BY M.R. JOSSE
GAITHERSBURG, MD: President Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ doctrine is roundly reviled in myriad political and academic circles but celebrated in many others.
While debate and discussion on that policy mantra will probably continue for long, I believe some thoughts on the theme by Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson are noteworthy.
Gerson takes umbrage at what he considers America’s surrender to Russia following agreement between Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin after their recent talks in Hamburg.
Thus, Trump “acts precisely as though he has been bought and sold by a strategic rival” – basing his sweeping conclusion on Trump’s decision to sever aid to American proxies battling against the Bashar al-Assad regime allied to Moscow.
The Post columnist is reluctant to say where this ‘surrender to Russia’ policy may specifically lead, but broadly predicts that “it involves greater Russian influence and intimidation in Eastern Europe and in the Middle East (where Iran, the Syrian regime and Hezbollah are winners as well).”
In his estimation, Trump is alienating Republicans from their own “heroic foreign policy tradition.” He reminds that “the conduct of the Cold War was steadied and steeled by Ronald Reagan, who engaged with Soviet leaders but was an enemy of communism and a foe of Soviet aggression…
“There is no single or simple explanation for the end of the Cold War, but Republicans have generally held that United States’ strategic determination played a central role.
“Now Trump pursues a policy of preemptive concession with a Russia that is literally on the march in places such as Georgia and the Ukraine…Russia has employed a sophisticated mix of conventional operations to annex territory and destabilize governments. It has systematically encouraged far-right, nationalist leaders and supported pro-Russian, anti-democratic parties across Europe. It is trying to delegitimize democratic progress on the theory that turbulence in the West is good for a rising East.
“This is a strategy that allows Russia to punch above its strategic weight, especially since Trump has chosen to abdicate the United States’ natural role in opposition.”
Personally, I think Gerson’s across-the-board conclusions are a wee-bit over the top; yet, he does provide some food for thought.
The turn of events in the future will, of course, be the final arbiter of whether Trump’s ‘America First’ policy is, in fact, tantamount to a ‘Russia First’ model.
Arizona Senator John McCain has been much in the news since he was diagnosed with brain cancer. At this time, it is uncertain whether he will be able to resume his political duties; there is now the possibility of a Washington without John McCain.
National Public Radio’s Philip Ewing terms McCain as “the outspoken State Department of one” and recalls that “he was an outspoken hawk who championed American troops, and Pentagon spending” while acknowledging that, the Arizona lawmaker is “a Senate institution, as much a fixture of the capital as the Capitol itself.”
Even as McCain was diagnosed with a deadly brain cancer, he did not fail to issue a statement criticizing President Trump’s decision to cut off assistance to Syrian rebels fighting Assad, declaring that “The administration is playing right into the hands of Vladimir Putin.”
The Post’s Paul Kane reminds that “through his perch as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, McCain has become Trump’s most high-profile critic of his attempt to steer a new course towards relations with Russia.”
The 2008 Republican presidential candidate has, incidentally, called for a full investigation into the 2016 campaign and its ties to Russian operatives. While there has been a blitz of sympathetic get-well messages and so forth from a plethora of political biggies, one which I particularly like is from former President George H. W. Bush who writes:
“The Hanoi Hilton couldn’t break John McCain’s spirit many years ago, so Barbara and I know – with confidence – he and his family will meet this latest battle in his singular life of service with courage and determination.”
If only our politicos, or servicemen, were cut from the same patriotic cloth as John McCain!
Having concluded my previous column by referring to two seminal quotes from Neville Maxwell’s ‘India’s China War’ – which was banned in democratic India for years, and may still be – I was pleased to read Maxwell’s 15 July interview to the Wire where he terms as ‘India’s China War – Round Two’ the current standoff between India and China.
In the limited space available, I would like to recall very briefly a few key points that Maxwell – who served as the London Times’ South Asia correspondent during the 1962 Sino-Indian border conflict – makes, including this: “The absurd myth of an ‘unprovoked Chinese aggression’ in 1962 has fermented in India a persistent longing for revenge.”
Another seminal point: “The McMahon Line in fact rests on a British diplomatic
forgery, long exposed…This may be another indication that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has decided that India’s interest will be served better in an aggressive American alliance rather than in a neighbourly relationship with China.”
If so, I must once again remind that Modi is barking up the wrong tree; Trump is unlikely to serve as Modi’s cat’s paw, taking on a China that America is not only heavily connected with, in economic terms, but whose cooperation it needs to deal with several hot-button issues, including North Korea.
The basis for Modi’s boundary claims, as with Nehru, is contrary to “the process established and required by the international community (negotiations to achieve agreement on border alignment and cooperation to demarcate the alignment on the ground) which has became otiose for the Indian republic.”
“India having ‘discovered’ the alignment of its borders through historical research, need only display them on its official maps and these would become defined
international boundaries ‘not open to discussion with anybody’, as Nehru put it in a notorious order in 1954.”
Will our policy boffins take note?