alliances, allies, America First, Angela Merkel, Belarus, Blob, China, David Brin, free-riding, Germany, globalism, natural gas, Nord Stream 2, Our So-Called Foreign Policy, Philippines, Russia, science fiction, South China Sea, Trump, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin
Here’s how widespread the charge is that President Trump has been destroying America’s longstanding foreign policy alliances – and for no good reason: I just saw it made on Facebook by David Brin. (I hope this link works.)
In case you’re not a science fiction fan like me, Brin is one of the truly great modern masters of this genre. A few years ago, I read his novel of the near future Kiln People, and was just blown away. And his achievements are hardly limited to literature, as this bio makes clear. In other words, he can’t be written off as some hysterically virtue-signaling, Never Trumper know-nothing celebrity. And even if he was, he has every right to express these or any other views. But clearly foreign policy isn’t his wheelhouse.
But here’s how deeply ignorant this comment is: It, and others like it from sources with more than a passing familiarity with U.S. foreign policy and world affairs, keep ignoring just how feckless the countries America’s allied with – and to whose defense the United States is pledged – have long been, and remain. For anyone who cares about The Facts, two major examples of their cynicism and unreliability have appeared in the last month alone.
The first came from the Philippines, whose president, Rodrigo Duterte, is no decent person’s ideal of a national leader. But his island archipelago country is located on the eastern edge of the South China Sea, which has turned into a major regional hotspot and theater of U.S.-China rivalry due to Beijing’s efforts over the last decade or so to assert more and more control over its economically and strategically important sea lanes. So as with decades of pre-Trump presidents and their relations with authoritarian allies, the current administration has overlooked Duterte’s domestic record for the sake of national security.
Duterte, however, hasn’t exactly reciprocated. As a foreign policy realist, I can’t blame him for trying to placate China (which is right in his neighborhood) while continuing to enjoy the protection of the United States (which is far away). But as an America Firster, my main concern is whether the United States has any reason to feel confident about counting on Duterte when the chips are down and shooting starts, and the Filipino leader’s fence-sitting clearly shows that the answer is “No.”
In fact, in February, Duterte went so far as to announce the ending of one of the deals in the web of official U.S.-Philippine defense ties that regulates exactly what American forces can and can’t do on Filipino territory. Because of the Philippines’ location, this so-called Visiting Forces Agreement inevitably impacts how effectively the U.S. military can operate to counter China – and defend the Philippines itself. But Duterte’s spokesman boasted that it was time that Filipino’s “rely on ourselves” and “strengthen our own defenses and not rely on any other country.”
Funny thing, though. In the six-and-a-half months since, Duterte’s confidence seems to have evaporated. Because late last week, his foreign secretary announced that if China attacks, “say a Filipino naval vessel … [that] means then I call up Washington DC.” So maybe there’s some merit to Trump’s insistence that these relationships be reexamined from head to toe?
But in case you think that double-dealing and hypocrisy is limited to “our bastard” types like Duterte…stop. For the second such instance comes courtesy of no less than Germany’s Angela Merkel, who has been anointed as the current champion of the global liberal order by much of the globalist U.S. foreign policy Blob and the Mainstream Media journalists who drink its Kool-Aid.
This lionizing of Merkel, however, is mocked mercilessly by Germany’s continued refusal to make serious military contributions to the defense of Europe, by its huge, global growth-killing trade surpluses, and by its rush to ban exports of crucial medical equipment as soon as the CCP Virus hit the continent.
But Merkel-worship seems to be just as devoted – and unjustified – as ever judging from this report in yesterday’s Financial Times. “Angela Merkel warns Vladimir Putin against intervention in Belarus,” the headline declared.
The article itself, however, made clear that nothing of the kind happened. The German Chancellor simply expressed the “hope” that the Russian leader wouldn’t send troops to quell pro-democracy protests that threaten to topple the longtime leader of this compliant Russian neighbor.
Just as worrisome, earlier this month, Germany reacted with indignation to U.S. attempts to punish and therefore give pause to an increasingly aggressive Russia by ending a pipeline deal that would bring natural gas directly from Russia to Germany.
This Nord Stream 2 project would greatly enrich Putin’s regime (and make more resources available to his military) – and at the expense of alternative gas supplier Ukraine, another Putin target. German companies, however, are heavily invested in the project. So Merkel has responded to suggestions that the country pull out of the deal to protest what looks like Putin’s latest attempt to assassinate a political rival by arguing that the two matters should be “decoupled” because linking an “economically driven project” to the alleged assassination wouldn’t be “appropriate.”
Again, I’m a realist, and won’t criticize these allied leaders for wanting their cake and eat it, too. Their job is to protect and advance their countries’ interests. So if they judge that accomplishing this mission requires fence-sitting and free-riding – and thereby increasing risks to the United States – (especially the risks of rushing to their defense and even of nuclear attack on the U.S.homeland) – they should go ahead,
But by the same token, an American chief executive’s job is protecting advancing and protecting U.S. interests. And the charge – whether by the Brins or the Blobbers of the world – that Mr. Trump is gratuitously endangering venerable relationships that unquestionably make America safer and stronger – belongs in the realms of science fiction and fantasy, not fact..