1. Addressing the North Korean Threat: A Discussion with Congressman Joe Wilson | Monday, March 20th | 11:30-1:00PM | The Hudson Institute | Register Here |
Hudson Institute will host a timely conversation on the growing threat of North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs to the Unites States and our East Asian allies. U.S. Representative Joe Wilson, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Readiness Subcommittee, will join Hudson missile defense and East Asia security experts Rebeccah Heinrichs and Arthur Herman for an in-depth discussion on the status of Pyongyang’s weapons development activities and how the U.S. and our regional allies should respond to bolster their security.
2. From Scarcity to Security: Water as a Resource for Middle East Peacebuilding | Monday, March 20th | 12:00-2:00 PM | The Elliot School | Register Here |
In the Middle East, water has often constituted a source of tension between Israel, the Palestinians and neighboring states. In recent years, however, regional leaders have increasingly identified water security as a shared interest that transcends borders – and even a potential avenue for peacebuilding. Join Gidon Bromberg, Israeli Director, EcoPeace Middle East and Marina Djernaes, Director, EcoPeace Center for Water Security for a discussion on this resource.
For two decades, the EcoPeace Middle East organization has engaged Israelis, Palestinians, and Jordanians in the joint promotion of practical solutions to transboundary problems of scarcity and pollution. In the process, they have fostered regional alliances, built environmental infrastructure, altered allocation policies, and shined spotlights on the environmental crises facing sacred sites such as the Jordan River and the Dead Sea. This panel will draw on decades of civil society and intergovernmental experience to highlight the potential of water security as a catalyst for peace building in the Middle East and beyond.
3. Rebuilding Syria: Reconstruction and Legitimacy | Tuesday, March 21st | 12:30 | The Atlantic Council | Register Here |
The Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East is launching a new initiative, Rebuilding Syria: Reconstruction and Legitimacy. Over the next two years, the Hariri Center will pool expertise from multiple specialists to cover the many challenges of rebuilding Syria including in: economics, finance, development, infrastructure, political economy, civil society, food security, energy, law, and employment. More than just a cursory overview, the initiative will produce a strategic roadmap to reconstruction with the participation of Syrians and the support of the international community.
The Hariri Center invites you to a discussion on the technical and political challenges ahead for rebuilding Syria with country and development experts on March 21, 2017 from 12:30 to 2:00 p.m. at the Atlantic Council headquarters in Washington, D.C. Our panelists will include Dr. Osama Kadi, president of the Syrian Economic Task Force, Mr. Todd Diamond, Middle East director for Chemonics International, Mona Yacoubian, former deputy assistant administrator for the Middle East at the US Agency for International Development, and Bassam Barabandi, former Syrian diplomat and co-founder of People Demand Change. The conversation will be moderated by Hariri Center Senior Fellow Faysal Itani. Mr. Omar Shawaf, chairman and founder of BINAA, will give introductory remarks.
4. A Conversation with His Excellency Gebran Bassil, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants, The Republic of Lebanon| Tuesday, March 21st | 3:00-4:00 PM | The Wilson Center | Register Here |
The Lebanon Ideas Forum is an assemblage of scholars, journalists, policymakers, and diplomats who will discuss issues concerning Lebanon, its wider region, and relations with the United States and Europe. This event is the inaugural event in the Lebanon Ideas Forum series. The Lebanon Ideas Forum is part of a greater strategic partnership between the Middle East Program at the Wilson Center and Safadi Foundation USA, which was established in 2017. Join the Wilson Center this Tuesday for a discussion with Lara Alameh, President of the Board and CEO, Safadi Foundation USA, and Gebran Bassil, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants, The Republic of Lebanon.
5. Securing Southeastern Europe: A New Model for Progress in the Balkans? | Tuesday, March 21st | 4:00 PM | The Atlantic Council | Register Here
Please join the Atlantic Council’s Future Europe Initiative on Tuesday, March 21 at 4:00 p.m. for a conversation with the foreign ministers of Albania, Croatia, and Montenegro, as they discuss security cooperation in the Western Balkans.
At this public event, Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati, Foreign Minister Srdjan Darmanovic, and Foreign Minister Davor Ivo Stier will jointly discuss their perspective on the security challenges facing Southeastern Europe, as well as their insights on addressing issues ranging from Islamic radicalization and terrorist threats to the completion of Montenegro’s NATO accession process.
