North Korea USA Summit

Tuesday finally saw the long awaited meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un in Singapore. The meetings outcome seems to much depend on the side of politics you follow. Those who are supportive of Trump believe the meeting was a success and has averted what could have been a nuclear conflict between America, South Korea or Japan with North Korea and some combination possibly of China and Russia in support. Those who are more moderate Republicans including a lot of Republican aligned defence personnel and Democrats are concerned the agreement is just words and ignores the tyranny of North Korea’s human rights record and now allows China freer reign of Asia if Donald Trump follows through with his pledge to eventually remove US Soldiers for Korea. In this blog I will talk about the pledged agreement between the US and North Korea and offer my thoughts on some of the commentary that has taken place since the meeting.

From (1) there are four elements to the signed agreement:

  • US and North Korea commit to establish new relationships between the two countries in order to fulfil the desire to see increased peace and prosperity for the two nations.
  • The US and North Korea will make a joint effort to build a peaceful Korean Peninsula.
  • Reaffirming the earlier Panmunjom declaration North Korea will seek to completely denuclearise the Korean Peninsula.
  • The two nations commit to recovering Prisoner of War or Missing in Action servicemen and immediately repatriate those who have been identified.

I have a few questions on these issues in the statement. My first comment mirrors one of the earlier concerns raised in this blog which is that these statements are rather vague and don’t give enough specifics on how peace and prosperity will be brought to the Korean area. Technically the two sides are still at war and I would have thought a specific peace treaty between South Korea and North Korea would be helpful. I have no issue with the removal of nuclear weapons from North Korea but what will USA and Trump do if this does not occur, how long does North Korea have to completely denuclearise the country. The Economic sanctions against North Korea still stand in place  what will be done to ensure the prosperity of the people of North Korea if they denuclearise, what is going to be done if that increased prosperity just feeds back to those in power rather than the people. (2) has the full transcript of Trumps 1 hour post summit press conference which is good read. In that transcript Trump says he plans to suspend war games with South Korea, that’s an act of goodwill but does that mean if North Korea suddenly make a strike against South Korea that the West won’t be adequately prepared to respond, particularly if as you said the US eventually want to withdraw their forces. Lastly I think it is good that the remains of members of the Koreans war will eventually get to return home for proper farewell but what is going to happen to the prisoners on both the US and Korean side of those accused of spying who are then being treated in a inhumane fashion. The number one example of this being prisoner Otto Warmbier whose story is expanded upon in (3).

I think a good starting point for this deal is to compare to the 1994 trade deal struck between Bill Clinton and the North which eventually fell apart in the early 2000’s as it was discovered by George Bush that North Korea was just using alternative sources to continue constructing their nuclear weapon program. The deal is detailed in (4) and essentially states that North Korea will give up their nuclear plant reactors in exchange for 500k litres of oil a year while non plutonium producing plants were being built. The difference though is that the 1994 agreement set out specific timelines for when things needed to be completed by and that specific dates were given for when the North needed to communicate with the South about a possible peace treaty that is not explicitly stated here because denuclearisation on it’s own does not end the war with South Korea. As one person said this does not achieve anything new and in the meantime America have given up one of their biggest trade chips which is the threat of staying war ready with military exercises.

I can understand the nervousness of people around Trump, he is certainly inconsistent and prone to outbursts that can have devastating effects when it’s coming from the President of the USA. I do believe as is reported in (5) that Trump and Kim have improved their personal relationship as a result of this meeting. Certainly they are like a lot of powerful rich leaders, big egos and prone to irrational comments such as Rocket man and Fire and Fury by Trump and a threat to blow parts of the US to smithereens by Kim Jong Un but if you stroke their egos they like and there is a respect for showing the power of each other and not giving in. Whether giving equal footing to your biggest rival when you are the strong US is questionable though as the US theoretically still have all the power and you’ve potentially given some of that up by letting Kim be photographed with you as your equal. The concern that is also given in this article is that Trump is going easy on some of the traditional rivals of the US at a time where his trade tariffs are putting a dent in his relations with traditional friends of the US such as Germany, UK and Canada. Now I think what we have seen under Trump is that a lot of free market countries aren’t actually that free in their economic principles and that this tariff push is a continuation of anti free market enterprise that all countries partake in. It’s just my belief that generally the biggest country in the world aren’t in as bad a position as they claim and so their tariff push now will only result in tariffs being pushed back that will probably just lead to the US being in a worse spot.

