Society values externals, but internally the president may be the least crazy person on Earth.
It’s less important if a president is an egomaniac than if a country is. Donald J. Trump may have an ego, but his desired foreign policy reforms reveal a saner mind than whatever is driving the “America Uber Alles” foreign policy that we all seem to be OK with even as our national dysfunction is laid bare.
Take his latest suggestion for the international stage: Expand the Group of Seven (economic powers) to at least a G-11, to include newer economic powerhouses India, Australia, Russia, South Korea, and maybe Brazil. Even The Economist admitted the American president has a point, in a June 4th editorial acknowledging, “Mr. Trump is right that the G-7 could do with rethinking. When it started in 1975 … it represented about 70% of the world economy … Now it accounts for about 40%.”
But a little further down in the article, along comes the predictable snag: Russia. “With his suggested four extra members, Mr. Trump seems to envisage … becoming a China-containment club. But having China‘s junior partner, Russia, in the mix would undermine that idea.”
A Time article by Ian Bremmer went further, first admitting Trump’s point that a G-7 is “a very outdated group of countries,” and elaborating, “Gone are the days when the U.S., the U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Canada could credibly claim to represent the world’s advanced economies, much less to set an international agenda … If [it’s] an institution designed to promote democracy; freedoms of speech, assembly and religion; and free-market capitalism, then [expansion] makes good sense.”
Wait for it …
“Unfortunately, Trump’s plan won’t work. First, the President also wants to include Russia … immediately rejected by both Britain and Canada. If the G-7 summit is held in the U.S. in September, and Russia is invited as a non-member, prepare for the spectacle of a smiling Putin waving to cameras on the eve of a US election.”
Four years into our desperate search, we still have nothing concrete tying Russia to Mr. Trump’s election victory — and yet they keep trying to make it true via repetition. Even as the foundation of the hacking hoax finally crumbled last month when three-year-old documents revealed that the president of the CrowdStrike malware forensic company the DNC hired to investigate testified there was no evidence the Russians or anyone else hacked the server.
Is it any wonder that Russia might find itself as “China‘s junior partner,” then? Where did we leave room for it to go? This is what happens when you construct pariahs. They find friends where they can, as Serbia did with Iraq, Libya and China after we leveled it (Chinese embassy included). We’re similarly forcing Russia toward China and Iran — only to then vilify it for that sin.
And so here we are, contemplating having Russia help us counterweigh China. Was it wise, then, of the Cold War victor to do everything to antagonize the loser? And does it make sense to view Russia‘s resurgence as some sort of affront, to be dealt with on a national security level as an “adversary?”
For some reason, when other countries do well — without our guidance or approval — it’s taken as aggression. This is the madness Mr. Trump sought to undo from the beginning, and his G-11+ proposal is consistent with that. Domestically, we expect our society to keep pace with changing times and demographics. But we seem to be OK with calcification in our foreign policies and attitudes. More insidiously, we let our government enforce — flaunting our military might — the elite club staying the elite club, to be untouchable economically.
The trouble with the idea will be if it’s used to crank up hostilities with China. Trump has said all along he wants to fix the trade and economic imbalance, and if the coronavirus scare and all the vulnerabilities it exposed ends with American companies pulling out of China, excellent. Especially if it leads to the end the Communist regime. But let’s not conflate the economic and the existential.
Notice the sleight of hand in the following quote from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last month: “The Chinese Communist Party working inside of their own country is one thing. Their efforts to create control and influence around the world are quite another, and we have a responsibility to fix that. President Trump got this right in his campaign. He talks about it an awful lot.”
No, he doesn’t; he talks about the trade imbalance. The rest seems to be coming from the Pentagon. And from Congress: Note how seamlessly the economic sphere morphs into the military one in this quote from Florida Sen. Rick Scott last month: “You may have friends that live in Communist China, but they aren’t the ones running the country. The Communist Party runs the country. They make all these decisions and they’re anti-American, they want world domination. They’re not a competitor, they are an adversary now.”
