Trump Should Be Guided by Foreign Policy Experts?

Donald Trump’s critics say his foreign policy choices are foolish and dangerous. They hope he’ll be guided by the wise counsel of seasoned experts.


At a moment when US foreign policy choices have rarely been more contentious and opinions are often clouded by political approval of, or animus toward, those in charge, it is….

Time to play devil’s advocate.

Trump: A US attack is coming on the “gas killing animal” Assad.

Experts: Firing missiles at Syria comes with risks, and it won’t make things better.

The case for Trump: If Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has again used chemical weapons against Syrian civilians, he’s violated the Chemical Weapons Conventionand committed an act of pure evil. Russia, Assad’s ally, will block UN action. How can the US raise the cost of such crimes for Assad and send an unmistakable warning to those who might do such a thing in future? Who else will enforce the chemical weapons ban?


Trump: US troops should leave Syria “very soon.”

Experts: ISIS isn’t finished, and Russia won’t fight them. Don’t repeat the mistakes of the retreat from Iraq.

The case for Trump: The Russians haven’t attacked ISIS because they know the US will do it for them. When ISIS attacks Russia, as it has in the past, and when Russia and ISIS are left to fight over Syrian territory, Russians will pound ISIS as US troops and taxpayers watch from a safe distance.


Trump: Syria is not our problem.

Experts: You can’t just leave Syria to Russia and Iran.

The case for Trump: The US has spent far more in Iraq and Afghanistan than on the entire Marshall Plan. What does Washington have to show for it? How much more should the American taxpayer spend on failed projects in the Middle East?


Trump: I’ve been tough on Russia.

Experts: Trump has been soft on Russia.

The case for Trump: Trump has endorsed a National Security Strategy that labels Russia a “revisionist power” that uses “modernized forms of subversive tactics” to “interfere in the domestic political affairs of countries around the world.”


Trump: I’ve been tough with Putin.

Experts: Trump is too nice to Putin.

The case for Trump: The president has called out Putin for backing “Animal Assad” in Syria, approved sanctions on two dozen Russian oligarchs and state officials close to Putin, approved the sale of lethal weapons to Ukraine, expelled diplomats, and closed the Russian consulate in Seattle. He probably won’t let Moscow have the Miss Universe Pageant again either.


Trump: Our NATO allies are free-riding.

Experts: Criticizing NATO allies alienates valuable friends and encourages Russia to test NATO resolve.

The case for Trump: When Trump arrived in office, just five of NATO’s 28 members were spending the 2 percent of GDP on defense required of all members. Following Trump’s criticism, 15 of those governments have responded by spending more. That strengthens NATO, and it’s good for the United States.


Trump: Americans deserve better deals on trade.

Experts: Trump’s threats to existing trade deals encourage protectionism that will hurt Americans.

The case for Trump: If the president can force favorable changes to NAFTA, and if tariff threats earn concessions from China without starting the trade wars many experts fear, these moves will have helped Americans in hard-hit industries and US companies doing business overseas.

The bottom line: There are strong counter-arguments to every one of these points, but they all deserve debate that extends beyond anyone’s opinion of Donald Trump, his style, and his character.

Wrecking the global economy's hopes for a relaxing late-August Friday, China and the US have taken fresh shots at each other in their deepening trade war.

First, China announced new tariffs on US goods in response to US levies on China's exports that are set to take effect next month.

Trump responded with a vintage tweet storm, lashing out at China and demanding that US firms stop doing business there. The Dow plunged as markets waited for the next shoe to drop. And drop it did: later in the day Trump announced higher tariffs on nearly everything that China exports to the United States.

Why now? Bear in mind, all of this comes right as Trump is leaving for this weekend's G7 summit in France. That gathering already promised to be a testy one – but with the global economy slowing, the impact of Trump's increasingly nasty trade war with China will add fresh tensions to the occasion.

So where are we in the trade war now? Here is an updated list of what measures each side has imposed to date, and what's next. Both sides have a lot at stake, but from the looks of it, the list isn't going to get shorter any time soon.

When Donald Trump first started talking about buying Greenland last week, we figured it was a weird story with less legs than a Harp seal.

Signal readers, we were wrong. President Trump was so serious about purchasing the autonomous Danish territory that this week he abruptly cancelled a trip to Denmark after the country's prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, labelled the idea "absurd."

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The Amazon in flames – More than 70,000 forest fires are burning in Brazil right now, most of them in the Amazon. That's up 84% over the same period last year, and it's the highest number on record. This is the dry season when farmers burn certain amounts of forest legally to clear farmland. But critics say Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro's efforts to loosen conservation rules have encouraged farmers, loggers, and miners to set more fires, many of them illegally. Bolsonaro – a science skeptic who recently fired the head of the agency that tracks deforestation – says, without proof, that NGOs are setting the fires to embarrass his government. Meanwhile, the EU is holding up a major trade deal with Brazil unless Bolsonaro commits to higher environmental protection standards, including those that affect the Amazon.

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Over the past fifty years, the Amazon rainforest has shrunk by an area equal to the size of Turkey. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Brazilian government supported settlement of the sparsely populated region for security reasons. Since then, huge swaths of the forest -- which is crucial for limiting the world's greenhouse gasses -- have been cleared for farmland used to feed Brazil's population and support its massive agricultural exports. Greater awareness of the environmental impacts in the 1990s produced tighter conservation regulations, though plenty of illegal clearing continues. In recent years, the annual deforestation rate has begun to rise again, and Brazil's new president Jair Bolsonaro has pledged to weaken regulations further in order to support businesses.