One thing a lot of critics raised about this deal is the lack of human rights atrocities being mentioned in the meeting between Trump and Kim Jong Un. Now the article (6) does show that the issue was mentioned but again there are no details in the final summit agreement that detail what North Korea will do to ensure that the prosperity of the North Korean people that is hoping to come is in terms of their human rights and not just an economic improvement. Certainly one is not filled with a whole heap of confidence by the phrase of he will do the right and North Korea isn’t the only place where nasty stuff is happening. It’s like yeah we know that but right now you had the ability to get some change with North Korea. It’s also a change in tone from the US president famous rocket man speech where he called out the murders and brutal treatment of the people of North Korea.

Before I close this blog with my final thoughts on the summit and a history lesson I think it would be remiss of me not to mention China. I think almost all experts agree that China are the big winners from this summit. As (7) says it has long been the dreams of Beijing to see the stopping of war games by the USA and South Korea as they see that as an act of intimidation that only provokes North Korea to retaliation. If this lessened presence in the Korean Peninsula is replicated throughout Asia it allows a strong military force like China to instead fill the void which could particularly be devastating in such issues as the South China sea which is contested in it’s ownership and the ability for non China nations to venture through. Another side effect is if North Korea are a stronger economic force again it opens up the opportunities for China to start trading resources again with North Korea at a greater rate and lessens the reliance on China having to prop up a struggling nation. It also alleviates one of the biggest concerns of China which is of disgruntled North Korean Citizens leaving the North and becoming migrants in China putting more strains on their economy which does well for the rich but still has a problem with the prosperity of those less well off. There is also a thought that if Trump is softening his views on North Korea he may also soften his views on engaging in a trade war with China which would also be of benefit to the US economy.

Now my view on this meeting is that is overall a positive thing because I would rather the US and North Korea talking to each other than threatening to blow each other off the face of the earth. I am concerned though that at this stage this is not much more than a glorified photo shoot and that if things don’t work out well we might end up back in the fire and fury stance in a year or so time. I also am concerned that it’s not a good thing to make a nation more powerful than they are and North Korea, especially Kim Jong Un now appears to be an equal to Donald Trump. Something that my wife pointed out as well as (8) is the similarities of this summit to the Munich agreement signed between Adolf Hitler and Neville Chamberlain in 1938. In 1938 Chamberlain travelled to Munich with French and Italian leaders to meet with Hitler which resulted in a peace treaty in return for Germany allowing to annex Czechoslovakia and reclaim the Rheinland and Austria. That led to the famous peace in our time speech by Chamberlain that quickly looked foolish when Germany broke the peace deal and invaded Poland which led to the start of WW2 as Britain declared war on Germany for the breaking of the peace treaty. Donald Trump’s comment at the end of his press conference did not fill me with confidence as he said that in six months time this may all be unraveled and I will tell you I was wrong but I’ll have a ready made excuse for it all of course. As the ABC article says Donald Trump could do to reread the history of WW2. I guess as with most things with Donald Trump we wait and hope that things don’t deteriorate.

