For John, BLUF: President Trumps pull-back in foreign affairs is a two edge sword. We avoid "dumb wars" but we may miss opportunities to deter aggression when it is still at a low level. Nothing to see here; just move along.
Yes, this is from two months ago, but a chance to see if Professor Niall Ferguson called it correctly back on 21 November of last year.
This American Interest article comes complete with 24 footnotes. Serious writing.
Here is how it starts:
What a Kissinger-inspired strategy might look like.Then the article goes on to examine "the geopolitical landscape that Trump inherits form his predecessor." Here is a way to think about the world order:
Ten days after the election of Donald J. Trump to be the 45th President of the United States, there is a more or less complete lack of certainty as to which direction his foreign policy will take, but a great deal of speculation—much of it alarmist—based on things Mr. Trump has said in speeches and interviews. Yet few if any Presidents base their foreign policy strictly on campaign rhetoric. Few if any break entirely with the policies of their predecessors. And, indeed, few if any can be said, in practice, to have anything so coherent as a foreign policy doctrine, much less a grand strategy. Experience also suggests that the foreign policy of the Trump Administration will depend a good deal on who gets the key jobs—Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense, as well as National Security Advisor—and on who wins the interdepartmental struggle that will inevitably ensue: the battle for bureaucratic priority, the fight for regular access to the President, the war of leaks to the media.
Rather than speculate about such transitional questions, it may be more constructive for now to ask what Trump’s strategic options actually are as seen against the widest parameters that reality may bear. In this context, it is helpful that the nation’s most respected living strategic thinker and practitioner has already aired some of his views. Having endorsed neither leading candidate for the presidency, but having met with both during their campaigns, Henry Kissinger deserves to be heeded. There is, of course, no certainty that his views will be heeded by the President-elect or his national security team. It would be foolhardy to assume that the President-elect does not take his own oft-stated views seriously, and these do not align especially well with those of Henry Kissinger. But Kissinger’s advice is being sought, and prospective cabinet officials may be more amenable to it than not. There is therefore no reason to assume that the embryonic administration is so wedded to a particular strategic doctrine that what follows can be dismissed out of hand.
Four competing visions of world order—the European-Westphalian, the Islamic, the Chinese, and the American—are each in varying stages of metamorphosis, if not decay.Ours, here in America, is not the only vision, or even the vision embraced by the majority of people.
And here is a good insight:
Donald Trump therefore enters the Oval Office with an underestimated advantage. Obama’s foreign policy has been a failure, most obviously in the Middle East, where the smoldering ruin that is Syria—not to mention Iraq and Libya—attests to the fundamental naivety of his approach, dating all the way back to the 2009 Cairo speech. The President came to believe he had an ingenious strategy to establish geopolitical balance between Sunni and Shi’a. But by treating America’s Arab friends with open disdain, while cutting a nuclear deal with Iran that has left Tehran free to wage proxy wars across the region, Obama has achieved not peace but a fractal geometry of conflict and a frightening, possibly nuclear, arms race. At the same time, he has allowed Russia to become a major player in the Middle East for the first time since Kissinger squeezed the Soviets out of Egypt in the 1972-79 period. The death toll in the Syrian war now approaches half a million; who knows how much higher it will rise between now and Inauguration Day?Good food for thought.
Hat tip to the InstaPundit.
Regards — Cliff