Many supporters of President Trump have been getting very upset at the rhetoric from the anti-Trump people, and a common refrain is that they suffer from “Trump Derangement Syndrome” and are engaging in dangerous hyperbole when they say Trump is “dangerous” and insist that they are literally afraid.
Here’s the case for what it is about Trump’s foreign relations that makes people afraid. It’s quite simple – on two (and it could grow to 3) of the 4/5 major foreign relations issues facing the US, Trump has – by just Day 2 – completely blown up 20 or more years of established US policy – policies that have endured through both Democratic and Republican administrations and had achieved practical consensus status in the US.
First – the entire basis for any political or trade relationship with China is the One China policy. The Telegraph published a great “explainer” piece on this issue in December – basically the idea is that formally, China including Taiwan is regarded as an integral state, while at the same time Taiwan’s independence and new democracy is allowed to exist and grow and even thrive.
Is it a good policy? Maybe, or maybe not – on the one hand, it’s absurd on its face. On the other, though, it’s the only policy that we’ve had – it literally undergirds the entire relationship between China and the rest of the world not just the US.
Why are people afraid? We’re afraid because there is almost no evidence at all that blowing up the One China policy was deliberate, that it was considered in advance and that some better policy that will serve the US or the rest of the world well has been anticipated. As far as anyone can tell, the world is being thrown into a void on this issue simply because Trump doesn’t know better. That’s scary.
Second – proposing to move the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is a monumental blunder – but he’s moving forward with the plan, an idea that threatens the stability of the entire region. The NYTimes published a debate feature about this issue at the end of December.
It’s not a question of whether the current situation is ideal – it’s far from ideal, it’s not even marginally good. But it’s like a climber on a cliff rising out of the ocean – the climber may only be resting on a tiny foothold 1/3 of the way up the cliff – but the water below is infested with sharks. This ledge might not be great, and the path to get further up the cliff may not be known – but the only thing that IS certain is that the shark-infested seas below are deadly. And that’s where Trump may be insisting that we go.
And again, the scary thing is that there’s no evidence whatsoever that Trump had any idea of the significance of such a move. So we could be thrust into a period of even more instability in the Middle East – and it very well might be by accident (at least as far as Trump is concerned – members of his entourage certainly know the dangers).
In both of these cases, the worst-case scenario is obvious: war. But the best-case scenarios are much less clear – and it’s not clear that in either situation, there’s a likelihood of a better outcome than we have today at the end of this road.
And don’t even get me started on NATO and the threat to Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. Both of these issues pale in comparison to what would likely happen if Trump blows that up as well…