Tag: politics

The Trouble with the Tax Bill

The Trouble with the Tax Bill

Tax “reform” is the hill Republicans are willing to die on, apparently. Fair enough, because they have nothing else to show for their stint in power – no wall, no Muslim ban, no Obamacare repeal, nothing. They know they have to pass this bill or […]

Turkey and Trump: Facts for your Thanksgiving Feast

Turkey and Trump: Facts for your Thanksgiving Feast

If you’re reading this and you are American, congratulations! You made it through the first nine months of Trump’s presidency and are now facing your first Thanksgiving with him as president. Last year felt a little unbelievable – we all talked over turkey and stuffing […]

Dear Men: You Can Do Better

Dear Men: You Can Do Better

Although I am completely, absolutely, entirely exhausted from explaining women’s issues to men in the hopes that they will listen instead of saying “okay, but not me!” it seems we are not quite finished. Large-scale predators like Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K., and Kevin Spacey are finally being held accountable for their actions, and it has been heartening indeed to see condemnation of these creeps from men. But I don’t want to simply give men a pat on the back for this because the bar is so incredibly low. It takes no courage whatsoever to write a tweet about how you’ll miss watching House of Cards but you just can’t do it anymore because Kevin Spacey and Frank Underwood are apparently one and the same. It takes no courage whatsoever to insert “yeah, he is hilarious and smart, but I guess he’s a sexual harasser” in conversations about Louis C.K. So while your efforts are nice, I want to see so much more from the men in my life.

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Protest: As American as Football

Protest: As American as Football

Perhaps we should have paid due attention to Colin Kaepernick the first time he knelt on the sidelines of an NFL game. Perhaps we should have acted the first time a young black man was shot simply for the color of his skin and for […]

A Shortage of Long-Term Compassion

A Shortage of Long-Term Compassion

Two recent disasters – the inferno at Grenfell Tower in London and Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas –  have reminded us anew of the destructive capabilities and sheer powers of the elements. A massive fire ravaged the twenty-four-floor London apartment building on the 14th of […]

The KKK and the World Today

The KKK and the World Today

There isn’t much I can say on the topic of white supremacy, Nazism, and the recent horrors in Charlottesville, VA that has not already been said in the past few days (and said far better than I could ever say it). Nevertheless, when I think about how I, as a singular human being, can make a difference in a situation like this, my answer is inevitably always the same: write, talk, argue, debate, post, tweet, spread awareness.

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Education: A Requirement for Democracy

Education: A Requirement for Democracy

My alma mater, Michigan State University. When I began writing this piece a few days ago, it was nearly impossible for me to set aside my own incredulity at the fact that according to a new Pew Research Center poll, a majority of surveyed Republicans […]

Trump’s Foreign Policy Disconnect

Trump’s Foreign Policy Disconnect

Since the end of the Second World War, promoting diplomacy and cooperation between states has been at the forefront of American foreign policy. From the creation of NATO to the Camp David Accords to the Good Friday Agreement, presidents and their administrations have seen the […]

The Importance of Being Predictable: Why It Matters that Trump Won’t Verbally Commit to NATO

The Importance of Being Predictable: Why It Matters that Trump Won’t Verbally Commit to NATO

Donald Trump is a man of few meaningful words. He talks quite a lot, overuses the same phrases, and often what comes out of his mouth is completely indecipherable. When he failed to verbally commit to Article 5 of NATO (which states that an attack on one member is an attack on all members) during his first international trip as president, foreign leaders took notice. Article 5 is essentially the reason that NATO exists; it has only been invoked one time – in the aftermath of September 11. It deters adversaries such as Russia from encroaching too far on European territory, it binds the member states together against global terrorism, and it sends a message to our European allies that should a crisis break out, the US will come to its aid in whatever capacity necessary. While Trump mentioned “the commitments that bind us together as one,” he did not specifically mention Article 5. Why does this matter? It would seem that this comments basically do signal American commitment. Why does it need to be spelled out in such explicit terms?

In international relations, words are easily wielded as tools. Soft power, a way of accumulating strength and influence by means of diplomacy, often consists of verbal (and written) agreements and commitments that build states’ relationships with one another and typically improves outcomes for both. Soft power enhances predictability by creating partnerships with like-minded allies that share common goals and values. Therefore it matters that states are predictable, especially within alliances; an unpredictable partner is a volatile and untrustworthy partner.

