Another perspective on Trump and his impact on the world.
This is more realistic and credible than all the breast beating and wailing that is usually the bane of "liberals".
India should also be more realistic in its expectations, even though we are relatively more insulated from ameriki dictates than most others.
An Ally Sizes Up Donald Trump
When he says something consistently, it will happen. And his message is that America will remain a reliable partner, but don’t expect too much.
By Tony Abbott, July 13, 2018
Eighteen months into Donald Trump’s term, the world is having trouble coming to grips with the most unconventional American president ever. Still, he is neither a bad dream from which the U.S. will soon wake up, nor a fool to be ridiculed.
For someone his critics say is a compulsive liar, Mr. Trump has been remarkably true to his word. Especially compared with his predecessor, he doesn’t moralize. It’s classic Trump to be openly exasperated by the Group of 7’s hand-wringing hypocrisy. Unlike almost every other democratic leader, Mr. Trump doesn’t try to placate critics. He knows it’s more important to get things done than to be loved.
The holder of the world’s most significant office should always be taken seriously. Erratic and ill-disciplined though Mr. Trump often seems, there’s little doubt that he is proving a consequential president. On the evidence so far, when he says something, he means it—and when he says something consistently, it will happen.
He said he’d cut taxes and regulation. He did, and the American economy is at its strongest in at least a decade. He said he’d pull out of the Paris climate-change agreement and he did, to the usual obloquy but no discernible environmental damage. He said he’d scrap the Iranian deal, and he did. If Tehran gets nuclear weapons, at least it won’t be with American connivance. He said he’d move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, and he did, without catastrophe. He said he’d boost defense spending. That’s happening too, and adversaries no longer think that they can cross American red lines with impunity.
In Mr. Trump’s first year, he acted on 64% of the policy ideas proposed in the Heritage Foundation’s “Mandate for Leadership” agenda—not bad compared with Ronald Reagan’s 49%.
It’s a pity that he kept his promise to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But his concerns about that deal shouldn’t be dismissed. In the short term, freer trade can be better for rich people in poor countries than for poor people in rich ones.
Mr. Trump thinks that the effect of freer trade has been to make America’s rivals stronger. But as the Harley-Davidson example shows, global supply chains mean that even “all-American products” are made all over the world. The consequence of taxing imports can be losing exports, too, as other countries retaliate. So far, though, Mr. Trump’s strong rhetoric and tough action haven’t triggered a full-scale trade war, but have forced other countries to address America’s concerns about technology theft and predatory pricing.
Then there’s the nuclear diplomacy with North Korea. Maybe a hitherto brutal dictator is looking for the survival strategy that Mr. Trump has offered. On the other hand, it could turn into a latter-day version of the Iran deal, in which pressure is eased on the basis of promises that are never fully kept, while leaving allies unsure of American support. That’s the trouble with one-on-one meetings. They may be good for building trust, but they’re bad for making decisions, because each participant has his own version of what was meant.
Still, whatever your judgment on Mr. Trump’s presidency so far, he has 2½ more years in the world’s biggest job and every chance of being re-elected. He is the reality we have to work with.
For Australia, Mr. Trump has so far been a good president. Despite his testy initial conversation with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, he has honored the “very bad deal” that President Obama made to take boat people from Nauru and Manus Island to settle in the U.S.
Mr. Trump seems to appreciate that Australia is the only ally that has been with America, side by side, in every conflict since World War I. He has exempted our steel and aluminum from the tariffs slapped on many others. As a country that’s paid its dues, so to speak, on the American alliance, we have been treated with courtesy and respect. Still, that’s no grounds for complacency in dealing with a transactional president.
As weightier allies found at the NATO summit this week, Mr. Trump is reluctant to help those who don’t pull their weight, and who can blame him? America has been the world’s policeman, the guarantor of a modicum of restraint from the world’s despots and fanatics. No other country has had both the strength and the goodwill for this essential task.
And America’s thanks for its seven decades of watchfulness and its prodigious expenditure of blood and treasure? Condescension from the intellectuals whose freedom the U.S. has protected, and commercial exploitation by the competitors that the American-led global order has created. It’s little wonder that Mr. Trump wants trade that’s fair as well as free, or that he’s tired of allies who give sermons from the sidelines while America keeps them safe.
