Angela Merkel, China, George W. Bush, H.R. McMaster, international order, Mainstream Media, Mark Landler, North Korea, Ooffshoring Lobby, Our So-Called Foreign Policy, responsible stakeholder, Robert Zoellick, The New York Times, Trump, Ukraine
Bad as it was, the worst aspect of Mark Landler’s New York Times piece yesterday about the first year of President Trump’s foreign policy wasn’t his contention that “liberal, rules-based international order” is a reasonable way to describe the international scene in recent memory. I mean, anyone seen much order out there lately? Or any country paying much attention to rules?
Nor was it endorsement of the conviction held by German Chancellor Angela Merkel – and much of the U.S. foreign policy establishment – that Ukraine is “a vital part of the trans-Atlantic relationship.” That’ll come as news to anyone remotely familiar with the history of either the United States or Western Europe from 1924 to 1989 – when the region was a part of the Soviet Union and its admittedly tragic fate had absolutely no discernible impact on any member of the Atlantic alliance whatever.
Instead, the worst aspect of Landler’s thinly disguised paean to the globalist approach to international affairs was his choice of former President George W. Bush’s top trade negotiator, Robert Zoellick as an authority on dealing with China.
Actually, I agree with Zoellick (though for somewhat different reasons) that Mr. Trump has made a major mistake in basing America’s China trade policy on Beijing’s efforts to help resolve the North Korea nuclear weapons crisis peacefully (and on acceptable terms of course). This week, even the president may have acknowledged this, as he’s tweeted criticism of China based on reports that Beijing has been violating UN sanctions by continuing to sell crude oil to the Kim Jong Un regime.
But the choice of Zoellick to make this accusation is laughably ignorant. Of course, it was the entire foreign policy establishment – as well as the offshoring-happy multinational corporations that finance so much of it – that made the historically foolish and dangerous mistake of assuming that indiscriminately expanding the world’s trade and other commercial ties with China would turn the People’s Republic into a country fundamentally easier to deal with on all fronts, and promote economic and political reform of its communist system.
Zoellick, however, took this naivete to a whole ‘nother level. For he was the American leader who, in 2005, declared that the time was ripe to turn China into a “responsible stakeholder” in the “international system.” The then-U.S. Trade Representative acknowledged that China had a long way to go reach this objective.
But this high profile address (to a quintessential Offshoring Lobby organization) unmistakably signaled the U.S. government’s belief that it was eminently attainable (along with the development of a relationship built on “shared interest and shared values”), and specified that its fate depended on the U.S. side on a campaign by that Offshoring Lobby to pacify those Americans who “perceive China solely through the lens of fear.” Is it any surprise that years of coddling China on trade and national security issues followed (including praise for China’s “constructive role” vis-a-vis North Korea)?
And upon considering Beijing’s ongoing refusal to curb its North Korea trade dramatically and its expansionism in the South China Sea, not to mention its intensified crack down on dissent at home and ever more brazen violation of global economic and commercial norms, can anyone reasonably doubt that Zoellick has been spectacularly wrong?
Interestingly, at one point in his article, Landler quotes Trump national security adviser H.R. McMaster as admitting that, on foreign policy, the president “has moved a lot of us out of our comfort zone, me included.” It’s a move that Landler, and most of his Mainstream Media colleagues, would be well advised to make.