The world is still getting used to Donald Trump the President. Seasoned politicians and government officials at home and abroad cannot figure him out. Since his election, Trump has not acted or behaved like any politician before him. His approach to complex issues has been far from being presidential or diplomatic. However, so far, despite criticisms from his detractors and supporters alike chaos seems to be working very well for him. Is this a new era for diplomacy?
It is often said that in negotiations: ‘if you have no options, do nothing’. This is what past administrations has done with regards to North Korea and Trade. They may have negotiated but in the end too many times the U.S, according to Trump, have been on the losing end. Trump, a successful business man, has a different approach to negotiations. As the author of ‘The art of the deal’ he understands that going into a negotiation one must have a ‘best alternative to a negotiated agreement’ (BATNA). To think, that according to his detractors, Trump does not have a plan when he makes statements about North Korea, NAFTA or any policy for that matter, is not only foolish but insulting. He may not be a conventional politician but is far from being stupid, and the world better start understanding his tactics.
Let us take foreign affairs for a start. He does not like globalism, hence he disparaged the Climate Paris Agreement, and he forced NATO allies to pay their fair share, and always threatens to pull out or of existing agreements. He bombed Syria without telling the United Nations, and promises to cut U.N’s funding. Not your usual diplomatic moves, but the results have proved him right. As for North Korea he has called Kim Jong-un ‘little Rocket man’ denigrated him and sent aircraft carriers and military hardware to the region in response to North Korea’s continued missile and nuclear tests. By increasing sanctions he was able to get China on his side and now agree to meet Kim in a summit talk. This latest move has attracted criticisms from many quarters. Mostly from the same people who for decades have not been able to do anything and instead allowed the regime to increase and perfect its arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. While I do not believe for one minute that these talks, if they happen, will get the desired results, in my view it will be a start to put the dictator on notice that his country could be attacked and destroyed.
As for trade his refusal to join the TTP and re-negotiate NAFTA, is not surprising since these were campaign promises. From a U.S point view trade agreements as they exists are in many cases unbalanced. Many countries including China have had preferential treatment, and the U.S, Mexico and Canada have progressed under NAFTA which in many instances need a review as a result of new technology. Trump’s imposition of 25% and 10% tariffs on steel and aluminum respectively is a tactic that will force countries to renegotiate now long overdue agreements, due to advances in technology, logistics and demographics, and more importantly because of the rise of China and India as growing economies. I suggest Canada and Mexico must come to the table with new ideas that include a removal of barriers on dairy products, and immigration policies at the southern borders of the U.S. Let us be quite clear, as a free trader I do not like tariffs, because they are a tax in another word, but if it used as a strategy to get better fair trade in a free market I am all for it.What has been called chaos by the left and other perennial politicians is just another way of doing politics by Trump. His negotiation tactics which includes labelling, demeaning his opponents are a way to disarm his opponents. It may not be pretty but it seems that it produces results. Diplomacy as practiced by many of his predecessors has not worked in the case of Iran, North Korea and China. Trump believes that a different approach could be the answer to these thorny and dangerous problems.
As a businessman he is used to hiring and firing his staff. He seems to be using the same management skills for his cabinet, as the revolving door keeps opening and closing on some of his personnel. The latest being Secretary Rex Tillerson, who has on a few occasions disagreed publicly with the President on foreign affairs. Let us remember that Secretaries and other government personnel serve at the President’s pleasure. He can hire and fire anyone on his staff.
Too often Canadians have followed the Democrat and liberal media rhetoric that Trump does not know what he is doing. Diplomacy is a very important part of governing; however history has shown that not all diplomatic decisions have been good for the world. The ‘Peace in our time’ decision by Chamberlain was not the best one ever. Obama followed in Chamberlain’s footsteps with his failed responses to the invasion of Crimea, East Ukraine, as well as the failure of his ‘Red line’ in Syria. His Iran deal made seems to be creating more problems in the Middle East than resolving dangerous terrorism and sectarianism issues. North Korea has been a thorn in the side of several administrations for over two decades. Now that NK possesses nuclear capabilities the negotiations are going to be more difficult. Empty talks and diplomacy through the U.N has not and will not work.
In Canada as reported by the National Post, we have civil servants like “Canada’s G7 sherpa Peter Boehm saying that the previous Conservative government “suppressed” everything diplomats tried to do during its decade in power. Others have complained that the Conservatives shackled senior public servants and foreign envoys and required them to clear almost all public communications with their political masters in Ottawa.” Canada and the U.S may have different constitutions, but in my view diplomacy should be conducted according to the government’s policies not at the behest of civil servants. If Canada chooses to allow diplomatic civil servants to dictate policies, this is not the case in the U.S. Let this be a warning to Canada’s NAFTA negotiators.
As a businessman Trump is used to hiring and firing his staff. He seems to be using the same management skills for his cabinet, as the revolving door keeps opening and closing on some of his personnel. The latest casualty being Secretary Rex Tillerson, who has on a few occasions disagreed publicly with the President on foreign affairs. Let us remember that Secretaries and other government personnel serve at the President’s pleasure. He can hire and fire anyone on his staff.
Diplomacy that worked, according to Reagan was ‘Peace through strength’, unlike Obama’s ‘outstretch hands’ or ‘smart power’ which never worked. If Trump’s chaotic diplomacy works, the better for the world. We should not criticize Trump because of his blustering style. Maybe we should wait and see and hope that his approach bears better results.