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Both Bush administrations, Clinton’s and Obama’s were solicitous of Russia’s primary claim on US policy — namely that the US continue doing nothing that would impede any Russian missile from striking America. Obama had gone so far as to privately (albeit on a “hot mike”) promise Putin to reduce US missile programmes further than officially planned. Trump, rhetoric and additional billions for missile defence notwithstanding, has refused to change this policy. Bush II objected only verbally to Russia’s effective annexation of parts of Georgia, and Obama imposed token sanctions for its absorption of parts of Ukraine. Neither halted Putin nor advanced American interests, because neither improved the ratio of US/Russia military power. Because of the Democratic Party’s allegations that Russia engineered his election, if only for domestic political self-defence, the Trump team doubled down on the Bush/Obama’s sterile approach to Russia: demanding that Russia restore its conquests, ramping up sanctions, and deploying token forces in Eastern Europe, but without changing the US/Russia ratio of military power. The discrepancy between ends and means is palpable.

Consistency with Bush and Obama also characterised Trump’s approach to China, Japan, and Korea: try to keep Japan and South Korea in America’s security orbit and essentially unarmed by offering them protection against China and North Korea; wring hands as China increases its capacity to control the ocean from the land; worry loudly as North Korea advertises its nuclear and missile programmes; ask China to rein in North Korea, and smile as it promises to do so; frown as China breaks its promises and worry as it offers its protection to South Korea and Japan; build defences against a token number of North Korean missiles, designed to reassure China that none of that can defend against its missiles; and really worry as semi-starved North Korea, led by cartoon character Kim Jong-un, acquires nuclear-tipped ICBMs that, unlike American ones, are invulnerable and that, merely quantitatively, can overwhelm the defences that highly credentialled Americans had devised.

During 2017, Trump reacted to North Korea’s missiles and nukes with strong words. This was intolerable. Would not stand. But would America attack to try destroying them? Officially, “everything” was “on the table”. Unofficially, of course not. The US could also negate North Korea’s missiles by scrapping its “theatre-limited” approach to missile defence and building the sort of defence that would protect against massive attacks from anywhere. But that would require impeaching the judgment of two generations of American military-political planners, as well as understanding what such defences would take. There is no evidence that Trump considered that.

Meanwhile South Korea, reacting to its conservative government’s corruption, had elected Moon Jae-in, for whose party rapprochement with North Korea is the core of identity and agenda. Hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics put Moon in a position to advance that agenda. It seems also that Kim Jong-un had long planned to use the Olympics’ pageantry and decorum to manoeuvre the world’s press and politicians into treating his regime as normal. Moon cooperated. First, he put US representatives next to Kim’s sister. Then, he relayed and strongly supported Kim’s offer of direct “negotiations” with the Americans.
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An Gíogóir
August 29th, 2018
9:08 AM
I'm not sure what this article is trying to say. Should Trump go with the foreign policy establishment view or not?

Lawrence James
July 2nd, 2018
9:07 AM
Americans have always desired 'to live peacefully' with their neighbours. If this urge ever existed, why did it express itself in the invasion of Mexico and the subsequent annexations. Was the war against Spain in 1898 another manifestation of this same wish for harmony with its neighbours ? And there were the wars against the native Americans and, more pertinently, the little wars waged by General Smedley Butler in various parts of the Caribbean between the wars. Aggression which he rightly denounced as undertaken in the interests of the big corporations.The Cold War and its aftermath have seen a cluster of similar coercive wars. Such selective omissions suggest that this just another Trump propaganda excercise. Fair enough but next time find someone with some knowledge of history.

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