Föhrenbergkreis Finanzwirtschaft

Unkonventionelle Lösungen für eine zukunftsfähige Gesellschaft

America first and last

Posted by hkarner - 4. Februar 2017

Date: 02-02-2017
Source: The Economist

What the visa ban shows about American foreign policy

A divided nation seeks a divided world

THE cavalier view some members of President Donald Trump’s inner circle take of the chaos they have unleashed since January 20th has startled both their opponents and many of their Republican colleagues. It should not. The insiders are doing things that Mr Trump promised to do on the campaign trail, and that they have long wanted to see done. And if they are doing it in a way that tramples other people’s sensibilities, then all the better; it is what their supporters would want.

Take the executive order of January 27th that barred citizens of seven mostly Muslim nations from entering America for 90 days, and halted all refugee arrivals for 120 days. So what if it was put together amid such secrecy that Mr Trump’s new secretaries for defence and homeland security were reportedly taken by surprise? Who cares if it was shoddily drafted in a way that saw travellers clutching visas and even green cards denoting legal permanent residency detained by customs officers until federal judges ordered their release? Billionaires from Silicon Valley complaining that their innovation is built on immigration? Protesters at airports and thronging the streets of foreign capitals? Bring it on. Even cases like that of Hameed Khalid Darweesh, an interpreter for the American government in Iraq, detained for nearly 19 hours at JFK airport in New York seemed to make no matter. Mr Darweesh cried as he told reporters he had been handcuffed, asking: “You know how many soldiers I touch by this hand?” Hardliners close to Mr Trump did not flinch when their president was forced to fire his acting attorney-general after she refused to comply with the travel ban. And they showed no sign of worrying that a policy nominally designed to reduce terrorism has little prospect of doing so.
The reason for this bullish insouciance is both straightforward and alarming. The president’s currently most influential advisers believe that he has a mandate to blow up norms of good governance. When he fires bureaucrats who stand in his way, bullies business bosses into keeping jobs in America, browbeats members of Congress and—most deliciously—provokes swooning dismay among journalists, many of the voters who gave him that mandate applaud. With no interest in converting those who oppose him, such support is the best sort of strength.

The policy the executive order laid out is not, after all, an unpopular one. A Reuters/IPSOS poll released on January 31st found 43% of those questioned supported bans on people from Muslim countries as a precaution against terror; among Republicans support was 73%. Demonstrators carrying placards bearing such messages as “We Are All Muslims Now” and “Let Them In” in airports across the country saw the executive order as a version of Mr Trump’s campaign pledge to ban all Muslims watered down with some dubious legal legerdemain, and thus as bigotry. Mr Trump’s supporters read those placards and wondered why any patriot would want to let in foreigners from dangerous lands, imperilling American families.

Mr Trump stokes up such polarisation by defining his opponents as foolish, out-of-touch, disingenuous or actively vicious. He could but fire his acting attorney general, Sally Yates, a career prosecutor who served as deputy attorney general under President Barack Obama, after she said that Justice Department lawyers would not defend the ban against legal challenges, on the basis that its broad intent was possibly unlawful and because her office had a duty to “stand for what is right”. But it was startling to see the White House say that Ms Yates had “betrayed” the Justice Department and add: “Ms Yates is an Obama administration appointee who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration.”After the Democratic leader in the Senate, Charles Schumer of New York, grew emotional while discussing refugees, Mr Trump mocked him, saying: “I noticed Chuck Schumer yesterday with fake tears,” adding: “I’m going to ask him who is his acting coach.”

Mr Trump’s most devoted tribune on television, the Fox News channel commentator Sean Hannity, devoted a segment of a show to the question: “Who is bankrolling the protests taking place at airports across the country?” All the evidence from social media points to the protests being both low-budget and fairly spontaneously organised.

For Mr Trump, belittling critics and intimidating business partners has been second nature for decades. It is a tactical proclivity that aligns well with the strategic agenda of the most zealously anti-establishment figures in his team, led by Stephen Bannon, a rumpled nationalist firebrand. After serving as CEO of Mr Trump’s campaign, Mr Bannon is now the president’s chief strategist. Born into a Democrat-voting working class family in Virginia, Mr Bannon served in the navy and worked at Goldman Sachs before making his fortune as a Hollywood investor and dealmaker, thanks in part to a lucky stake in “Seinfeld”, a sitcom. He went on to run Breitbart, a reactionary and often venomous website.