6. The Interrogation of Saddam Hussein and US policy in Iraq | Wednesday, March 22nd | 10:00-11:30 | Brookings | Register Here |
On March 22, the Brookings Intelligence Project will host former CIA analyst John Nixon to outline his findings from his interrogation of Hussein, and what lessons he believes can be learned. Brookings Senior Fellow Bruce Riedel, director of the Intelligence Project, will provide introductory remarks and moderate the discussion. Following their remarks, Riedel and Nixon will take questions from the audience.
7. U.S.- Iran Relations: Opportunities for the New Administration | Wednesday, March 22nd | 11:30-12:30 | The Wilson Center | Register Here |
Ever since the 1979 Iranian Revolution and subsequent hostage situation, Iran-US relations have been characterized by mutual misperceptions. The nuclear deal of June 2015 between Iran and the “P5+1” came to fruition against this backdrop, in large part due to the efforts of The Right Honourable Catherine Ashton, Baroness of Upholland, Former Vice President of the European Commission and former High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Ambassador Wendy R. Sherman, Senior Counselor at Albright Stonebridge Group and former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.
The July 2015 deal was an unprecedented step towards rebuilding that trust, though tensions are being fueled by military cooperation with Russia in Syria and new sanctions announced by the Trump administration. The new administration faces familiar challenges in relations with Iran, but also some key strategic and economic opportunities. Rob Litwak, Vice President for Scholars and Academic Relations and Director, International Security Studies, will moderate a discussion between Baroness Ashton and Ambassador Sherman who well know these challenges and opportunities, and can speak to how the U.S. can be appealing to their strategic interests using diplomacy and negotiations.
8. The Impact of Gender Norms on Women’s Rights in Saudi Arabia | Wednesday, March 22nd | 12:00-1:00 | The Elliot School | Register Here |
Dr. Hala Aldosari will lead a discussion on the impact of gender norms on the construction of women’s roles and identity in Saudi Arabia. Analysis of key limitations of personal status laws, planning of women’s health services and the concepts of legislation on violence against women will be presented. The talk will also delve into the role of state and non-state agents in shaping the discourse on gender norms and roles, in light of the recent economic and political trends.
Hala Aldosari received her PhD and postdoctoral training in health services research and the social determinants of women’s health. Her research and publications are focused on the intersection of gender, laws, health and political identity in Saudi Arabia. She works on different projects to promote women’s rights and prevention from violence against women and girls. In 2016, she won the Freedom award for her leading role to promote human rights and democracy in Saudi Arabia.
9. Reaffirming the U.S.-Taiwan Security Relationship | Friday, March 24th | 12:00-2:00 PM | The Hudson Institute | Register Here |
As President Donald Trump meets with China’s President Xi Jinping next month, one subject that is likely to be discussed is Taiwan. President Trump has inherited a clear and long-established diplomatic and security structure pledged to defend Taiwan, its democratic political institutions, and the freedoms its people enjoy. The keystones of U.S. relations with Taiwan are the Taiwan Relations Act and the Six Assurances which established guidelines for U.S. policy toward Taiwan over the last four decades. The Six Assurances addressed U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, set a fixed stance on sovereignty issues, and guaranteed that previous agreements calling for U.S. assistance to defend Taiwan would remain firmly in effect.
On March 24, Hudson Institute’s Center for American Seapower will host a distinguished panel of experts to examine the Trump administration’s stance on Taiwan and the outlook for existing agreements to protect Taiwan. Hudson senior fellows Seth Cropsey and William Schneider will be joined by Dennis Wilder, a professor at Georgetown University, and Ian Easton of the Project 2049 Institute. The panel will assess what is needed to fulfill and fortify the existing agreements with Taiwan and assure not only this partnership, but the U.S.’s entire network of regional and global alliances.
- Northern Ireland’s Lesson for Israeli-Palestinian Peace | Monday, March 13 | 1:00- 5:00pm | United States Institute of Peace | Register Here | When Northern Ireland’s combatants finally made peace in the 1990s, they did so on a broad foundation of grassroots reconciliation and economic development work, built over more than a decade by the International Fund for Ireland. On March 13, the U.S. Institute of Peace and the Embassy of Ireland will gather former government officials, peacebuilding practitioners and scholars to examine what worked in advancing peace in Northern Ireland—and what lessons might be applied to the difficult process of peacemaking and peacebuilding between Israelis and Palestinians. Former Senator George Mitchell, who served as an envoy in both peace processes, will be the keynote speaker. The first panel on the International Fund for Ireland, will include Carol Cunningham of Unheard Voices, Melanie Greenberg of Alliance for Peacebuilding, Professor Brandon Hamber of Ulster University, and Adrian Johnston of the International Fund for Ireland. The second panel, on implications for Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding, will include Joel Braunold of the Alliance for Middle East Peace, Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen of the United Institute of Peace, Father Josh Thomas of Kids4Peace, and Sarah Yerkes of Brookings.