By verbally and publicly declaring American adherence to Article 5, Trump would have faced something which he has continued to evade: accountability. There is a current onslaught of articles which seek to expose Trump’s campaign rhetoric, holding him accountable for failing to bring back coal jobs, for flopping on passing a new healthcare bill, and for deciding not to “lock her up” (which, in fairness, was a smart backtrack). It’s true that we are only a few short months into the Trump presidency, but broken promises to voters materialize in the voting booth, as citizens remember the words, slogans, and catchphrases that were shouted at rallies and speeches and judge the politician accordingly. Trump in essence created a rod for his own back, forging the constraints around his presidency by hollering about his first 100 days and what he would do the day he entered the office. For a man who ran on a platform of no-nonsense promises and blatant honesty, he should be prepared for early judgement.

This is not a phenomenon entirely specific to Donald Trump; all politicians are held accountable in some way or another. Former President Barack Obama, for example, will probably never be able to live down his retreat on the “red line” in the Syrian civil war, and it will forever be a stain on his legacy. Failing to keep campaign promises has the potential to get politicians voted out of office, but failing to commit to long-standing and indispensable commitments on an international level sends signals that reverberate beyond our shores and borders.

World leaders who are far more seasoned than Trump, such as Angela Merkel or Vladimir Putin, recognize the importance of soft power in ways that Trump appears frightfully incapable of understanding. Where Merkel sees such hesitation as a sign that the US is no longer a reliable partner, Putin likely looks on with glee as the frayed relationship between two of the most powerful Western states continues to wither. As a power-hungry Russia looks to further encroach on what Putin perceives to be a crumbling and divided Europe, Donald Trump’s ambiguity towards international alliances comes as a welcome wave of the hand.

It is probably too soon to speculate that Trump refused to verbally commit to Article 5 for a specific reason. That would imply that Trump is smart enough to understand basic foreign policy and/or relationships with our closest allies, and I truly don’t believe that he is that smart. What I do believe is that he is just dumb enough to not grasp the unassailable value of NATO nor the consequences of his ambiguity. Reaffirming Article 5 would not have been concrete evidence that Trump is willing to take a public stand against Russia, therefore collusion during the election must have been impossible. It might not have cancelled out the entire investigation, but it would have been a decent start. It was an opportunity for Trump to align with Europe instead of with Russia and consequently could have put a band-aid on the collateral damage from the Flynn fiasco. Instead, it has the potential to set a dangerous precedent, one that Trump seems intent on pursuing: equating unpredictability with strength. Similar to the Madman Theory of President Nixon in which he tried to make the leaders of the Soviet Union think he was volatile and unstable in order to avoid a provocation by the US, in his delusion Trump is applying what some may perceive as a comparable course of thinking.

We witnessed the same mistakes in Trump’s supposed secret strategy to defeat ISIS that he boasted of during the election. Trump’s political strategy may be ‘America First,’ but in an age of required international cooperation, a unipolar world in which we are on our own and refuse to commit to our allies is not a safe world at all. Pointing fingers at our European allies who are not meeting monetary requirements yet refusing to verbally commit to Article 5 is hypocritical and short-sighted. General H.R. McMaster and Gary Cohn, two Trump administration officials, co-authored an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that illustrates this hypocrisy: while the authors state that “America first does not mean America alone,” we are undeniably isolating ourselves on the global stage. The Europeans take Article 5 very seriously, and rightly so, considering they upheld the Article in our time of need. There is simply no political climate in which boasting “America First” does not raise eyebrows among our partners, and there are no circumstances in which unpredictability and refusal to commit are signs of strength while cooperation and an open dialogue fall to the wayside.





The Weekly Digest: 13-19th May

The Weekly Digest: 13-19th May

The Weekly Digest is a round-up of our (and your!) favorite posts of the week, highlighted together and split by activity for your weekend enjoyment. READ: Feminism Editor Amy reviews Marilynne Robinson’s atmospheric Home. REWIND: Literature Editor Olivia grapples with Anne With An E, the […]