Trump and Consequences: Part II

A new beginning
By Larry Butler | Nov 13, 2020

This is a Thanksgiving op-ed where I follow my pastor’s advice to list the things I am grateful for this awful year of COVID-19. This piece picks up where I left off in August 2016, when I predicted Trump’s election and laid out the foreign policy consequences that would ensue.

Well, we got our “trump-upence,” as America’s international standing is/was in the toilet. Last week, many people celebrated the election of the 46th President of the U.S. Not so fast. I think he will be the 47th. Read on for why.

For the past four years, we in the American national security establishment watched in sorrow as the 45th President of the U.S. seemed to have common cause with Moscow in ending the American-created (and dominated) post-WWII multilateral political, security and economic order.

America went from being the leader of the free world to being a selfish, America First behemoth intent on wrecking the multilateral, international order we carefully built. America First became American Alone. Trump attacked our allies and many of the institutions we Americans built after 1945 that contributed to our incredible prosperity (international trade and finance institutions), security (hello, NATO!) and health (say hi to WHO and COVID-19).

Trump appointed an ambassador to Europe’s most important economic power, and our best ally in deflecting Moscow’s efforts at driving wedges into our alliances, Germany. That person spent his tenure attacking and insulting his hosts when he wasn’t roving around the Balkans sticking his nose into things that were none of his business, like Kosovo and Serbia.

But, as they say, all good things come to an end. What follows is what I will give thanks for Nov. 26 in Thomaston; achievable challenges!

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be inaugurated in January with a daunting foreign policy to-do list. This will include:

 

  • The ongoing war between Armenia and Azerbaijan (with Russia and Turkey respectively, as the great power competitors jousting over a contested area of land called Nagorno-Karabakh)
  • The unfinished business in Syria where Trump abandoned American-Kurdish allies to curry favor with Turkey’s authoritarian ruler
  • The U.S. departure from the Paris Climate Accord
  • The U.S. departure from the World Health Organization
  • The U.S. refusal to join and lead the Trans-Pacific Partnership, leaving the Chinese in the driver’s seat
  • They must re-inject American leadership in NATO (the French president called NATO brain-dead, and with Germans and Brits, created an alternative structure called the Europe-3)
  • Make an announcement that U.S. forces would be redeployed from long-standing bases in Germany (including my last overseas post), the foreign policy equivalent of a spite fence.

Lurking everywhere are Putin and his minions, who enjoyed free reign to poison political opponents, pay the Taliban to hunt American soldiers in Afghanistan, hack/influence western democratic processes and otherwise misbehave will little consequence.

Finally, there is great power competition with China where Trump’s near-sighted trade war inflicted damages across the American economy and cost us influence in Asia.

Literally nothing I listed above benefits Maine. Nothing. As a hunter and individualist, I understand why Maine’s Second District went for Trump twice, but I question whether the appeal of Trump’s conservatism — that resonated so well in rural Maine and much of America — reflected the bottom line.

A simple example: ask the seafood industry, where I saw dozens of lobster boats flying Trump flags, how many millions of lost lobster exports to China they endured, and what did they get in return? The Canadians literally laughed while eating our lunch.

Conversely, the dismal list above affords ample opportunities for restoring American global leadership, with Maine standing to benefit. Our European and Asian allies are thrilled at the prospect of a White House that stands behind our commitment to international security, an open and fair-trading system and a financial system with the dollar as its basis.

Moscow and Beijing hate this, because I predict a rapid global economic recovery with our export industries benefiting.

Our competitors and adversaries notice they cannot count on a White House that tolerates, even elevates, dictators and authoritarian leaders. I cannot envision cozy press conferences with Putin, love letters with Kim Jong Un or friendly phone calls with Turkish President Erdogan who, when he isn’t locking up all his political opponents, attacking Kurds in Syria and supporting Azerbaijan attacks on Nagorno-Karabakh, purchased Russian-made defense systems that jeopardize the integrity and security of the NATO anti-aircraft system for Europe.

This is an ambitious and daunting “to-do” list for the new Administration in January. Part of me badly wants to get back into business, but after 40 years, it is time for the next generation, which includes native sons, such as Ambassador Henry Wooster, currently in Jordan on the front lines of the Middle East Peace and the Syrian conflict.

Finally, an early New Year’s prediction: Remember my reference to Biden as the 47th President? Could one imagine a scenario where the 45th resigns Jan. 19? The next 46th president’s name is Pence? Who issues a series of blanket pardons to anyone who has Trump in their name before the 47th is inaugurated?

We saw that with Nixon, passing the baton to Gerald Ford in 1974. Will history repeat? 2020 proved anything is possible!

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