References

(1): https://edition.cnn.com/2018/06/12/politics/read-full-text-of-trump-kim-signed-statement/index.html

(2): https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/press-conference-president-trump/

(3): https://www.news.com.au/finance/work/leaders/otto-warmbier-didnt-die-in-vain-he-prompted-summit-says-trump/news-story/3087c2edc134ca3667be7bcfda95060b

(4): http://www.nti.org/media/pdfs/aptagframe.pdf

(5): http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2018/06/13/trump-in-fox-news-interview-says-kim-jong-un-understand-each-other.html

(6): http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-06-13/trump-says-kim-will-do-right-thing-on-human-rights-abuses/9862192

(7): https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/the-biggest-winner-at-the-us-north-korea-summit-china

(8): http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-06-13/trump-kim-adolf-hitler-benito-mussolini-chamberlain-wwii-peace/9863156

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US Government Shutdown aftermath and the Calling of the Tasmania Election

In my last blog post I wrote extensively about the US government shutdown and towards the end of my post predicted that the shutdown would last a while. It turned out that prediction was wrong as the shutdown only lasted the weekend with a deal brokered on the Monday (1). The deal allowed the US enough money to continue functioning until February the 8th in return for a debate in the Senate on immigration, in particular the fate of the Dreamers who arrived in America illegally but are currently placed on temporary work visas. I would comment immediately that while the Democrats did to avoid a full blown out shutdown by striking a deal having the funding only extended to February the 8th leaves me to think that we may be in the same situation in only a couple of weeks again arguing about whether the US should shutdown again. What won’t help these negotiations was Donald Trump ordering the White House to change their message system to a petty attack on the Democrats for shutting down government when the Republicans did the same thing in 2013 and Donald Trump at the time blamed Barack Obama for the shutdown. This article paints a good story of the balancing act that Democrats will be facing on this shutdown (2). My comment on the article is that while it would be tempting to lurch further to the left and try and out trump Trump at the next election there is a danger of further isolating the middle class worker who were the ones who voted more in favour of Trump over Hilary Clinton.

Moving back closer to home Will Hodgman has called the Tasmanian Election for March the 3rd which has long been pundits choice with the main alternative of March 17 meaning a third straight clash of elections with South Australia. The first read of the situation by ABC (3) and one I agree with is that the most likely result of the election is a hung parliament. This is because Labor are likely to gain seats from their starting base of 7 out of 25 seats and the Liberals will probably be the losing party of any such Labor gains with their starting base of 15 seats likely to shrink.

The latest poll and Tasmania have infrequent polling compared to some other states have Labor and the Liberals at 34 percent and then the Greens at 17 percent with Jacqui Lambie who is the unknown factor going into this election at 8 percent (4). It’s difficult to see in the Hare Clark system where 5 members are elected in each 5 regions that the Liberals are going to get 3 members off those base numbers. A mix of two Liberals two Labor and one Green or Jacqui Lambie member seems the most likely split and although both major parties have predictably ruled out any deals with minor parties it is hard to see the Greens feasibly working with the Liberal Party and I’m not sure if the Federal Governments experience of working with Jacqui Lambie has put her off side as a potential partner. A good explanation on what the potential party vote could look like in seat allocation is found here (5). A further explanation of the Hare Clark voting system can be found here (6).

I think on the election issues that will be fought in the campaign the ground has been set in Tasmania for a while. The Liberal Party will focus on the creation of jobs and a strong economy compared to an economy under Labor that was last in almost all of the key indicators. I think Labor will acknowledge that economic prosperity but will argue that that economic success has not been equally shared out to all Tasmanians. Along with that they will also focus on the usual Labor policy areas of Health, Worker rights and Education. I think it’s clear the Liberal Party have done a good job with the economy but people don’t seem to care about that as much at the moment, people want that prosperity to be shared around and for good public services to be prevalent which I think you see reflected in the Liberal wipeout federally in the 2016 election. This is also where you have to note that an unpopular Liberal Party Federally would have to have some drag on the state Liberal vote and a loss in Tasmania would see only New South Wales as the only state with Liberal representation with every other state and territory under Labor hands and I must not recent polling suggests the Liberal Party are in some bother there too.

