‘America First’: American Foreign Policy in the ‘Age of Trump’

 

Trump’s ‘America First’ foreign policy  is only very slowly being revealed.  But this week will see an important addition.  On Thursday and Friday President Trump will be meeting China’s President Xi Jinping.  This meeting represents a crucial first meeting of the leaders though we have seen Secretary of State Tillerson in Beijing recently.  But Tillerson remains an enigma and it is not at all clear that he has the ‘ear ‘ of President Trump. This week we will see Donald Trump at the center of American foreign policy making with arguably the most relationship in the global order.

We have been working hard at the Global Summitry Project to chronicle and evaluate the impact of Trump on the Liberal Order.  Much of our effort can be seen at the Oxford’s journal, Global Summitry: Politics, Economics and Law in International Governance. The Journal is a partnership of the Munk School and the Rotman Management School.  I am one of the Senior Editors there. We have just launched a new podcast series – ‘Shaking the Global Order:  American Foreign Policy in the Age of Trump. Our first podcast episode, this an interview with Rory MacFarquhar a former Obama official, has just appeared. In celebration of the series, we have added the podcasts to iTunes and Soundcloud. Also, take a look at our analysis of Trump foreign policy: “Trump’s ‘America First’ foreign policy that its impact on the Liberal Order” that just recently appeared at the OUPBlog

Where will Trump take the United States? And where will he take the Liberal Order?  It remains an open question. Former Prime UK Minister, Tony Blair writing recently in the NYT about the politics of the centre and the challenges and pressures being experienced to both centre right and centre left parties raised the key issue:

The question is, will this be a temporary phase, perhaps linked to the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis and Sept. 11, and will politics soon revert to normal, or has a new political age begun?

 

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‘Shaking the Temple’ – Trump and the Liberal Order

With the change in US Administrations we face possibly the most dramatic change in US foreign policy since the end of World War II.  The global leader has seemingly become the rogue seeking dramatic change in the Liberal Order the US has as much or more responsibility for over the last seventy years plus.

As has quickly become clear, however, we do not know if President’s Trump rhetoric of the campaign will be followed by actions matching the rhetoric.  There is some reason to think that his and his administration’s actions will not match some of the more highly nationalist expressions of his ‘America First’ rhetoric.  One need only look at Trump’s early statements and actions on China – phoning the Taiwan President, then questioning the ‘One China Policy’ only to reaffirm the policy in a call with China President Xi Jinping – to raise questions even doubts over the election rhetoric. But even without dramatic foreign policy actions it is not hard to see Trump and his Administration as possibly the greatest challenge to the Liberal Order that any of us have witnessed.

I will be periodically examining US foreign policy, and the policy toward the Liberal Order it and by key actors -supporters and detractors alike – hoping to assess the impact of the policies and actions on the Liberal Order. The first entry is the piece I was invited to post at the US-China Focus website.  There will be others. In addition, as Senior Editor of Oxford’s Global Summitry: Politics, Economics, and Law in International Governance, I intend to post a series of podcast interviews with experts and former officials on: ‘Shaking the Global Order: American Foreign Policy in the Age of Trump’.   I will back to you on additional posts and the podcast series.

 

 

Image Credit: abcnews.go.com

Enhancing Global Order: Is It Not Possible With the Great Powers?

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The Law of the Sea claim the Philippines commenced against China in 2013 came to an end last week with the award from the UNCLOS (UN Convention on the Law of the Sea) tribunal. The award was a setback to the expansive claims by China in the South China Sea (though the Tribunal made clear it had no jurisdiction to determine the sovereignty claims asserted by China or any other country).

A number of conclusions were reached by this UNCLOS panel.   First, with respect to the historical rights China claimed through the 9-dash line (China has never made clear the actual claims arising from the 9-dash line), the Tribunal acknowledged the historical claims of China but as Taylor Fravel suggested, “the tribunal reasoned that whatever historic rights or high-seas freedoms China enjoyed were “extinguished” when it acceded to the convention.”

Second, the Tribunal set out a 4-part test to determine whether a ‘feature’ – rock, or protruding reef, or islet, is an island thus providing for expanded maritime rights.  The Tribunal utilizing this newly enunciated test rejected that any features in the Spratly Island chain brought with it a 200 mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), as opposed to a 12 mile maritime territorial limit.  This ruling is likely to have a significant impact on a variety of maritime claims asserted by other states. It also would suggest that Mischief Reef, part of the Spratly Islands and where China has carried out reclamation work, is located within the EEZ claimed by the Philippines.

Finally, the Tribunal acknowldeged that the Philippines held EEZ rights in the Scarborough Island’s Second Thomas Shoal, where China has denied access to Philippine fishing boats.

