Donald John Trump has been President of the United States for one year now. As he progresses through the first full week of his second year in office, it is time to look at the previous year and how it affected the world, including New Zealand.
The effect Mr Trump has had on New Zealanders has been largely negative. Whilst many including myself supported his withdrawing the United States from the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement – and wishing New Zealand had followed suit, there has been little else to celebrate. Mr Trump’s foreign policy and contempt for environmental science puts at risk much of the good New Zealand and other nations have worked towards.
I do not know what Year 2 of Mr Trump’s first term in office will bring, so I am looking at the recent past (i.e 2017) to see if there are clues. The key points for me in the past year have been:
- The tensions on the Korean Peninsula, despite recent talks about North Korea attending the Pyeonchang Winter Olympics in South Korea, remain very high and credible concerns exist about how the regime will react to any further tightening of sanctions. Not only that, but the historical risk of Chinese intervention should any conflict break out is also plausible.
- Withdrawing from the Trans Pacific Partnership. This is perhaps the only thing on the world stage, I am happy to credit Mr Trump with. The T.P.P.A. is a toxic deal for all 12 nations and I had hopes that when Mr Trump withdrew the U.S. others would have second thoughts as well.
- The intervention in the Syrian War in April 2017 drew alarm. Mr Trump ordered the firing of 59 cruise missiles into Syria to attack a Russian base. Aside from the fact that there seemed to be little actual purpose – it has not altered the outcome of the war; many were left wondering, what if the Russians had fired back?
- The decision to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is effectively a middle finger salute by Mr Trump to the entire Arab world and Palestine. In one stroke, more effectively than all of the steadily encroaching illegal Israeli settlements could have achieved, Mr Trump has dumped the Israel Palestine peace process on its head.
- Mr Trump’s threat to walk away from the Iranian nuclear agreement threatens to undo an essential deal that potentially saved a lot of lives – the deal saved the Middle East from a pre-emptive Israeli military strike that could have flung the whole region into a major conflict that would have overshadowed the proxy wars in Iraq and Syria
- The war waged by the White House on science. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is a lady who believes in the theory of creation as opposed to the theory of evolution; climate change is a hoax; and science in general should not be trusted. Whilst largely a domestic issue, it sends the wrong signals to academics worldwide about how this Administration will tackle science.
- The Mueller probe into whether or not Mr Trump or his associates, including his sons and daughter Ivanka had any election period dealings with Russians involving bribery or the disclosure of confidential information is slowly making progress – some call it a witch hunt, while others are watching what they consider to be the wheels of justice in motion. Whilst impeachment seems like an impossibility at this stage, I expect the Mueller probe to claim a few of Mr Trump’s staff.
- The financial aims of the Trump Administration are very different from those the Obama Administration. One sought to improve the regulatory control of the banking sector after one of the biggest financial crises in nearly 100 years. The other (current one) is helping to exacerbate financial operating conditions that now look similar to those just prior to the 2007-2009 Global Financial Crisis. The catch is unfortunately banks have little room to manoeuvre in, in that neither raising or lowering interest rates is going to help that much.
- For a western nation that has an immensely rich immigrant tapestry there is a lot to be alarmed about regarding the signals Mr Trump is sending to the vulnerable peoples of nations less lucky than the United States. It is more than a little rich to be telling Yemeni’s to stay at home whilst arming the nation that is bombing them into the ground;
New Zealand’s best course is probably to stay on the current one: be honest and tell Mr Trump’s officials what our expectations are. I am not expecting a visit from him because it seems that only Democrats visit New Zealand. The ideological differences between New Zealand and the Trump Administration may discourage a visit. If he comes, he should be accorded the due dignity of a head of state, whilst perhaps it being suggested he attend an A.N.Z.A.C. Day dawn service with the Prime Minister, to realise New Zealand’s effort in war have not come cheap.