References

(1): http://www.smh.com.au/world/us-government-shutdown-ends-20180122-p4yyr6.html

(2): https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/1/25/16923110/activists-democrats-daca-senate-immigration-deal

(3) http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-01-28/tasmanian-election-will-take-place-on-march-3/9367876

(4) https://www.pollbludger.net/2017/12/08/emrs-liberal-34-labor-34-greens-17-tasmania/https://www.pollbludger.net/2017/12/08/emrs-liberal-34-labor-34-greens-17-tasmania/

(5) http://kevinbonham.blogspot.com.au/2017/12/emrs-says-wheels-are-falling-off.html

(6) http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-01-17/hare-clark-system/5202798

North Korea – How close are we to a Nuclear War?

As most Australian’s continued to grapple with the issue of Same Sex Marriage and whether to partake or not in the Postal Plebiscite that will now take place in North Korea things have deteriorated as both Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump have ratcheted up the rhetoric on potential military action. This increased tension has come about after another sanction being passed by the UN after North Korea carried out their latest Nuclear test (1). People have talked about these sanctions being the toughest sanctions to be implemented ever on a country and that Russia and China have supported this resolution however that should be taken with the grain of salt that the last resolution passed by the UN was also the toughest resolution and it has clearly had limited impact on North Korea’s Nuclear Program. This is because while Russia and China broadly support the resolutions in practice they have still maintained a large portion of their economic ties. As a result of the sanctions North Korea threatened to make an attack on America, specifically on Guam which is an important military base for the US. This threat has caused Donald Trump to make several threats in return threatening to bring fire and fury to North Korea if any action was taken on Guam and then when the international community wanted Trump to backdown his comments he doubled down and said that the US were locked and loaded and ready to bring fury like never seen before on North Korea in response to any attacks on Guam. This increased rhetoric along with North Koreas nuclear programming progressing at a faster rate than many predicted has left the world feeling more nervous than in a while at the prospect of Nuclear War. As a result of various UN arrangements and also the ANZUS alliance Australia have stepped in behind America in opposing North Korea’s latest actions and any action by North Korea against the US would lead to a conflict with Australia.

As with a lot of issues it’s important to get some historical perspective before discussing the current situation. (2) gives a pretty good summary of the history between North Korea and South Korea that I will summarise myself here. So at the end of WW2 as with a lot of conquered land there were disputes between Russia and the Western Alliance of the US, UK and France over how to divide the land that both Allies had claimed and so as with Germany there was a split in half with the US claiming the South of Korea and Russia the North of Korea. In the following years as the Communist regimes of Russia and China started to lay claim on being a World Force this led to a natural conflict with the Western Societies like America and Britain who wanted to maintain their world dominance. This culminated in the North Koreans and South Koreans both wanted to have their own nation and that split led to North Korea invading South Korea which started the Korean War. Now as the war went on China decided to enter the War to protect their interests in North Korea and as result of advanced War technology that the Brits had given them to help fight Japan in WW2 and sheer numbers their entrance into the conflict led to the Korean War ending in an armistice with no clear winner from the war.