- Regional Perspectives on US Policy in the Middle East | Monday, March 13 | 3:00- 4:30pm | Atlantic Council | Register Here | As the dust begins to settle after the transition of power in Washington, the spotlight is slowly moving to the administration’s policies toward the Middle East and North Africa. With the region already troubled by one of President Trump’s early executive orders and several phone calls and meetings with regional leaders, many unanswered questions remain about the direction of the relationship with the Middle East. Our distinguished panel will discuss how the region is watching, anticipating, and reacting to shifts in policy, including Kristin Diwan on the Gulf, Haykel Ben Mahfoudh and Karim Mezran on North Africa, A. Hellyer on Egypt, and Nicola Pedde on Iran. Will the Trump administration fulfill its campaign promise to re-assert its role in the Middle East? How will the president and Congress react to ongoing challenges and opportunities in Libya, Yemen, and Egypt? Will the president’s style have a significant impact on the relationship with hardline leaders in Syria, Iran, and others across the region? Please join us for a discussion of these and other issues of concern to the United States in the Middle East.
- Report Launch: “The Other Side of the World” | Tuesday, March 14 | 2:00- 4:00pm | Center for Strategic and International Studies | Register Here | China’s growing interests in the Middle East, and the United States’ enduring interests in the Middle East, create challenges for two of the world’s most powerful nations. Should they seek more active collaboration? Are their goals for the future of the Middle East compatible? To discuss the implications of increasingly robust China-Middle East ties for U.S. interests, CSIS invites you to the launch of its new Brzezinski Institute Report: “The Other Side of the World: China, the United States, and the Struggle for Middle East Security.” The discussion will feature Carol Giacomo of The New York Times as well as CSIS experts Jon B. Alterman, Michael J. Green, Christopher K. Johnson, and Matthew P. Goodman.
- Why Tunisia Should Matter to the New U.S. Administration | Tuesday, March 14 | 3:00- 4:00pm | United States Institute of Peace | Register Here | Tunisia’s peaceful, though difficult, transition since the Arab Spring and its centrality in U.S.-supported efforts to stem terrorism punctuate its role as a major non-NATO ally of the United States. U.S. President Donald Trump “praised Tunisia’s stability and security,” in a Feb. 17 phone call with Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi, according to a White House statement. Tunisian Foreign Minister Khemaies Jhinaoui will discuss the U.S. partnership and Tunisia’s own development and influence in the region, in a discussion at the U.S. Institute of Peace on Tuesday, March 14.
- America’s Role in the World: Congress and US Foreign Policy | Thursday, March 16 | 9:00-10:30am | Atlantic Council | Register Here | As the Trump administration continues to form its foreign policy and national security strategy, Congress has a distinct role of its own to play in shaping how the United States addresses emerging global threats and approaches its leadership role on the international stage. At this early stage, little is defined within the administration’s approach. Congress has an opportunity to help characterize what America’s role in world should be and how it aims to deal with issues in the Middle East, especially ISIS and Iran, China, and Russia. To help think through these issues, two Representatives with military backgrounds, Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) and Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA), will offer their perspectives on the United States leadership role and national security strategy in an environment of increasing global risks.
- Congressman Adam Kinzinger on America’s Role in the Middle East and the World | Friday, March 17 | 8:30am | Atlantic Council | Register Here | The United States faces a number of security challenges across the globe as well as increasing questions about what role the Trump Administration believes the United States should play on the international stage. Please join the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East for a conversation with Congressman Adam Kinzinger on America’s role in the world and in the Middle East in particular, and what we can expect from a Trump presidency in terms of foreign policy and national security. This event is part of the Atlantic Council’s Middle East Strategy Task Force initiative, co-chaired by former US Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and former US National Security Advisor Stephen J. Hadley. In November 2016, the co-chairs published their Task Force Report that proposes a pragmatic and actionable Middle East roadmap that emphasizes the efforts of the people of the Middle East themselves supported by the long-term engagement of the international community, with an eye toward harnessing the region’s enormous human potential. The Task Force brought together a broad array of regional stakeholders and international experts to collaborate in identifying ways in which people in the Middle East can build and support governing institutions that offer legitimacy, opportunity, and an alternative to violence.