Since entering the White House Mr Bannon, 63, has revelled in his public image as a Darth Vader-ish villain. He recently told the New York Times that mainstream news outlets had been “humiliated” by the election outcome and were considered the “opposition party” by Team Trump. He advised that the media’s best course would be to “keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while”, because journalists do not understand America.

Now I am the master
In 2014 Mr Bannon gave a remarkable address to a conservative conference at the Vatican. He described working-class communities betrayed by “people in New York that feel closer to people in London and in Berlin than they do to people in Kansas and in Colorado”. The corruption and greed of that rootless elite had caused a crisis in capitalism, Mr Bannon argued, “and on top of that we’re now, I believe, at the beginning stages of a global war against Islamic fascism.” His answer lay in the values of the “Judeo-Christian West”, in “strong countries and strong nationalist movements” and possibly in an accommodation with President Vladimir Putin of Russia. Though he called Mr Putin a kleptocrat, Mr Bannon suggested that this might matter less than securing Russia as an ally against radical Islamists.

Mr Bannon has the trust of the president on foreign affairs. Witness the decision to give him a guaranteed seat on the National Security Council (NSC), enjoying the same access to that inner sanctum as James Mattis, the defence secretary, and Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state. A move that gives a political strategist privileges no longer enjoyed by the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, who only attends when the agenda touches his military portfolio directly, has been lambasted by foreign-policy grandees as “stone-cold crazy” and “entirely inappropriate”.

Indeed, Mr Bannon seems to have edged aside the national security adviser, Michael Flynn, in the battle for influence. An overbearing former general, Mr Flynn is suffering political death by a thousand briefings. Along with Jared Kushner, a New York businessman who is married to Mr Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and who is a recent but devout convert to America First populism, Mr Bannon has pushed Mr Trump to put into action the campaign promises that won him office.

A key ally is Stephen Miller, a 31-year-old policy adviser. Like some other members of Team Trump he comes from the Senate offices of Jeff Sessions, Mr Trump’s pick as attorney general, one of Washington’s most ferocious opponents of legal and illegal immigration. Mr Miller, who developed a taste for political combat as a right-wing teenager at a liberal high school in Santa Monica, California, has been blamed by some Trump supporters for causing unnecessary fights over immigration policy. Mr Miller, Mr Bannon and others in the president’s inner circle reportedly clashed with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its secretary, John Kelly, a former Marine general, over the fate of citizens from countries on the banned list who hold green cards. The Bannon camp insisted that such residents be admitted only on a case-by-case basis—a trampling of immigration procedures from which the administration later retreated.

Mr Bannon talks of Mr Trump’s election as part of a “global revolt” by nationalists which will sweep away all governments that do not adapt to it. This dramatic historical narrative appeals to Mr Trump, who lauded the British decision to leave the European Union as a populist precursor to his own victory. But for all that the president enjoys humbling elites, he also craves their respect and admiration. He appointed high-flying former generals and titans of commerce to his cabinet because he wished to surround himself with “the best” and impress the world. If such grandees tire of the conflicts and chaos model of some around Mr Trump, their departures would hurt him politically.

Two national-security hawks in the Senate, John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have said they fear the travel ban “will become a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism.” Other Republicans in Congress who have pushed back against the policy, though, have griped about questions of process rather than substance, complaining for instance about lack of consultation. Mr Trump was hardly the first choice of presidential candidate for many Republican members of Congress, especially in the Senate. But they are in no mood to topple him: they yearn to cut taxes and slash business regulation, and think Mr Trump will sign the laws that do so.

And they are also frightened. Chaos alarms Republican grandees and their business supporters. But if chaos is what Mr Trump’s most ferocious insurgents seek, and if it serves as a signifier of authenticity to the base upon which the legislators’ electoral fortunes stand, then chaos is a price they will accept, for now.

Date: 02-02-2017
Source: The Economist
Subject: Many American allies are troubled, and threatened, by Donald Trump’s foreign policy

Alliances and institutions half a century in the making seem imperilled

Maybe we won’t always have Paris

WITHIN hours of signing his executive order restricting travel from seven Muslim countries, President Donald Trump called King Salman of Saudi Arabia to discuss closer ties. “Trump reassures the allies…and the travel restrictions befuddle the world”, read the front-page banner of Asharq Al-Alawsat, a newspaper owned by the king’s son, on the following day.