From that point to the early nineties there was 40 years in which the Kim dynasty was pledged to be passed down to it’s second iteration Kim Jong-il and for most part their relative peace with both nations joining the UN in 1991. In 1993 and 1994 North Korea fire it’s first ballistic missile and the UN accused North Korea of breaking the Nuclear Non-Proliferation agreement. This agreement (3) essentially seeks to stop the spread of Nations acquiring or creating Nuclear Weapons and seeking to reduce the amount of Nuclear Weapons available. This push by North Korea is ended temporarily in 1994 by agreeing to stop further action on it’s nuclear programme in exchange for economic assistance in the form of oil. The mid to late nineties saw the new regime under Kim Jong-il flex it’s muscles and end the armistice agreement by sending troops into the demilitarised zone that was meant to act as a border between the North and South, it also showed some capability in advancement of it’s weaponry by firing a multistage rocket over to the Japanese sea. In 2002 and 2003 more evidence is shown that the North Koreans are starting their Nuclear Weapon program again and indeed the North Koreans pull out of both Nuclear Non Proliferation agreement and the armistice they signed with South Korea in relation to having no Nuclear Weapons within Korea. This leads to China, the Koreans, US, Russia and Japan starting talks that seek to come up with a solution to the nuclear issue, talks that until this day are continuing off and  on with some subset of these nations. The rest of the 2000’s continued this pattern of some progress on the issue being wiped out by North Korea then restarting some form of their nuclear program again. This then leads to this decade where in 2011 Kim Jong-Un took over from his father the rule of North Korea. Because of some tensions within his family and the military this succession has seen a ramping up of Nuclear Proliferation because his link to power is not as secure as his dad or grandfather. Indeed his brother was poisoned and his uncle assassinated in signs of this unrest. The first half of this decade has seen various threats made by the new leader at the US while also seeing more shows of increasing power by carrying out various weapons testing. This culminated in 2015 with the nuclear plant in Yongbyon reopening and that has led to a rapid improvement in the ability to create a larger scale nuclear weapon device. It is in the last few years that the rapid advancement has added concrete evidence to the years of rhetoric that has led to more concern with the current outbreak.

So a lot of intrigue with North Korea is based on their ability to use an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile. Their ability to now fit miniaturised nuclear warheads into longer range weapons is a significant development from previous action (4). Having anywhere up to 60 missiles that can reach America or areas like Guam and even Australia means that when North Korea make threats now they actually have to be taken more seriously than previously. Also of issue is that if North Korea were to carry out an attack on Guam, America could and would strike back with an arsenal that is far greater than North Korea, however that would lead to North Korea then launching retaliatory action on South Korea. (5) Shows that while South Korea and USA can limit the damage that a retaliatory strike could do, any attack would still look at up to tens of thousands of deaths and potentially millions of injuries. I think that’s why Donald Trump is not the ideal leader for this situation. Again I think a lot of the rhetoric and military plans that Donald Trump and his team have suggested are not bad ideas, the problem is that he is going public with these issues and exaggerating what America plans to do in response to North Korea with language that inflames a North Korea leader that is not know for rational decision making. America probably would win any conflict that were to start between North Korea and itself and other allies however the cost in life and loss of territory to attacks would be significant and as a result some form of negotiation should still be the first choice of action.

The one caveat to my last comment is what do China do in any conflict. Yesterday a China  friendly newspaper came out and said that China would stay neutral in any dispute that was started by North Korea however they would intervene and assist North Korea if America initiated an attack on North Korea. This would suggest that other than agreeing to economic sanctions any thoughts of China helping the West in a military dispute is questionable. I think there are a few good reasons for that, firstly if North Korea were to be heavily attacked by America there would be a large amount of displaced citizens that would seek refuge in China. Now China are a rising economic power however it is still a great divide between the do’s and the do nots and they can’t afford to have to take in displaced citizens. Secondly in North Korea China have a good buffer in terms of a country that has similar worldwide views Economically and socially to itself in comparison to the more Western based countries in South Korea and Japan. Lastly China and North Korea have strong economic ties, China use a lot of North Koreans for cheap Labour as well as trade exports and imports with each other, I also think China have some empathy for the plight of an impoverished nation and see itself as someone who wants to help the people as elaborated in (6). All this being said I think China do realise that to rise up as an international force they can’t completely flout international resolutions and so that’s why you seem them tow the line on UN resolutions to some degree.

There are a few more things I’ve been seeing in the media and the public that are worth commenting on. Firstly I have seen a lot of comments saying why is the public getting a say on the Same Sex Marriage Postal Plebiscite and not on whether we go to war, which of course has come back up as we talk about potential action against North Korea. I repeat what I said in response to one such raising of the issue: No offence but to compare voting on SSM with oh wait Hitlers invading Poland, just give us three months to work out the publics mind on this one… in three months Hitler had conquered Poland and with Russia had made advances on several Balkan countries. Similarly if North Korea have taken action against Guam, the escalation may then involve Nuclear Weapons and so having a three month conversation on the merits of dealing with a Nuclear War is hardly appropriate. Now the debate on whether Parliament is informed is a more interesting one but I think the sudden nature of War may mean it’s more appropriate just to have sign off from the major party leaders. There’s also been the attacks on Donald Trump for somehow being at fault for the latest flare up between the North and South. I again think this is more of a cheap shot at Donald and while as I said above I don’t think he’s helping the situation I also think that it is North Koreas actions that are making this situation where it is now.