The current furor over the Trump campaign’s links to Moscow is still generating more heat than light. This morning’s news that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court last fall authorized tapping of his phones suggests there is fire as well as smoke. The FISA court would issue a warrant only if the requester demonstrates
probable cause to believe that the “target of the surveillance is a foreign power or agent of a foreign power,” that “a significant purpose” of the surveillance is to obtain “foreign intelligence information,” and that appropriate “minimization procedures” are in place.
The original report of the wiretap refers explicitly to FISA authorization.
The vital question is whether there was coordination or cooperation with Russia’s concerted efforts to tilt the election in Trump’s direction. I haven’t seen an answer. Attorney General Sessions’ recusal from any investigation of the Moscow connection is no more than a procedural step in the right direction, one he should have taken even before it was revealed that he lied at his Senate confirmation hearing about contacts with the Russians.
The debate now is over a special prosecutor or an independent commission. I don’t really care which, so long as whoever investigates can collect and see all the intelligence available, without undue influence by the administration. That is no small order: it means independent people with courage, high-level clearances and a year, or more likely two, before we know the results.
That’s a long time to leave people in office who may have collaborated with a foreign power in getting elected. But at the same time it virtually ensures that President Trump will not be able to do anything really harmful with Russia. As Steve Walt tweeted this week, he would have to get a very good deal from President Putin in order to convince even the Republicans in Congress to go along. Presidents Bush and Obama tried hard and failed. Short of giving away Crimea, it is unlikely Putin would make a deal. Republican Senators have already made it clear they won’t put up with that.
Frustrated, Trump is likely to turn his venom on Iran. He won’t tear up the nuclear deal, because even the Israelis have come to believe it is better than no deal at this point, since the Europeans would not agree to reimpose sanctions unless the Iranians violate the agreement. But Trump might well push for more sanctions related to Iran’s missile program or more pushback against its forces and proxies in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and Bahrain. That however would give Iran good reason to solidify its alliance with Russia, making any attempt at rapprochement with Moscow even more unlikely to succeed.
So Trump’s bromance with Putin is not going to be consummated. Moscow knows and has already toned down its media enthusiasm for its favorite American presidential candidate. Trump is still enamored, but with H.R. McMaster as National Security Adviser and James Mattis as Secretary of Defense it will be hard to move the machinery of government into support for a bad deal with Moscow. Rex Tillerson, who might feel differently, is proving a non-entity at the State Department, where he is fighting a rearguard action against giant budget cuts rather than contributing to foreign policy.
The Trump Administration has anyway done little to clarify its distinct foreign policy views other than intensifying drone strikes in Yemen, canning the Trans Pacific Partnership intended to counter increasing Chinese influence in the Asia Pacific, and claiming to have started on design of the wall with Mexico. Mostly Trump has abandoned his previous radical views. He is not moving the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, nor is he abandoning the NATO Alliance. Even renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement is looking dicey, because Mexico and Canada have made it clear they will come to the table with their own demands. Trump has now reaffirmed the One China policy.
The Administration has not however changed its radical view on the European Union, which Trump regards as disadvantageous to the US. He should consult his friends in Moscow on that subject: they are determined to block expansion of EU membership and influence, which Putin views as an instrument that benefits the US. Trump could learn a lot from Putin, if only he would stop liking the guy (and doing his bidding) and start understanding that an autocratic Moscow is not democratic America’s best friend. That would require Trump to identify as a democratic leader, which he doesn’t. That’s the real Moscow connection.
President Trump of course said nothing like what I had suggested yesterday in his speech to Congress last night. The tone was marginally less objectionable than his “grab pussy” speech, but as SAIS colleague Eliot Cohen put it:
POTUS clunky speech seemingly judged a success because he did not sound like an unhinged, belligerent maniac.
Trump repeated virtually all of his worst domestic campaign promises: repeal Obamacare without specifying what should replace it, counter supposedly rising crime by blocking immigrants who don’t commit more crimes than natural born Americans, build an unneeded wall on parts of the border already difficult to cross, drop government regulations that protect Americans from ineffective or unsafe pharmaceuticals, build pipelines that don’t increase American energy security even though the economics no longer justify it….