The truth is that the rest of the world needs America much more than America needs us. The U.S. has no threatening neighbors. It’s about as remote from the globe’s trouble spots as is possible to be. It’s richly endowed with resources, including energy and an almost boundless agricultural capacity. Its technology is second to none. Its manufacturing base is vast. Its people are entrepreneurial in their bones. From diversity, it has built unity and an enviable pride in country.
In many respects, America is the world in one country, only a better world than the one outside. If it decided to live in splendid isolation from troubles across the sea, it would lose little and perhaps gain much, at least in the beginning. A fortress America would be as impregnable as any country could be.
Mr. Trump is clearly impatient with the liberal internationalism that has shaped American policy for 70 years, which he worries has been better for others than for the U.S. There are two possible versions of the evolving Trump doctrine. One goes something like this: America may help those who help themselves, but it will be likelier to help those who help America. The other, kinder version: They’re your values too, so don’t expect us to be the only ones fighting for them.
President Obama spoke beautifully about American values but was always cautious and sometimes slow to stand up for them. On his watch, the rules-based order was already unraveling. Mr. Trump is much more honest about the limits of American power. For all Mr. Obama’s high-mindedness on fringe issues like climate change, Mr. Trump’s America is more robust. It’s certainly less apologetic and readier to use force. So at least for those allies that don’t shirk their responsibilities, Mr. Trump’s America should remain a reliable partner. Just don’t expect too much.
A new age is coming. The legions are going home. American values can be relied upon but American help less so. This need not presage a darker time, like Rome’s withdrawal from Britain, but more will be required of the world’s other free countries. Will they step up? That’s the test.
I was prime minister when Mr. Obama declared at West Point in 2014 that America could not be the world’s policeman on its own. My response was that America need never be alone, and that while it would have more important and occasionally more useful allies, it would never have a more dependable one than Australia. As prime minister, I wanted to be a welcome contrast to those White House visitors asking America to do things for them—asking instead what we could do for America.
When the WikiLeaks spying scandal broke, there was nothing but strong support from Australia. When Islamic State stormed to the gates of Baghdad, Australian special forces, military training teams and strike fighters were there almost as quickly as American ones, because the U.S. should never have to take on the world’s fight solo.
Being America’s partner, as well as its friend, is even more important now, given Mr. Trump’s obsession with reciprocity. It may be the only hope of keeping America engaged in troubles that aren’t already its own.
In my judgment, Australia should have upgraded its Iraq mission to “advise, assist and accompany” as soon as America did, and extended it into Syria. Australia should have mounted freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea. And Australia should have not only welcomed the move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem but moved ours, too.
The rise of China means that Australia can no longer take for granted a benign strategic environment. For the first extended period in my country’s settled existence, the strongest power in our part of the world is unlikely to share our values. We can no longer be sure that a friendly nation will be the first to respond to a new challenge to peace, stability and decency in our region.
I fear there will have to be a much greater focus on strategic deterrence, especially if a rogue state like North Korea has long-range nuclear weapons—and especially if the American nuclear shield becomes less reliable.
My government increased Australia’s defense spending from a historical low of 1.6% of gross domestic product to 2%. I made the commitment to continuous construction of major surface ships and began the process of acquiring new submarines.
To its credit, the Turnbull government has continued this work. But I fear that dramatically increased military spending in our region overall—up 60% in the past decade—means that rather more now needs to be done. Can Australia’s ships be expected to operate without the air cover that an overstretched America may no longer provide? Can we afford to wait at least 15 years before the first of the next generation of submarines becomes operational? Does it really make sense for Australia to take a French nuclear submarine and redesign it for conventional power, making it less potent than it currently is?
My instinct is that acquiring a capacity to strike harder and further, while giving our country and our armed forces greater protection, could soon require military spending well beyond 2% of GDP. Our armed forces need to be more capable of operating independently against even a substantial adversary, because that is what a truly sovereign nation must be prepared to do.
America spends more than 3% of the world’s biggest GDP on its armed forces, and the rest of the Western world scarcely breaks 2%. It’s hard to dispute Mr. Trump’s view that most of us have been keeping safe on the cheap. The U.S. can’t be expected to fight harder for Australia than we are prepared to fight for ourselves. What Mr. Trump is making clear—to us and to others—is what should always have been screamingly obvious: that each nation’s safety now rests in its own hands far more than in anyone else’s.
Mr. Abbott served as prime minister of Australia, 2013-15. This is adapted from a speech he delivered Wednesday at the Heritage Foundation in Washington