In terms of what I think will happen now I do again feel sorry for the North Korean People. While North Korea continue to build on their arsenal of weapons Nuclear or otherwise the people are forced to live in poverty and despite all this have been essentially brainwashed by leadership into believing that the only way they will become a worldwide force again is to build up military force to then be able to gain more territory to be able to gain economic credibility. I think I agree with Kim Beazley’s general takeaway that while we may not be about to go to War, we are in a very vulnerable situation and one where a small miscalculation from either side might lead to one side overreacting and carrying one action that would then lead to chain of events with an ending that could wipe out a good percentage of the earth via some nuclear bombs.

 

References

(1): https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/08/07/what-the-new-u-n-sanctions-on-north-korea-mean/?utm_term=.a2c3bcf0962a

(2): http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-pacific-15278612

(3): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_on_the_Non-Proliferation_of_Nuclear_Weapons

(4): http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/08/11/542837087/as-rhetoric-escalates-what-do-we-know-about-north-korea-s-nuclear-arsenal

(5): https://worldview.stratfor.com/article/how-north-korea-would-retaliate

(6): https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/china-north-korea-relationship

 

Donald Trump: 6 months on

When I was researching articles for this blog on the 6 months of Donald Trumps presidency I came across an interesting article on what 6 months of a Hilary Clinton presidency would have looked like(1). The key things from the article is the Supreme Court would have had Hilary’s choice Merrick Garland as the vacant supreme courts nominee rather than the Republican’s choice Neil Gorsouch. This is a big deal because a lot of the big human rights such as abortion rights can be determined by the Supreme Court. Having a more Conservative or Liberal Supreme Court therefore is a considerable voting issue for the public and is seen as one reason people voted for Donald Trump as traditional Republican’s despite not personally liking Donald himself. Another takeaway is that America is divided, as much as the Democrats have been very active about protesting Hilary Clinton losing to an insert personal insult here President; if the roles were reversed Republican’s would have been complaining about a Hilary win. I think much like Donald Trump Hilary Clinton would have also been unpopular and unlike Donald Trump she would have been going into a midterm election next year with an already lame duck status, so passing any form of policy would have been difficult for her too. The advantage of a Hilary Clinton presidency would obviously be an improved international standing with a greater respect for the US still from other world leaders and the US would not have exited the Paris Climate agreement, an important respect given the world needs a strong US in the current uncertainty. Obamacare would also have been left alone which would ensure that the issue would remain a poisoned chalice. I think overall my takeaway point from this article is that while Donald Trump is not helping a divided American public and I would argue is probably aggravating divides, Hilary Clinton is not the saviour of division either and so you would still have an America in deep flux.

With that in mind I will now focus on Trump and the first thing to look at is the polls because despite the attacks on polling accuracy there is still always a narrative to tell from polls flawed or otherwise. (2) So Trump is currently sitting at 37 percent approval and fifty eight percent disapproval, this number is historically low for a president and is close to his all time low of 35 percent approval just after his first Obamacare initiative was blocked. One interesting comparison though is to look at why Trump is considered unpopular and this is something that the Gallup poll looked at. For Obama and Bush the disapproval ratings related to policy or job performance whereas for Trump his disapproval is based on people disliking Trump personally. Given the nature of Donald Trumps campaign and presidency thus far this should hardly be surprising but it does offer some positives for him as well as some potential lessons for the Democrats. Donald Trumps policies seem to be being embraced and so while he maybe personally unpopular a Democrat who just stood opposing Trumps policy platform might still find themselves in trouble in 2020 because policy is not what is polarising Americans. Also of interest in the poll is that the reasons people are supporting Trumps presidency is broadly the same as Obama, again suggesting that those supporting Trumps performance as President are ignoring the criticisms being labelled at him, similar to what Obama faced in 2009.

