with diminishing degrees of success in the last 20 or so years. The fact that the U.S. has been engaged in unwinnable wars for so many decades has not helped.

To any remaining doubters, Donald Trump’s address to the UN General Assembly made clear his intention to move away from that strategy. For Mr Trump, internationalism and free trade are no longer central to U.S. interests.

Mr Trump’s aim is to make the Americans stronger, safer (with more military spending) and richer. Standing up for America and its people is what he sees as the role of U.S. leaders. He goes further – he believes that that is what leaders worldwide should do for their peoples.

That, the President obviously believes, brings about a safer, better world, built on the foundation of national self-interest rather than internationalism.

His attitude to trade is no less radical. Trade has to be fair, not free.

Here’s how Mr Trump put it to the UN. The United States has lost three million manufacturing jobs, 25 per cent of all steel jobs and 60,000 factories since China joined the World Trade Organisation. In the last 20 years, the U.S. has racked up $US13 trillion in trade deficits – currently it’s running at $US800 billion a year. This must end. His administration will protect the national interest. We, the President said, reject the ideology of globalisation.

He informed his audience that the U.S. will protect the independence of the Western Hemisphere from foreign power encroachment into its affairs, in particular, in the matter of foreign investment into the U.S. He reminded his audience of the Monroe Doctrine – the isolationist approach to foreign affairs the U.S. maintained until the beginning of World War II.

So there it is. A return to the Monroe Doctrine of much less involvement in world affairs, and in economics a return to a more protectionist stance. And, with that, a complete rejection of what Dani Rodrik calls “deep globalisation” and all that hangs on it.

Notwithstanding, Mr Trump has had his interventionist moments. For example, in North Korea, where some kind of rapprochement may be at hand in regard to a war that has defied settlement since 1950. And his policy towards Iran does not perhaps sit comfortably with some of his stated non-interventionist objectives.

All of this, his enemies emphasise, is testimony to his unreliability. Then again, is that not also true of his predecessors in similar measure?

Janan Ganesh, in his brilliant article in a recent issue of the Financial Times, put it simply. Mr Trump’s foreign policy, taken seriously, is less about making America great again, than making it normal again. As Ganesh put it: “The restoration of the U.S. as a selfish state among selfish states; not an overworked governess with the entire free world as her mewling wards.”

As Ganesh points out, the President is right to be searching for a different way. On any reading of the present, the U.S. is not what it was at the end of World War II. It then accounted for one-third of world output, and was generating massive trade surpluses; today it is below 20 per cent of world output and incapable of paying for its imports.

The world has changed. The U.S. no longer has the capacity, nor its people the will, to underwrite, singlehandedly, world economic and political security.

Mr Trump seems to understand better than his well-credentialed opponents that Americans are tired of fighting wars in other hemispheres, while at the same time bearing an overlarge burden of the downside of free-market economics.

The President speaks a language well understood by those Americans dwelling outside the winners’ circle of prevailing economic and political orthodoxy. Meanwhile, U.S. elite opinion seems more interested in advancing the cause of U.S. liberalism internationally, ahead of creating a better America at home.

Many are asking, what will happen post Trump. That is a question impossible to answer. There are, however, a few things that can be said. Much rests upon whether Donald Trump is elected for a second term. And that is today more likely than seemed possible a year ago.

A good deal rests upon what happens in South Korea. If he is able to bring about a settlement that results in the two Koreas coming together, that would go some way towards getting him a second term. A recovery in the domestic economy, with higher employment and wages, which could be under way, would also help. To some extent this rests on how far he succeeds with his tariff policy.

He is having a win or two there already. A new trade agreement has emerged with Canada and Mexico. If this leads to measurably better outcomes for U.S. manufacturing industries and jobs, he may well hold votes he has already drawn from his political opponents.

Against that, we must assume that he will not win any trade concessions from China. Just how this particular conflict plays out remains anyone’s guess.

But suppose he is not re-elected. What then? The widespread belief is that with Mr Trump gone, discontented elites will breathe a sigh of relief and set about re-establishing what was there before.

Ganesh, referred to earlier, rejects that possibility. A different leader will not be able to recreate the U.S. as it was in 1948. The die is cast. The U.S., for all kinds of reasons – not least the rise of China – cannot keep doing what it once could.

A Trump successor, however smooth and polished, won’t be able to sweep aside the U.S. policy contradictions that President Trump has exposed. As Ganesh observes, Mr Trump has paved the way. A successor might do it better, but he or she will do it.




























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