The only domestic proposition I agreed with is his $1 trillion for infrastructure, but that’s pretty much what Obama wanted to do too. The Republicans in Congress wouldn’t let him.
The only real adjustments were a pledge of support to NATO (but not the European Union, which is arguably just as important to US interests) and a denunciation of hate crimes, which he should have made weeks ago. China went almost unmentioned, he skipped North Korea’s nuclear weapons and Russian interference in the American election, and forgot about climate change entirely. He offered no indication of how he is going to defeat ISIS.
The moment that struck me as most inappropriate was the exploitation of Ryan Owens’ widow (her husband was killed in a botched raid in Yemen that Trump personally approved), who was present in the gallery. I gather veterans shared my reaction:
But the Congress provided the desired long and loud applause.
The public display of a tearful grieving widow for political purposes grates the wrong way with me, but obviously I’m not with the program. Trump thought McCain wasn’t a hero because he was captured. By what logic does Trump think Owens is a hero because he is dead? Wouldn’t logic suggest that Trump prefers fighting men not only uncaptured but also alive?
The press is celebrating the more moderate tone of the speech, exemplified best in Trump’s refraining from criticizing the media. Some people are easy to please.
Throughout the speech, Trump was glued to his Teleprompter. No doubt within 48 hours he’ll be back to saying the things he really means in the acerbic tones that come naturally to his pouting mouth and short fingers.
That’s goodby in Chinese: zàijiàn.
My introductory two weeks to Nanjing and Beijing, the country’s southern and northern capitals (with a side trip to Haikou on the South China Sea), ended yesterday. I barely scratched the surface, but maybe a few initial impressions are in order.
I was expecting a still Third World country. China hands tell me I would still find that in the countryside, where incomes are far lower. But the city centers are definitely on a par with major urban centers in Europe and Asia, even without a visit to Shanghai. The physical infrastructure is particularly impressive: roads, railways, subways, and airports exceed American standards while handling extraordinary numbers of travelers.
Facilities are often crowded, but people are orderly. Traffic is intense but well behaved by my Roman standards. Most people queue calmly. Jostling happens in close quarters, but it is gentle compared to New York City or Tokyo. Crime is rare. English language capability on the streets is too. Public toilets are not only widely available but remarkably well maintained, even if not always so modern. The streets in city centers are cleaned day and night, including on weekends. I literally stumbled on one street cleaner sprawled on the sidewalk to polish the bracket that held a litter basket.
That however betrays one of China’s vulnerabilities: it makes low-paying work for large numbers of relatively unproductive people. It is not a paladin of productivity. Stores are jammed with unoccupied salespeople. The internet is slow and unreliable. I encountered two French entrepreneurs (after all, it is a French word) making a living, with difficulty due to bureaucratic obstacles, speeding up cyber communications.
Construction has played a key role in China’s economy in recent years. Tens of thousands of new, middle class, apartments populate every Beijing neighborhood I saw while crisscrossing the city many times to get to meetings. But in Haikou (a provincial capital in the south) I saw just a lot of mostly completed high rises empty. Someone is not getting paid for those. Bad debts are not a good foundation for future prosperity.
The big looming problems lie in slowing growth and the prospect of demographic implosion. The experts I’m reading think it will be difficult for China to escape the Japan syndrome, which has made Japan stagnate for two decades.
That would have serious implications for stability in China, where competitive politics have been limited to the local level and to the interior of the Communist party. Most people, including those working inside China’s government-sponsored, well-endowed, and well-informed think-tanks, seem to think that is fine. Even in Beijing’s wonderful 798 art district, politics were notable for their absence.
That was not however true at the National Museum, which I visited Sunday after a quick stroll past Mao, who is lit up like a Halloween pumpkin in his Tienanmen square “Maosoleum.” The museum has interesting and well-labeled sections on coins, jade, Song dynasty bas reliefs and other things, but two main permanent expositions: one on Ancient China and one on “Rejuvenation.”
The politics of Ancient China are clear and explicit but do nothing to detract from the magnificent objects on display, some of which date to 5000 BC. The message is cultural pride, economic progress, and social multiethnicity. China’s frequent wars are mentioned only as they are overcome. The dynasties are treated as essential divisions of the time line, with little reference to their particularities except to note their multiethnic dimensions. A peasant revolt around 200 BC is one of the few other political glosses, included to presage the Communist rebellion.
