Travelling in Asia as Seen From America

Travelling in Asia as Seen From America

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

The American public is caught up with the pervasive and persistent disclosures of sexual misconduct of which the Judge Moore episode is only the latest. While it is a social and moral outrage to watch public officials and political leaders equivocate on this issue, Americans ought to be aware of the seriousness of the security and geopolitical issues that President Trump has addressed and/or been involved in while spending a week traveling in Asia.   

There is no question that the situation in Lebanon is very strange given the unusual cast of characters. Prime Minister Hariri flew to Saudi Arabia, announced his resignation from there, disappeared from sight, and re-emerged after over a week to indicate that he cannot safely return to Beirut because he fears for life from Hezbollah and Iran.  The Israelis are concerned at a potential power grab by Hezbollah in Lebanon and the reported construction of an Iranian base in Syria on the road to the Golan Heights. The U.S. has reacted rather perfunctorily to a situation which has the potential to upset the region and aid Iranian and Russian interests.  

At the same time the Saudis are enmeshed in a confrontation in Yemen where Iran is its primary surrogate opponent, supplying weapons to the Yemini forces seeking to overthrow the regime. Iran is supported by ISIS and Al Qaeda. The Saudi attack on the Houthis anti-Government forces in Yemen is condemned by the West except for the Trump Administration. This is due in part to the fact that the President’s son-in-law and the U.S. peace negotiating team reportedly have been working behind the scenes with the Saudis and the Gulf States on a new peace proposal for the Israelis and Palestinians. It involves the cooperation of the Egyptians as well as a cooperative strategy from Abbas and Hamas. Whether any of these machinations are healthy or positive for the region is dubious, but it is also clear that many of the players on the Iranian side would not be involved without at least the acquiescence of the Russians.

Trump, meanwhile, continues to toot the horn of Russian cooperation. His statements after again meeting with Putin, continue to absolve the Russians of interference in the U.S. elections; an appraisal which flies directly in the face of the evaluation of the entire American intelligence community.  Trump persists in lauding his own personal national security acumen—military as well as security—over the entire national intelligence establishment.  That anyone in the Government continues to trust in how he conducts U.S. national security policy is remarkable.

Finally, the fact that Trump can actually believe that he had a successful trip to China follows the same theme. He has no leverage over the Chinese with U.S. trade to move Beijing to tighten sanctions on North Korea, and they know it. His analysis of U.S.-China trade relations was rivaled only by his inaccurate remarks to the Japanese about their car manufacturing.

It seems clear that Trump can accomplish considerable damage both at home and abroad. There ought to be considerable concern if he remains able to act with such arrogance and conceit at no personal cost.  

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