Diplomacy is often considered the most Genteel and cultured of governmental pursuits. And that can work many times, when done right. But it can also fail miserably, as Winston Churchill clearly understood watching the ever-so-Genteel Neville Chamberlain botch what could have preempted World War II. And it has been failing America over multiple presidential administrations.
Donald Trump is no Winston Churchill in eloquence or knowledge of history or philosophies or alcohol intake, but he has Churchill’s fiery love of country and willingness to speak bluntly outside the nicety circles while carrying a big stick to defend that beloved country. Refreshing and effective.
At the time of his inauguration, Trump inherited at least half a dozen perennial crises that had been allowed to fester through ignorance, incompetence or indifference. He did not have Henry Kissinger skills, but he also was not a John Kerry bungler. He wasn’t a new world order Bushian and he wasn’t an America-meh-whatever Obamaian. In fact, he was a wholly different kind of modern American president, a throwback to Reagan but perhaps much further. And let’s be frank, his developer-TV reality star skill set was unknown in the history of the White House.
But it appears that his blunt pro-Americanism is just what was needed by January 2017. Here are five international crises where it appears that after 14 months with Trump in office, are either promising or measurably better — from America’s point of view.
- In January 2017, the deranged North Korean regime had apparently developed not only newer and more powerful nuclear weapons, but the ability to install those on the tips of missiles that could reach the U.S. West Coast. They were belligerent towards South Korea, Japan and the United States and multiple administrations had failed to move China to reign in their crazy step-child. Genteel diplomacy was an utter failure. No more appeasement. Trump sent aircraft carriers to the seas surrounding the Korean Peninsula, tightened down sanctions and ridiculed Kim Jong Un. He gave the appearance and talk of being willing to use force, something North Korea’s leaders knew previous presidents would not do. And now, North Korea is talking to South Korea in a more conciliatory tone with Kim Jong Un actually crossing into the South for talks while asking to meet with President Trump. Plus, China seems to be actually applying pressure on the North Korean dictatorship. The jury is definitely out still on this nutso regime, but these may be the most promising steps in decades as the leadership recognize they are dealing with a President willing to do more than talk.
- In January 2017, Russia had invaded and occupied the Crimea, invaded and occupied through proxies eastern Ukraine, threatened its tiny Baltic neighbors and re-established itself in Syria and so the Middle East. Genteel diplomacy was not working. (Perhaps actual Obama-Russian collusion was?) The breadth of Russian expansionism during the Obama years was breathtaking. Trump stated a willingness to work with Russia and stroked Putin’s ego. But he also immediately fired on a Syrian government air base that had launched a chemical attack — the Syrian government being allied with Russia — destroying the base. He is strengthening ties with the Ukraine and just met with the Baltic leaders to do the same. He has slapped economic sanctions on Russia and expelled diplomats over poisonings in England, our ally. (Worst Russian puppet ever.) Putin, for the first time perhaps as president, seems a little on his heels and his expansionism has been blunted, at least for the moment.
- In January 2017, speaking of Russian expansionism, NATO countries in Europe had continued to flaunt their promised military defense expenditures. Remember, NATO was formed for the defense of our European allies against Russian aggression in the form of the Soviet Union. For decades, however, they had not been keeping to the agreements on military levels, but instead giving empty lip service to spending more while intending to continue being shielded largely by the American military. Genteel diplomacy was not working. Trump said time was up, pay up or we will rethink the American role in NATO. Given Putin’s ambitions and Trump’s tendency to follow through with threats, Germany, France and others are now actually budgeting more spending on their military.
- In January 2017, China had been feasting on violating trade agreements and stealing American technology. They were forcing American companies to share technology for entry into their market and they were using endless protectionist mechanisms to benefit their manufacturers at the expense of American companies. Previous presidents either did not see this anti Americanism as an issue or just ignored it. Genteel diplomacy had failed. Trump came in with Americanism promises to change it and immediately dumped Pacific Free Trade Agreement (TPP) that seemed very favorable to China and others. He’s now thrown on tariffs and China has responded. However, he knows he has the stronger hand in that China is far more reliant on our imports than we are on theirs — in part because of all their cheating. Jury’s out, because a full trade war is bad for everyone. But that seems unlikely for the pragmatic Chinese leadership.
- In January 2017, Mexico was continuing its decades long policy of urging its least desirable citizens northward across the porous American border. They fought against any tightening on the border and howled about Trump’s “stupid” and “f**king” wall — to quote two former Mexicel diplomacy had failed, if it had even been tried. But Trump saw in this situation what Americans saw and the genteel diplomats did not: Anti Americanism. Despite a fairly open border, ridiculously generous benefits to all those who snuck in illegally, constraining income growth at the low end for Americans and $30 billion exiting our economy annually to head back to Mexico through remittances, both the Mexican government and many illegal aliens and those speaking for them continued to criticize the United States’ policy and people with charges of racism, xenophobia and so on. Americans had had enough. Trump had had enough. So now the military is headed to the border until the wall is built. Mexico is not happy about this, but a lot of Americans are, because a lot support pro Americanism.
- In January 2017, the radical Islamist organization ISIS held large swaths of Syria and Iraq, had declared a caliphate and was spreading terrorism on multiple continents while committing ongoing atrocities against its own population in the vein of Chinese communists, Soviet communists and German Nazis, just a smaller scale. No kind of diplomacy was available with ISIS, but brute force was and the U.S. under Obama had been reluctant to use it. By the end of 2017, they had lost their capital and virtually all of the caliphate. Their holdings in both Iraq and Syria were liberated. This had been very slowly starting to happen in the final years of Obama. But Trump promised to pound ISIS out of existence and followed through by loosening the restraints on the U.S. military, which effectively helped wipe out most of the wicked nest of evil so far in the 21st century.an presidents. Gente
International relations and events are always fluid. It’s difficult to predict the future with any certainty. But it’s clear that Trump’s blunt, pro-Americanism style of diplomacy is having a positive impact on the world and certainly on American prospects. It may not be what will always be needed. But it is what has been needed at least in these six areas.