Some of America’s allies may be reassured; but many of them are aghast at a foreign policy that seems determined to destroy many of the institutions and alliances created in the past half century. A telephone call between Mr Trump and Malcolm Turnbull, the prime minister of Australia, is reported to have turned remarkably sour over a previous American pledge to resettle refugees. Strikingly, Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, wrote to 27 European leaders listing America alongside Russia, China and terrorism among the main external threats to the European Union. Meanwhile Enrique Peña Nieto, Mexico’s president, cancelled a meeting with Mr Trump.

Some satisfaction on the part of Saudi Arabia is not surprising; like Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, two other Sunni countries, it was not targeted by the freeze on visas (see map). Gulf leaders disliked Barack Obama. And Mr Trump seems better disposed to despots than his predecessor; he has praised Egypt’s president, Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, as “a fantastic guy”. And many Arab states impose tight access restrictions on fellow Muslims.

countries-affected-by-us-travel-banAbove all, Saudi Arabia saw the travel ban as re-establishing the isolation of its chief adversary, Iran, and other Shia dominated states. It will have been further delighted when, on February 1st, Mr Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, said America was “putting Iran on notice” for destabilising the Middle East after a recent ballistic missile test and an attack by its Houthi allies on a Saudi frigate.

A veteran Saudi commentator, Abdulrahman al-Rashed, notes that “Trump’s administration sees Iran as part of the problem, unlike the Obama administration, which viewed it as part of the solution.” Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, is well known in Riyadh. As head of Exxon Mobil before taking office, he visited the Gulf as recently as November. “He’s as friendly to Saudi Arabia as it gets,” said a diplomat.

Iran’s reaction was as furious as Saudi Arabia’s was smug, with hardliners and reformers alike reviving old revolutionary slogans. “It’s increasing Iran’s isolation at a time when the country desperately wants to be part of the global community,” said Ali Alizadeh, an Iranian commentator. Valiollah Seif, the central bank governor announced that in March Iran would replace the dollar with other currencies in its accounting for foreign transactions.

Saudi glee could, however, be short-lived: America’s intention to treat non-Muslim refugees preferentially, and its anti-Muslim rhetoric, could play into the hands of global jihadists who, like Mr Trump’s adviser, Stephen Bannon, see a clash between Islamic and Christian civilisations.

In such a division it might seem natural to find America and Europe on the same side, even if such talk gives many Europeans the heebie-jeebies. But Mr Trump’s policies also seem designed to split him off from many of Europe’s leaders—and to exacerbate ructions within their countries.

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor and an Atlanticist to her bones, declared the executive order’s “general suspicion” of Muslims unjustified, a sentiment echoed in many other European capitals. A later clarification that EU citizens would not be affected so long as they were not travelling on a passport issued by one of the seven countries brought some mollification. But European leaders have a deeper concern: that Mr Trump may halt or reverse America’s support for European integration, long a bipartisan staple of American foreign policy. Ted Malloch, who has been canvassed as a possible ambassador to the EU, has compared it to the Soviet Union and suggested he might like to help bring it down. Last year Mr Tusk and several other European leaders were rattled by post-election courtesy calls in which Mr Trump had gleefully solicited opinions on which country might be first to follow Britain out of the EU.

A further adversarial note was struck when, on January 31st, Peter Navarro, Mr Trump’s senior trade adviser, declared TTIP, a half-negotiated trade pact between the EU and America, to be dead, and accused Germany of exploiting an undervalued euro to help its exporters. In the wake of Mr Trump’s withdrawal from the TTP, a trade agreement between 12 Pacific Rim countries, this will spur on European efforts to conclude trade deals elsewhere, notably with Japan and Mexico, which is also looking to deepen ties with big economies other than America. Although the EU recently slapped tariffs on Chinese steel, some Europeans, like the Mexicans, see possibilities there, too. President Xi Jinping’s paean to globalisation at Davos last month went down well.

The British exception
Yet Europe’s unity is, as Mr Trump reminds it, fragile. Take Russia policy. If America lifts the sanctions it imposed on Russia after its annexation of Crimea and invasion of eastern Ukraine, Mrs Merkel will struggle to maintain a consensus on Europe’s own economic measures, which must be renewed in the summer.