I think the main policies to focus on for Trump so far are Health Care, Economy, Climate Change and International Relations. If we first look at Health Care, this is the one policy issue that has most dogged Trump locally with several attempts of the Trump administration to repeal Obamacare now being blocked. (3) suggests that Obamacare is not going to be repealed in the near future as more moderate Republican are not convinced that Trump and the Republicans  have an appropriate replacement to Obamacare. I suspect that the articles suggestion that Trump will continue his steps to make the current system less functioning and put more pressure on the Republican’s and Democrats to find an appropriate replacement to something that has failed. This is not to say that the current system is flawed or not, I can see the arguments of the people who have serious health issues that would not be covered under a repealed Obamacare, but if the system loses funding or is not appropriately advertised then it may become failed.

Economy is the big issue that Donald Trump campaigned for. The narrative is that while Obama focussed on finding people new jobs in modern job areas this left people behind. Certainly for people in places like Detroit manufacturing jobs have shut down and while there are jobs in modern technology sectors, these require higher education and different skill sets. Trying to tell someone who has worked in one industry for thirty years and has had generations of family do the same thing that they need to go to university for the first time ever and just deal with finding new work has alienated them from society. This is the biggest driver of Trump voters last November. Economy has been the biggest policy success for the administration however as with everything Trump related the story is mixed. (4) shows that the Economical indicators under Donald Trump have improved since the election although this is probably more indicative of a global economical situation improvement. Still an improvement in the financial markets, better jobs numbers and improved GDP are impressive feats. Also as with any Conservative government there is always a focus on smaller governments and Trumps move to remove two economic regulations for every regulation added has seen that implemented. As (5) has shown however a lot of this economic improvement maybe because some of Trumps big tax breaks for big business has not passed yet and so it has allowed a mainly business as usual approach with improved confidence that tends to occur with a Conservative president taking hold. This also opens up the whole trickle down economics argument with the adversity of this approach being that if business don’t pass on their extra money to hiring more employees money has then been shifted from public services without the improved economic growth from added employment and productivity. I think this is more of an issue on how the economy is being implemented than the principles behind the economic principle.

Climate change and international relations are somewhat linked but I think there is a specific focus on Climate Change from both Trump supporters and detractors that makes it a seperate issue worth discussing. The decision of Trump to pull America from the Paris agreement is a surprising move in that it puts America out of step with the 19 other G20 countries but is unsurprising in that it matches his campaign rhetoric. For Donald Trump and a lot of rural Americans a pledge to reducing emissions to zero percent and contributing money to helping nations that are going to be directly impacted by climate change goes against the protectionist nature that they want to run. The issue with climate change feeds back into an economic one that I addressed in the last paragraph. If old manufacturing workplaces have to close that costs jobs and if money is being placed to other nations it is money that can’t be directed to their own nation, now America are in a strong place economically compared to nations like Fiji or Samoa but trying to say that to people struggling economically is like saying to a homeless person in Australia that chin up it could be worse, you could be homeless in an African nation. For all of those who would say that being opposed to climate change is Conservative Michael Gove’s contribution in (6) shows that by the nature of conservatism people should be open to whatever market mechanism produces the most efficient and effective results and so as renewable energy becomes cheaper and mechanisms such as battery storage make renewable energy more reliable it is not a Conservative policy to stick with the old mechanism for the pure reasoning of protectionism. I think this is another element where Donald Trump shows he is not a true Conservative by economic reasonings.

