Dr Richard N Haass, the long serving president of the Council on Foreign Relations, has written an interesting and informative essay in Foreign Affairs titled “Where to Go From Here ~ Rebooting American Foreign Policy.“
(There is not one single mention of Canada in the essay. Dr Haass is dealing with problems and, despite the NATFA renegotiations, Canada doesn’t fall into that category.)
Richard Haass sees North Korea as the “top of mind” issue. He says that “President Donald Trump has properly concluded that the greatest threat to U.S. national security is North Korea’s accelerating nuclear and missile programs, which may give Pyongyang the ability to launch nuclear-tipped missiles at the continental United States in a matter of months or at most years. The president also seems to have concluded, correctly, that several decades of U.S. policy, mostly consisting of sanctions and on-again, off-again negotiations aimed at ridding North Korea of nuclear weapons, have failed. The challenge now is to choose among the three plausible alternative options for moving forward: acceptance, military intervention, or more creative diplomacy.” There is, he says, “A fourth possibility, that of regime change … [but that] … does not qualify as a serious option, since it is impossible to assess its chances or consequences.“
He makes some sound, common sense recommendations about how America, with Chinese backing, should proceed in brokering a bilateral nuclear arms reduction deal with North Korea and, on the broader issue of China, he says “As for the U.S. relationship with China itself, the administration’s primary goal should be to emphasize cooperation over North Korea, the most urgent item on the national security agenda. The two countries’ economic integration gives both Washington and Beijing a stake in keeping relations on course. China’s leaders are likely to focus for the foreseeable future on domestic concerns more than foreign policy ones, and the United States should let them do so. That means leaving in place long-standing U.S. policies on bilateral issues such as Taiwan, trade, arms sales, and the South China Sea; the Trump administration should avoid adopting positions on these issues that could either trigger a distracting crisis or compromise U.S. interests. The result would be a “North Korea first,” but not a “North Korea only,” U.S. policy toward China.” Softly, softly, in other words, and, as the Chinese are wont to do, looking at the medium to long term, not just next month or next year.
For the rest of the world, Dr Haass reminds President Trump that his power to do something in America’s best interests is limited but his power and influence can do real harm to America’s interests. He reminds the US administration that putting “America first” will get the political equivalent of Newton’s Third Law: equal and opposite reactions from e.g. Britain, China, Germany, India and Japan. That road, Richard Haass suggests, leads to political and economic ruin for everyone.
I’m guessing that President Trump doesn’t read Foreign Affairs ~ rumours suggest he doesn’t read much of anything ~ but I’m betting that this article will be in the “must read pile” of Secretary of State Tillerson and Defence Secretary Mattis and several other influential people, including son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner. How much decisive influence they have is open to question but one hopes they have some.
In any event, the article is worth a trip to your local library, All half decent libraries subscribe to Foreign Affairs ~ if your library doesn’t then you need a new library board and, probably, a new municipal council, too.
For Canada, which has, roughly aligned itself with Angela Merkel and Germany on the issue of Donald Trump and America’s grand strategy, this brings both problems and opportunities.
The problem is NAFTA: President Trump appears to be a blind, stupid protectionist ~ all protectionists are stupid, some are not totally blind to their folly. NAFTA, or, at least, the underlying Canada~USA free trade agreement of 1987 is vital to Canada’s prosperity which, in its turn, underlies our freedom of action on all other matters. We must preserve Canada-US free(er) trade at all costs. The Liberals are, traditionally, the party of free trade but they ~ Pierre Trudeau, Jean Chrétien, Paul Martin and now Justin Trudeau all disliked the Canada-US free trade agreement and NAFTA (1992) because they are Conservative achievements and remind Canadians that Conservatives are also free traders. Prime Minister Trudeau may have to renege on his (implicit) promises to ignore the military and focus on feminist and green issues and “sunny ways’ in order to preserve the core of NAFTA: Canada – US free trade. If he fails, if President Trump gets what I think he wants, then Justin Trudeau will be a colossal, complete failure as a Canadian prime minister.
Prime Minister Trudeau can, however, have a second term and an enviable historical legacy if he can:
- Secure an improved Canada-US trade agreement;
- Make the CETA work well;
- Sign a Canada-China trade deal which, ultimately, leads to Canada joining the RCEP which includes India;
- Forge closer social, economic, political and military ties with the CANZUK nations, while not severing ties with the “five eyes;” and
- Restore Canada to a “leading middle power” status in the world, which requires both soft and hard, military power.