Saturday, December 17, 2016

Your President-Elect, America

I don't know if picking up the US unmanned sub device was a bit of a "prank" by China to tweak us for having elected for the office of Commander-in-Chief a person who hasn't even taken office before starting a tremendously awkward diplomatic situation with them. I do think it is well and good that the device be returned to show that there is still some goodwill.

I also, however, think that Donald Trump's reaction to the situation is, how would we say? Unpresidented. As in--not at all the way a president would.

"Let them keep it!" (Which I have screen-capped, because really?) is an expression of sour grapes. We don't want it anyway. But there is a principle involved in getting it back. They lodged a formal complaint over Trump's Taiwan shenanigans regarding a disruption in the One China recognition. The US lodges a formal complaint over the marine drone. They will return the device--

Is he possibly worried we'll hand him over to make everything square? While I like the idea more than I like the idea of getting rescued from the potential of his misadministration by the "Hamilton electors", I think he should be quite safe in his Trump Tower.

But if this is how he intends to signal what he thinks about foreign policy (via series of badly-conceived social media missives), I'm not sure how safe he'll be in Washington, D.C.

(Not physically unsafe, mind you---we are not a nation of savages. But as he's already made steps to alienate the intelligence community on the issue of the Russian hacking, I can't help but think what he's doing with respects to China is also getting him crossways with State career folks. It's not really an auspicious start.)

2 comments:

Formerly Amherst said...

Hi Vixen, I hope you're having a Merry Christmas. I know this is a busy time for your husband. I've backed off of politics quite a lot since the election is over and we can all relax.

My view is that President Obama has often used the parameters of soft power to try and meet contingencies. This is sometimes good and sometimes bad. If the US is seen to be apologetic and non-hostile then the other side can be seen as the belligerent. Naturally, if you're being the agreeable one and the other side is belligerent, then justification lies on your side.

Sometimes this works, but at others it is seen as weakness. So it's always a tricky balance.

Trump brings a lifetime of negotiations to the table, and he has good instincts for this kind of thing.

Trump is more like you. He immediately puts the other side on the defensive. They stole our drone. Therefore they are the belligerent ones and need to justify themselves. He tells them to keep the drone (after conferring with his military experts). It's indifferent to us. There is no need for anything other than China to have to justify their actions while we are indifferent.

It's a good strategy, and it signals to the rest of the world that they are not going to be able to embarrass us too often, and there is a savvy player in the White House. And they'd better be careful of their 'PS and Qs'.

Vixen Strangely said...

Hmm-it made me think a minute when you described Trump as "like me". But as a blogger discussing ideas, I do sometimes use rhetoric to provoke--whether to provoke further discussion, or challenge ways of thinking, or just because I'm feeling provocative. But I'm a D-list blogger so what I do doesn't harm international relations. As a person who is about to become the US's foremost representative, the stakes for Trump's provocations is much higher. It can be good and bad.

What I, and others, have noticed is that Trump seems to use this technique of throwing things out there as a way to plumb what will work on his audience. In his rallies, for example, he seemed to be testing what his audience wanted from him in field, and I think Tweeting might be his way of "feeling out" how people will respond to him--but this is really different from how other presidents have gone about foreign relations--generally, they try to gather their intelligence beforehand and know what historical tripwires might exist. It is hard to determine whether the Taiwan tripwire (occurring before he has taken office) was a deliberate test to see how strong the Chinese commitment to it was (because not being in office meant that the blowback for him, personally, was slighter than had he already been POTUS--which is interesting as strategy) or whether he sort of wandered into it without knowing at better--his public responses have left his actions open to both interpretations and I reckon that people will tend to view the matter along partisan lines.

The thing is--China didn't try to embarrass us at all to start with (although if they intended to--it was likely in retaliation for Trump's diplomatic breach of former protocol), although they seem to be doing ...something in the last few years, in general. The artificial island build-up concerns me. The talk about scrapping TPP strikes me, economically, as actually creating a greater space for Chinese economic dominance in the Pacific. I worry that small strategies that look tough can backfire, leaving them able to say that it is actually the US who seems uninformed or foolish--which is a response that enables them to allow a small concession on their part while retaining face in the long run, because their strategy is a longer game.

I would be more reassured that he was doing any of this strategically if he would simply use spellcheck more. I also think that he should rely on advisors at least as much as he does on his "just testing" method because experience accounts for something.