I have in the past noted that Donald Trump is a compulsive liar. He lies about the most inane things and is almost ridiculously blase about it. The most recent, which hits close to home and may have a direct impact on my country, is his claims regarding the trade deficit with Canada. The reports seem to indicate that Trump not only made up a spurious fact regarding his own nation's trade deficit with mine, but that he simply did not know, or care to know, what the actual state of affairs was. This despite now for over two years making broad sweeping statements at rallies, on Twitter, and in interviews, regarding the supposed "unfairness" of foreign trade with the United States.
While I have made no secret of my dislike for Donald Trump as an individual, I must ask, how can Trump expect international observers to take their him seriously? How can foreign leaders expect Trump to negotiate in good faith with them?
The simple answer is, they can't. Trump will not, and does not, work in good faith either with members of his own administration or international leaders who are his allies. The man seems incapable of either being honest, or even doing rudimentary research into the effects of his own policies, or the ground which they are supposed to stand on when debated by policy makers.
What is baffling, utterly baffling, about this recent exchange, is that the lie makes no sense. In no circumstances does it even seem reasonable. Its not compelling fodder for a political campaign, it isn't a reasonable position to remain in ignorance of, and it isn't even a clever negotiating tactic considering how easy it is to disprove. He just bluntly said this to a foreign leader, and his countries closest neighbor and ally, and had it easily disproved.
He then waffled on whether he was wrong by stating that "almost all" countries have a trade deficit with the US, even though that specific statement was wrong. This isn't the first time Trump has made this claim, but it was the first time he was so bluntly called on it while talking to the head of state of the nation he's been misrepresenting like this.
The short term damage is repairable, as a new blunder from the Trump White House happens nearly weekly, but in terms of renegotiating NAFTA as he wants in the long term, it is iffy any other leader will see him as negotiating in good faith or reasonably. He's just sacked his Secretary of State, has been caught totally making something up and blithely continued with it, and seems utterly unwilling to compromise on his mistake. That is not a recipe for creating a sense of good will or confidence with any of the NAFTA partners, who may be better served simply waiting out any attempts at negotiation he proposes.
For other world leaders, it should simply be taken as Gospel that Trump has no clue what he is talking about, and that his representatives don't even represent his views to the world. The unfortunate effect this may have on his foreign policy remains to be seen, but I can only repeat something I have said before, Donald Trump cannot be trusted.
Saturday, 3 June 2017
Now I originally wrote this review on my other blog, way back in November just as Trump was coming to power (doesn't that seem like forever ago?) but I was looking back and felt it seemed important to re-post it here.
The reason why is that I think that much of the conciliatory tone which many were pressing for after Trump had won, is unfortunately vanishing into the ether of rabid partisanship. This should be disappointing for many reasons, not in the least because most Americans, left and right on the aisle, have many issues which they are all on the same side for. The nonsensical health care plan which hurts Trump's own supporters ought to be a priority for both sides to fight against. His ongoing scandal with Russia should be investigated and examined critically. The recent pull out from the Paris Climate Accord is troubling, and we should all be looking at how it effects us.
The slide back into partisanship should be something to be avoided, not encouraged! It's only by building bridges and understanding that we can understand each other, and more importantly, prevent the kind of ridiculous political gridlock and bickering that has gummed up politics for 8 years south of the border.
In that vein, I implore people to read this piece, and think about what the other side sees when they look at issues. It may not be pretty to some, but understanding is the first step in communication.
Friday, 7 April 2017
by: Nicholas Stienberg
Last night, President Trump authorized the use of force against a Syrian airbase from which the Assad regime was allegedly launching chemical weapons attacks (I say allegedly because trying to scrape truth out of the cauldron of the Syrian Civil War and its grisly carnival of war crimes and factionalism is like trying to nail water to a wall at present). This brings us to a very big question: Is America at war?
This is an important question in how it relates to foreign relations. In Iraq or eastern Syria when fighting ISIL, the US has clear groundwork to hit targets as they are enemy territory. In Libya, NATO enforced and a UN sanction allowed them to carry out air operations against the government of Gaddafi. While domestically it was considered shaky, as Obama was essentially allowing for armed intervention without the consent of elected officials, internationally it was legal under the law. In this instance, what is the justification for such attacks and what does it mean for Syrian situation?
Obama avoided putting his hat into the ring for a number of reasons. First, their original attempts to train and arm rebels to help overthrow the Assad regime failed miserably. Support for getting involved at all with the civil war was low enough already, the American citizenry was wearying of the Middle East and its constant drain on the US, but the clear failure of the administration to even promote US interests killed any potential political support it might have had. Secondly, the Russians got involved in supporting the Assad regime, as he was a regional ally and the Russians had a vested interest in protecting their naval base at Tartus. Thus, for American military might to be used in Syrua was just asking to further antagonize an already VERY antagonized Russia. Thus throwing the American hat into the ring right now is a very concerning move.
War crimes against civilians are horrific tragedies, no matter when and where they happen, but what President Trump did was a clear violation of international law, and sets a dangerous precedent. The beginning of this century was no stranger to the US flagrantly flaunting international law; it was after all the invasion of Iraq and subsequent destabilization of the Middle East and North Africa which led to the conditions we now see. However, the blatant use of force against a nation which has not attacked the US, has not declared war on the US, and is currently being protected by one of the US’s long-time rivals is dangerous, but may also inspire said rival.
We know that Trump at least warned the Russians so that Russian military personnel who may be present at the base would hopefully not be hit. So, for all those who feared Trump had flown right off the handle, at least give him that. He gave advance warning to Russia so as to avoid turning this into an even bigger incident than it already is. But what does Russia or China or Iran take away from this? When the biggest power on the block starts launching cruise missiles at states whom they aren’t even at war with, they’ll notice. For the Russians, what is to stop them from launching missiles onto Ukrainian bases if word ever got out that Ukrainian forces killed civilians? What’s to stop China from intervening in the domestic situation of the Philippines? One would hope international law, but sadly it seems international law just isn’t fashionable these days.
It is hardly surprising that in the aftermath of the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, other countries started flouting the law as well. If America can do it, what is stopping us? So Russia has flexed its muscles by curb stomping American allies like Georgia, or seizing territory from states in grey zones like Ukraine. China is constructing artificial islands to hold territory along its Nine Line Zone, and arguably create fleet bases to challenge American supremacy in the region as China rearms. Now they have been given excuses to use force if a country does something they don’t like. While Russia can expect more sanctions if they do it, what can be done to China?As Trump’s foreign policy with these countries seems to run the gamut from surprisingly soft on Russia to statements about blowing up spy boats, while threatening China with a trade war to a recently more conciliatory tone, it is yet to be predictable what the next year in foreign relations will bring. With North Korea, Syria, and Ukraine being the sensitive spots for conflict within the world right now, these actions undertaken by the US can be seen as dangerously short sighted for giving lie to the idea that international law, and subsequently the UN, hold any meaning for current or emerging powers.
Welcome to the Stienberg Sentinel. Here is a blog dedicated to exorcising the pesky thoughts of the Stienberg twins who just think too much and need to write more. This is a blog solely dedicated to our opinions and ideas, so really I should caution you to enter at your own risk!