The past several weeks have seen President Donald Trump insult our NATO allies, cozy up to Russia’s Vladimir Putin, tweet-threaten Iran with “CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE,” and withdraw from the Iran nuclear program. The Iranians are now talking with other nuclear powers, following Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s speech blasting Iran’s hostile activities.
Trump’s hostile tweet comes when we do not have a carrier strike group in the Middle East. Bad timing, Mr. President.
Trump also conducted a meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un which gave Kim respect without getting anything in return — and then watched as the North Koreans stiffed Pompeo at the follow-up session by going back completely on Kim’s promises to disarm.
But the biggest setback to American diplomacy and the safety of the U.S. came at the recent G-7 meeting, when Trump basically ignored all our allies, imposed steel tariffs on European allies and Canada, and insulted their leaders in the process. The Europeans are considering counter-measures. Canada’s Justin Trudeau said this was “quite frankly insulting and unacceptable.” France’s Emanuel Macron called the tariffs “illegal” and the others responded similarly.
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These moves by our president harkened back to 1929-33, when America tried to solve its own problems with large one-way tariffs. The Europeans followed, and the result was the Great Depression, which brought the collapse of the word’s economy, the rise of Hitler and eventually World War II.
The imposition of the current Trump tariffs are even now generating countermeasures by Europe, which can easily lead to a downward spiral of the world economy, including our own. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” warned philosopher George Santayana.
Worse news, however, is that the Korean meetings produced no firm agreements, merely empty words of intention, which are far more likely to produce additional trouble than retrenchment. We have not yet seen the reaction from the South Koreans or the Japanese. That will almost certainly be to America’s long-term disadvantage.
Our erstwhile allies in Europe and Asia have lost confidence in us and our president. Our own foreign policy experts of both parties are, by and large, appalled. Unless our best academics, journalists and politicians can gain the upper hand and lead us away from the president’s egocentric-twitter foreign policy, we are headed for hard times, national loss and unnecessary military casualties.
The coming elections should create an electoral backlash to Trump and his party that will help to stabilize our government. The abdication of Republicans in Congress protecting the balance of power and the Western Alliance is both dangerous and tragic. Republican efforts to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein border on criminal coverup. The administration’s inability to reunite children and families in the immigration foul-up is inhumane and probably criminal as well.
The Mueller investigation is zeroing in on evidence of collusion and collaboration between Trump and the Russians going back to the 2016 elections. Polls consistently show large, steady opposition to what Trump is doing. Pundits are starting to find out what this will mean, ranging from a Democratic takeover of the House and, perhaps, the Senate.
Trump’s frantic efforts to derail the Mueller investigation have added a new dimension to the president’s problems, including the suspicion that he has much to hide, and enhancing the reasons why the investigation must continue. Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, is likely talking to Mueller, and the question of presidential impeachment is waiting in the wings. All this will impact the 2018 elections.
The 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Trump’s son and son-in-law and several Russians, some with intelligence connections, has squarely raised the probability of Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. The Washington Post reported on June 14, 2016 that Russian hackers had also broken into the Democratic National Committee’s files and gained access to material on Trump.
We are in the danger zone, and we need to move out of it. Trump is now a positive menace to world peace and American prosperity. The Mueller investigation should be protected and allowed to proceed to a conclusion. Congressional Republicans who have been violating American political norms and trying to sidetrack this process should be admonished to stop or be disciplined. Our own senator, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has power in this regard if he will use it.
John D. Stempel is a former U.S. Navy Officer, a 25-year veteran of the U.S. Foreign Service, where he worked with and against the Russians in five countries, and former director and professor emeritus of the University of Kentucky’s Patterson School Diplomacy and International Commerce.