Rejuvenation couldn’t be more different. Here the theme is recovery from the century of humiliation, which began with the Opium War and imperialist invasion in 1840. Nothing subtle follows. It is all courageous Chinese standing up to foreigners, complete with patriotic songs and dioramas. The Nationalist/Communist civil war goes by fast, blamed on Chiang Kai-shek’s attachment to dictatorship. The Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, arguably the darkest periods of Chinese Communism, go unmentioned, as I am told they do also in Chinese schools. The political message thunders: you owe pride and progress to the Communist party, nothing else.
I walked out of this loyalist but obscurantist display into a street replete with the greatest concentration of Western brand names I’ve ever seen: Max Mara, Prada, Burberry, Ferrari, Rolex, Zegna… If contradictions are what drive history, China is in for a lot more history. But the Rejuvenation exhibit was far less populated than the one on Ancient China. Maybe the people are voting with their feet.
The Trump Administration has had a busy few days committing what look to me like “own” goals, that is goals scored against the interests of the United States and its citizens. Let me list them:
- Renunciation of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP): this will please no country more than China, which correctly saw TPP as an effort to ensure American influence in Asia and limit Beijing’s sway with its neighbors. If you believe that Beijing aims at regional political and economic as well as military hegemony, the path is far more open today than it was last week.
- An executive order instructing government agencies to act to the maximum extent permitted by law to undo the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare: before issuing this order, the Republicans had some chance of convincing people that Obamacare was collapsing under its own weight, but now the administration has taken on responsibility for destabilizing the system Obama established. A replacement is nowhere in sight, so 20 million people will likely have Trump to blame for getting nervous about losing their health insurance (and maybe eventually losing it).
- The pledge to prevent China from “taking over” international territories in the South China Sea: It is difficult to imagine how this would be implemented in practice if not by war, but just as important is that several other countries friendly to the US have also built islands in the South China Sea, well before China embarked on that enterprise. Even to pretend to be consistent, we would need to block take overs by at least Vietnam, the Philippines, and Malaysia, which wouldn’t get us far in enlisting their help against the Chinese.
- A rambling and partly incoherent speech at the CIA that disrespected the intelligence community with which he was trying to repair relations: If I hadn’t been told he was a teetotaler, I’d have thought him tipsy. He brought a claque to applaud and managed to say little (some would say nothing) to suggest that he appreciated or understood the sacrifices our intelligence operatives and analysts have to make.
- Continued insistence on obvious lies: These include gross overstatements of the crowds at Friday’s inauguration as well as the number of people who voted illegally. The media is now getting used to calling out these falsehoods bluntly. Republican members of Congress, who are the only hope for upending this administration, should be chagrined. Trumpkins will continue to believe the lies, but there is no evidence that the majority of Americans are Trumpkins.
The nationwide demonstrations Saturday suggested the opposite: the reservoir of people concerned with protecting Obama’s achievements is large and activated. Trump wisely avoided denouncing the demonstrations, which suggests someone in the new administration understands the risks involved in alienating women, the men who support their rights, and perhaps even minorities, who turned out in force. Few previous administrations have excited such opposition so early, none on the scale of last weekend.
More own goals await. With Israel expanding settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, a move of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is likely to arouse a strong Arab reaction, one that could damage warming Sunni relations with Israel and handicap the administration’s intended hostility towards Iran. Ditto any move to ban Muslims from entering the US. The hostility to Iran, if realized, could hurt prospects for cooperation with Russia, which is allied with Iran in supporting Bashar al Assad in Syria. Trump has promised to “eradicate” violent Islamic extremism. That would require a far greater presence abroad of American troops and civilians than the administration has indicated it wants. Trump’s reference to a possible future opportunity to “take Iraq’s oil,” which is an obvious war crime, will have generated resentment in the Arab world and should generate concern in America about the possibility of massive new intervention abroad.
The Trump administration is rife with contradictions. The more it attempts to realize its radical changes in American foreign and domestic policy, the more apparent those contradictions will become. Admittedly, I don’t wish Trump well. But if the last few days are any indication, the administration will fail on its own way before its opponents have gotten organized to make it do so.
PS: For those in need of comic relief:
PPS: And this, from the Dutch: