Everything in the news nowadays is basically about Donald Trump, in one way or another. So in my blog this week, I’d like to cover three things, all of which are related to Donald Trump. 2 of the 3, I basically agree with him – the other, not so much. I guess 2 out of 3 ain’t bad.
First, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stopped by the White House last week and met with President Trump. By most accounts, it was a pretty awkward meeting. Like the second debate with Hillary Clinton, there was no handshake between Trump and Merkel. The press made a big deal of this, but as far as I’m concerned, so what. Trump also attempted to add some levity to the meeting by joking that he and Merkel had something in common – they’d both been wire-tapped by Obama. She didn’t laugh.
Here’s where I think President Trump deserves great credit. He spoke frankly about Germany and most of our other NATO allies’ failure to live up to their obligations under the NATO treaty. According to that treaty, each of the 28 NATO allies agreed to spend 2% of their GDP in defense spending. 5 of them do so (including the United States which spends about 4% of its GDP on defense.) The other 23 NATO countries (including Germany) fail to meet the 2% requirement. Germany only spends 1.2% of its GDP. Thus the U.S. is paying a disproportionate share of the NATO defense budget. Trump’s point is that the American taxpayer is getting ripped off – and he’s right.
Okay, the second Trump thing I’d like to point out is this: whereas the Obama Administration had a tendency to micromanage U.S. military action to such a degree, that our military was handcuffed, the Trump Administration is giving our military leaders the freedom to do what’s necessary to win.
The Obama Administration had very restrictive rules of engagement – so strict that our troops often felt they were vulnerable, and could themselves be prosecuted if they used their weapons. Obama’s priorities were avoiding civilian casualties at all costs, not being accused of getting the U.S. bogged down in a quagmire, and not upsetting Muslim sensibilities. He felt he’d been elected to end wars, not fight and win them. It was extremely frustrating to our military leaders, as well as to our troops who’d been trained to be the best fighting force on the globe.
President Trump is allowing Secretary of Defense Mattis and the Pentagon to have the leeway to do what’s necessary to win. Trump has allowed General Mattis to send additional troops to northern Syria to make sure we prevail there. Obama wouldn’t commit in Syria, and as a result we’ve seen over 250 thousand people (mostly civilians) killed, and the destabilization of Europe due to fleeing refugees from Syria. Thank God we finally have a president who understands the importance of American leadership, and rejects “leading from behind.”
Okay, the third item I’d like to discuss, is one in which I’m NOT in agreement with Donald Trump. The topic is trade: Trump is a protectionist, and I’m more of a free-trader. The latest trade deal which was being negotiated was the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership.) It had been negotiated between a dozen countries: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam. The idea was to lower trade barriers between these nations, and thus improve the economy and job growth in each of the countries. Of course not everyone agrees that the TPP would have had these positive effects, including candidate, now president, Donald Trump. One of his first actions upon being sworn in as our 45th President, was to announce that he was scuttling the TPP.
Well last week, the 11 other nations who were signatories to TPP met in Chile (one of the signatory countries) to decide how to move forward. Unfortunately, China has stepped in to take the U.S.’s place. Senator John McCain said that the U.S. exit from TPP “will create an opening for China to rewrite the economic rules of the road at the expense of American workers.” Now I don’t always agree with John McCain, but I’m afraid I do here. I fear that U.S. influence on the world stage is going to take a hit, a major one, and China’s clout is going to increase.
Now in Donald Trump’s defense, he says that even though he opposes regional, multi-country trade deals, he intends to promote bilateral trade agreements (ones between the United States and individual countries.) As far as I’m concerned, that’s better than nothing, but not good enough. I hope President Trump is right and I’m wrong. Time will tell.