Mr. Pompeo added, “China‘s efforts to use their wealth, state-owned enterprises, and their authoritarian regime in … sea lanes all around the world present real risk to the United States of America and to free nations.”
How? An old Soviet joke may help explain the Washington mentality: What’s the most peace-loving nation? Afghanistan. It doesn’t interfere even in its own internal affairs. What’s the most aggressive nation? United States. It interferes in USSR’s internal affairs all over the world.
Lately, we’ve been behaving more like the latter. America’s bad trade balance with China — and other vulnerabilities such as supply chains, economic espionage, student spies at our universities (we invited them in)—is almost entirely self-inflicted by corporate and political leadership that was less interested in what’s good for the American people or for national security than in feathering their own nests: Dump expensive American workers, move production to China, import into U.S. virtually tariff-free, increase profit margin, big bucks for execs. For political leaders it was a combination of dogmatic attachment to Free Trade and condemnation of “protectionism,” and the idea that with China roped into an international system dominated by the U.S., we could ensure their continued geopolitical deference to Washington in the security sphere.
A few years ago on a local Pennsylvania radio show hosted by James Arthur Jancik, retired Foreign Service officer Jim Jatras suggested that “we need to achieve some kind of balanced understanding with the other significant powers of the world … at least we have to start talking to the Russians and the Chinese and come up with some kinds of rules of the road about where we have vital interests, where they have vital interests, and how we prevent those vital interests from clashing … [as in] the Concert of Europe … they would understand where each other’s red lines were, and took pains not to cross them. We don’t do that.”
An expanded G-7 could be a step toward such balance. In which case it would make more sense to include China rather than target it, as The Economist article quotes Michel Fullilove, of the Australian think tank Lowy Institute: “If this is to be the steering committee of the world economy, then China deserves to be included.”
Consider that suggestion in the context of our having given away the store to this same Communist China. Why not reverse that misstep prudently rather than going from one crazy to the opposite crazy? Also consider that in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, Newsweek discerned that “In accepting support from China and Russia, the White House appears to acknowledge its leading rivals could play constructive roles in world affairs.”
Yes, the Group is supposed to be for democracies, but our own leg to stand on is getting shorter and shorter, considering not only that we’ve taken over as the empire spreading progressive values to the benighted hordes, but that the latest is our country has been hijacked by power-drunk Democrats cheering anarchy (stemming from George Floyd’s death). And there’s always this: “We have big companies partnering with the government to spy on you without your knowledge,” Tucker Carlson held forth in late April when the lockdown was in full swing, “Americans locked in their homes, banned from going to church, placated with sedatives like weed and beer. Anyone who speaks up is silenced; political demonstrations are illegal; organizers are arrested. Only opinions approved by leaders—many of them unelected — are allowed on information platforms. Does that sound familiar? It sounds a lot like China.
“… Over the weekend, The Atlantic magazine published an article by two academics calling for an end to freedom of speech in America. Their model for an ideal system? The totalitarian government of China. ‘In a debate over freedom versus control of the internet, China was largely correct and the U.S. was wrong … Significant monitoring and speech control are inevitable components of a mature and flourishing internet…And governments must play a large role in these practices to ensure that the internet is compatible with a society’s norms and values.’”
Surveying the sustained, puppeteered, multi-week chaos in American cities after the George Floyd officers were arrested, Jatras asked a Polish friend, “Do you think Poles see this mess and start to think, ‘Y’know, maybe entrusting our national existence to these idiots might not be such a good idea?” His friend answered, “A lot are opening their eyes [but] many don’t follow the news, and the minority in power and their journo-think-tank buddies are telling themselves all is well and we will fight Putin and China together.”
Julia Gorin was a Soviet Refusenik who came to the U.S. in 1976. She is editor of “Hillarisms: The Unmaking of the First Female President.”