Just when I begin to think that President Donald J Trump could not get any worse, he goes and surprises me again.
Just a day or two ago, I saw, in Breaking Defense, that “President Donald Trump delivered a garbled and misleading critique of the F-35’s supply chain today, casting the flexible and redundant international supply chain among allies as a program weakness he planned to fix. The president offered his summary of the F-35 supply chain in an interview with Fox News primarily focused on the global supply chain and China’s role in it … [but it’s not just China. Referring to the F-35 he said that] … “The problem is if we have a problem with a country, you can’t make the jet. We get parts from all over the place. It’s so crazy. We should make everything in the United States,” Trump told Fox News on Thursday, saying that if US relation with Turkey were to collapse, Turkey could withhold delivery of key parts … [and] … Asked whether transferring production to the US in full would be possible, Trump said: “Yeah, we’re doing it because I’m changing all those policies.”“
Can the total supply chain for anything, even nuclear warheads, be repatriated to Amerca? Certainly, of course … if, and it’s a big IF the American taxpayer chooses to:
- Forgo the benefits of superior technology and production quality that exist in say Australia, Israel, Japan, South Korea and Canada; and
- Pay a higher price.
It’s not clear to me that the choice makes any military or economic sense.
I need to reiterate that I do not know which aircraft ~ amongst the contenders to replace our ancient CF-188 Hornets and amongst those not in contention ~ is best. I do know that some of my friends, a few who are aeronautical engineers and a few more who are serving or recently retired military officers favour the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II …
… over the other candidates (the Boeing Super Hornet and the Saab Gripen) on several grounds, including electronics (sensor fusion and other aspects), Reliability, Availability and Maintainability, operational interoperability, especially in NORAD, and long-term industrial benefits for Canada. That last factor could become far less important IF President Trump is serious.
Is he serious?
Yes, I believe he is. Not, necessarily on the specifics of the F-35 supply chain, he might forget why he said that (it involved Turkey, by the way) or even that the thought crossed his mind, but he does want to make America much more self-sufficient.
Now, I am persuaded that for a variety of essentially inchoate reasons, Team Trudeau is opposed to the idea of even greater continental self-sufficiency. I am not quite sure how to define their goal. I guess I can see something of Pierre Trudeau’s ideas about a socialist, isolationist, anti-Western Canada resurfacing, But, I also see a lot of cynical political opportunism. I am convinced that Donald Trump, even if he manages to lose in 2020, has already set America on a new course that rejects most traditional, late 20th-century ideas about globalization … and he’s not alone. In fact, it is Canada that stands almost alone (but alongside China) in defending the old, 1990s, view of an emerging global village.
The F-35 isn’t the issue. President Trump’s notions about supply chains, which I believe are shared by the (few) grownups left in his administration ~ people like US Trade Representative Robert Lightheizer ~ are gaining ground everywhere, including in Europe. They are predicated on a pair of worries:
- China has become too important in too many too vital sectors; and
- The US-led West ~ North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region ~ have lost too many manufacturing jobs to China and a few others.
Canada, at least Justin Trudeau’s Canada, is on the wrong side of this issue. Canada needs new leadership with new visions … and Canada needs that new leadership soon.