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A ‘Quaint’ but Made-up US Grand Strategy

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My colleagues John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt have returned to offer a new and improved version of US foreign policy.  In their recent piece “The Case for Offshore Balancing: A Superior US Grand Strategy” they offer both a critique of current foreign policy, which they see as some variant of liberal hegemony and provide, according them a clear and superior alternative – ‘offshore balancing’:

There is a better way. By pursuing a strategy of “offshore balancing,” Washington would forgo ambitious efforts to remake other societies and concentrate on what really matters: preserving U.S. dominance in the Western Hemisphere and countering potential hegemons in Europe, Northeast Asia, and the Persian Gulf. Instead of policing the world, the United States would encourage other countries to take the lead in checking rising powers, intervening itself only when necessary.

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Back Again: The Global Order in Our Sights

Munk School - 940x622It has been a long hiatus.  Truth be told, I was planning to remain silent for an entire year.  But I couldn’t resist coming back before then.  As it turns out – just on the cusp of Memorial Day weekend for my American colleagues – and in the face of the announcement that Donald Trump had enough delegates to be nominated in Cleveland at the Republican Convention in July, I am back. The fact is too much is happening both in the world of global governance and also in the examination of global order ideas.  So it’s time to end my silence.

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The ‘Mechanics of Global Order’ – A Different Kind of World Ordering

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I was reminded recently of the enormous influence of the nonagenarian Henry Kissinger.  My colleague from Brazil, Oliver Stuenkel, author of the blog Post-Western World reviewed Henry Kissinger’s most recent book, World Order. His review of the 2014 book caused me to look back at my notes on this book and then to drag from my University library his 1994 book, Diplomacy. Obviously quite laconic when it came to titles – don’t forget On China – Kissinger has been the most detailed – and THE contemporary deep thinker – both as an academic and a diplomatic practitioner – when it comes to articulating the contemporary global order and its inner workings. Kissinger has been enormously influential since at least his  A World Restored (Kissinger’s Ph.D. thesis originally) published in 1954.  And of course, his diplomatic practice in the Nixon and Ford administrations remains central to US foreign policy behavior and critique.  Today, he is still consulted by many in Washington for his views on US foreign policy – see his and George Shultz’s review of the Iran nuclear deal –  and in particular US diplomacy toward China.

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A Good Week for Diplomacy

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It is jarring.  It shouldn’t be, but given the strategic actions of the leading state, it is.  We all have gotten so used to the exercise US military muscle (or not), especially in the Middle East, it is shocking almost, to see diplomacy in the lead.    It takes some getting used to.  So the Iran deal has been concluded.  As Robin Wright described it in The New Yorker:

The agreement is the Obama Administration’s boldest foreign-policy initiative. It marks the first success in dealing with Iran since its 1979 revolution and the prolonged seizure of the American Embassy in Tehran.

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Time to Return to the Blogosphere

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So it’s time to rejoin the blogosphere!

I apologize to all of you who might have looked to Rising BRICSAM for news and views on the BRICS and the other Influentials in the global order.  It was an extended absence, I know, but it was not time ill-spent.

Over the last months we completed the chapter on ‘concert diplomacy’ for the volume the Next Great War? The Roots of World I and the Risks of US-China Conflict – a work edited by Richard Rosecrance and Steve Miller from the Belfer Center at Harvard.   And then there was the paper for the ISA in New Orleans entitled, “The Challenges to Contemporary Global Order” that can be found at my ResearchGate site.  But the most critical work has been the effort by myself and many others from the Global Summitry Project at the Munk School, The Rotman School of Management and especially from Oxford University Press to get the lights on for the new OUP journal, Global Summitry: Politics, Economics and Law in International Governance. Hopefully the lights will be fully lit by the end of this month.  This latter project is a ‘real labor of love’.  Working with Don Brean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, we hope

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Struggling to Understand ‘Order’ in the International System

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As Stewart Patrick reflected today at the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR) on President Obama’s forthcoming remarks to the UN General Assembly, the President will be called upon to: “… convince both foreign and domestic audiences that the world is not spinning out of control and that the United States is determined to keep it that way. At home and abroad, pessimism about the state of the world runs high.”  And then Patrick confirmed the bleak view that has come to dominate the analysis of global affairs:

Syria is collapsing, Iraq is fragmenting, and Libya is disintegrating. Authoritarian leaders are tightening their grips from Cairo to Moscow, while Palestinians and Israelis murder each other. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is running rampant over the debris.

Now Patrick is not with these remarks, by any sense out of the main stream, in his downbeat description of the course of global politics.

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