The recent G20 summit was a key insight into the fall of America as a superpower under Trump on the international arena. (7) has Chris Uhlman’s takedown on Trump and I think it sums up the way a lot of people feel about Trump when you remove the extreme voices on both side of the political spectrum. His criticism on Trump not using the G20 as a venue to publicly call out Russia and China or there nothing to see here approach on North Korea was in large contrast to his grandstanding in America where he made many calls for Russia and China to be firmer on North Korea because they have closer ties that could be used to pull in their naughty neighbour. This was disappointing because Trumps forceful stance on calling out the atrocities of Bashar Al Assad using chemical weapons on the public in Syria won praise. Indeed the attack of important military bases in Syria is an action that Hilary Clinton herself commented that she would have done. It’s in this light that Trump’s withdrawal of support for Syria in the last few weeks is also surprising and is a sign of continued alliance with Russia. This last comment leads onto the issue of Russia interference in the Election which continues to be the big issue that could be a smoking gun to push for possible impeachment although this is unlikely with the composite of the Senate and Congress being Republican controlled. I think the issue of whether there was hacking or not has been well discussed and it appears clear that some interference occurred in the election. However the question now is was Donald Trump directly involved in the efforts by Russians to interfere in the election and the revelations of Donald Trump Jr meeting with Russian officials adds to the possibility of a direct link which would then be a trigger for criminal offence and impeachment. The other issue with protectionism is that it leads to less economic and formal ties with International countries and the isolation at the G20 is a consequence of this, other countries do not appreciate being penalised when dealing with a nation in the name of protecting your own countries skin. It is that isolation that leaves a vacuum for another nation to become a global powerhouse and both China and Russia have the potential to fill this vacuum. This might be cheered on by some but it ignores the fact that China and Russia are both flawed democracies with legal and social policies that would be abhorrent to most Western civilisations.

So what happens next? The first big test of any presidents term is how they perform in the midterm elections. (8) breaks down the midterm election quite well. It is historic that the ruling party tends to perform poorly in midterm election and the Trump element added in adds to that likelihood of a Midterm whack. The problem for the Democrats as pointed out is turnout, people are less motivated to vote in midterm elections and that tends to go against the Democrats whose target demographics tend not to turn up to votes. The other issue for the Democrats and one I’ve pointed out in previous blog posts is that they seem more focussed at the moment with saying that Trump is useless, he shouldn’t have won and that’s it, at some stage they will need to actually offer tangible ideas on what they plan to do. After that it will be important for Trump to be able to implement some of his policy to avoid the label of being all talk and no action, specifically a policy win on healthcare would help his polling numbers. The other issue is the Russian interference, the issue has already seen the firing of FBI director James Comey. If this issue continues to fester on it will make it increasingly difficult for Trump to sell his message and the longer it goes the more likely something impactful will be turned up that could be grounds for impeachment. Lastly the focus after the midterms in 2018 will start to turn to the 2020 reelection of Donald Trump, at this stage with no evidence of a Democratic Party having learnt enough of their lessons of their loss last year I would be not surprised if Trump were to be reelected in 2020, indeed one thing I’d be intrigued by is if the Republican Party put up a nominee against Trump in 2020. This would lose the incumbency advantage of not facing a gruelling dogfight in the nominee process but could be a necessary evil if the Republicans don’t want 4 more years of Trump come 2020.

 

References

(1) https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/if-clinton-had-won/

(2) http://www.gallup.com/poll/214091/trump-disapproval-rooted-character-concerns.aspx

(3) http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/343222-what-trump-can-do-to-cripple-obamacare

(4) http://fortune.com/2017/07/20/donald-trump-twitter-news-drain-swamp-6-months/

(5) https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2017/07/20/six-months-trump-economy-looks-awfully-familiar/TXnEuVvlHa2vS9v7p7n3tO/story.html

(6) http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/michael-gove-donald-trump-climate-change-us-walk-out-heat-on-paris-agreement-fossil-fuels-a7852626.html

(7) https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/09/biggest-threat-to-the-west-australian-journalist-demolishes-trump-after-g20

(8) https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/what-do-we-know-about-the-2018-midterms-right-now/