The British prime minister, Theresa May, became the first head of government to visit the new president. She is betting that getting close to Mr Trump may help smooth some of his rougher edges. During their meeting she worked hard to convince him that he will have more leverage with Russia if NATO is strong; he has repeatedly questioned the value of the “obsolete” alliance (see Lexington).

Embracing Mr Trump carries risks. The president is unpopular in Britain. Nearly 2m people have signed an online petition urging Mrs May to cancel the state visit she promised the Donald. Her counterparts in the Brexit negotiations may be similarly unimpressed. Many of Britain’s Brexiteers, though, see themselves as part of the anti-elitist “global revolt” Mr Bannon embraces. Europe’s right-wing populists fell over themselves to celebrate America’s visa restrictions. Geert Wilders of the anti-Islam Freedom Party, which is leading opinion polls in the Netherlands six weeks before a general election, said that similar bans in Europe would have thwarted terrorist attacks. “Racist? No. Simply GREAT,” tweeted Matteo Salvini of Italy’s far-right Northern League. Politicians like these see in Mr Trump not only vindication of their anti-elite, anti-immigrant instincts, but a president who shares their bleak analysis of contemporary Europe. On the campaign trail Mr Trump painted apocalyptic pictures of the continent beset by terrorism and ethnic strife.

In the coming months Mr Trump will probably meet some of his European counterparts in the flesh at a NATO summit in Brussels—a “hellhole”, as he once called it. He has already met his Mexican opposite number, President Peña, having made a visit to Mexico City during his campaign. But after further humiliating demands that Mexico pay for the border wall Mr Trump promised during his campaign a return visit was scotched. Relations between the two countries may be at their lowest ebb since 1916, when Woodrow Wilson sent over 6,000 soldiers into Mexico in pursuit of Francisco “Pancho” Villa. (There are reports, which the Mexican government denies, that in a telephone conversation with Mr Peña Mr Trump spoke of using American troops to hunt down criminals south of the border.)

Well, that was fun

Carlos Slim, a multibillionaire businessman who is the only Mexican to have met Mr Trump since election day, says he is “not a terminator but a negotiator”. Mr Trump’s anti-Mexican rhetoric, in other words, could be an opening gambit. But much as politicians hope this is true, they are preparing for the worst.

The Mexican people are unusually unified in their opposition to Mr Trump’s politicking. Mr Peña, who has a popularity rating of just 12%, was excoriated for inviting Mr Trump to Mexico City last year; his newly forthright stance has earned plaudits. But the most likely beneficiary of Mexico’s dislike of Mr Trump is Andrés Manuel López Obrador, leader of the hard-left Morena party. His strident nationalism appeals to voters who want a leader to stand up to Mr Trump. Since the American election, Mr López Obrador has risen 7-8 percentage points in the polls; at the same time the IMF’sprojections for GDP growth in 2017 have dropped from 2.3% to 1.7%.

With the oil price down, NAFTA-dependent trade is more or less the only motor the economy has. A floundering economy, a fractured political landscape and an anti-Trump boost could give Mr López Obrador the top job after Mexico’s 2018 presidential election. That would put at risk the structural reforms in energy, telecoms and education that represent some of the few gains Mr Peña’s administration has made, and the stability that has been fundamental to the development of the Mexican-American relationship for decades.

coming-to-americaA slowing Mexico led by an anti-American president would deliver little benefit on the other side of the Rio Grande. Contrary to Mr Trump’s rhetoric, firms that increase the number of their employees south of the border also increase them to the north—along with their R&D spending. And Mexico could import food from Brazil and Argentina at little extra cost. Those who facilitate illegal immigration from Central America will benefit from reduced co-ordination. So would drug smugglers, who are pretty well versed in tunnelling under walls, whatever their beauty. Hence Mr Peña’s offer of a grand bargain in which trade, migration and security issues would be discussed together.

Mexico might also give serious thought to delaying. Trade negotiations, in particular, can take a very long time: why rush them? If there is a new administration in 2021 America’s policies could be very different. Others may seek similar solace. But hoping four years could be a mere unpalatable interlude sits poorly with the change two weeks have brought the world.


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